With the holidays having passed into a new century, FedEx Championship Series teams have "ramped up" their testing programs in preparation for the 2000 season. Team KOOL Green conducted a three-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Thursday...
With the holidays having passed into a new century, FedEx Championship Series teams have "ramped up" their testing programs in preparation for the 2000 season.
Team KOOL Green conducted a three-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Thursday through Saturday, with Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) completing 586 miles and recording a top speed of 27 seconds flat on the 1.502-mile oval. The test offered Tracy and Team KOOL Green the opportunity to try out the new Handford Mk II, a rear-wing package designed to contain speeds and thus enhance competition on intermediate and short ovals by reducing downforce and increasing drag.
Laps for the test, which also included Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) of Team Rahal, Adrian Fernandez (Tecate/Quaker State/Patrick Racing Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing and Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) of Player's Forsythe Racing, were roughly two seconds slower than the Homestead track qualifying record of 24.856 seconds.
"It was a great test," said Tracy, who earned Most Improved Driver honors while finishing third in the 1999 FedEx Championship Series championship. "We ran in a variety of conditions, ranging from gusty winds to pretty hot temperatures, on new and old tires, and the KOOL Honda Reynard was very consistent.
"The new wing is very 'draggy.' It slows you down in a straight line and when you get off the gas, the car decelerates really fast. It requires a different set-up and we're still honing in on that, but overall, the car has the same basic feel as last year. I'm very pleased."
Carpentier logged a fast lap of 26.79 seconds during the test, which went well enough for Player's Forsythe Racing that the team was able to accomplish all its objectives during the opening day of Carpentier's scheduled two-day stint.
"Originally, the plans were for us to be on the track for two days [Friday and Saturday], but we quickly got up to the speeds we were hoping to reach, and once we had done that, we decided to keep a [allotted test] day in the bank for testing on a road course," Carpentier explained.
Following Carpentier's test, rookie teammate Alezandre Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard) completed his initial Champ Car test on an oval, logging approximately 300 miles during a two-day workout on Sunday and Monday.
"I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to adapt to the driving style for an oval track, and I'm encouraged to see that the times I clocked compare favorably to those put up by the veterans in the series," said Tagliani, whose fastest lap came in at 26.79 seconds. "I'm training really hard to make sure that I'll be ready to go when the season starts."
Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) began his first test of the off-season Wednesday, the opening day of a two-day session at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was also the first oval test of the off-season for Newman/Haas Racing. Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Lola), Andretti's teammate, had tested on the road course at Sebring International Raceway last month, and was in attendance during Andretti's test at Homestead. "Christian had a good test with the new Lola on a road course so we were optimistic about the car on an oval," Andretti said. "We started off slow on Wednesday, so we could learn about the Lola on this type of course. We had to play around a little to get a good setup and were able to run some good times in the afternoon. From what I know about the other lap times, we ran some of the best times so far at Homestead. Preseason times don't mean anything once the season starts but it definitely feels good to run well out of the box. The new Ford XF was great. The power is good. It is everything I have heard about it and more."
* AND MORE ...
Tony Renna, who will drive for the PacWest Racing Group in the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship, tested PacWest's 2000 Mercedes Reynard Champ Car package for the second time Tuesday, completing 175 incident-free miles on the 1.66-mile road course at Sebring International Raceway. "We ran all day without any problems, and I think that the team is entering the 2000 season with a great powerplant," said Renna, who had both of PacWest's Mercedes-powered Reynards on track during the one-day session. "Mercedes has made great strides in driveability without sacrificing anything in terms of horsepower." Said John Anderson, PacWest's Vice President of Racing Operations, "We configured the two cars differently in order to compare notes, and we had a very fruitful day. The crew did a nice job preparing one car while Tony had the other car on track and we were circulating all day with virtually no down time. Tony is performing very well as our test driver, and I know the opportunity will arise for him to get some more miles in the 2000 Reynard." Also testing at Sebring was Della Penna Motorsports driver Richie Hearn, who completed 350 miles during a two-day workout Monday and Tuesday. "We had a good run on both days," Hearn said afterward. "We learned quite a bit about the car. This was my first real opportunity to work with [new engineer] Diane [Holl] and I was extremely impressed. She's very bright and easy to work with. The method that Diane approaches her job with is efficient and effective, so we really get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time." Team owner John Della Penna commented, "The Toyota engine ran strong and showed continued development. Overall, I'm very happy with the results. This time is the fastest we've ever run at Sebring and is competitive with the times other teams have posted here during testing."
* DALE COYNE RACING TABS KUROSAWA
Dale Coyne Racing announced last week that it has reached agreement with Japanese Formula 3000 driver Takuya Kurosawa for a full-season effort in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series. Kurosawa, 37, will contest the season in a Ford-powered Lola sponsored by MTCI, a Japanese Internet provider. Kurosawa owns experience in the Japanese GT Championship as well as F3, Japanese Touring Car and British Formula Ford competition. He won four events during his tenure in the Japanese Formula 3000 series, which has served as a training ground for drivers such as Ralf Schumacher and Eddie Irvine, and also served as a test driver for the Jordan Formula One team in 1993. "I was at Fuji in 1993 and watched him [Kurosawa] take the pole," said team owner Dale Coyne. "He has continued to impress others and myself ever since. We look forward to capitalizing on his experience and making a run at Rookie of the Year honors." Dale Coyne Racing took delivery of its first car in mid-December and plans to begin its off-season testing program within the next week to 10 days.
* SIX FEATURED ON AARWBA ALL-STAR TEAM
FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya will be among six Champ Car drivers who will be honored Saturday as members of the 1999 All-American Auto Racing Team selected by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA). The team will be presented during the annual AARWBA banquet at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel in Long Beach, Calif. Montoya, whose series-high totals of seven victories and seven pole positions helped make him the youngest champion in FedEx Championship Series history last year, was selected to the First Team in the Open Wheel division. Series runner-up Dario Franchitti earned Second Team honors, along with new Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack, who competed in the Indy Racing League last season. Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and the late Greg Moore received Honorable Mention on the team. This marks Andretti's ninth appearance as an All-American in 16 seasons of Champ Car competition, while Tracy appears for the fifth in his nine Champ Car seasons. Toyota Atlantic champion Anthony Lazzaro joined Montoya on the First Team, receiving an at-large berth.
* CHAMPIONS FOR THE AGES
With the start of a new decade - indeed, a new century - many motorsports media assembled lists of all-time auto racing greats to commemorate the end of the 1900s. Champ Car drivers were well-represented on a number of these lists, several of which featured the name "Andretti" prominently. Mario Andretti, the 1984 CART champion, was selected as Driver of the Century by Racer magazine, as well as the Greatest Driver of All Time by Champ Car magazine. Mario's son, Michael, meanwhile, was selected as Driver of the Decade by On Track magazine and Championship Racing magazine. Champ Car also selected Rick Mears as the top driver in the CART era (1979-present). Andretti and Mears were second and seventh, respectively, on the list of the top 10 drivers of all time compiled by ESPN's RPM 2Night. That list also included former FedEx Championship Series team owner Dan Gurney, sixth, and two-time (1983, '85) FedEx Championship Series champion Al Unser Sr., eighth. On Track selected Target/Chip Ganassi Racing as the Team of the Decade, the 1994 Penske chassis as the Car of the Decade, the 1995 Marlboro 500 at Michigan Speedway as the Race of the Decade and Emerson Fittipaldi's 1993 Indianapolis 500 victory as the Drive of the Decade. Racer's annual awards included FedEx Championship Series champion Juan Montoya as Racer of the Year, series runner-up Dario Franchitti as Road Racer of the Year and the Reynard 99I/Honda as Race Car of the Year.
* SPRING TRAINING LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY
CART's fifth annual Spring Training, scheduled for February 8-10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, is less than four weeks away. The Spring Training schedule will include two days of testing, Wednesday, Feb. 9 and Thursday, Feb. 10, which will give competitors in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series the opportunity to measure themselves against their rivals as they prepare for the season. Spectator admission to Spring Training is $14.99 and includes a free membership in the CART Winners Circle Fan Club. In addition to exclusive Spring Training access, WCFC members also receive numerous other benefits, including a subscription to the Inside Line newsletter; access to at-track meetings featuring drivers, race officials and other CART personalities scheduled exclusively for members during the FedEx Championship Series season; and discounts on merchandise, publications and race tickets. All members will receive a 10 percent discount on tickets for the season-opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami Presented by Toyota, March 24-26 at Homestead. Fans may register for the Winners Circle Fan Club at Spring Training, or they may join through the CART website, at www.cart.com.
* CLEVELAND EVENT RECEIVES NEW TITLE SPONSOR
IMG Motorsports and Marconi plc announced jointly last week that they had reached an agreement making Marconi the title sponsor of the July 2 FedEx Championship Series event at Burke Lakefront Airport.
The event has been designated the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar. Marconi has also agreed to be the title sponsor of the race telecast, which will air nationally on ABC-TV and throughout the world on ESPN International. Marconi plc, headquartered in London, is one of the world's largest communications companies, with 45,000 employees worldwide and sales in more than 100 countries. Its two largest divisions, Systems and Communications, are headquartered in the United States, where Marconi employs 13,000 people and generates approximately half of its $8 billion in annual sales. "I am extremely pleased that Marconi has chosen to do business in Cleveland and to support that endeavor by taking on the title of our race," said Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. "As we have learned over the years, this race is very important to the City of Cleveland, area businesses and racing fans. Each year, millions of people throughout the world get exposed to Cleveland through the race. I want to thank Marconi for helping us continue the global showcase of our wonderful city."
* CART CHAIRMAN AND CEO ANDREW CRAIG TO SPEAK
Andrew Craig, CART Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, will be among the featured speakers at Friday's first-ever Autosport International Motorsport Sponsorship and Marketing Conference, part of the annual Autosport International Business Conference in London. Craig's address, scheduled for Friday morning, will focus on CART's success in North America and the potential for further global expansion of the FedEx Championship Series, which currently includes events in Japan, Brazil and Australia in addition to its 17 North American races. On Thursday, Jan. 20, Craig will participate in a panel discussion concerning auto racing sponsorship and sports marketing at the Sport Summit 2000 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. Joining him on the panel will be Christopher J. Lencheski, Vice President and General Manager of the Chesapeake Motor Sports Development Corporation, and Andy Deas, Director of Sports Marketing for MCI World.