CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Homestead Preview

HILLIARD, OH. - MARCH 15, 1999 - One of CART's rising stars, 29-year-old Max Papis, is Bobby Rahal's hand-picked successor to drive the Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard in 1999. Papis joined Team Rahal at the conclusion of the 1998 season after...

HILLIARD, OH. - MARCH 15, 1999 - One of CART's rising stars, 29-year-old Max Papis, is Bobby Rahal's hand-picked successor to drive the Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth/Reynard in 1999. Papis joined Team Rahal at the conclusion of the 1998 season after driving for the Arciero-Wells Team for two and a half seasons. Nicknamed "Mad Max" and known as one of the most engaging personalities on the circuit, Papis is ready to assume the ride of one of the most successful drivers in CART history.

"It is great to have Bobby Rahal not as the opposition but for suggestions," said Papis. "Having Bobby on my side is a fantastic resource that will give me an advantage. I am very excited for the beginning of the season and feel like I have been presented with a great opportunity with Team Rahal."

Papis served notice at CART's Spring Training in February that he will be a force to be reckoned with during the 1999 season. Papis posted the fifth fastest lap of the two-day test period and was consistently among the fastest drivers on the 1.5-mile oval.

HERTA BACK ON TRACK AFTER APPENDECTOMY The last month of Bryan Herta's preparation for the 1999 FedEx Championship Series has been a whirlwind of events. Herta turned in an impressive performance at CART's Spring Training driving the Shell Ford-Cosworth/Reynard to the sixth-fastest lap of any driver. Less than two weeks later he posted an unofficial track record at Laguna Seca Raceway by turning a lap of 67.1 seconds, seven tenths of a second faster than the record which he set little more than a year earlier.

The standout winter testing program for the Shell car was sidetracked when Herta underwent an emergency appendectomy on March 1. Considered an early favorite to challenge for the PPG Cup in 1999, Herta will return to the track for the first time since the surgery at Homestead this week.

"This could actually be a blessing in disguise for Bryan," said team owner Bobby Rahal. "Bryan is in great physical shape so it isn't like he needed the last couple of weeks to get himself physically ready to race. What the appendectomy did was force him to rest physically and focus on preparing himself mentally. The fact of the matter is Bryan will be rested and ready to go at Homestead."

RAHAL READY FOR INITIAL RACE FROM BEHIND THE WALL The 1999 FedEx Championship Series will serve as a time of transition for one of the sport's greatest drivers, three-time PPG Cup Champion Bobby Rahal. Making the adjustment from owner/driver to full-time owner over the course of this season is something Rahal has anticipated for a long time. "It has been kind of liberating," said Rahal of his transition from driver/owner to full-time owner. "Spring Training was the first time in 20 years I've gone to a race track without a knot in my stomach. I have always viewed this transition as the next step in my career. People are surprised that I am not going through withdrawal from driving but to me it feels natural to be in the pits and behind the wall. The real challenge before me is to do what I can to ensure that we win not only the race this weekend but the FedEx Championship this season." The 1999 Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami will mark the first time since 1982 that Bobby Rahal has not started the season-opening CART event. Rahal retired following the 1998 season having posted 24 wins in over 250 career CART races. Rahal and Rick Mears are the only three-time winners of the circuit's PPG Cup Championship.

TEAM RAHAL'S PROVEN PACKAGE PRODUCES DESIRED RESULTS Team Rahal enters the 1999 CART season off a successful winter testing program in which the team was consistently one of the quickest on the track. One of the keys to the on-track success was that for the first time since Team Rahal was formed, the team will utilize the same chassis, engine and tire combination from the previous season. The combination of Reynard chassis with the Ford-Cosworth engine and the Firestone Firehawk tires produced the team's inaugural win (Herta at Laguna Seca) and three pole positions during the 1998 FedEx Championship Series. With a proven product on the track, the decision was made to build on the team's success. "Staying with the same package allows us to build on what we know," said Team Manager Tim Cindric. "By running the same set-up as last season it allows us to focus the time we would have spent on learning a new set-up on refinements. An advantage for us is that we come into the new season with a library of reliable data and the confidence that goes with it."

THE BOBBY RAHAL FOUNDATION BENEFITS THE BUONICONTI FUND The Bobby Rahal Foundation will make the first of a series of season-long charitable donations when Team Rahal arrives at Homestead-Miami Speedway later this week. During the 1998 season and Rahal's Last Ride, The Bobby Rahal Foundation raised over $400,000 that has been earmarked for charitable organizations throughout the CART community. The initial donation from The Bobby Rahal Foundation will be made to the Buoniconti Fund, which benefits The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The Miami Project is the world's largest, most comprehensive research center dedicated to finding more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for paralysis resulting from spinal cord injuries.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Rick Mears