CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal Japan Preview

TEAM RAHAL HEADS TO JAPAN HERTA AND PAPIS HOPE TO BUILD ON MIAMI SUCCESS HILLIARD, OH. . .The second stop of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series is the Firestone Firehawk 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. As they travel...

TEAM RAHAL HEADS TO JAPAN HERTA AND PAPIS HOPE TO BUILD ON MIAMI SUCCESS

HILLIARD, OH. . .The second stop of the 1999 CART FedEx Championship Series is the Firestone Firehawk 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. As they travel halfway around the world, Team Rahal is optimistic coming off a strong performance in the Grand Prix of Miami earlier this month.

Max Papis in the Miller Lite car equaled his best career CART finish with a fifth-place effort. For Papis the success at Homestead also marked just the second time he had finished in the top ten on an oval track. His previous best on an oval was an eighth-place finish at Michigan Speedway in July of 1997.

The season opener was the first race for Papis with Team Rahal after two plus seasons at Aciero-Wells. Although Papis replaces CART legend Bobby Rahal in the Miller car he doesn't feel extra pressure to succeed.

"The pressure is only what you put on yourself and I always look to improve my performance, " said Papis. "I want to be successful and do a good job for Team Rahal. I know if Bobby wanted me on the team it is because he believes in me as a person and in my driving abilities. He knows that my driving capabilities can fulfill his expectations."

Papis has served notice that he is becoming a force to be reckoned with on the CART circuit. In his last six races he has posted three top-ten finishes including two fifth place efforts.

Although his car ran strong at Miami, Bryan Herta was disappointed in his 12th-place finish. "Throughout practice and the race we made good progress adjusting the Shell car to make it faster and more comfortable to drive," said Herta. "I know I had a car capable of finishing in the top five and that's why I was so disappointed with my finish. We must do better in Japan."

Last season at Motegi, Team Rahal had mixed success. The success came as Rahal ran a strong third after Herta had clutch problems and dropped out of the race after 49 laps. Rahal was making a push for the lead late in the race when he crashed on lap 185 as a result of a component failure.

"Fortunately we have a lot of good data built up from Bobby's great run last year" said Herta. "Since Motegi is the one true oval none of us in CART have a chance to test, it is difficult to make up ground if your team falls behind early. The information from last season's success will give us a great starting point for 1999."

HERTA KICKS OFF ON-LINE DIARY FOR USA TODAY.COM

Team Rahal's Bryan Herta kicked off a season long diary for USA Today On-Line last Monday in which he will take a look at the 1999 FedEx Championship Series. Herta will use the column to reflect on the previous event and give the on-line audience insight into the race and drivers. "I am thrilled with the opportunity to give fans a drivers perspective of the season," said Herta. "The readers can expect to get my honest assessment of the race and not the typical politically correct answers that are so common among today's drivers."

Herta will also take an opportunity to examine issues associated with Champ Car racing in hopes of providing a clearer picture of the demands of the sport. A new column will appear after each race of the 1999 season.

RACING ACROSS THE BORDERS

CART runs five races outside the United States, and Team Rahal drivers Bryan Herta and Max Papis have shown they are capable of running competitively on the foreign tracks. Herta has 16 career CART starts outside the USA and has posted seven top-ten finishes, including two in the top-five last season (Brazil & Toronto). Papis posted three top-ten finishes in nine starts with Aciero-Wells including both Canadian races last season.

Team Rahal Foreign Finishes

Japan                Driver                Result        
1998                Herta                28th                        
                Papis                13th
Brazil                Driver                Result
1998                Herta                4th
                Papis                28th
1997                Herta                6th
                Papis                13th
1996                Herta                13th
Toronto                Driver                Result
1998                Herta                5th
                Papis                8th
1997                Herta                17th
                Papis                15th
1996                Herta                6th
1995                Herta                27th
Vancouver        Driver                Result
1998                Herta                22nd
                Papis                9th
1997                Herta                8th
                Papis                20th
1996                Herta                6th
1995                Herta                16th
Australia        Driver                Result
1998                Herta                10th
                Papis                17th
1997                Herta                22nd
                Papis                14th
1996                Herta                17th
1995                Herta                15th

RAHAL HONORED AS OUTSTANDING ALUMNI Team owner Bobby Rahal grew accustomed to winning awards of excellence throughout his 17-year career as one of CART's most successful drivers. On March 25th the three-time PPG Cup Champion was honored by The Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) as an outstanding alumnus of Denison University and inducted into the OFIC's Hall of Excellence.

Rahal, a 1975 graduate of Denison University with a degree in history, was one of four inductees for 1999.

The Hall of Excellence was established to honor alumni of Ohio's independent colleges whose lifetime achievements exemplify the traditions, ideals, strengths and values of private higher education.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta