CHAMPCAR/CART: Wheeling and dealing - the Long Beach grid is forming

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Champ Car World Series with many of the vacancies now filled. Last week, CTE Racing-HVM confirmed Nelson Philippe and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing named 2005 Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman to drive one of...

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Champ Car World Series with many of the vacancies now filled. Last week, CTE Racing-HVM confirmed Nelson Philippe and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing named 2005 Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman to drive one of their cars. The last two days have been the busiest. CTE-HVM will fill their second entry with British rookie Dan Clarke and today there were two more announcements from the California Speedway, where the Champ Car World Series is holding an open test. Rocketsports Racing announced Antonio Pizzonia will be in one of their entries for Long Beach and Dale Coyne Racing named Cristiano da Matta as one of their two drivers.

The 25-year-old Pizzonia, affectionately known as "Jungle Boy" in Formula One for his wild personality, tested alongside countryman Enrique Bernoldi last month at Houston's MSR road course. Pizzonia set a series of impressive times that compared highly to others posted in previous tests. Both drivers have competed in F1: Pizzonia with Jaguar and Williams and Bernoldi with Arrows. This signing is currently just for the Long Beach opener with sponsorship details to be announced at a later date.

As a team Rocketsports Racing is attempting to morph into Team Brazil. Last year they ran Timo Glock, who won Rookie of the Year honors, and Ryan Hunter-Reay and Michael McDowell in the second car. The team began in Champ Car in 2003 with Alex Tagliani, taking their first victory at the 2004 race at Road America.

The other signing today was quite a major coup for Champ Car's perennial hopefuls. The 2002 series champion, da Matta gives longtime owner Dale Coyne his best chance at grabbing an elusive first win. "Our team has smelled victory in the past, it is now time to taste it," Coyne said. "I am very proud to have Cristiano join our efforts for 2006 and look forward to an exciting season." Coyne's team last scored a podium with Oriol Servia in 2004, and came close to victories with Alex Barron at both Surfer's Paradise and Fontana in 2000 before heartbreaking engine failures. Last season saw a myriad of drivers, six total, rotate in Coyne's two cars.

Da Matta's return to Champ Car last year, following a tempestuous two-year foray in Formula One with Toyota, had both its good and bad moments. Veteran strategist Jim McGee engineered a victory for da Matta at Portland, and also put him in contention a week later at Cleveland. Unfortunately when encountering a back marker, da Matta spun off the road and was out on the spot. The victory was da Matta's lone top five finish of the season for PKV Racing, with his next best result 6th on two occasions. "Dale has consistently produced competitive cars as shown by the results good drivers have experienced in the past," da Matta commented. "I am excited about this opportunity and we are both committed to putting out a competitive effort for 2006."

With these announcements there are only three seats left to fill prior to the April 9 season opener in Long Beach. Andrew Ranger tested the second Mi-Jack Conquest car at Fontana with former Euro Formula 3000 champion Nicky Pastorelli in the second Coyne entry.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Enrique Bernoldi , Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia , Alex Barron , Michael McDowell , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Nicky Pastorelli , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Williams , Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing