CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES CROSSES THE ATLANTIC FOR TWO-RACE EUROPEAN SWING European Champ Car schedule kicks off this weekend in Zolder With the majority of its drivers hailing from Europe, it will be a return home of sorts for the Champ Car...
CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES CROSSES THE ATLANTIC FOR TWO-RACE EUROPEAN SWING
European Champ Car schedule kicks off this weekend in Zolder
With the majority of its drivers hailing from Europe, it will be a return home of sorts for the Champ Car World Series this week as the Series heads to the Old Continent. The two race swing gets underway this weekend with the Belgian Champ Car Grand Prix at Circuit Zolder.
The 2.622-mile permanent road course will play host to Champ Cars for the very first time. This weekend's race also marks the return of the open-wheel series to Europe since its last visit in 2003.
The eleven European drivers are looking forward to racing on their home continent but this race is really close to home for Conquest Racing's Jan Heylen (#34 Grafiprint Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The Belgian driver comes from a town about 25 minutes down the road from the track for which he has been an ambassador for the past few years.
Heylen's team owner, Eric Bachelart, who is also from Belgium, will be returning to the circuit where he first drove a race car and scored his first win. Coming off their best result of the season with a sixth place finish at Road America, both driver and owner will want to do better in front of family, friends and sponsors.
The remainder of the European field will also want to do well in front of their close ones. Atop the list is France's Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The rookie will try to score his first podium of the season in front of the bus loads of fans making the trip from France to Zolder to cheer on one of their favorite French drivers.
The French fans will also be able to cheer on fellow Frenchmen Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay by Touch / Megaspirea Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The three-time Champ Car champ will be looking to this weekend to increase the Championship lead he gained in Elkhart Lake two weeks ago. A disappointing result by his closest competitor Robert Doornbos (#14 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), combined with a fifth win this season by the Frenchman put Doornbos down by 37 points.
While Bourdais will be looking to build the gap, the Dutchman, who has two wins of his own this season in Mont-Tremblant and San Jose, will try to do the opposite and score another victory before heading to his home race in Assen next week.
Most of the other Europeans will be chasing their maiden Champ Car victory this weekend. Such is the case of Pagenaud, Neel Jani (#21 Red Bull Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who already has a couple of second place finishes this year and a third, Gommendy, who has yet to top his best result of fifth registered at the first race of the season in Las Vegas and Oriol Servia (#7 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).
American Graham Rahal (#2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who came off his third podium of the season in Road America, will try to copy his teammate Bourdais and score his first Champ Car win in Europe. As for Briton Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), he will be targeting his first win of the season.
Team Australia's Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) is hoping some of the misfortune that hit him in Road America can be brushed off onto his competitors in order to regain some ground in the title hunt. Heading into the last race the Australian was 24 points behind, but after a mechanical problem ended his race in Elkhart Lake, he now finds himself 53 markers back. The sophomore driver is aware that in order to stay in the fight, he must finish all his races.
The Champ Car drivers will also have an added incentive this weekend in Zolder, as well as next week in Assen, with the Phanos Resorts Champ Car European Team Cup. Much like the Canadian Triple Crown honored the top team over the three Canadian races, the Phanos Resorts Cup will crown the best team over the two European races.
After claiming the Triple Crown in Edmonton, Teammates Power and Pagenaud will try to sweep the team honors by going home with the top prize in the European Cup. The Newman/Haas/Lanigan duo of Bourdais and Rahal will however put up a fight, after finishing second in the Canadian version of the team competition. Another couple of drivers to watch in the Phanos Resorts Champ Car European Cup will be the Minardi Team USA pair of Doornbos and 'Speedy' Dan Clarke (#4 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) who scored his best Champ Car result at the previous race in Elkhart Lake. With both drivers in top form, they may give the other teams a run for their money.
The action for the inaugural Belgian Champ Car Grand Prix starts Friday with the first round of qualifying at 8:30 am Eastern Time. The final grid will be set on Saturday, August 25 at 8:30 am Eastern. The race will go green on Sunday, August 26 at 8:00 am Eastern Time and will be broadcast live in the United States on ESPN Classic and in Europe on Eurosport 2.