TEAM TARGET ROOKIES TURN THEIR FIRST LAPS AT THE BRICKYARD Drivers Junqueira and Minassian impressed with legendary 2.5-mile oval Indianapolis -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing tested Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it...
TEAM TARGET ROOKIES TURN THEIR FIRST LAPS AT THE BRICKYARD
Drivers Junqueira and Minassian impressed with legendary 2.5-mile oval Indianapolis -- Target Chip Ganassi Racing tested Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where it will attempt to claim its second straight Indy 500 championship on May 27. Rookie drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian are attempting to duplicate last year's dominating performance by Juan Montoya, who claimed the checkered flag in his first-ever Indy 500. According to Team Target managing director Mike Hull, the rookies' performance was just as impressive as Montoya's first visit to the Brickyard. "This was a good learning session for our two rookie drivers," Hull said. "This is a tough racetrack to learn, but they did great and are getting used to running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This session can be compared to one of those two-seater racecars, where the student rides around with a teacher. The difference was that the drivers were in the car and we are the teacher in the pits. The main purpose of this test is to provide the drivers a feel for how the car reacts to the track. They're great learners and are providing valuable feedback to our engineers. This is their first time ever driving on a flat, fast superspeedway, and they did a fantastic job. I am very pleased with their development today." In 2000, Target Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in five years, fielding cars for former CART FedEx Series champions Jimmy Vasser and Juan Montoya. Both drivers led portions of the race, and Montoya claimed the checkered flag, setting an Indy 500 rookie record by leading 167 of the 200 laps. This year, the team is using updated versions of the G-Force chassis and Oldsmobile engine package that Montoya raced to the 2000 title. Junqueira, last year's European Formula 3000 champion, was pleased with his one-day test at the Brickyard. "Our testing session today went very well," Junqueira said. "I am very happy to be here at Indianapolis. It is a fast track and a lot different than I'm used to. This track is very difficult to learn and not easy to run on. I'm glad we have this chance to learn the track and learn the fast line around here. My Team Target engineers and teammates have given me some great information about this track, and that really helped me today. It is great to be here, as I've said before, I've been watching the Indy 500 ever since I was seven years old back in Brazil, and it will be an honor to be able to race here in May." Minassian, the runner-up to Junqueira in last year's F3000 Series, was overwhelmed by his first visit to the 2.5 mile oval. "This track is beautiful -- it is amazing! This is my first visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I now realize why the Indy 500 is so popular all over the world," said Minassian, a native of France. "With all of the people in the stands, it's going to be an awesome experience to race here. At the test, I was trying to learn the fast way around the track and how the car responds to the track. This is difficult, because even though the four corners look identical, they are very different in how the car reacts to each one. It's a very technical track, and I'm looking forward to testing here again next month to become more comfortable in the car." Team Target now begins preparations for its second CART FedEx Series event, the April 8 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif.