IPS: St. Pete: Cunningham/Hamilton preview

CUNNINGHAM AND HAMILTON HAVE WORK TO DO THIS WEEKEND Defending series champion Wade Cunningham and fellow Kiwi Mathew Hamilton have work to do this weekend at the combined second and third rounds of the 2006 Indy Pro Series at St Petersburg in...

CUNNINGHAM AND HAMILTON HAVE WORK TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Defending series champion Wade Cunningham and fellow Kiwi Mathew Hamilton have work to do this weekend at the combined second and third rounds of the 2006 Indy Pro Series at St Petersburg in Florida.

Cunningham, 21, ended up 10th at last weekend's Indy Pro Series season opener at the Homestead-Miami oval last weekend after being given a jump start penalty and the 21-year-old former World Kart Champion heads west with a 30 point deficit on Rnd 1 winner Jeff Simmons.

Hamilton, the 23-year-old former New Zealand kart champion from Christchurch, is in a similar position, after struggling with a fuel starvation problem at Homestead-Miami, and finishing 14th.

However, if any two drivers are going to be competitive on the narrow confines of the concrete wall-lined 2.88 km St Petersburg street circuit it is the two Kiwis.

Last year Cunningham set the fastest lap of the race as he chased down eventual winner Marco Andretti to cross the line in second place, his pace on the converted street circuit proof that the cut-and-thrust of kart racing translates well to full-size single-seater racing cars.

Hamilton is also an internationally experienced kart racer though this will be the first true 'street' circuit the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series graduate will have raced a car on.

Both drivers also performed well at a mid-week test at the Sebring airfield circuit on the way to St Petersburg this week, Cunningham the pace-setter and Hamilton posting competitive times

This weekend's meeting is the first of two 'double-headers' on the 2006 Indy Pro Series schedule, the second being at northern California's Infineon Raceway late in August.

Last year was the first that what the Americans call 'road' courses (non-oval) were included on the Pro Series programme and the response from all quarters was so positive that (with the two 'double-header rounds) there are now six of each, six oval races and six on road courses.

The Indy Pro Series is the main support category for the Indy Racing League, the premier open-wheeler category in the United States. The series, which pits drivers of 3.5 litre V8 Nissan engined Dallara single-seaters against each other on oval and road courses is second only to the IRL on the US oval racing scene and coverage of it is beamed into 88 million US homes on ESPN2.

This year's new-look schedule includes the two new 'double-header' meetings (at St Petersburg in Florida and Infineon Raceway in Northern California) and again supports both the Indy 500 and the US Formula 1 Grand Prix (which runs on a purpose-built road course inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway).

This weekend's meeting sees the Indy Pro Series cars practicing on Friday, qualifying on Saturday morning and racing on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning (US time).

There is then an early break of almost eight weeks until the third round of the series at the annual Indy 500 meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday May 26.

-fast company-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Wade Cunningham
Teams Toyota Racing