DETROIT (November 21, 2000) - The 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship season concluded little over three weeks ago, but already a group of 20 veterans and rookies alike have tested Indy Lights Lola T97/20 race cars as teams and drivers work to ...
DETROIT (November 21, 2000) - The 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship season concluded little over three weeks ago, but already a group of 20 veterans and rookies alike have tested Indy Lights Lola T97/20 race cars as teams and drivers work to finalize next year's racing plans.
Testing began as soon as the Tuesday after the season-ending event at California Speedway, Oct. 29, and has continued at a steady pace through today at Buttonwillow Raceway Park near Bakersfield, Calif. where Indy Regency Racing and Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare Lola) are wrapping up a two-day session. Other teams that have tested drivers include Team Mexico Quaker Herdez, Conquest Racing, Dorricott Racing and Brian Stewart Racing.
Experienced Dayton Indy Lights drivers testing included 2000-championship runner-up Townsend Bell, Luis Diaz and Mario Dominguez, in addition to Witherill.
First timers included a slew of Barber Dodge Pro Series drivers including 2000 champion Nilton Rossoni, series runner-up Jon Fogarty, Sepp Koster, Alexandre Sperafico and Jamie Menninga, younger brother of Dayton Indy Lights driver Chris Menninga.
"We have had some great tests with some very good drivers," said Conquest Racing team owner and 1991 Indy Lights champion Eric Bachelart who ran his race cars for several drivers at Buttonwillow right after the Fontana finale. "There are quite a few of them that we would like to run in 2001 and right now we are just trying to keep in touch with them to develop and finalize some programs."
Rossoni, Koster, Sperafico and Jamie Menninga all drove for Conquest in addition to French Formula 3 and Formula 3000 veteran Romain Dumas, of France, U.S. F2000 driver Memo Rojas, Jr., of Mexico and New Zealander Nick Ross.
Dorricott Racing has conducted a pair of group tests at Buttonwillow that have included Bell, Diaz and first-time drivers Damien Faulkner, the 2000 European Formula Palmer Audi champion, from Ireland, and French Formula 3 driver Matthew Davies of England. Other new comers with Dorricott included Rossoni, 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series runner-up Jon Fogarty and 2000 European Formula 3 driver and 1999 European Formula Ford champion Marcos Ambrose, of Australia.
"The drivers we have tested have all been extremely talented," said team owner Bob Dorricott. "Choosing a new driver or drivers to join the team will be difficult because each driver displayed tremendous existing talent as well as potential for near term growth. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see many, if not all of them, at some point rise to the top of whatever level they enter next. Unfortunately, we can't accept all of them."
Dorricott plans to continue with its third test of the off season this week at Thunderhill Raceway in California.
Among the gamut of Dayton Indy Lights tests was a single-day shakedown at Putnam Park near Indianapolis on Nov. 11 that Team Mexico Quaker Herdez put together for Mario Dominguez who drove full-time for the team the last two years and in a pair of late season races in 1998. The test was designed as a road course refresher for Dominguez who was invited to test a Bettenhausen Motorsports Lola Mercedes-Benz Champ Car at Sebring last week.
"We ran him a few laps around Putnam Park just to get him back in the swing of things," said Team Mexico Quaker Herdez Team Manager Steve Miller. "He ran real competitively and proved to be in good shape for his Champ Car run."
Dominguez took to the Sebring test circuit last Thursday and Friday along with several FedEx Championship Series regulars, including 1998 Indy Lights champion and recent Newman/Haas Racing signee Cristiano da Matta and his teammate Christian Fittipaldi. Dominguez ran within a few tenths of the Champ Car regulars and reportedly turned in a quick lap of 52.33 seconds on the second day. The 25-year-old Mexican talent turned in a mistake-free run and totaled 145 laps, 90 on Thursday and 55 on the final day.
Ballots for the inaugural Dayton Indy Lights Championship All-Star team will be sent out this week to a panel consisting of series drivers and select media. An expansion of the CART All-Star Team that was successfully launched following the 1999 season, this year's edition will include drivers from the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and Toyota Atlantic Championship series. Using a points system, voters will select the three drivers he or she believes worthy of all-star status based on track performance in the 2000 season.
The top three points earners will be named to the inaugural Dayton Indy Lights All-Star Team which will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at the Sun Theater in Anaheim, Calif., at the CART All-Star Extravaganza. The evening event will include the presentation of all three All-Star Teams and a special private concert for guests by a top-name musical group. The All-Star event kicks off the three-day FedEx Championship Series Sneak Preview that takes place at California Speedway through Jan. 18. Formerly known as CART Spring Training, the new Sneak Preview format, which does not include on-track activities, is a pre-season media and promotional event. The Dayton Indy Lights Championship's teams and drivers will be part of the Preview, the first series involvement in a CART pre-season promotional preview event since 1996.