Sebring: Andersen Racing preview

Ready, Set, Go! FAIRFIELD, N.J. March 9 - They're ready, they're set, and now all they have to do is go to Sebring, Fla. for the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear season opener on Friday, March 17. That's the consensus of Andersen...

Ready, Set, Go!

FAIRFIELD, N.J. March 9 - They're ready, they're set, and now all they have to do is go to Sebring, Fla. for the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear season opener on Friday, March 17.

That's the consensus of Andersen Racing team members after a very successful test at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park in Braselton, Ga. Monday and Tuesday.

Brad Jaeger of Cincinnati, Gerardo Bonilla of Orlando, Fla. and Ramiro Scuncio of Argentina participated in the test. The fourth driver for the Fairfield, N.J.-based team's assault on the podium at Sebring, Charlie Hollings of Yorkshire, England, wasn't able to attend the test but he should be happy to learn that a former Formula 1 driver prepped his car in his absence.

Eliseo Salazar, who was there officially to help Scuncio, took his first laps in a Star Mazda car at the test. He did approximately 15 laps in the car that Hollings will drive, bedding in the brakes and scrubbing in some Goodyear tires. Despite all his years of experience, Salazar said that driving one of the Star Mazda cars will help him with his coaching duties because now he has first-hand knowledge of some of the car's characteristics.

Salazar - and all the other drivers - left Road Atlanta happy.

"It was great!" Jaeger said. "I think the main focus for this test was to finalize how everyone was working together and establish routines, and we did that and more. We set some great lap times; both Gerardo and I turned laps that were three-tenths under the qualifying time for the pole last year.

"Ramiro learned a lot about the car and made some great improvements; it was an all-around success for the two-day test," Jaeger added.

"I feel prepared going into Sebring; this was a huge confidence builder," he continued. "I think everyone is excited going into Sebring, and for the whole year ahead."

"I'm on cloud nine," Bonilla declared. "Things are gelling; we're going to be good!

"Road Atlanta is a fantastic track, and driving the Pro Formula Mazda is a fantastic experience here," Bonilla added. "Andersen Racing is not only gelling, but we are becoming stronger.

"I'm proud of my teammates, Brad and Ramiro, who are both giving it all they have, and the rest of the engineering, administrative, mechanical, and logistical staff," Bonilla elaborated. "Everybody does their job. It's a rewarding experience. It doesn't hurt that I am really enjoying this car! It's been such a long wait to get here, but well worth it."

Although Scuncio did have an incident at the very end of the test, he was pleased with how his lap times picked up over the course of the two days.

"The test was a good experience," he said. "We got to within about a second of the fastest guys, so it was good.

"I'm really looking forward to Sebring," he added. "The more laps I get, the more comfortable I am in the car, and I'm looking forward to both Sebring and the whole season."

"Our Road Atlanta test went well," said team owner Dan Andersen. "The team has really come together. The winter rebuilds were clearly done well, as all the cars performed great. We were fast, and the test program for the two days was well executed by Richard [Morgan, the team's general manager] and the engineers.

"Our new rig was a delight, and overall I was quite pleased," Andersen added. "I'm looking forward to Sebring, and I think the season should be a lot of fun!"

There's a promoter's test day at Sebring this coming Tuesday, March 14, and then the first official Star Mazda practice session of the 2006 season is slated for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15.

Qualifying is scheduled between 12:40 p.m. and 1:25 p.m. on Thursday, March 16. Qualifying was rained out at last year's race and the starting line-up was established by the fastest lap each driver recorded during practice. Raphael Matos got the pole with a 2:00.416 (110.617 mph).

The 45-minute season-opening race is slated for 2:25 p.m. on Friday, March 17, which is also St. Patrick's Day.

Last year three of the four Andersen Walko Racing drivers finished in the top 10 at Sebring, coming in third, sixth and ninth.

-ar

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Eliseo Salazar , Brad Jaeger , Gerardo Bonilla , Charlie Hollings