WPS RACING ANNOUNCES ENDURANCE LINE-UP In a groundbreaking initiative, one of Australia's newest V8 Supercar teams WPS Racing has joined forces with Champ Car World Series debutants, Team Australia, to create a solid International contingent...
WPS RACING ANNOUNCES ENDURANCE LINE-UP
In a groundbreaking initiative, one of Australia's newest V8 Supercar teams WPS Racing has joined forces with Champ Car World Series debutants, Team Australia, to create a solid International contingent for their assault of this year's Betta Electrical Sandown 500 and Super Cheap Auto Bathurst 1000 endurance events.
The announcement of Canadian driver Alex Tagliani and his Australian team mate Marcus Marshall to fill the two vacant seats will have them joining regular WPS Racing campaigners, Aussie David Besnard and New Zealand driver Craig Baird.
The WPS Racing endurance team today conducted a test day in Ipswich to sort out driver combinations and racing strategies that will be put into place leading up to the September 9-11 Betta Electrical Sandown 500 and Super Cheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on October 6-9.
Tagliani has strong ties to this country having met his wife Bronte, a former Gold Coast Miss Indy entrant when he raced in Queensland's motorsport spectacular in 2001 and the pair subsequently married in January 2003.
Having never before steered a V8 Supercar in his career, Tagliani fully realises he has a big job ahead of him before his debut in the Australian Series and that was typified with a solid full day of testing.
"In the beginning I was really struggling with the gears, particularly on the downshift because it's all back to front when you're driving on the right hand side as opposed to what I'm more used to on the left," said Talgiani.
"Once I had a couple of sessions out on the track I really started to feel a lot more comfortable.
"But I'm under no illusions this is a huge learning curve so I'm looking forward to getting behind the wheel as much as possible."
Marshall too is excited by the prospect of returning home and once again trying his hand at V8 Supercar racing.
The Queenslander boasts a reputable strike rate in Australia having secured back-to-back second placings at Bathurst and Indy in the 2000 Australian Formula Ford Championship Series, before placing second overall in the 2003 Porsche Australia Carrera Cup.
He's no stranger to V8 Supercars, Sandown or Bathurst and is grateful for another opportunity to conquer the mountain.
"I'm just getting back into the swing of things and it's going to be great getting the chance to race in V8 Supercars again after brief stints during the past two years," said Marshall.
"This is a lot different deal to the Champ Cars but like every driver in Australia you know how big Bathurst is and this is what everyone aspires to do .. race at Bathurst and to win.
"I'm so proud to be driving for Team Australia and representing my country overseas and to be a part of the biggest event back home is a great feeling and I'm so happy to be a part of that."
"Already for me it's been a major point in my career being the first full-time Australian driver in the Champ Car World Series and for that I have a lot of people to thank.
"Those same people have put the V8 Supercar deal together and I hope Alex and I can repay the faith everyone has put in us from WPS Racing.
"Neither of us are under any illusions of an easy ride in the endurance rounds and to have this opportunity present itself is mind blowing."
The WPS Racing, Team Australia move is a unique undertaking, involving two separate teams from different racing mediums and leaves the door wide open for greater synergy to develop between motorsporting bodies.
Having full-time drivers from each of the featured categories of the Gold Coast's Lexmark Indy 300 carnival on October 20-23 join forces is bound to attract a lot of interest.
WPS Racing team owner Craig Gore, who is also co-owner of Team Australia, sees the move as a huge leap in the right direction so far as creating a transitional path between International racing categories.
"There's no doubt this is a part of the vision of helping develop paths for young Australian drivers to take part in World-wide competition," said Gore.
"Through such development a two-fold proposition will present itself where International drivers can also filter in to our own V8 Supercar competition.
"It also further cements the relationship between our two racing entities following last year's initial venture that saw David Besnard take the controls of a Champ Car at Indy and manage a seventh placing on debut.
"With Alex and Marcus driving for WPS Racing, fans have the opportunity to witness their racing styles and abilities prior to the Team Australia Champ Car campaign at Indy.
Already this year Team Australia has proven itself a force in the Champ Car World Series as Tagliani has managed to capture two podiums, the first in Mexico and more recently back in his homeland.
But even the Canadian recognises the massive task ahead of him to try and make a mark in the World's most renowned endurance campaigns.
His timely entry into the elite category of Australian motorsport comes hot on the heels of a career high 7th placing in the Champ Car World Series in 2004, which also netted him his first event victory at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin USA.
"I've been coming to Australia now for four years and have always marvelled at the V8 Supercars," added Tagliani.
"This is exciting for me especially since the only race experience I've had in Australia has been at Indy in the Champ Cars.
"Every racer throughout the World knows about the endurance events in Australia, particularly Bathurst so I can't wait to have my first steer in V8 Supercar competition.
"It's a whole new ball game for me having never really been behind the wheel of a right wheel drive car, let alone one of these machines.
"But it's one that's got me excited, especially as the endurance events lead straight into the Australian round of the Champ Cars.