Thursday, February 7, 2008

Champ Car testing begins

With little or no fanfare, Champ Car held its first official testing session of 2008 in Sebring, Florida. And while many of us have predicted gloom ‘N doom for the despondent Open Wheel racing series, I must say it was surprising to read that 14 drivers/car combinations showed up for the first day of testing… I mean c’mon, that’s almost a full Champ Car grid. (OUCH!) And while the majority of last year’s contestants were present, Team Australia was MIA.

With seven drivers confirmed for the upcoming season, the other half of the grid was made up by a variety of Open Wheel talent hoping to convince their possible suitors to ink them to the upcoming Champ Car season, albeit contingent upon bank wire transfers occurring.

While Alex Figge struck first blood by being quickest in the first testing session, the man atop the timing sheet for the first two days was ex-Formula 1 driver Frank Montagny testing alongside Paul “Bite Me-Micklewright” Tracy for Forsythe Petitt Racing.

In the never ending game of Pop goes the Weasel. 2006 Champ Car Atlantics champion Simon Pagenaud, who drove for Team Australia last year spent the test auditioning for a seat at Conquest Racing alongside 2006 Champ Car Atlantics runner-up Franck Perera who set the overall fastest lap time on the final day of testing. The blitzing of the field convinced team owner Eric Bachelart to sign Perera for 2008, as part of his two car effort which could become Team France.

Mexican David Martinez tested for Pacific Coast Motorsports and hopes to land a ride for the season as Mario “Boom Boom” Dominguez’s replacement in the team’s sophomore season.

Team Minardi USA ran a single car for VenezuelanErnesto Viso, who’s spent the last three seasons contesting F3000 & GP2 for Durango, BCN Competition and Racing Engineering respectively, along with also driving the third Spyker F1 chassis. Meanwhile 2007 Champ Car Rookie of the year Robert Doornbos claims he’ll be back with the team this season, yet he’s still waiting for the best Euros conversion rate before exchanging into the necessary dinero needed to obtain the drive.

And surprisingly Dale Coyne ran Mario Moraes aboard what was Katherine Legge’s mount last season, for the three day test. The Brazilian native has contested Formula 3 with Carlin Motorsports, finishing 14th overall. Does this mean that Legge is looking for a ride elsewhere? Certainly Kevin K. will not let Legge slip off of the Champ Car grid as she’s the only female currently contesting Champ Car and it would be another huge gaf by Chump Carzs to let this fan favourite disappear.

Testing will continue at Laguna Seca March 13-14, during Champ Car’s designated Spring Training session.

Final combined test times from Sebring testing

(Pos., driver name, team, lap time, mph, total laps for the 3 days)

1. Franck Perera, #24 Conquest Racing, 49.806 seconds, 120.636 mph, 205 laps

2. Graham Rahal, #2 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, 49.950 seconds, 120.288 mph, 238 laps

3. Alex Tagliani, #21 PKV Racing, 50.173 seconds, 119.754 mph, 281 laps

4. Oriol Servia, #22 PKV Racing, 50.178 seconds, 119.742 mph, 288 laps

5. Justin Wilson, #1 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, 50.207 seconds, 119.673 mph, 269 laps

6. Franck Montagny, #7 Forsythe/Pettit Racing, 50.209 seconds, 119.668 mph, 207 laps

7. Bruno Junqueira, #19 Dale Coyne Racing, 50.507 seconds, 118.962 mph, 247 laps

8. Alex Figge, #29 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 50.521 seconds, 118.929 mph, 247 laps

9. Simon Pagenaud, #34 Conquest Racing, 50.702 seconds, 118.504 mph, 186 laps

10. Enrique Bernoldi, #8 Rocketsports Racing, 50.714 seconds, 118.476 mph, 255 laps

11. Paul Tracy, #3 Forsythe/Pettit Racing, 50.732 seconds, 118.434 mph, 179 laps

12. David Martinez, #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 50.736 seconds, 118.425 mph, 255 laps

13. Ernesto Viso, #4 Minardi Team USA, 50.800 seconds, 118.276 mph, 164 laps

14. Mario Moraes, #11 Dale Coyne Racing, 50.930 seconds, 117.974 mph, 241 laps