- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
- 0 Shares
In the six weekends since the Champ Car World Series' last public appearance (at Holland's TT Circuit Assen in early September), the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series has raced six times.
Busch-whacking stock car drivers had another four chances to compete, and Formula One managed to stage Grands Prix in two European countries along with successful races in Japan and China.
However, it wasn't six weeks of sun and fun for Champ Car's rotating cast of drivers. A two-day test at Sebring International Raceway attracted 13 cars and allowed some faces to get acquainted (or
re-acquainted) with their new places.
Here's a recap of what Champ Car's drivers and teams have been up to while watching many of their colleagues race into autumn.
Sebastien Bourdais was fastest the first day of the Sebring test, ending his allotment of test days for the year. The Frenchman remained in Europe after the races at Zolder and Assen, looking for a new home base for when he tackles Formula One next year with Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Graham Rahal ran both days at Sebring. He also attended the ceremonial opening of the 200th Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes store in Calumet Park, Ill., before meeting with students as part of the "Hands on the Wheel" driving safety campaign.
Forsythe Championship Racing
Testing rules limited Paul Tracy to a single day at Sebring, so the recently dismissed Oriol Servia was called back to complete the team's preparations for Surfers Paradise and Mexico City. Servia was third fastest during his day in the No. 3 car, while rookie David Martinez ran FCR's second car both days at Sebring as he prepares to resume his Champ Car career.
Tracy filled out the time between races by making his Championship Off Road Racing debut in a Group 4 class truck at Chula Vista, Calif. Servia was impressive enough to get a ride with PKV Racing.
Minardi Team USA
Minardi chose to run a private test at Sebring for Dan Clarke and Robert Doornbos rather than join the group test.
Doornbos, who is third in the points standings, said the team improved its street course setup at the test.
"There was a big gap between races, which is difficult for teams and drivers, but I've been keeping busy with some testing both with Minardi Team USA, F1 and also doing PR activities," he added.
Will Power was fastest overall at the Sebring test with teammate Simon Pagenaud fourth. Power immediately headed home to Australia to promote the Surfers race; during one phone interview with a radio station, the car he was riding in was rear-ended, causing minor damage.
"I feel really good after a week of training back home and I'm pumped," Power said. "Everything is shaping up well for our team. We were the fastest car at the last test of the season a couple of weeks ago and now it's time to get to work."
Another non-participant at Sebring, this Colorado-based team's future is in jeopardy if driver Justin Wilson leaves in conjunction with sponsor CDW.
Dale Coyne Racing
On the heels of two consecutive podium finishes, Bruno Junqueira was again competitive for DCR at Sebring, running second to Bourdais on the first day. Testing rules limited him to 50 miles on the second day. Katherine Legge also logged miles as she hopes to end a troubled season with improved results.
"We have done a lot in the last couple of weeks and we are still going fast," Junqueira said. "The guys are working hard and I hope we can continue to get good results, especially in Australia."
Kevin Kalkhoven's team was at the sharp end of the timesheets at Sebring, with Neel Jani fourth fastest on the first day and Tristan Gommendy P2 on the faster second day, just two hundredths of a second off Power. However, Gommendy is being replaced by Servia.
Pacific Coast Motorsports
PCM was the surprise of the Sebring test, with newly-recruited Mario Dominguez setting the third best time.
Alex Figge was a couple tenths slower, but he was still fifth overall, his best showing in a Champ Car to date.
"It was our most productive test of the season and Alex did a fantastic job developing a consistent and quick package for both cars," said team manager Michael Harvey.
Nelson Philippe had the best summer of anyone competing in the last two races of the season: he spent much of it hiking around New South Wales, Australia, camping with girlfriend Sarah Buller.
Now Philippe returns to the team where his Champ Car career started for the last two races of the season after sitting out most of 2007.
The 21-year old prepared to defend his title at Surfers Paradise by testing Conquest's Panoz DP01 at Putnam Park road course near Indianapolis.
"We were quick right away so I'm optimistic, especially for Mexico City," he said.
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.