CART's Champ Car World Series officially kicked off its 2003 racing season
in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The week Spring Training started
with a reception to introduce the 2003 Champ Car driver lineup and to
welcome St. Pete as the newest race on the schedule.
The following morning, the Newman-Haas team, with their lead driver, Bruno
Junqueira, took center stage. First, the team presented their 2003
sponsorship package, unveiling the logos of PacificCare Health Systems on
Junqueira's Lola-Ford. In addition, PacificCare was announced as the
Official Health Care provider for CART employees and has signed on as an
official sponsor at three stops on the Champ Car schedule: Long Beach,
Milwaukee, and Denver.
St. Petersburg got its Champ Car wakeup call next, as Junqueira took his
newly-decaled car for a few demonstration laps of the new temporary
circuit that will host the opening race of the Champ Car season in a few
weeks. He was very pleased with the circuit, saying: "It was quite smooth
and very wide, especially the airport part."
While none of the other Champ Car drivers got a chance to try the new
circuit in their race cars, a few took some "pace car hot laps" and all
were happy with the work that was done to prepare the streets for a race
circuit. As the drivers spoke to the media in an afternoon session, they
expressed obvious e***ment over the upcoming race and the warm reception
in the city.
A common question for the experienced drivers on the panel was whether
they were concerned about the large group of rookies competing in Champ
Cars this season. Jimmy Vasser had perhaps the best answer, saying: "my
comfort level with the rookies coming in is very high," and citing the
strong backgrounds in international racing in the group of youngsters.
Two drivers, veteran Roberto Moreno with Herdez Motorsports and Roberto
Gonzalez with Dale Coyne Racing, were introduced as test drivers, but both
are expected to sign contracts with their respective teams to run the full
season. Those signings bring the Champ Car grid to eigh*** cars for
The Cart Champ Car World Series leaves St. Pete and hits the track at
nearby Sebring International Raceway for three days of practice, media
conferences and announcements, February 4-6. Motorsport.com has a full
staff on site at Sebring. Visit the Motorsport.com PHOTOS page for the
latest photos of the cars and drivers at Spring Training.
http://SportToday.org/ -- your source for motorsport news on the Internet