Apr. 3, 2009, 2:17 pm
Let's Go Racing!
(by Mark Olson)
Since October, a lot of effort on the Admin side has been in recruiting. We've spent a lot of time scouting race events all over the world, with domestic trips primarily to Star Mazda events and ChampCar Atlantic events, and with at least 3 trips to Europe. Unfortunately, the economy has put a lot of pressure on driver budgets and sponsorship budgets ... so it's been challenging to keep our standards high and to not cut corners.
Fortunately our hard work, patience, and discipline appear to have paid off, as we start the 2009 campaign with Richard Philippe in the #36 car and Duncan Tappy in the #63 car.
Richard is originally from Valence, France but resides in Miami, FL. He’s a very talented and highly motivated driver. In 2005, at the ripe age of 15, he became the youngest driver to ever win at Indianapolis and the youngest driver to win the Formula BMW championship. Given Indy’s century of racing history, that’s quite a measuring stick! Richard tested with us at Homestead Speedway in November and went quite well. In January, he set a new track record on the road course at Palm Beach International Raceway (formerly Moroso Motorsports Park). Then he backed up the performance a mere 2 days later on the 1.5 mile oval at Homestead Speedway, by scoring the fastest time of the day (with all the other top teams in attendance). He passed his IRL Rookie Test at Kentucky Speedway on March 24th, and he scored another fastest lap during the final pre-season test at Sebring on March 30th (with 19 total cars in attendance).
Duncan joined the team late in March … just in time to install a motor in the #63 car and load up for the March 30 test at Sebring. Duncan hails from West Ewell in the UK. His first full season in car racing produced a remarkable thirteen consecutive race wins in Formula Ford. Not only did he take the championship, he dominated the prestigious Formula Ford Festival. Winning the Formula Renault Championship in 2007, Duncan scored 16 podiums and 9 race wins. 2008 saw Duncan competing in the Superleague Formula producing three podiums in the first five events.
Yes, Richard and Duncan ARE that good!
So now we enter the first race weekend of the season in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. All the testing is done, the cars are perfect, the drivers’ and fans’ expectations are very high. You have to check the action out on the web. Besides the tape delay coverage on Versus on Monday the 6th
, there will be live streaming video on the web at www.indycar.com
. There are 28 cars registered for the race, 18 of which are Indy Lights rookies. I accidentally ended up driving on a portion of the track, today, looking for the pits, and it looks more like canyon racing … the way the track is laid out on the city streets of downtown St. Petersburg, with solid concrete walls lining the track (see simulated lap on http://www.versus.com/nw/article/view/77554/?tf=indycar2.tpl
). The action should be fierce.
The schedule is as follows:
9:25 – 10:25 AM EDT on Friday April 3 Indy Lights Practice
4:45 – 5:30 PM EDT on Friday April 3 Indy Lights Qualifying for Race 1
9:55 – 10:35 AM EDT on Saturday April 4 Indy Lights Qualifying for Race 2
4:45 PM EDT on Saturday April 4 Indy Lights Race 1
10:00 AM EDT on Sunday April 5 Indy Lights Race 2
2:45 PM EDT on Sunday April 5 IndyCar Race, Live TV on Versus
6:00 PM EDT on Monday April 6 Delayed TV on Versus, Indy Lights
A note on cable channel Versus. This used to be the Outdoor Life Network. They are the fastest growing sports channel on cable. Besides IndyCar, they have also won the contract to broadcast all the NHL hockey games and the Tour de France bicycle racing. While at first most fans were disappointed to see the TV coverage move from ESPN2 to Versus, it’s probably a really good thing. First of all they wanted us … bad, and it’s always nice to be wanted. ESPN2 only provided 30 minutes of coverage, so the action was heavily edited. We get a full 60 minute show on Versus, so no on-track action should be missed. Additionally, all of our races are supposed to be re-broadcast during the 2.5 hour pre-race shows for the IndyCar events. So there will be lots of exposure for our drivers and sponsors.
Changing gears, Duncan and I got to play a round of golf at the St. Petersburg Country Club, today. Duncan and I are both around a 16 handicap, but we didn’t demonstrate it today. In our defense, it was essentially the first round of 2009 for both of us, and there was a lot of rust. The company was great, the weather was excellent, the facility was nice … but the golf really stunk. Fortunately, I believe that Duncan will give me a re-match.