Top ten in new car debut at Vegas for Dan Clarke

07.04.2007: Top ten in new car debut at Vegas for Dan Clarke

Dan Clarke, British Champ Car driver, completed the opening day of racing at the first event in this seasonís Champ Car World Series. With his Team Minardi USA seat announced last week, the young Brit welcomed his return to racing in this premier single-seater race series.

The opening day of practice and provisional qualifying at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was Clarkeís first day of driving the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car. A new event on the 2007 calendar, the Vegas race takes place around the streets of this famous glitzy gambling city.

In the first practice session Clarke used the time to learn the track and the handling characteristics of the new car, which he found to be fairly similar to last yearís model.

He says, "The Panoz isnít too different to last yearís car, particularly as thereís quite a few elements that are the same Ė the power, the weight, the handling are similar. Itís the gearbox thatís the biggest change for me, with the paddleshift mechanism, but that wasnít a problem. I was a little surprised just how comfortable and smooth the car was for a first run, and it was a fairly seamless transition. Itís helped that Iíve been hanging out with the team over the winter and all they way along weíve been preparing for this first race."

In the afternoon 15 minutes pre-qualifying practice Clarke started to work with his MInardi Team USA crew to develop the car setup and prepare for provisional qualifying. With a maximum of fifteen laps available in the 35 minutes qualifying session, two 7-8 lap runs are used to post qualifying laps.

The team opted for an early session first run, to benefit from fewer cars on track and aim for a clear track. Running 12th fastest after the first round of Ďhot lapsí, Clark and his crew prepared for their second run, once again seeking space to run as fast as possible.

With only seven minutes of the session remaining, Clark was back out and quickly on the pace, and by its conclusion had recorded tenth quickest lap, for a provisional fifth row starting slot for Sundayís race.

Clarke reflected on his first day with the new Champ Car, saying, "Top ten for my first day in the car is a credit to my team and the hard work of the winter. I know thereís more in the car and myself, but thatís for tomorrow now. It hasnít taken long to get back in the groove and we did as much as we could in the time available to us.

"The Vegas track is quite cool. Itís surprisingly fast for a street circuit, and not too bumpy. The surface is quite smooth, but I think itíll give more grip as the weekend progresses. Itís a bit of a mix with the fast sections and the fun parts including the tunnels. I reckon itíll make a good event and will become an important fixture on the Champ Car calendar."

Paul Tracy took provisional pole and a guaranteed front row slot for Sundayís race, with Frenchman Simon Pagenaud second fastest and reigning Champion, Sebastian Bourdais third quickest.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix race preparations continue for Dan Clarke and Minardi Team USA tomorrow. A further two practice sessions tomorrow precede final qualifying to set the grid for the first Champ Car race of the 2007 on Sunday 8 April. Clarke returns to the track tomorrow at 9.45 am local time.


- Alison Hill -


07.04.2007 / MaP

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