Rocketsports Long Beach notes

20.04.2008: Rocketsports Long Beach notes

Rocketsports Racing successfully qualified both cars for their final Champ Car race, Sunday’s 34th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Despite not qualifying higher up on the grid, the team anticipates a good race as both drivers are confident they have a good race-ready racecar.

The day started off well for Antonio Pizzonia, who was looking to get in some more valuable practice time in hopes of finding a suitable car to qualify in. He completed a 31-lap run during the one hour and ten minute practice session, posting a quick time of 1:08.565 (103.330 mph) on his 22nd lap and finishing 13th quickest in the 20-car Champ Car field.

Teammate, Juho Annala was hoping for the same outcome on track – getting as much time as possible to continue to develop and set up the car for the 1.968-mile temporary Long Beach street course – but on his 14th time around, he got locked up in Turn 9 and made contact with the wall. That ended his session, as the car had substantial damage to the front left suspension, front wing and nose cone.

It was rather hectic for the #10 Rocketsports crew to get the car back to top shape for this afternoon’s final round of qualifying, but with a great team effort and speed like the car itself, the crew was able to have it ready to roll at exactly 2:00 p.m. local time, when the green flag dropped kicking off the final session of the day.

The team opted to save two sets of the Bridgestone Potenza Red tires to run in the final qualifying session. Hoping to take full advantage of the softer compound during both runs this afternoon, the first stint for both drivers was a little frustrating. Just after getting their tires up to temperature, a red flag came out sending the entire field back into the pits. 

When the track went green again, the Rocketsports duo made it around a few more times and just as they were starting a good run, another red flag would fly. That one wasn’t as disappointing as the first, because it was the timing the team planned to bring in the drivers for the second set of tires.

Pizzonia posted a 1:08.463 (103.484 mph) on lap 8 of 12 run in the final qualifying session this afternoon. Frustrated with not being able to get in a good qualifying lap, the Brazilian will start 15th on the Long Beach grid, on the inside of Row 8.

Annala, who managed his fastest time of the weekend on his 13th and final qualifying lap, posted a time of 1:09.555 (101.859 mph). He will start 20th on the grid, but only due to lack of running time this weekend. Compared to his teammate, Pizzonia has completed 88 laps this weekend, while Annala has only completed 62. Despite a back of the pack start, the Finnish driver remains confident that he has a car that will be good in the race.

There will be a 30-minute warm up session tomorrow morning, before the green flag drops to start the 34th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The historical event, the Champ Car finale, will take place on Sunday, April 20 at 1:00 PDT with coverage airing on ESPN2 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.

Quotes:

Antonio Pizzonia #9 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone

"Initially we had a lot of traffic during the final qualifying session, and then when we finally managed to find a gap, I had a problem with the steering wheel. It kept shifting the gears down by itself, so basically that slowed us down and I just couldn’t get in a good, quick lap at the end.

But I think that for the race tomorrow, we are going to have a good car, especially on old tires because the #9 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/ Bridgestone Champ Car was very well balanced when we ran on old tires. I expect it to be the same tomorrow. We are looking forward to the race; it is a shame that we did qualify well because I think we would have easily been in the top ten on the grid tomorrow."

Juho Annala #10 Pulp Management Agency/Rockstar Energy Drink/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone

"I am quite happy with the qualifying. I think after making a bit of a mistake in the practice this morning, which put me in the wall, cost us too many laps again like yesterday when we had the small issue in the pits. But the Rocketsports team did a really good job putting the car back together for me to run this afternoon, it was a lot of work and I want to thank them for all their efforts.

This afternoon, I think that we made big, big improvements both with my driving and the engineers were able to get the #10 Pulp Management/Rockstar Energy Drink/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car set-up even closer to suit me. But it was not easy, but still in a way, it was easier to bring the car to its limits today.

So, tomorrow is the race, I think that if I can just keep a nice, steady pace throughout the race and have no mistakes then I think we have a chance for a good position in the end."

- Rocketsports

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20.04.2008 / MaP

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