Champ Car convert gains ground

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has had a tough 2008. After winning four consecutive Champ Car titles, the team has struggled in making the eleventh-hour switch to the IRL. Minimal testing, a serious parts shortage, more crashes than expected, and a punishing 14 races in 16 weeks meant all the ‘transition’ teams were playing catch-up.

At the St Petersburg street race in April Graham Rahal drove superbly to win (above). But the team struggled at Indianapolis and on most other ovals where engineering is king and a thick book of test data is essential. Road and street circuits are a different matter, and Rahal and team leader Justin Wilson showed race-winning speed in the few races run on such tracks.

At Detroit’s Belle Isle park circuit in August – the penultimate round – Wilson drove an excellent race, attacking leader Castroneves who had to block mercilessly. To Hélio’s disgust, he was told by race control to pull over, allowing Wilson to win.

Next year, with some proper testing, Newman/Haas/Lanigan hopes to be more seriously competitive. “And for the first time in four or five years we’ve got potential sponsors talking to us,” adds Carl Haas.