Just as Rocketsports Racing gears up for their first test in 2008, the team is proud to announce that Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi will be the pilot of the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone in its 2008 Champ Car World Series effort.
The former Formula One driver is excited to open a new chapter of his racing career in North America by competing in Champ Car.
“I am very excited about my opportunity this year in Champ Car with Rocketsports Racing,” said Bernoldi. “Racing in the United States is something that I have always wanted to do and I think that Champ Car is the best series for me to have the opportunity to do so.
I like the variety of circuits that are on the schedule. There is a range of street and permanent courses which will be fun and similar to what I have been racing on in Europe.”
The 29-year-old driver from Curitiba, Brazil started kart racing in 1987 at the age of nine and won a variety of regional and national kart titles before heading to Europe at the age of 16 to try his hand at car racing. After being successful in the Italian Formula Alfa Boxer series, the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup series, the British Formula 3 Championship, and F3000, Bernoldi got his first taste of Formula One in 1999 when he drove for Sauber at Magny-Cours. His performance earned him a test drive with the Swiss team for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
After a test with the Orange Arrows Team in 2001, it was announced that he would become a full-time F1 driver. He made his F1 debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. He continued to drive for the team in 2002 but when the Arrows F1 team folded in 2003, he opted to change series. He entered the Formula Nissan World Series for two years before returning to the F1 scene in 2005 as a test driver for BAR Honda. In 2006 he got his first taste of Champ Car when he tested with Rocketsports. Most recently, he competed in the StockCar Brazil series in 2007, which is similar to stock car racing in the states, but they do not run on ovals.
“Considering that I have a lot to learn, it will be a good challenge for me this year”, Bernoldi continued. “Not only do I have to learn a new race car, but also how the racing works in the United States. My experience in Europe and Formula One will definitely help me, but the rules are different over here.
I know that Rocketsports is willing to help me learn as much as I can, as we are all in it for the same reason - to win! Paul Gentilozzi is not only a team owner, but a driver. He will be able to understand what I need to know as a driver, since he has that kind of mentality, so that will be a huge factor to help me progress quickly this year. I think that Rocketsports is a good team. I was impressed by the team when I tested with them two years ago. Unfortunately we were able to get a deal together that year, but I am excited to have the opportunity now.”
The 2008 Champ Car World Series will kick off on April 20 in Long Beach, California for the 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix. With that being a few months away, Bernoldi and the team will have plenty of time to prepare. They will be participating in three pre-season Champ Car sanctioned tests. Those tests will be held in Sebring, Florida (Sebring International Raceway, February 2-4), Monterey, California (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, March 13-14), and Houston, Texas (MSR Houston, March 28-29). This will give Bernoldi ample time to get acclimated with the team and the #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone before taking the green flag to make his first Champ Car start.
“We are excited to have Enrique (Bernoldi) on board with us this season,” said Rocketsports Team Owner Paul Gentilozzi. “It is nice to be able to sign a driver this early, as it will be a great benefit for us to have him testing with the team during the pre-season. Together we can prepare for an exciting 2008 season in the Champ Car World Series. He has been associated with some of the elite Formula One teams and has a great understanding of open-wheel cars. That really showed in his quick learning skills and resulting performance when he tested with us. He is extremely professional and talented; I can definitely see him as a potential race winner in Champ Car.”
Bernoldi added, “It will be great to have three tests with the team before the season begins. I will be able to work with the team and the engineering staff to get the feedback that I will need to narrow the learning curve so that I am prepared for Long Beach, and the rest of the season. I feel that there is great potential, I obviously want to go out there earning top five finishes and win races, but first I have to take it one step at a time. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead for me in 2008.”
Bernoldi and his wife currently reside in Brazil, but have plans to relocate to the U.S. before the season begins late April. He will be at the East Lansing-based race shop January 28-29 for a seat fitting and final preparations for the first test of the year. The team then heads to Sebring, Florida for a three-day test on February 2-4.