Analysis: Who Goes Where in Champ Car

With two weeks to go before the opening round of the 2005 Champ Car season, only a few seats are left vacant on the the drivers' line up

Analysis: Who Goes Where in Champ Car

The first race of the season will be held at Long Beach on April 10th, and so far the following teams have confirmed their drivers for the upcoming season:

The teams to have announced their drivers are as follows:

Newman Haas Racing: Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira Forsythe Racing: Paul Tracy Conquest Racing: Nelson Philippe and Andrew Ranger PKV Racing: Jimmy Vasser and Cristiano da Matta Rocketsports Racing: Ryan Hunter-Reay RuSPORT: Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger Walker Racing: Marcus Marshall and Alex Tagliani 

Champ Car organisers previously stated that 19-car grids are achievable this year, and although HVM, Dale Coyne Racing and Jensen Racing have yet to announce their line-up - while Forsythe and Rocketsports have not yet to signed their second driver - this number looks likely even at this late stage.

The recent test at Sebring has thrown a number of new names into the ring, most notably the former Formula One trio of Timo Glock, Jos Verstappen and Bjorn Wirdheim.

Glock has been strongly tipped to sign with Rocketsports - his laptimes have been fast, and the support he brings from his sponsors would be meaningful for the team in light of a scaling back of funds from long time sponsor Johnson Controls.

However, recent rumours have put the ex-Jordan driver in line for a return to a Formula One third driver seat, this time with Sauber - the Swiss outfit is looking for funds in light of major sponsor Red Bull forming its own team, and there are question marks over race driver Jacques Villeneuve's continued participation in the sport.

Verstappen has rescinded previous comments about not wanting to race in America with his recent appearance at Sebring with HVM. His best time was acceptable, but there are question marks over whether he has a suitable budget to compete in the series.

The Dutchman has fallen out with long time sponsor Trust as a result of an agreement forced on the company by the racer's manager, stating that Trust cannot support another driver in Formula One. And, with Robert Doornbos and Christijan Albers now in the sport, there was certainly the option to do so.

Verstappen only ran for one day of the test - with drivers having to pay to test with a team, some speculate that he may not have the funds to finance a full year in Champ Cars in the absence of a major backer.

2003 Formula 3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim was in yet another Champ Car seat - the Swede has formerly tested with PKV and Walker, and he is pushing hard after losing the PKV spot to former champion Cristiano da Matta.

It was a surprise to see Wirdheim at perennial strugglers Dale Coyne, and suggestions have been made that he was due to test for another team, only to be told on arrival at the track that the option was unavailable, forcing him to get some track time in the hastily assembled vehicle.

Wirdheim will not be racing with the team at Long Beach, however, and he is likely to announce a race deal this week with what some have described as a surprising option.

Former Herdez driver Mario Dominguez is also set to be snapped up by Forsythe this week - the part Mexican team, now renamed HVM, has been unable to tap into that country's market for sponsorship and cannot afford to run him again.

Further to this, team boss Keith Wiggins has been in negotiations with series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and an as yet un-named European team owner to purchase either all or part of HVM.

Forsythe and Walker have both suggested that they will be able to run a third car for a driver who can bring an appropriate budget - it is unknown at present if Rodolfo Lavin will have enough from Corona for this option, but he will certainly be able to get a drive at one of the remaining teams.

So of those vacant seats, it is likely that Glock will race for Rocketsports, Dominguez for Forsythe, HVM to chose between the Europeans and Mexicans, and Dale Coyne to plump once again for Oriol Servia and whoever is left standing when the music stops.

Added to this, the as-yet untested Jensen outfit will be running one car only, strongly tipped to be for Canadian Michael Valiente.

The Champ Car teams will be arriving in Long Beach in a week's time to set up for the new championship. The series owners will be looking for a strong rebuilding year to put the financial dramas of last year behind them, and the likely grid is a step in the right direction.

The combined times for the two days of testing at Sebring:

Pos Driver Team Time Day 1. Timo Glock Rocketsports 50.96 2 2. Jimmy Vasser PKV 51.09 2 3. Sebastien Bourdais Newman-Hass 51.15 2 4. Alex Tagliani Walker 51.18 2 5. Cristiano da Matta PKV 51.22 2 6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rocketsports 51.22 2 7. Andrew Ranger Conquest 51.30 2 8. Paul Tracy Forsythe 51.36 2 9. Oriol Servia Dale Coyne 51.42 2 10. Mario Dominguez HVM 51.42 2 11. Roberto Gonzales HVM 51.63 2 12. Nelson Philippe Conquest 51.63 2 13. Jos Verstappen HVM 51.82 1 14. Rodolfo Lavin Forsythe 51.85 2 15. Bjorn Wirdheim Dale Coyne 51.90 2 16. Marcus Marshall Walker 52.59 2 17. Ronnie Bremer HVM 52.62 1 Times courtesy of Cosworth Racing 
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