5 August 2011
Wheldon joins Surfers V8 end-of-year party
Ganassi driver Scott Dixon will join his fellow multiple Indy 500 champions Wheldon and Castroneves at Surfers, partnering young Kiwi rising star Shane Van Gisbergen in the SP Tools Falcon in what Dixon was quick to dub a "Kiwi Super team," adding that he had "enjoyed my first outing in a V8 Supercar with the Kelly boys last year and being part of an all-Kiwi assault will add a bit more spice.
"Surfers Paradise has always been a special place for me and anyone else that has raced there," Dixon continued. "It is almost like a home race for me having been born in Brisbane and raised in New Zealand."
However, Dixon will need a Plan B in place just in case: his wife Emma is due to give birth to their second child that week. "It took a while for me to make up my mind to come, but she was insistent that I come back and race," he said. "We have a back up plan and another driver on stand-by if we have any issues and [team owners] Ross and Jimmy [Stone] are prepared if we have any drama."
Dixon's team mate at Ganassi, IndyCar championship leader Dario Franchitti, competed in the event in 2010 but is not currently confirmed to appear in this year's competition. However, his brother Marino has signed up to make his début on the Gold Coast and will drive for Gulf Western Oils team alongside seasoned veteran Warren Luff.
"I really wanted to drive with Warren Luff as we've known each other for a few years now," said Marino, who won last year's American Le Mans Series for Highcroft Racing alongside Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham. "I came down to the event last year with Dario. From the moment I got there it was obvious that I had to be involved."
One of the most successful drivers of the Champ Cars era, former F1 and current Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais, is also looking forward to returning to the Gold Coast where he won two races in 2005 and 2007. He would dearly love to claim the hat-trick and is off to a good start by partnering with V8 Supercars championship leaders Team Vodafone.
"It obviously is a privilege to drive for the best team in V8 Supercars, and I am very honoured they picked me amongst all the great drivers who will enter this year's Gold Coast 600," he said. "Being with such a successful team means that you have to live up to their expectations, and I am sure they just want to be at the top. So, I will do my very best to deliver what they expect from me ... Last year I had a good experience, I liked the car, and it's always a great event to be racing in."
Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani was one of the first star names to sign up for the October race, announcing his participation all the way back in May on the eve of starting the Indianapolis 500 from pole position.
"It's fantastic to be returning to the Gold Coast event for the 11th time this October," said Tagliani at the time. "It's a very special event to me for so many reasons. It's the home race for my wife, Bronte [whom I met here], and I've been to Australia so often now that I like to think of myself as an honorary Aussie.
"The Gold Coast track is one of the most beautiful circuits in the world, running right next to the beach and between the high rise buildings," he continued. "Last year's event was so special. All the IndyCar guys love that event and to get the chance to be a V8 Supercar driver for the week once our season is over is really cool."
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