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Wilson, Rahal chase Surfers success.


Each time Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has competed on the streets of Surfers Paradise, it has had to consider the effect of the outcome on season-ending standings, the fight for a title and run a semi-conservative strategy - until now.

The goal of the team's 18th appearance on the Gold Coast, now in the IndyCar Series as opposed to Champ Car, will still be to win but, since this event is running as a non-points race for the first time, there will be no secondary considerations.

NHLR has provided the only repeat winner in 17 races at Surfers - although Sebastien Bourdais only achieved that feat in 2007 - and established a strong street-fighting pedigree in its first year in the unified IndyCar Series, with Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson both winning on temporary circuits in 2008, putting it firmly among the favourites for success this weekend.

“There's not a championship on the line this year, but that doesn't mean that the drivers don't still want to win really bad,” said Wilson, the IRL's most recent street course winner after taking the laurels in Detroit in late August, “There is certainly no added pressure from a championship standpoint, but it means so much to win at this track, so it's a very important race for the drivers. To have a win here on your resume means you've overcome a lot of odds.”

The Queensland seaside venue is the site of many fond memories for NHLR, as Bourdais and the team clinched the last three of their eight CCWS titles there in recent years. It has also won three of the past four races on the Gold Coast, dating back to Bruno Junqueira's win in 2004 and including Bourdais' title clinching victories in 2005 and 2007.

Wilson is no stranger to those results as he was the team's biggest challenger, and went on to finish third in the season-ending standings to the two NHR drivers in 2005 and second to Bourdais in both 2006 and 2007, before being hired to replace the F1-bound Frenchman. The Briton is the highest finisher from last year's race to return this year and is hoping to continue the momentum.

“Last year, I finished second after a good race with Sebastien,” Wilson, who has been entered at Surfers every year since 2003, noted, “We were trading positions on the pit-stops, before I passed him on track and he passed me back on the last pit-stop. The two of us got out front and, once Oriol [Servia] crashed, it was just myself and Sebastien that were pushing hard for the race win. It was a good, fun battle.

"This time, we'll be riding high after winning the previous two street races this year, in Detroit and St Petersburg, and that will give us a lot of confidence, but the track is so different that it doesn't guarantee that our set-up is going to work.”

NHLR is the only team competing in this year's event to have raced in every event at Surfers, and Wilson and Rahal will be looking to add their names to a pantheon of NHLR victors comprising Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Cristiano da Matta, Junqueira and Bourdais.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Indy Racing League. 3-5 April 2008. St. Petersburg. St Petersburg, Florida. Race winner, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson.
Graham Rahal celebrates victory in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway   (image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens)
Justin Wilson tribute at Pocono   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Ed Jones - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Graham Rahal sits in his Honda machine on pit lane during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
The Chevrolet of Will Power sports a tribute sticker for Justin Wilson at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal drive their machines across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Graham Rahal, and James Hinchcliffe bring their machines across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson speaks with Oriol Servia in pit lane (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson with a light moment prior to his qualification attempt for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson stands in Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 2015 Indianapolis 500 (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson flashes across the start/finish line during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 22, 2015 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson greets the fans during pre-race festivities for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 22, 2015 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson straps on his helmet prior to the systems check for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday August 23 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal leads a group through the Turn 2 Keyhole turn during the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal and his father, Bobby, celebrate in Victory Circle following their win in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Podium celebrations for Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson after the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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