Alex Tagliani is hopeful of a 'sweeter' winter and possibly a full-time ride with Conquest Racing in 2009, after delivering the team both its best starting position and best race result at Surfers' Paradise last weekend.
The French-Canadian was parachuted into the Indianapolis-based concern at short notice at Belle Isle back in August, after regular pilot Enrique Bernoldi had rendered himself out of contention due to an injury sustained during qualifying at Infineon Raceway a week earlier. Though his Detroit and subsequent Chicago outing failed to yield the desired top ten finish, Tagliani's Australian efforts would produce an altogether different outcome.
After qualifying the #36 machine an excellent seventh on the 24-car grid for the Nikon Indy 300, the recently-turned 36-year-old went on to take the chequered flag an even more encouraging fourth at the end of the 60-lap encounter – having battled with eventual race-winner Ryan Briscoe and 2008 champion Scott Dixon along the way.
“I'm very happy with this result for the Conquest team,” enthused the former Champ Car World Series race-winner, still without a drive for next season. “Brandon [Fry] and Eric [Zeto] worked so hard on the engineering aspect of the car.
“They saw potential in Detroit and were very excited with the feedback they received. They were able to take that information and prepare for this race in Australia. I'm pretty sure that the winter will be much sweeter with this good result.
“Coming here and fighting with Dixon, the champion of the series, and Briscoe with Team Penske, was a great showing for our team. I think the team finished the season the way we wanted, and now we will continue working over the winter.”
Tagliani also clearly impressed Conquest team owner Eric Bachelart, who knows he will now have to seriously consider the man from Montreal as a strong candidate for a 2009 berth, admitting he had 'turned things around' since his arrival at the squad.
“It was a very difficult season,” the Belgian reflected, “and since Alex came he really turned things around. His drive this weekend has been absolutely fantastic. I've never had somebody with such good feedback as him.
“It's very encouraging for the future, and it's good to enter the off-season with a good result like this.”