Roberto Gonzalez and fellow Mexican born driver Luis Diaz both geared up for next weekend's Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante in Mexico City with a pair of highly pleasing tests for Herdez Competition and Walker Racing respectively.

After their historic 1-2 finish in last Sunday's Grand Prix Americas in Miami Herdez Competition had even more reason to wear a collective smile after a hugely successful Putnam Park test with the previously un-rated Gonzalez.

Gonzalez will replace veteran Roberto Moreno at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez event in the team's #4 Herdez Lola-Ford with extra backing from new NASCAR Winston Cup title sponsors Nextel.

Diaz was among a group of unfamiliar faces in action earlier in the week at Sebring in Florida as he prepares to pilot a third Walker Racing Reynard-Ford at the 2.75-mile former Mexican Grand Prix venue. The Toyota Atlantic pilot made his Champ Car debut for Fernandez Racing in the series' inaugural trip to Mexico City last year but retired after just one lap.

Thursday's test saw Gonzalez run 115 laps of the 1.766-mile Putnam Park road course, situated just outside Indianapolis, without putting a wheel wrong. In fact, by the end of the day he had set a new official track record of 52.91 seconds.

Gonzalez, who made a lone CCWS appearance for Dale Coyne Racing in the opening round of this year's series in St Petersburg, was set to run at Sebring with Diaz but rain forced the Herdez team to curtail their running after just seven laps. The previous Putnam Park record (53.23secs) had been in place since 1998 and knocking more than 3/10ths of a second from that mark was a thrill for Gonzalez and the entire Herdez Competition/Nextel crew.

Gonzalez and the team also practiced pit stops throughout the day, further preparing him for race conditions.

Team Manager Vince Kremer expressed it best; "It was a very positive test overall. The engineering team got very good feedback from Roberto. He adjusted quickly to being back in the car and ran very well. We're very pleased and excited with the results of the day."

Gonzalez was also happy with the day's results. "I felt very comfortable in the Champ Car pretty much from the first lap. When you consider that I haven't been in a racecar since February, it says a lot for the team as well. They gave me a very, very good car to work with. It was great to get a chance to get to know the mechanics and the engineers a bit better before next weekend's big race in Mexico City. It's a huge event for Herdez and Nextel and all of our fans and friends. I feel much more confident now going into this race."

Down in Florida, Diaz benefited from Darren Manning's expertise as the Englishman also turned laps in the #25 Reynard-Ford sponsored by Motorola, Telcel and Sun Microsystems that Diaz will pilot next weekend.

Also in action at Sebring were Team Rahal and Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing who tested Porsche Supercup driver Pierre Kaffer and Barber Dodge Series driver Nelson Phillipe respectively as both teams continue to search for the means to run a second entry in next year's series.



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