Not that talent won’t factor in. Bourdais has plenty. “We do not know who is going to be strong yet,” Bourdais said Thursday in between test runs at Laguna Seca. “It’s too early to say. Especially since we have had a pretty rough start with bad weather and reliability issues. “It’s definitely hard to know who is going to be strong for the first two races of the season. Our team put in enough hours and hopefully, it is going to be rewarded. But we don’t have the safety of mind, to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got the car that’s won the last three straight championships.’ The series opener is April 8 in Las Vegas. It continues April 15 in Long Beach. Things have not gone spectacularly during testing. In late January at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, it rained half the time. During testing in the middle of February in Houston, it was worse. “It Houston, it rained just horribly throughout the test,” driver Paul Tracy said. The consensus was, out of four days combined at Sebring and Houston, drivers got about 1 1/2 days of dry testing. SALINAS – Champ Car’s new ride could bring a new series champion. Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais is coming back to try and become the first driver to win four consecutive series titles. But with the arrival of the new vehicle that includes paddle shifters, a new chassis and a new exhaust system, the playing field has instantly become more even. Not ideal conditions for the testing of a new vehicle. Drivers having difficulty downshifting with the new paddle shifters – located on the backside of the steering wheel – were among the complaints. There appears to be no question that the new vehicle is going to make it more difficult for Bourdais to four-peat. Almost everything on the car, except for the engine, is new. “The most important thing about the new car is it is specifically designed for the kind of races that we’ve got, like Long Beach,” said Kevin Kalkhoven, series co-owner and tri-owner of Team PKV Racing. “And it’s going to be an opportunity for all the teams to start off on the same footing. New additionBourdais races for the popular Newman/Haas Racing team, which, as of Thursday, became Newman/Haas/Lanigan. It was announced that Mike Lanigan had become partners with actor Paul Newman and Carl Haas, who started Newman/Haas in 1982. Newman, looking good at 82, walked into the media room with a twinkle in his eye. He sat at the dais, then told reporters why he and Haas decided to add Lanigan. What about Rahal? Newman/Haas/Lanigan, it appears, is on the verge of formally announcing that Graham Rahal will be its second driver. Newman seemed perplexed about not being able to confirm that Thursday. “Apparently, lawyers have to eat, too,” Newman said. “As far as I’m concerned, it was a done deal two weeks ago.” Rahal, a senior in high school, is 18. He took second place at the Atlantic Series last year and now has moved up to Champ Car. His father, Bobby Rahal, finished second four times at Long Beach and won several series titles. Cali. in the house Pacific Coast Motorsports of Oxnard is the only Champ Car team from California. It formally competed in Gramd Am but has moved up to Champ Car. The new team unveiled its two cars Thursday and also introduced its first Champ Car drivers in the names of rookies Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel. Figge, of Colorado, and Dalziel, of Scotland, are former Grand Am and Atlantic Car racers. “To think that we could actually show up here and put a ‘W’ on the charts would be a pretty impressive thing, I think,” said team director Tyler Tadevic said. “We’re just glad to be here and to be perfectly honest, this is a long-term plan and to have our name said in the same sentences as Newman-Haas and Forsythe, it’s just a dream come true.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!