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Miami to Elkhart a rough trip

Hello my friends at ESPN.com,

It is my pleasure to become the newest columnist at the site. Throughout the season, I look forward to sharing with all of you a bit of my experiences as a driver in the Champ Car World Series. More than just a pre-race report, I will try to include some humorous anecdotes, what I do on my time off and what goes on during the race weekend when we are not qualifying or racing. Basically, it will be somewhat of a behind the scenes view for you.

One of the neat things about traveling the world with Champ Car, is the fact that I get to visit so many places and experience so many different cultures. Quite often, I also go through some rather funny (and some not-so-funny) experiences. So let me share one with you.

With the Milwaukee Grand Prix taking place this weekend, a lot of the series' teams decided to test at nearby Elkhart Lake at the beginning of the week. That included my own team, Walker Racing. I started the trip on Sunday in my hometown of Miami, with an 11:30 a.m. flight to Milwaukee (via Chicago). At 11:15, my flight was cancelled and I was told the next flight was at 1:30 p.m. Since I don't live too far from the Miami Airport, I decided to go home for a bit. I promptly returned to the boarding gate at 1:00, at which time I was informed my flight was now three hours late! I eventually arrived in Chicago, anxious to catch my connecting flight to Milwaukee. "I'm sorry, Mr. Haberfeld. Your flight to Milwaukee has been cancelled," said the gate attendant. What else could go wrong today?, I asked myself.

Unbeknownst to me, plenty still could, as I'd soon find out. Having to be in Elkhart Lake by Monday morning for my test, I could not stay in Chicago overnight. My only option was to rent a car and drive there. I made my way to the car rental counter, only to find out that they were out of cars because of heavy business due to Memorial Day weekend. At that point, I began to think this might just be a bad dream, and hoped to soon wake up. But I didn't. I pleaded with the attendant until they finally found me a car. I was soon on my way, despite the continuous rain that accompanied me on my trip. Lo and behold, my bad luck was not over. My car had a flat tire. Where is my pit crew when I need them most? This time, I had to change tires myself. And no, it did not take me 9.2 seconds. The spare, to my disappointment, was a thin tire, limiting my driving to 50 miles per hour. Brutal! Fortunately, I was not too far from the Milwaukee airport, so I was able to exchange my car and continue on to Elkhart Lake. Sometime around 10 p.m. I finally arrived safe and sound at my destination.

Despite all that I went through that day, I was still able to extract some positives from the experience. I think I probably used up all my bad luck in one day, and therefore should have a fantastic race in Milwaukee. In fact, I expect a podium finish! I still wonder if on that day it was raining elsewhere, or if only I had a little dark cloud above my head. To top it all off, torrential rain cancelled Monday's testing session at Elkhart Lake. If anything, at least my trip made for a good story.

See you guys next time,

--Mario Haberfeld
(in collaboration with Alex Simon)

Mario Haberfeld, driver of the #5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone for Walker Racing, is a second-year driver in the Champ Car series from Brazil. He is providing a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2004 season. For more information, please visit Mario Haberfeld's official Web site at www.mariohaberfeld.com.