CLEVELAND, OH -- SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2005 -- Round ...
CLEVELAND, OH -- SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2005 -- Round #5 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser piloted the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car to a third consecutive top-six finish with a sixth place showing today in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U. S. Bank at Burke Lakefront Airport in Clevleand, Ohio.
Teammate Cristiano da Matta, behind the wheel of the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing machine, was dominating the race when an incident on lap 51 knocked him from the competition ending his day in 16th place.
Vasser, who started eighth, went to an off sequence pit strategy early pitting on lap 16. Following the stop he dropped to 13th before beginning his charge back through the field. When a yellow flag was thrown on lap 26 most of the field began to make fuel stops including some that entered when the pits were closed. After all the penalties were accessed, Vasser found himself in second place. He lost two places and dropped to fourth on the restart when he decided not to use his push-to-pass button in an effort to save the extra power for later in the race. Vasser ran in fourth through the second stint pitting for the second time on lap 45. He rejoined the competition in 11th place, but quickly moved back into the top-five and was running in third when he made his final stop on lap 74. Following the stop he was 10th and although he pushed the car to the limit for the remainder of the race he still could not achieve the lap times necessary to preserve the top-five or better finish.
"The Gulfstream/PKV Racing result wasn't bad today," Vasser began. "We decided to go off sequence early and the strategy started to play into us. We had an opportunity at the end after the last stop, but we didn't run the lap times we needed to run, so we fell back a bit. But, at least we picked up some decent points in the championship race," he noted.
Vasser concluded by saying, "Mostly, I just feel real bad for Cristiano and the Bell Micro side today. They had a repeat in the works, a back-to-back in the works and it got away from them. I feel bad for those guys."
Vasser made his 223rd career and continuing record 202nd consecutive Champ Car start today. It was also his 13th start in Cleveland. In 13 races at Burke Lakefront Airport the 39-year-old Californian has qualified in the in the top-10 six times including taking the pole in 1996 and 1998 with a track record 56.417 second lap. He has finished in the top-10 eight times, including three top-five performances with a best showing of third in 1995. Vasser has now finished 139 of his last 179 starts and placed in the top-10 in 127 of his 223 races including 63 top-five showings.
Now in his 14th Champ Car season, Vasser has qualified in the top-10 in four of the five events this year including taking the pole in Milwaukee the first ever in the two plus year history of PKV Racing. The resident of Las Vegas, NV has finished in the top-10 in four of the five races this year with a season best showing of fifth also in Milwaukee (ninth in Long Beach, 14th in Monterrey, Mexico and sixth in Portland to go with today's sixth place finsih). The 1996 Series Champion is currently fifth in the championship race with 82 points. Vasser is the only owner/driver in the series, one of four former champions and three Americans competing in Cleveland.
Da Matta, who started a season high second and on the front row for the first time since Australia in 2002, pitted for the first time on lap 26 just as the yellow flag came out. Because he was committed to pit lane prior to the yellow flag being shown the closed pit situation did not apply to him. When the pits opened and the remainder of the field came in for their first stop da Matta found himself in first place with his teammate in second. On the restart the talented Brazilian showed the speed that he had demonstrated all weekend in challenging for the pole and lap by lap started to build a lead over Paul Tracy, who had moved into second place. Stretching the gap, da Matta came upon some slower, lapped traffic. Moving in behind two cars he lost the air flow over his front wing, which decreased the downforce and sent him into one of the lapped cars. Da Matta, who led a total of 21 laps, limped the car into the infield grass with a damaged front wheel bringing an early end to his day.
"I am very disappointed for the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team," da Matta began. "Obviously, we had a chance to gain in the championship if the race had kept going the way it was," he noted. "We were running strong and running away from the rest of the field. There were two lapped cars in front of me and one was making room for the other. They were side-by-side going into the corner when I came up to them and lost the air on my front wing. The car just pushed a little too hard and I hit one of them. It was just one of those stupid racing incidents. It can happen to anyone, unfortunately, it happened to me today," da Matta explained. "The PKV Racing team should be happy because we had a very good performance this weekend up until the end, but now it is very disappointing for everyone on the team. We just need to keep doing what we and put a couple more performances like we have been having together then we will be right in middle of the championship race," he concluded.
Da Matta made his 84th career Champ Car start and fifth at Burke Lakefront Airport today. He has qualified in the top-five in three of the five races in Cleveland with one pole (2002) and finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of third in 2000.
The 31-year-old resident of Miami, FL, who returned to Champ Car following a two-year stint in Formula 1, is contesting his fifth Champ Car season. He has qualified in the top-10 at all five events this year with a season high second here in Cleveland followed by a fourth in Milwaukee. Da Matta has finished in the top-10 in three of the five races this year including a win, the first in the history of PKV Racing, last weekend in in Portland (10th at Long Beach and sixth in Monterrey, Mexico). The 2002 Series Champion is currently sixth in the championship standings with 80 points. He is one of four former champions and one of three Brazilians competing at Cleveland.
PKV Racing has qualified in the top-10 three times in five tries in Cleveland and finished in the top-10 three times. Vasser's sixth place finish today is the second best in five starts (three races) behind his fifth placing showing last year. Da Matta's second place starting position this year is the team's best.
After the first four races of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has already established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history last weekend in Portland. Vasser earned PKV Racing's first pole in round #3 at Milwaukee. The two drivers have combined to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They have both qualified in the top-10 in four consecutive races for the first time in team history. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race twice (eighth and 10th at Long Beach and first and sixth at Portland) this year and at least one of them has placed in the top-six in each of the last four races.
Next up for PKV Racing is the Molson Indy Toronto, July 8-10, at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Canada.