DA MATTA TO START ON FRONT ROW FOR TOMORROW'S CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND VASSER QUALIFIES EIGHTH CLEVELAND, OH -- SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2005 -- Round ...
DA MATTA TO START ON FRONT ROW FOR TOMORROW'S CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF CLEVELAND
VASSER QUALIFIES EIGHTH
CLEVELAND, OH -- SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2005 -- Round #5 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- Cristiano da Matta will start the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car on the front row in tomorrow's Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U. S. Bank at Burke Lakefront Airport in Clevleand, Ohio.
Teammate Jimmy Vasser, in the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine will start on the fourth row in the number eight position.
Da Matta, who held the provisional pole following yesterday's qualifying with a lap of 58.436 seconds (129.742 mph), improved by over a full second turning a quick time of 57.424 seconds (132.028 mph) in today's final qualifying, but fell just .005 of second short when Paul Tracy snatched the pole with a fast lap of 57.419 seconds (132.040 mph). The provisional pole earned the 31-year-old Brazilian a championship point and guaranteed him a front row start, but he still managed the second quickest time in today's session. The second place starting position is the best qualifying effort by da Matta this season and will mark the first time since Australia in 2002, when he captured the pole, that he will start on the front row.
As is the norm here on the 2.106-mile, 10 turn Burke Lakefront Airport temporary street circuit, today's times were much quicker than yesterday even with the extremely hot and humid conditions. In morning practice it became apparent that a mid to low 57 second lap was going to be needed to take the pole. Da Matta set the tone in the morning practice when he was, once again, at the top of the speed charts turning a quick lap of 57.598 seconds (131.630 mph). During the 15 minute warm-up just prior to qualifying he held the fastest time for much of the session with a lap of 58.153 seconds, (130.373 mph), but dropped to fourth in the closing moments as the team experimented with a set up change. However, since he recorded the fastest practice time earlier in the day he remained at the top of the combined practice report going into final qualifying.
In final qualifying, with the front row secure and nothing to lose, da Matta waited until the last possible moment, when the track conditions would be at their fastest, to begin his first seven lap qualifying stint. Running on the standard (black) Bridgestone tire he quickly assumed the top spot on the speed charts. Switching to the alternate or red Bridgestone tire for his second stint he was getting his tire up to their optimum pressure when A. J. Allmendinger crashed and brought out a red flag ending the session.
"I am very happy with the Bell Micro/PKV Racing car. It was a good car in qualifying and it will be a good ca in the race," da Matta said. "I had a very good lap on the standard Bridgestone tires. Then I put on the alternate tire for the second stint, but we just didn't get a chance to put our best lap in because of the red flag, so we didn't get everything out of the red tire that we could," he explained. "I am not saying that for sure we would have got the pole because it is very close between Paul (Tracy), Sebastien (Bourdais) and myself, but we were doing good and making a lot of progress. The good news is I know that we have some more in the car so we are in good shape for the race," da Matta concluded.
Da Matta, who is contesting his fifth Champ Car season, will be making his 84th career start and fifth at Burke Lakefront Airport tomorrow. He has now qualified in the top-five three times in five attempts at Cleveland with a pole in 2002, the second this year and a fifth in 2000. In four previous races the resident of Miami, FL has finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of third in 2000.
Da Matta, who has successfully returned to Champ Car following a two-year stint in Formula 1, 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. He has finished in the top-10 in three of the four races this year including a win, the first for PKV Racing in its two plus year history last weekend in in Portland (10th at Long Beach and sixth in Monterrey, Mexico). Da Matta just barely missed making it four for four when he placed 11th at Milwaukee. The 2002 Series Champion is currently fifth in the championship standings with 74 points. He is one of four former champions and one of three Brazilians competing at Cleveland.
Vasser ran a fast time in final qualifying 58.029 seconds (130.652 mph). The 39-year-old Californian began the day sixth on the grid following yesterday's provisional qualifying with a time of 58.835 seconds (128.862 mph). He spent the entire morning practice on old tires and therefore did not show quite as much gain in speed as his teammate, but still posted a quick lap of 58.608 second (129.361 mph) good for ninth on both the individual and combined practice reports. In the warm-up, Vasser, a two time pole sitter (1996 and 1998) in Cleveland and the track record holder (1998-56.417 seconds), turned a quick lap of 58.399 seconds (128.824 mph) placing him eighth on the individual practice report and 10th on the combined report.
"I am obviously disappointed with our qualifying effort today," Vasser said. "I think we have a better car than we showed today, we just didn't get our quick lap in on the alternate Bridgestone tire. I am going to sit down with Cristiano and the engineers tonight and see what we can come up with to improve the Gulfstream/PKV Racing car for tomorrow, but I think we already have a good race car," he noted. "Most of all I am happy for the Crisitano (da Matta) and the whole PKV Racing team. It is good to know that Portland wasn't a fluke and that we are showing some consistency. The PKV Racing team is very confident right now and I am looking forward to a good race," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who is competing in his 14th Champ Car season, will be making his 223rd career, record 202nd consecutive and 13th start in Cleveland tomorrow. He has now qualified in the in the top-10 a total of six times including poles in 1996 and 1998 in 13 attempts at Burke Lakefront Airport. The resident of Las Vegas, NV has finished in the top-10 seven times, including three top-five performances with a best showing of third in 1995. Vasser has finished 138 of his last 178 starts and placed in the top-10 in 126 of his 222 races including 63 top-five showings.
Vasser has qualified in the top-10 in three of the four events this year including taking the pole in Milwaukee. He has also finished in the top-10 in three of the four races with a season best showing of fifth also in Milwaukee (ninth in Long Beach, 14th in Monterrey, Mexico and sixth in Portland). The 1996 Series Champion is currently eighth in the championship race with 63 points. Vasser is the only owner/driver in the series, one of four former champions and three Americans competing in Cleveland.
Da Matta's second place starting position in Cleveland is the best in five attempts by PKV Racing. The team has now qualified in the top-10 three times in the five tries. In three previous starts (two races) they have finished in the top-10 twice as Vasser placed fifth and Roberto Gonzalez seventh also last year.
The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U. S. Bank, June 24-26, at Burke Lakefront Airport be televised live on CBS at 1:30 p.m. (ET).