CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston: PKV Racing Friday report

PKV RACING'S SERVIA QUALIFIES EIGHTH, LEGGE 15TH FOR INAURGURAL CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON HOUSTON, TX -- SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2006 -- Round ...

PKV RACING'S SERVIA QUALIFIES EIGHTH, LEGGE 15TH FOR INAURGURAL CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON

HOUSTON, TX -- SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2006 -- Round #2 -- 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing drivers Oriol Servia and Katherine Legge qualified eight and 15th respectively for tomorrow's inaugural Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston in Houston, Texas.

Servia, who campaigns the #6 Gulfsteam -- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone enty, qualified with a speed of 59.062 seconds (103.010 mph) and will start on the outside of row four, Meanwhile Legge, who pilots the #20 Bell Micro -- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, qualified with a lap of 60.265 seconds (100.954 mph). She will start on the outside of row seven.

Servia, who began the day seventh on the grid after Friday's provisional qualifying (Sebastien Bourdais was disqualified late last evening for being underweight) with a quick time of 60.268 seconds (100.949 mph). In Saturday's morning practice the 31-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain appeared to be ready to fulfill his prediction of having a top-three or four car when he ran the fourth fastest lap of the morning session turning a quick time of 59.874 seconds (101.613 mph), which also placed him fourth on the combined practice report. During the 15-minute, pre-qualifying/warm-up afternoon practice Servia posted a time of 59.312 seconds (102.576 mph), which placed him third for the session, but left fourth on the combined report. Qualifying started immediately following the warm-up to make up for lost time due to a delay prior to the start of practice. Servia wanted about ten minutes before going out on his first set of tires. Using the alternate "red" tire, which is faster, but wears down quicker, he immediately jumped into second on place and on lap number four moved to the top of the grid. After a short delay for a red flag, Servia went right back out for his second stint, but on his first timed lap brushed the wall slightly damaging the Gulfstream -- PKV Racing machine. Although he finished all 15 of his qualifying laps he was never able to attain the speed he achieved during the first stint and had to settle for eighth place.

"The Gulfstream-PKV Racing car is very good," Servia said. "We were position one or two for most of the time we were on our first set of tires. On the second stint I hit the wall on my first hot lap and bent something on the car. That was pretty much it for our qualifying session," he explained. "Overall, I am very happy because we have a good car for tomorrow's race, but on the other hand I am not so happy because I made a mistake that hurt us. In the end, on a track like this you have to take some risks if you are going to qualify on the front row. It just did work out for me today."

Seriva, who will be making his 100th career Champ Car start tomorrow, has now qualifed in the top-10 in both races this season (eighth both times). He finished 18th in at the season opener in Long Beach after getting collected in a four car pile-up on the opening lap of the race. Servia, who will be racing for the first time on the 1.7-mile, 10-turn MSR Houston temporary street circuit, raced on the streets of Houston in 2000 and 2001 (on a different circuit) earning a best starting position of 15th and a best finishing position of in ninth both in 2000. Servia is racing at night for the fourth time in his Champ car career having run at night on the Milwaukee Mile oval in 2003 (started seventh and finished second) and 2004 (11th and seventh) and Cleveland airport street circuit in 2003 (fourth and sixth).

In 99 previous Champ Car starts, Servia has earned 51 top-ten finishes including 25 top-five showings, 12 podium performances and one victory (Montreal 2005). The resident of Miami, Florida is coming off a career year in which he placed second in the championship standings. After starting the 2005 season with Dale Coyne Racing, he replaced Bruno Junqueira in the Newman/Haas Racing machine after Junqueira was injured in the Indianapolis 500. Servia made 11 starts for Newman/Haas, earning seven podiums including the win in Montreal, his first career Champ Car victory.

Legge, was 11th on the provisional grid with a time 61.831 seconds (98.397 mph) following Friday's qualifying session. In this morning's practice, the talented and determined 25-year-old native of Great Britain also began her assault on the speed charts running a quick lap of 60.558 seconds (100.466 mph) placing her ninth on the individual and 10th on the combined practice reports. This was the first time in two race weekends that she was in the top-10 following a practice session a strong indication of how quickly Legge is moving along the learning curve and picking up the intricacies of Champ car racing. In the afternoon warm-up, Legge could only manage a fast lap of 61.188 seconds (99.431 mph), which put her 17th on the individual practice report and dropped her to 12th on the combined report. During final qualifying, Legge was a victim of a red flag, which broke up her first stint. Prior to the track going green the team decided the best strategy was to run three stints, leaving the hot tires on for a full stint (the second) and then bringing Legge in for new tires and a "bonzi" run at the end (third stint). On lap six of her second stint, her 12th overall, Legge ran her fastest time and vaulted into 10th place, however she was unable to hold her position at the end of the session and fell to 15th.

"The second qualifying session was very frustrating for me because I didn't fulfill the potential of the car," Legge said. "The Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car feels good, but for one reason or another I just didn't get a good lap," she noted. "We have a good race car for tomorrow--I just need to go back to the drawing board regarding my second qualifying effort," Legge concluded.

Legge, who is campaigning in just her second Champ Car race, first in Houston and first at night, earned her highest qualifying position in two events. She started 17th and finished eighth in her Champ Car debut at the Long Beach Grand Prix. She is currently eighth in the championship standings with 15 points. Legge's start in Long Beach was the first by a female in a Champ Car/CART race since Lyn St. James at Michigan in 1995, while her eighth place finish established a record for highest finish by a female in Series history surpassing a ninth place showing by Janet Guthrie at the 1969 Indianapolis 500.

Legge, who is considered a rising star in the Champ Car World Series, burst on the open-wheel racing scene last year when she captured three races in route to a third-place showing during her rookie season in the Atlantic Championship Series. Legge won her debut event in the Atlantic's taking the victory in Long Beach, which made her the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America. The win in Long Beach earned her Southern California's Top 2005 Racing Moment of the Year Award. Legge also won the 2005 Atlantic Championship Series BBS Rising Star Award and was named the winner of RACER magazine's Most Promising Road Racer Award. In the off-season, Legge tested with Formula 1's Minardi Team, A1 Grand Prix's Great Britain Team and Champ Car's Rocketsports Racing. She subsequently tested twice with PKV Racing before signing on February 14th.

PKV Racing co-owner/driver Jimmy Vasser , who earlier this year announced he would compete at Long Beach and selected other races during the 2006 season, will be on the sidelines for the Houston Grand Prix in his capacity as co-owner. This will bring to an end his consecutive start streak at 211, which is a Series record. The 40-year-old native of California, who is technically in his 15th Champ Car season, made his 232nd career and 211 consecutive Champ Car start in Long Beach. After starting 12th, he succumbed to an engine problem and finished 14th in what may be his last Long Beach Grand Prix and, perhaps, his last Champ Car race.

Vasser, who joined PKV Racing in 2004 in the dual roles of owner and driver, stands among the leaders in most of the career Champ Car statistical categories including wins (10), podium finishes

(33), poles (9), laps led (988) and earnings $12,076,744. He is known for being one of the most durable drivers in the paddock. In addition to his Champ Car record streak of 211 consecutive starts, his 232 career starts rank 11th all-time and place him second among active drivers. A determined and consistent competitor, Vasser has finished 145 of his last 188 races (dating to Milwaukee in 1995) and placed in the top-10 in 132 of his 232 events including 66 top-five showings and 33 podium finishes. The 1996 Series Champion, who is one of four former champions and the only owner/driver in the series, is a perennial championship contender having finished in the top-10 nine times including nine of the last 11 years.

PKV Racing will be making it first start on the streets of Houston, Texas. The team did not compete on the former street circuit.

The Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston, which will be run on Saturday night, May 13 will be broadcast live on Speed at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

-pkv-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Oriol Servia , Lyn St. James , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Janet Guthrie , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing