LONG BEACH, CA - SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2001 -- Round ...
LONG BEACH, CA - SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2001 -- Round #2 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing's Jimmy Vasser qualified eighth, while teammate Roberto Moreno, who suffered a mechanical problem in qualifying, will line-up 22nd for tomorrow's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Vasser, piloting the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, began the day 12th on the combined practice report having run a fast time of 68.824 seconds (102.941 mph) after Friday's two practice sessions. During Saturday morning's practice, which was run in very rainy conditions, the team was unable to get a true read on the changes they had made overnight, but did get an opportunity to test out the wet set-up. Vasser ended up 24th on the morning practice report with a fast lap of 85.107 seconds (83.246 mph). His session was complicated by a spin on the slick track, which brought out a red flag. Under the new practice rules, which dictate that a driver causing a red flag on the second day of practice cannot continue to run the car that caused the situation, Vasser was forced into his backup car for the remainder of the session.
In qualifying, Vasser went out with the second or "fast group" based on his sixth place finish at the season opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, which put him in the top 13 in the points. Unfortunately, the second group began their session in rainy conditions, which lasted for the first few minutes of the session and forced the drivers in the second group to begin their qualifying effort on rain tires. With 17 minutes remaining in the 30-minute qualifying session the team switched to slick, or dry tires, and quickly, Vasser's times began to improve. With just six minutes remaining in qualifying, he was sitting in 24th place when he came in for his final set of tires. In the waning moments of the session he jumped to 14th place and then, on his final lap, popped into the top-10, at No. 7, with a fast lap of 69.807 seconds (101.491 mph). When the checkered flag dropped on the session Vasser was sitting eighth on the starting grid.
"It was a crazy day for the Patrick Racing team," Vasser said. "With a day like today you never really know what is the right thing to do. We could have brought out the rain car, we could have brought out the dry car...we probably held our last set of tires to late, but then we could have left the hot ones on because they were already up to speed. In the end the Patrick Racing team did the right thing.
The Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was definitely better today than yesterday. We made some good changes last night. We just didn't get a good chance to look at them this morning. We'll just have to see what happens tomorrow," Vasser noted.
Vasser, who is in his tenth CART season and first with Patrick Racing, has now qualified in the top-10 in both races this season and six of ten times at Long Beach. The eighth place qualifying position also ties his third best starting position at Long Beach. He has finished in the top-10 six times with two podiums showings including a victory in 1996 on the streets of Long Beach. The 35-year-old native of California, who is one of four CART Champions (1996) and three Americans currently competing in the FedEx Championship Series has started 148 races with 87 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles during his CART career. Last year he finished sixth in the championship standings, the sixth consecutive year he has finished in top-10 in the point's race. Tomorrow he will be looking to extent a streak that has seen him finish 86 of his last 104 starts placing in the points 82 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).
Moreno, who is behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was seventh on the combined practice report following Friday's practices with a fast time of 68.521 seconds (103.396 mph). In morning practice he had the 12th fastest time in the rain running an 83.227 second lap (85.126 mph). Moreno qualified in the first group, or "slow group", based on his 27th place finish in Mexico and appeared to be one of the lucky drivers as the first session started, and all but finished, in dry conditions. Unfortunately, about a third of the way through the session, and with his speed increasing steadily, he had a mechanical problem that caused the shifter to jump out of gear. When it did the rear wheels locked up causing him to spin into the tire wall. As a result he ended up 22nd on the grid with a time of 70.769 seconds (100.112 mph).
"It was a short qualifying session for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team," Moreno said. "I had a bit of a problem with second gear. Coming into the last corner before the hairpin I up-shifted, but then it downshifted by itself and locked the rear wheels sending me into the tires. The good news is the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard seems like a good race car. We are going to have to work very hard because of where we are starting. Fortunately, I have Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee calling my race and working my fuel strategy and we have shown in the past that is a big advantage," Moreno concluded.
This is Moreno's lowest qualifying position in five attempts at Long Beach. He has finished in the top-10 twice in four previous races here including a strong performance last year when he utilized a strong car and outstanding fuel mileage to take the lead, but fell victim to a mechanical problem that robbed him of second gear. He was still able to bring the car home in ninth place. Moreno's best finish at Long Beach is sixth in 1986.
Moreno, who is in his eighth season of CART competition and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is coming off a career year in 2000. The 42-year-old native of Brazil finished a CART career high third in the championship standings, led the CART standings for the first time, captured his first CART victory and pole (both at Cleveland) and had his best showing in a 500-mile race finishing second in Fontana. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 34 starts and in the points 22 times.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be contested tomorrow, Sunday, April 8 at 1:00 p.m. (PT) and will be televised live on ABC.
- Patrick Racing