PKV RACING NINTH, 13TH AND 15TH ON PROVISIONAL GRID FOR SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, CA -- FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 2006 -- Round #1 -- 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing drivers Oriol Servia, Jimmy Vasser and Katherine Legge qualified ninth, 13th and 15th respectively during today's provisional qualifying for Sunday's 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA.
Servia, behind the wheel of the #6 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro-PKV Racing entry, which is powered by Ford/Cosworth, uses a Lola chassis and runs on Bridgestone tires, showed a dramatic increase in speed during qualifying turning a quick lap of 68.753 seconds (103.047 mph) on the 1.968-mile, 11 turn Long Beach temporary street circuit. The 31-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain was eighth on the speed charts following the morning practice session with a fast time of 69.735 seconds (101.596 mph). In the short, pre-qualifying afternoon practice/warm-up, Servia posted a time of 69.496 seconds (101.945 mph), which placed him eighth on both the individual and combined practice reports.
"It was an okay day for my first day as an employee of PKV Racing," Servia noted. "The #6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car was much better than it showed on the time sheets. On the first set of tires I was .5 of a second up until the last corner when I locked the rears," he explained. "The car as actually very good--I did like the car a lot. I think we have a position six car, so we just have to do a little bit of work. I didn't do my best today, but we will do it tomorrow. Besides, the second day of qualifying on a street circuit is always almost a second faster if it doesn't rain. We know we have potential to be faster, we just have to keep working," Servia concluded.
Servia, who is entering his seventh Champ Car season, will be making his 99th career Champ Car start and seventh at Long Beach this weekend. The 31-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain has earned 51 top-ten finishes including 25 top-five showings, 12 podium performances and one victory (Montreal 2005). Servia had the best season of his Champ Car career in 2005, placing second in the standings. After starting the year 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. He ended the 2005 season with five consecutive podium finishes. The resident of Miami, Florida started on the front-row a career high four times in 2005 including earning his first career pole (Australia). In six previous races at Long Beach, Servia has a best starting position of eighth, in 2003 and a best finish of sixth, in 2000.
Vasser, who pilots the #12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro - PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, spun into the tires in Turn #8 on the out lap of his second stint bringing an end to qualifying, but still managed a fast lap of 69.091 seconds (102.543 mph). The 40-year-old native of California, who will be making his 211 consecutive Champ Car start (an ongoing Champ car record) on Sunday, began the day 11th on the speed charts after the morning practice with a quick time of 70.277 seconds (100.812 mph). In the afternoon warm-up before qualifying he notched a time of 70.868 seconds (99.973 mph) placing him 14th on the individual and combined practice reports.
"I just made a mistake on the out lap on my second stint," Vasser said. "I slotted into a spot and I was trying to push the #12 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car to hard on my out lap on cold tires. The car just locked in front. It really happened in slow motion. I tried to bail out of it to because I knew I wasn't going to make the corner in turn eight and just cooked the tires," he explained. "Overall, the car felt good, but it wasn't terribly fast, so we definitely have some work to do around here," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who recently announced he would compete at Long Beach and selected other races during the 2006 season, is in his 15th Champ Car season. Vasser will be making his 15th Champ Car start in Long Beach. He has qualified in the top-10 eight times with three top-three starting positions including a pole, in 2002. In 14 previous races he has finished in the top-10 a total of ten times including nine of the last ten years with five top-five showings including three podium performances and a win in 1996 in route to the Series Championship.
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 (sixth all-time, second among active drivers, one of eight drivers to earn more than $11 million in series competition). He is known for being one of the most durable drivers in the paddock. In addition to his Champ Car record streak of 210 consecutive starts, his 231 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 187 races (dating to Milwaukee in 1995) and placed in the top-10 in 132 of his 231 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 (he is the V in PKV Racing) in the seriesm, is a perennial championship contender having finished in the top-10 nine times including nine of the last 11 years.
In 2005, Vasser finished in the top-10 in nine of the 13 races with four top-five showings including two podiums, back-to-back third place performances at Las Vegas and Australia. He qualified in the top-10 in 12 consecutive races and 12 of the 13 events last year including capturing the first and only pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. As a result of his performance in 2005, Vasser helped PKV Racing established a number of team records. In addition to earning the team's first pole, Vasser scored the team's highest season ending finish (sixth). He also teamed with Cristiano da Matta to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They both qualified in the top-five a team record two times (Milwaukee and Las Vegas) and in the top-10 in a team record 11 races, including a team record six consecutive races. At least one of them placed in the top-six in a team record nine of the 13 events including five consecutive races.
Legge, who was behind the wheel of a Champ Car competitively for the first time, continued to move along the learning curve that began almost immediately following the end of her highly successful, and only, Atlantic Championship Series season. The talented and determined native of Great Britain began the day 13th on the morning practice report with a time of 70.900 second (99.927 mph), which was the third fastest time of the six rookies drivers in the field and had her ahead of such established Champ Car stars as Cristiano da Matta and promising second year driver Andrew Ranger. During the afternoon warm-up she ran a time 71.071 seconds (99.686 mph) placing her 18th on the individual practice report, but leaving here 16th on the combined report based on her morning practice time. In qualifying, Legge was able to significantly improve on her final practice time turning a quick lap of of 69.747 seconds (101.579 mph) in the #20 Optium- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car.
"It was good to get the first qualifying session of the season underway," she said. "Obviously, the
Optium -- PKV Racing team has a little bit of work to do. The car was good and the team did a really great job," she noted. "The time is with me right now. I just have to figure a few things out. I made some rookie mistakes today, but I just have to learn from them. I am looking forward to getting back out on the track tomorrow and as long as we improve then everyone will be happy."
Legge, considered a rising star, 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, which is part of the Champ Car World Series ladder system. Personable and articulate off the track, Legge's aggressive and determined on-track racing style has made her a winner and a fan favorite. The 25-year-old won her debut event in the Atlantic series 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 Legge Southern California's Top 2005 Racing Moment of the Year Award in voting by the public. She also won the 2005 Atlantic Championship Series BBS Rising Star Award and recently was named the winner of RACER magazine's Most Promising Road Racer Award as voted by fans around the world.
Legge has had a busy off-season. In addition to what can only be describe as a "brutal" conditioning program to improve both her strength and stamina, she was impressive in tests with Formula 1's Minardi Team in November, A1 Grand Prix's Great Britain Team in December and Champ Car's Rocketsports Racing also in December. She subsequently tested twice with PKV Racing, late in December and in January before signing on February 14th. Legge's contract with the team is a multi-year agreement.
PKV Racing will be making its sixth, seventh and eighth starts while competing in it fourth Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The teams best finished is a ninth by Jimmy Vasser last year and its best starting position is eighth by Cristiano da Matta also last year.