CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: PKV Racing preview

PKV RACING CONFIDENT HEADING INTO 2005 SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH GRAND INDIANAPOLIS, IN - - APRIL 5, 2005 - - After an off-season of change PKV Racing enters its third year of competition confident it can contend for the...

PKV RACING CONFIDENT HEADING INTO 2005 SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH GRAND

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - - APRIL 5, 2005 - - After an off-season of change PKV Racing enters its third year of competition confident it can contend for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship beginning with this weekend's season opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 8-10, on the streets of Long Beach, CA.

PKV Racing, which is owned by Kevin Kalkhoven, Dan Pettit and driver/owner Jimmy Vasser, added a new driver, a new General Manager, a new Team Manager and several new crew members during the off-season. According to Kalkhoven the changes have resulted in a positive outlook and confident team heading into the start of the 2005 season.

"I am very excited about the start of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season," said Kalkhoven. "PKV Racing has made changes at all levels during the off-season that have significantly upgraded our team. I look forward to PKV Racing being truly competitive for the first time and I am confident that we will contend for the championship," he noted.

PKV Racing will field a two-car effort during the 2005 Champ Car World Series season. Joining Vasser behind the wheel of the PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machines will be the team's biggest and newest addition, Cristiano da Matta.

Da Matta, 31, who will pilot the #21 PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, is the 2002 Series Champion and one of four former champions that will compete during the 2005 season. The native of Brazil, who is entering his fifth year of Champ Car competition, spent the last two seasons competing in Formula 1 where he earned the F1 Rookie of the year award in 2003. Da Matta, who took the Champ Car title in just his fourth year of competition, had a dominating year in 2002 which etched his name among the leaders in the Champ Car record books. The resident of Miami, Florida, who is sure to be a championship contender in 2005, has finished in the top-10 in the championship standings in three of his four seasons missing out only in his rookie year.

Commenting on the upcoming season, da Matta, who has logged almost 1000 miles in preseason testing said, "I am very happy with the way things went for the PKV Racing team during the off season. I think we made a lot of progress in every way. We have a lot of new team members and I am very pleased with the way everybody has worked together and come together as a team. I am also pleased with the progress we made developing the cars. However, it is also good to remember how close all the teams and drivers were during the last few tests. Everybody was within a few tenths of a second of each other and nobody was really dominant. So, even though PKV Racing is very confident heading into the start of the season, I would also have to say that we are cautiously confident. The 2005 Champ Car World Series season is going to be a very tight fight for the championship."

Da Matta will be making his fifth Champ Car start on 1.968-mile, 11 turn Long Beach street circuit. In four previous races he has finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of second in 2001. His best starting position is second in 2002. Da Matta's only victory at Long Beach came in 1998 when he won the Indy Lights Championship race in route to the 1998 Indy Lights title.

"The Long Beach Grand Prix is one of my favorite races because I like the track so much," da Matta said. "It is one of my two favorite street circuits (Surfers Paradise is the other). The track is very challenging with a good combination of fast and slow corners, plus it has a great atmosphere with all the fans and activities," he noted. "I won in Indy Lights at Long Beach, but I am still pursuing my first win there in a Champ Car. We will just have to see how things go this year. I have to say I am very excited to be going back to Long Beach for first time in three years and getting the 2005 season started," da Matta concluded.

Vasser, 39, who will, for the second year, pilot the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, is the 1996 Series Champion and one of four former champions and three Americans that will compete during the 2005 season. The native of California, who is entering his 14th season of Champ Car competition, joined PKV Racing last year in dual roles taking an ownership stake in the team as well as serving as a driver. In his first season with PKV Racing, Vasser, the only owner/driver in the series, had the best year in the team's short history finishing eighth in the championship standings. Known for being one of the most durable drivers in the paddock, Vasser, who stands among the leaders in most of the career Champ Car statistical records, begins the 2005 season riding a Champ Car record streak of 197 consecutive starts. The resident of Las Vegas, Nevada is a perennial championship contending having placed in the top-10 in the championship standings in eight of his last ten seasons.

Speaking about the start of the 2005 season, Vasser said, "I am pleased with the progress the PKV Racing team made during the off-season. The process of integrating all of the new team members and programs went very well-- as we expected, and I feel we have definitely upgraded the team. The whole team worked very hard during the off-season and we could not have achieved any more in the amount of time we had. That is a tribute to the leadership of Jim McGee. We are well prepared and I am confident heading into the start of the season. I think the fans will see a whole new PKV Racing team in 2005--one that will be very competitive."

Vasser will be making his 14th Champ Car start on in Long Beach. In 13 previous races he has finished in the top-10 a total of nine times including five top-five showings with three podium performances and a win in 1996. His captured the pole in 2002 the eighth, and most recent, of his Champ Car career.

"The Long Beach Grand Prix is always one of the favorite races for everyone in the Champ Car World Series," Vasser began. "It is a fantastic place to start the season. The Long Beach race has a great atmosphere and a lot of energy. I have had some success there (won in 1996 in route to the championship) and because of the history of the event, there are not many races I would rather win," he explained. "I am really looking forward to getting the 2005 season off to a good start at Long Beach," Vasser concluded.

Among the other new additions to PKV Racing is General Manager Jim McGee. McGee, who oversees the team's operation from its Indianapolis, Indiana base, celebrates his 47th year of competition in 2005. He is the most successful Manager/Chief Mechanic in the history of USAC/CART/Champ Car racing having amassed 89 wins, including four Indianapolis 500 victories. McGee has guided teams to nine national championships during his career and is the only Manager and/or Chief Mechanic to win a championship in four decades (60's - 90's) and score at least one victory in each of the last five decades (60's-00). McGee is supported by another new addition, Team Manager Steve Krisiloff, who along Crew Chief's Don Oldenburg and Steve Gough, also a new addition, is responsible for the integration of new crew members. The engineering staff, which has been expanded, will be led by Steve Challis, who returns to PKV Racing for his second season as the team's Chief Engineer and will also serve as the race engineer for da Matta and Yves Touron, who will be the race engineer for Vasser.

"I am very pleased with the progress the PKV Racing team made during the off-season," said McGee. "We made a lot of personnel and systems changes, but everyone worked hard and was very professional. We have really come together as a team over the last two months and I am confident that PKV Racing is ready for the start of the 2005 season and we will be competitive," he concluded.

PKV Racing will be making its fourth and fifth starts while competing in it third Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The teams best finished is 13th in 2003 (Patrick Lemarie) and its best starting position is 10th last year by Jimmy Vasser. The season opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 8-10, on the streets of Long Beach, California, will be broadcast live on NBC at 4:00 p.m. (ET).

With the leadership, knowledge and experience of Kevin Kalkhoven, Dan Pettit, Jimmy Vasser and Jim McGee, the driving talents of both Vasser and Cristiano da Matta, plus equipment and sponsorship from such major companies as Ford-Cosworth, Lola, Bridgestone and Gulfstream, PKV Racing will be among the top challengers for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

For more information please visit: www.pkvracing.com or www.gulfstream.com.

-pkvr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Lemarié , Kevin Kalkhoven , Cristiano da Matta