CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: PKV Racing race report

PKV RACING'S KATHERINE LEGGE SETS CHAMP CAR RECORD IN DEBUT LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2006 -- Round ...

PKV RACING'S KATHERINE LEGGE SETS CHAMP CAR RECORD IN DEBUT

LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2006 -- Round #1 -- 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Katherine Legge made her Champ Car debut a success with a record setting performance at the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA.

Legge, in the #20 Optium -- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, earned the highest finish by a female in Champ Car/CART history by placing eighth. Teammate Jimmy Vasser, driving in perhaps his last Long Beach Grand Prix, succumbed to an engine problem and finished 14th in the #12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro - PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, while Oriol Servia, driving in his first race for PKV Racing, was the victim of a first lap incident and placed 18th in the #6 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro-PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car.

Legge, who made the first start by a female in a Champ Car/CART race since Lyn St. James at Michigan in 1995, qualified 17th. After spending the first two days learning and gaining experience on the challenging and difficult 1.968-mile 11-turn Long Beach temporary street circuit she drove a smart, patient race. Benefiting from a solid race strategy and getting outstanding work from her Optium -- PKV Racing crew, the talented 24-year-old Brit was able to overcome a spin while working lap 36 to bring the car home for the first top-10 finish in the first race of her Champ Car career.

"Basically, I am really happy because I brought the Optium -- PKV Racing car home with all four wheels on," Legge said. "I am kind of mad because I screwed up. I made that one mistake and I keep kicking myself because I think we could have finished in the top-six. I am my own worst enemy, but at the end of the day it was my first race in a Champ Car, we finished in the top-10 and we finished on the led lap, which is what I wanted to do, so it is a pretty good result," she explained. "The Optium -- PKV Racing team did a fantastic job today. To have those guys behind me was just great. They got me back me back on the lead lap, the pit stops, everything were awesome. The whole PKV Racing team has been 100% behind me and I am very proud of them right now," Legge noted.

Legge moved up four spots at the start of the race following the opening lap melee that collected Servia. She made the first competitive pit stop of her career on lap 14 and picked up one position in the process to move 12th place. On lap 24, Legge displayed some of her trademark determination by making one of the few on-track passes of the race to move into 11th place. When Vasser dropped out on lap 25, Legge found herself in 10th place. Ten laps later, following a restart, she spun in Turn #5 putting her one lap down and in 12th place. At that point the PKV Racing brain trust of team General Manger Jim McGee, Team Manager Steve Krisiloff and Technical Director Tom Brown, who was directing Legge's race, devised a strategy that took advantage of a yellow flag situation. With Brown making the final decision to "gamble a bit", he left Legge on track until the last possible moment. Champ Car officials, per the rules, eventually waived Legge around the pace car putting her back on the lead lap. The team immediately pitted the #20 car giving it enough fuel to finish the race and got

Legge back out still on the lead lap, but now in tenth place. As the race wound down, two more cars fell out and Legge had secured her record setting performance. (Note: The Champ Car World Series record book includes USAC Champ Car events back to 1909. Janet Guthrie finished ninth at the 1978 Indianapolis 500 which was a USAC Champ Car event.)

Commenting on competing in her first Champ Car race Legge said, "I am kind of relieved to have it over and done right now (her first Champ Car race). Since the beginning of the year we have been building for this race. There has been a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations. We have tried to manage that and I think we exceeded some of the expectations. I made a mistake and I am not going to make that mistake again. Hopefully, we can improve next time. In the end it is about scoring points each race we did that, so I am happy right now. Champ Car what a awesome place to be."

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. 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. In the off-season tested 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.

Vasser, who recently announced he would compete at Long Beach and selected other races during the 2006 season, started 12th. He moved into eighth place on the opening lap and after getting a great pit stop from his Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing crew on lap 14 was running in sixth place. Biding his time and letting the race come to him, he was running with the leaders when an alarm starting going off in his car. One lap later his race, and possibly his last appearance in a Champ Car at Long Beach, was over.

"We picked up some spots at the start of the race then a couple of more in the pits," Vasser began. "I was just cruising in the #12 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car, running good lap times. The car felt great and it was early in the race. Then I just lost forward drive in the engine," he explained. "It is a shame because I had a good car and the Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing crew did a great job. It is not the way I wanted to end the day, but that is racing," he concluded.

Vasser, who is in his 15th Champ Car season, was making his 232nd career and 211 consecutive Champ Car start (an ongoing Champ car record) on Sunday. This was his 15th Long Beach Grand Prix. He has now qualified in the top-10 eight times with three top-three starting positions including a pole, in 2002 and 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 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 (he is the V in PKV Racing) in the series, is a perennial championship contender having finished in the top-10 nine times including nine of the last 11 years. He finished a team record sixth in the championship last year.

Servia, who qualified a team high eighth, had the shortest day of the three PKV Racing drivers. Taking the green flag Servia got a fantastic jump on the field. Entering Turn #1 with the lead pack he suddenly found Paul Tracy's car sitting on top of the left front of his car. After a quick inspection of the #6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing machine it was obvious the damage beyond repair.

Speaking about the incident Servia said, "I had a great start in the #6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car. Then I just felt, I didn't even see Paul (Tracy) landing on my left front and it broke my suspension. They way he landed I am sure someone hit Paul from behind and that is why Paul took off. So, that was it for today. It is a shame because we worked hard and the car was fast this morning and we really felt we at a shot at a podium finish. But, that is racing--its Long Beach--everyone is excited--first race of the season and everyone wants to win in the first corner. It is the nature of the game. The good thing is there are many more races left in the season and we are feeling strong and we are going to make the podium a lot this year."

Servia, who is entering his seventh Champ Car season, made his 99th career Champ Car start and seventh at Long Beach today. His eighth place qualifying position tied his best starting spot in seven attempts at Long Beach (also eighth in 2003). It also ties the team's best qualifying effort at Long Beach achieved by Cristiano da Matta last year. Servia's best finish at Long Beach is sixth, in 2000.

Servia has earned 51 top-ten finishes including 25 top-five showings, 12 podium performances and one victory (Montreal 2005). The 18th place showing today in Long Beach snapped a streak of five consecutive podium finishes dated back to last year, when Servia had the best season of his Champ Car career placing second in the standings.

PKV Racing will be made its sixth, seventh and eighth starts while competing in it fourth Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today. The team's best qualifying position is eighth by Servia this year and da Matta last year. The team's best finished is a ninth by Jimmy Vasser also last year.

Next up for PKV Racing is a test at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon April 12-13. The 2006 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will resume May 11-13 with the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston in Houston, Texas. The race, which will be held on a Saturday night, will be broadcast live on Speed at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

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

-pkv-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Lyn St. James , Katherine Legge , Janet Guthrie , Cristiano da Matta , Tom Brown