VASSER NINTH, DA MATTA 10TH IN 2005 SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, CA -- SUNDAY, APRIL 10, 2005 -- Round ...
VASSER NINTH, DA MATTA 10TH IN 2005 SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, CA -- SUNDAY, APRIL 10, 2005 -- Round #1 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's new era began with a pair of top-10 finishes in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA.
Jimmy Vasser, behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, finished ninth while new teammate Cristiano da Matta brought the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry in tenth on the challenging 1.968-mile, 11 turn Long Beach downtown street circuit.
Vasser, who was making his Champ Career record 198th consecutive start and the 219th of his career, started the race from the 11th spot on the grid. Using an "off sequence" strategy which saw the native of California pit during a yellow flag on lap nine, Vasser bounced up and down the standings. He led nine laps, the third most, but was unable to catch that key yellow flag, which would have enabled him to place even higher.
Vasser, the 1996 Series Champion, who is in his 14th Champ Car season, was making his 14th start in Long Beach. The ninth place finish was the tenth time overall and the ninth time in the last ten years he has finished in the top-10.
Commenting on the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend Vasser said, "I think the biggest thing that the PKV Racing team takes away from this weekend is that we have to come off the truck quicker and qualify better. We had high expectations for our team after pre-season testing, but things didn't work out, so I am obviously disappointed. We brought in a lot of new programs and faces at PKV Racing so that things would get better--and they will get better. It is a team effort and we just have to keep working at it as a team. Fortunately, we have a long break before the next race, so we can sit down and analyze what we need to do and make the changes that are necessary."
Regarding the race Vasser said, "In the race we tried a different strategy by going off sequence, but we didn't get the yellows when we needed them, so we finished just about were we expected."
Da Matta, who was racing a Champ Car for the first time in three years after spending the last two seasons in F1, started eighth. He ran the first stint in sequence with the leaders, but was unable to make any headway. Therefore, the team gambled a bit pitting early for his second stop in an attempt to create some track position at the end. Unfortunately, like Vasser, the yellow flag necessary to make the strategy effective never came.
Da Matta, the 2002 Series Champion, who is in his fifth Champ Car season, was making his fifth start in Long Beach. His 10th place finish was his third overall and third in a row (placed second in 2001 and eighth in '02).
Speaking about his first race weekend with PKV Racing da Matta said, "It was a difficult weekend for the PKV Racing team and that caught us by surprise. Our pre-season testing went very well and at the last test, with most of the teams there, we were always in the top-five, so we expected better this weekend. But, it is the first race of season and our first race together, so we can't let this one race get us down. We just have to keep working at it. All the ingredients are here it is just a matter of us having some more time to work together."
Commenting on the race da Matta said, "I think based on how the PKV Racing car was coming off the truck we did a very good job in qualifying. I think we qualified better than the car was. In the race we struggled with the same problems we had all weekend, so we tired to do some things with strategy hoping for a yellow, but things just didn't work out for us."
This is the second season that PKV Racing, which is in its third year of existence, has run two cars and only the fifth time they have placed both cars in the top-10 (they placed both cars in the top-10 four times in 14 races last year; Portland -10 and eight; Cleveland - seven and five; Montreal -10 and eight and Las Vegas -- 10 and five).
Next up for PKV Racing will be a test at Portland International Raceway in Portland, OR Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14. The 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford resume with the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix in Monterrey, Mexico, May 20-22.