PKV RACING'S VASSER FIFTH, DA MATTA 14TH ON PROVISIONAL GRID FOR GRAN PREMIO TELMEX-TECATE
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO -- FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2005 -- Round #13 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser and Cristiano da Matta began their effort to place one car in the top-five and both in the top-10 in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford final standings by provisionally qualifying fifth and 14th respectively today at the Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate presented by Banamex at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.
Vasser, who is currently sixth in the standings, drove the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry to a quick lap of 1:28.773 (112.980 mph), while da Matta, who is 11th in the points' race piloted the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car to a fast time of 1:29.804 (111.683 mph) on the tricky and very fast 2.781-mile 16-turn permanent road circuit.
Vasser began the day by turning a quick lap of 1:29.851 (111.625 mph) in morning practice placing him sixth on the individual practice report. In the 15-minute warm-up that proceeds qualifying he improved both his time and position notching a fast time of 1:29.821 (111.662 mph), which put him fourth on the individual speed report and seventh on the combined report. In qualifying several cars went out immediately, but Vasser waited. Wanting to get a feel for the car and the track conditions he ran just four laps during his first stint, instead of the usual seven, but was second on the speed charts after his first run. Waiting until track conditions were at their best for his second stint, Vasser got caught out after just two laps, and a total of six out of possible 15, by a red flag which brought the session to an end. Vasser turned his fastest lap on his last timed lap, number six overall, but unfortunately lost ground in the points race as A. J. Allmendinger who currently sits fifth in the standings captured the provisional pole and picked up one point.
"It was a reasonably good qualifying session for the Gulfsteam/PKV Racing team," Vasser said. "We still have some work to do if we want to qualify on the first two rows, but fortunately, I still have two sets of the alternate red tire, which are quicker, for tomorrow's final qualifying session," he noted. "The thing for the Gulfstream/PKV Racing team is that two of the drivers that I am competing with for fifth place in the standings are ahead of me on the provisional grid and A. J. (Allmendinger) got the provisional pole and scored a point. It would be nice to return the favor tomorrow and move back to within one point of fifth place in the standings," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, with 198 points, is in a five-driver battle for fifth place and has a shot at finishing fourth. He currently trails A. J. Allmendinger, who holds down the number five spot, by just two points and leads Alex Tagliani by six points, local Mexican favorite Mario Dominguez by seven and Roshfrans Champ Car Rookie of the Year, Timo Glock by 17. Paul Tracy is fourth with 221 points. Vasser, who joined PKV Racing last year in the dual roles of owner and driver, is seeking his first top-five finish in the championship standings since 1998, when he placed second (he was sixth in 2000) and is trying to establish a new team record by topping his eight place showing in his inaugural season at PKV Racing. The perennial championship contender, and 1996 Series Champion, has already assured himself of his ninth top-10 finish in the standings in the last 11 years.
Now in his 14th year of Champ Car competition, Vasser will be making his 231st and possibly last career Champ Car start this weekend in Mexico City. It will also extend his Champ Car record for consecutive starts to 210. This will be his third start in Mexico City.
The highly respected 39-year-old Californian, who is coming off back-to-back podium performances, thirds in Vegas and Surfers Paradise, for the first time since 2000 (Houston, first; Surfers, third), has finished in the top-10 in eight of the 12 races this season with four top-five showings including the two podiums, a fourth, in Toronto and a fifth, in Milwaukee. He has qualified in the top-10 in 11 consecutive races and 11 of the 12 events this year including capturing the first and only pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. Vasser has finished 144 of his last 186 races and placed in the top-10 in 131 of his 230 events including 66 top-five showings and 33 podium finishes. The resident of Las Vegas, NV has qualified in the top-10 in all three attempts in Mexico City with a best starting position of fourth in 2004. His best finish is fifth also last year.
Da Matta ran just seven laps in morning practice due to a problem with his wastegate. He turned a fast lap of 1:31.706 (109.367 mph), which placed him 15th on the speed charts. In the afternoon warm-up da Matta improved to 1:31.494 (109.620 mph) after spending most of the session just getting used to the track. He finished the session 13th on the speed charts, but continued to complain of a lack of power. In qualifying, he went out early and was at the top of the speed charts, but dropped back later as his power problems continued. During his second stint he also feel victim to the red flag.
"It was a difficult day for the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team," da Matta began. "We had a big problem with the wastegate starting in morning practice and that is robbing my engine of power," he explained. "The Bell Micro/PKV Racing team has some work to do tonight, but I am confident that we will be much quicker in final qualifying tomorrow and can move up on the final starting grid," da Matta concluded.
Da Matta, who scored the only win in PKV Racing's almost three year history when he took the checkered flag in Portland earlier this year, has amassed 132 points and is just five points out of 10th place in the standings. The 2002 Series Champion is attempting to finish in the top-10 in the standings for the fourth consecutive time and fourth time in five Champ Car seasons (missed out only in 1999, his rookie year).
Da Matta, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula One, is campaigning his fifth Champ Car season and first with PKV Racing. He will be making his 92nd career start, 13th with the team and second in Mexico City. The talented and personable 31-year-old Brazilian has finished in the top-10 in five of the 12 races contested this year. He has qualified in the top-10 in 11 of the 12 events this year (missing out only in San Jose) with a best starting position of second in Cleveland (he has qualified fourth three times Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Australia). In his only start in Mexico City, in 2002, the resident of Miami, FL qualified 12th, but battled his way to a second place finish.
PKV Racing is making its fourth and fifth starts while competing in its third race in Mexico City. In three previous starts (two races) they have a best qualifying position of fourth by Vasser in 2004. They finished in the top-five twice in their three starts with Mika Salo placing fifth in 2003 and Vasser finishing fifth in 2004.
After the first 12 races in the 2005 Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history in Portland (round #4) while Vasser earned the team's first pole in round #3 at Milwaukee. The two drivers have combined to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They have both qualified in the top-five twice (Milwaukee and Las Vegas, Vasser -- third, da Matta -- fourth) and in the top-10 in a team record ten races, including a team record six consecutive races. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race three times (eighth/10th at Long Beach; first/sixth, Portland and sixth/seventh, Montreal) this year and at least one of them placed in the top-six in eight of the 12 events including five consecutive races (the streak ended in Edmonton), which is also a team record. Both drivers are in solid positions to achieve their goal of placing one car in the top-five and both in the top-10 in the final standings, which would establish another team record by the duo this season.
The Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate Presented by Banamex, November 4-6, at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico will be televised live at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on SPEED Channel.