SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA -- SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2005 -- Round ...
SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA -- SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2005 -- Round #11 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Cristiano da Matta qualified fifth while teammate Jimmy Vasser will start tenth in tomorrow's Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate presented by Banamex at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico.
Da Matta, who will line up the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine on the inside of the third row had a quick qualifying time of 1:27.287 (114.904 mph. Vasser, who will slot the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry on the outside of Row #10, turned a fast lap of 1:27.803 (114.22807.382 mph). Today's qualifying effort is the 11th time in 13 events that PKV Racing has placed both cars in the top-10. It also mean that both PKV Racing drivers, given the attrition associated with this race, are solidly set to pursue their goal of placing one car in the top-five and both in the top-10 in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series final standings/ Should they achieve either or both goals it would add to a growing list of team records already establish by the duo this season.
Da Matta, who was 14th on the grid following yesterday's provisional qualifying with a quick lap of 1:29.804 (111.683 mph), started moving up on the speed charts from the opening bell. In morning practice the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team, which made an engine change the previous night, worked with their rear setup package experimenting with several changes. With more power coming from the new engine and the right combination of mechanical and aerodynamic grip, da Matta posted a fast lap of 1:29.049 (112.630 mph) on the challenging and very fast 2.781-mile 16-turn permanent road, placing him eighth on both the individual and combined report. During the 15 minute afternoon warm-up prior to qualifying da Matta continued to work on his setup while posting a fast time of 1:29.547 (112.004 mph). The time placed him 10th on both the individual and combined practice reports entering final qualifying. In qualifying, PKV Racing decided to use both their sets of alternate "red" tires. The alternate tire, which are faster, do not last as long as the primary tire so the team also decided to make shorter qualifying runs. Da Matta took to the track for his first stint with 20 minutes remaining in the 35 minute qualifying session and ran a fast lap of 1:28.053 on just his second timed lap (he ran a total of four laps including his out lap). The time immediately jumped him to fifth on the speed chart. Pitting for new tires the team gambled, waiting until there were just seven minutes left in the session before taking their second run. The gamble almost didn't pay off when on his out lap a red flag flew. When the track went green again there was only four minutes left in the session. Getting up to speed quickly, da Matta turned his quickest time of the weekend once again on his second timed and what turned out to be his final qualifying lap.
"I am very happy with the result of the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team's qualifying today," da Matta said.
"We really picked up the pace from yesterday to today's qualifying. Yesterday we had a couple of different problems, but today everything went very well," he explained. "I want to thank the Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew and the PKV Racing engineering staff for all their hard work. It really paid off today. Now we just have to do some work on our race setup because I think it will be different from qualifying," da Matta concluded.
Da Matta, who is in his fifth Champ Car season and first with PKV Racing, will be making his 92nd career start, 13th with the team and second in Mexico City tomorrow. The talented and determined 31-year-old Brazilian has now qualified in the top-10 in 12 of the 13 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). Today's fifth place startng position is da Matta's best in two attempts in Mexico City. In his only start here, in 2002, he qualified 12th, but battled his way to a second place finish.
Da Matta, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula One, 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). The resident of Miami, FL, who scored the only win in PKV Racing's almost three year history earlier this year in Portland, has finished in the top-10 in five of the 12 races contested this year including the win (he was sixth at Monterrey, Mexico and Montreal Canada and 10th in Long Beach and San Jose, CA).
Vasser was fifth on the provisional grid coming into today's qualifying with a fast lap of 1:28.773 (112.980 mph). In morning practice he, like his teammate, worked with his engineers to develop the car for final qualifying. Vasser's fast lap in morning practice came in at 1:29.042 (112.639 mph), which put him seventh on both the combined and individual practice reports. In the afternoon warm-up Vasser, who also continued to work on his setup in search of more speed, could only manage a quick lap of only 1:29.581 (1111.961), which put him 11th on the individual practice report and ninth on the combined report. In qualifying, Vasser used the same strategy as his teammate, but waited even longer to make his runs. He went out for his first stint with 17 minutes left and ran his fast time (and eventual qualifying time) on his first timed lap. Vasser did not even attempt his second stint until after the red flag and with just four minutes to go. However, just as it appeared that he would resume his position in the first three rows he spun in turn 12 eliminating any chance of a top-five starting position.
"I blew. I just blew it," Vasser lamented. "On my last lap I spun off and lost what was going to be a quick time. I don't know how quick it was going to be but, I sure I will find out. It is too bad--I just blew it," he said. "The good thing is that the PKV Racing cars are good and getting better. I know my car is quick and now Cristiano (teammate Crisitano da Matta) appears to be much faster," Vasser noted. "I am confident that the improvement to our cars will pay off in the race tomorrow," he concluded.
Vasser, who is competing in his 14th year of Champ Car competition, will be making his 231st career, Champ Car start tomorrow, which will extend his record of consecutive starts to 210. It could possibly also be his last. The highly respected 39-year-old Californian, who has been the subject of retirement rumors, has now qualified in the top-10 in 12 consecutive races and 12 of the 13 events this year including capturing the first and only pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. Vasser, who is making his fourth start in Mexico City, has now qualified in the top-10 in all four attempts with a best starting position of fourth in 2004. His best finish is fifth also last year.
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.
The resident of Las Vegas, NV, 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. 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.
PKV Racing, which will be making its fourth and fifth starts while competing in its third race in Mexico City tomorrow, has now qualified in the top-10 twice, both times this year, with a best qualifying position of fourth by Vasser in 2004. In their three previous starts (two races) they have finished in the top-five twice 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 11 races (in 13 attempts), 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.
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.