Patrick Racing Has Brilliant Performance As Vasser Places Fifth And Moreno Tenth At Firestone Firehawk 500 Team Places Both Cars In Top-10 For First Time This Season MOTEGI, JAPAN - SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2001 -- Round ...
Patrick Racing Has Brilliant Performance As Vasser Places Fifth And Moreno Tenth At Firestone Firehawk 500
Team Places Both Cars In Top-10 For First Time This Season
MOTEGI, JAPAN - SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2001 -- Round #5 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing had its best performance of the young 2001 FedEx Championship Series season as Jimmy Vasser battled his way to a fifth place finish and Roberto Moreno placed tenth at the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi, in Motegi, Japan.
A variety of factors contributed to Patrick Racing's incredible performance, which saw the team improve a combined 29 positions and earn their first double top-10 performance of the season. Once again the team's effort was highlighted by the excellent race craft for which they have become renowned. Brilliant pit and race strategy plus outstanding pit work by both the Patrick Racing crew's were among the highlights contributing to the strong finish. Additionally, the team got a solid performance by its engineering staff, which created a car that handled superbly in the race, an extremely reliable and fuel efficient Toyota engine and, of course, masterful racing efforts by both drivers.
Vasser, who qualified the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard 21st, improved a remarkable 16 places in earning his fourth top-six finish in as many races. He moved up to 17th place prior to the first pit stop as other competitors fell by the way side. Getting good fuel mileage from his Toyota engine he was able to stay out longer then most other drivers and pick up some track position. When he finally pitted for the first time on lap 53 the #40 Patrick Racing crew sprang into action and, as they have done throughout the early part of the season, turned in another solid performance. Vasser rejoined the battle in 13th place picking up four positions on the stop. Unfortunately, a few laps later he went down a lap to the leaders, but at that point the team was content to work its strategy and see where the chips fell. Vasser was running in 12th position as the second round of pit stops began and once again, because he was getting such good fuel mileage he was able to stay out longer eventually pitting on lap 101. The Patrick Racing crew had another strong stop getting the #40 car back on track in 10th place. Vasser moved into ninth place on lap 127 before pitting for his third and final time on lap 153. He rejoined the contest and by the time everyone had pitted found himself in eighth place. At this point fuel mileage became the big issue. Vasser, who was still getting outstanding mileage, was able to finish the race, while Alex Zanardi and Shinji Nakano, who were ahead of him, were both forced to pit for a splash of fuel. Now running in sixth place, Vasser caught a break when Gil de Ferran was forced from the race with a fire in his engine compartment. He moved into fifth place and was challenging Christian Fittipaldi for fourth when the checkered flag dropped.
"The Patrick Racing team made a silk purse out of a sow's ear today," Vasser said. "The crew did a great job in the pits and we had a good race strategy. It was teamwork that made this finish possible. The car wasn't completely up to snuff this weekend. During the race the chassis was handling great, so I think the engineers did a great job. Also, the Toyota engine was very reliable. It was a great day, we had a great car and I'll take the points," Vasser concluded.
Vasser has been remarkably consistent in his inaugural season with Patrick Racing a trademark throughout his career. He has finished sixth at Mexico, fifth at Long Beach, fourth at Nazareth and now fifth in Japan. Vasser remains tied for third in the championship standings with 40 points and is just nine points out of the top spot. The fifth place showing at Motegi is Vasser's highest showing in Japan and the third time he has finished in the points in the land of the rising sun (placed seventh in 1998 and 12th in 1999). He has scored points in 44 of his 59 (33 of last 40) oval races with 41 top-10 finishes, 22 top-five showings with 12 podiums and five wins. Vasser has finished 89 of his last 107 races placing in the points 85 times. A veteran of nine plus CART seasons, Vasser has 90 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles in 151 CART starts.
Moreno, who started the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard from the 23rd spot on the grid, had an equally dramatic performance in earning his first top-10 finish and third points paying performance of the season. He got off to a good start moving into 20th place by lap six. He moved into 18th place on lap 33 and was running there when the first round of pit stops began. Because he was not getting quite the fuel mileage as his teammate he pitted on lap 49 and the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew, like their counterparts on the #40 car, had an excellent stop getting Moreno back into the race in 15th place. He was still running 15th when the second round of stops occurred. Pitting on lap 93 he got another good performance from the crew and when everything sorted itself out he was in 13th place. Moreno picked up one spot on lap 127 and was in 12th place going into his third stop on lap 141. By the end of the third round of stops he was in 11th place. Unfortunately, because he was not getting the same mileage as Vasser he had to pit for a splash of fuel on lap 195. The additional stop prevented him from picking up a couple of more positions, but when de Ferran fell out he moved into 10th place where he finished.
"This was a tough race for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team, but we did a good job considering the circumstances we had to work with," Moreno said. "I ran a bit more downforce than Jimmy (teammate Jimmy Vasser) so I was using a bit more fuel. I had to chase the car a little bit for two of the stints, the other two the car was handling well. At the end of the race I had to conserve fuel and make an extra pit stop. Overall, I think the Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a great job all weekend and that allowed us to score some important championship points today," Moreno noted.
Moreno went on to explain, "I feel like I am learning how to save fuel with the Toyota engine. Last year I was one of the best at conserving fuel with a different engine. This year I am learning all over again. Jimmy, who has more experience with the Toyota engine, has been helping me a lot. I am working better with my new engineer David Dembecki. Each race things are developing more and getting better. I am very pleased with the reliability of our package particularly the Toyota engine. I think the Visteon/Patrick Racing team is ready to start putting together some wins and podium finishes."
Moreno has now finished, 11th at Long Beach, 12th in Nazareth and tenth in Japan, during the 2001 season and is tied for 15th in the championship standings with six points. He has finished in the top-10 in two of his three races at Motegi placing third last year to go with this year's 10th. The talented and personable Brazilian has now scored points in 13 of his last 16 oval races. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 19 of his last 37 starts and in the points 25 times.
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Miller Lite 225 June 1-3 on the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.