CLEVELAND, OHIO - SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2001 -- Round ...
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2001 -- Round #9 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing had an outstanding race at yesterday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio as Jimmy Vasser finished fifth and Roberto Moreno placed eighth.
The Visteon/Patrick Racing team moved up remarkable 36 combined positions during the contest to place both cars in the top-10 for the second time this year (Japan - Vasser, fifth; Moreno, 10th). It is the fourth time this season that both drivers have finished in the points (Long Beach - Vasser, fifth, Moreno 11th; Nazareth, Vasser, fourth, Moreno, 12th; Japan - Vasser, fifth, Moreno, 10th; Cleveland - Vasser, fifth, Moreno, eighth). Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, made the greatest gain of any driver improving an unbelievable 19 positions in earning his fourth top-five finish of the season and snapping a three race streak of finishes out of the points. Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, moved up an equally amazing 17 places, and appeared to have a shot at a podium if not the win, before settling for his fourth top-10 showing of the year and third in a row.
Vasser started the race a season low 24th because rain altered the conditions for his qualifying group. On the opening lap a four-car crash brought out the only full course caution flag of the day. Taking advantage of the opportunity the Visteon/Patrick Racing team put into effect its strategy for the race pitting for a splash of fuel. Fuel estimates for the race called for three pit stops (two full stops, tires and fuel and a late stop for a splash of fuel at the end). By pitting for the splash early Vasser lost no positions, based on his starting spot. Rejoining the contest Vasser bounced between 19th and 20th place trading positions with his teammate. On lap 30 teams began pitting for their first stop, but because of the early splash Vasser did not have to pit until lap 35. The extra laps on an empty track with a low fuel load allowed Vasser to pick up valuable seconds. Following another outstanding pit stop by the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew, Vasser came back on track and found that the strategy had worked to perfection as he picked up nine positions and was now in 11th place. In addition, because he pitted later and was conserving fuel he would be able to stay out longer than the rest of the field for the second stop. He would also not have to pit a third time (the latter was a bit of a gamble because had there been a lot of caution flags it was possible that the rest of the field would not have to stop for the splash). Vasser remained in 11th place until lap 59 when the competition once again began pitting for their second stop. He stayed out until lap 68 once again running several laps on an open track with low fuel. The strategy continued to work as he picked up an additional two places moving into eighth place. Vasser stayed just inside the top-10 for the next 20 laps, but once again began to move up the field as other cars had mechanical problems or competitors (including Moreno) had on track incidents. On lap 89 he was in seventh place, but picked up two more positions in the final stages of the race as some of the leaders had to make their final stop for their splash of fuel
"After scoring no points in June I will take whatever I can get," Vasser said. "We had a great car and I thought we had a chance at taking the pole, but the rain got us. So we started in the back and had to work a fuel economy strategy in the race. I wasn't making very good mileage today, so I had to be conservative to make the strategy work. The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team just had to soldier on today, but I will take a fifth place finish," Vasser concluded.
Vasser has now finished in the top-six in five of the eight races this year (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth; Cleveland - fifth). The 35-year-old native of California is now seventh in the 2001 Championship standings with 50 points. He is just six points out of fourth place. Vasser also earned his fifth top-10 finish at Cleveland in 10 starts. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has started 94 CART road/street races placing in the points 56 times with 49 top-10 finishes including 25 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories. He has finished 91 of his last 111 races placing in the points 86 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).
Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, also had a phenomenal performance. Starting a season low 25th he employed the same strategy as his teammate, but almost did him one better. Saving fuel at an unbelievable rate, Moreno, was tenth after the first pit stop (like his teammate improving nine positions), and sixth after the second round of stops. He moved into fourth place on lap 86 and appeared to have a realistic shot at a podium finish if not the victory. Then fate took a hand in the game. On lap 88, Moreno was challenging Bryan Herta (who also was going to be able to finish the race without stopping for a splash of fuel) for third place when Herta spun, almost taking both he and Moreno out of the race. Both drivers were able to continue, but the damage was done. Moreno rejoined the contest in 12th place and turned the fastest lap of the race on lap 93. The fast speed helped him pick up another four spots when other competitors had to pit for fuel during the closing stages of the race.
"I had to save fuel at the beginning of the race, but it was also important to set a pace that would stay with the lead group to make our strategy work," Moreno said. "The main object was to do more laps than anyone else before I had to stop for fuel. That way when the other drivers made their pit stops I would be able to stay out on low fuel tanks, with fewer cars on the track, and run fast laps. The other drivers could not match those fast times when we were all racing together so I gained track position. During the first stint I was able to run as many as three more laps than anyone else all at very fast lap times. Then when I pitted and came back out I picked up several places," Moreno explained.
After the second pit stop things were looking good," Moreno continued. "I was in fourth place and we knew some of the cars in front of us were going to have to pit one more time. I started working on Bryan Herta for third place and he spun in front of me in Turn #7. I had nowhere to go. I used the brakes to avoid him but went into the tire barrier. My reverse gear didn't work so I had to wait for the safety crew to push me back...they did a good job of that. It is a shame. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team had a chance at a podium finish if not the win, but it was a racing incident and that is the way things go sometimes," Moreno said.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a fantastic job today," Moreno said. "They gave me a fast race car and did an excellent job in the pits. Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee also did a tremendous job with the pit strategy. We should have had a better result, but we gained some valuable points," he concluded.
Moreno, who captured his first career CART pole and win last year at Cleveland, finished in the top-10 at Cleveland for the third consecutive time and the third time in five races at Burke Lakefront Airport. The native of Brazil has finished in the points in six of his last seven races and six of the eight races this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second; Cleveland - eighth). He is now tenth in the championship race with 41 points. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 in 22 of his last 41 CART starts and in the points 28 times. He has finished in the points in 15 of his last 24 road/street course starts with 12 top-10 placements, seven top five showings and five podiums including the victory in Cleveland last year.
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Molson Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto, Canada July 13-15.