MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2001 -- Round ...
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2001 -- Round #19 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing made a big improvement between practice sessions today placing both cars in the top-seven after the first day of practice for the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
Roberto Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was fifth on the combined practice report, while teammate Jimmy Vasser, behind the wheel of the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, ended up seventh. In reality Vasser is one place higher because Gil de Ferran placed his primary and backup cars in the top six.
Both Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynards came off the transporter uncharacteristically slow on a road course. Moreno was 18th on the morning practice report with a quick lap of 70.731 seconds (113.908 mph) in his backup car. His fastest time in the primary car, 71.419 seconds (112.810 mph), was only good for 28th place. However, by the time afternoon practice rolled around the Visteon/Patrick Racing engineers had worked their magic. Running the primary car, Moreno worked out the final bugs during his first couple of stints in the afternoon session. He then became a regular resident of the top-10 spending most of his time in fifth or sixth place. During his final stint he clicked off his fastest lap of the day running a quick time of 69.602 seconds (115.755 mph) putting him fourth on the afternoon report and fifth on the overall combined practice report.
"This is the first time in the last couple of years that the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has come to Laguna Seca and really made a big improvement," Moreno said. "The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard was terrible this morning, but the engineers did a very good job of turning the car around for this afternoon. We made some radical changes for the afternoon session and they all worked. Then we started fine-tuning the car towards the end of the day. I think there is a little more room for fine tuning, but the car is quite quick," Moreno concluded.
Moreno, who is in his eighth CART season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is making his seventh appearance in Monterey. He has finished in the points in three of his six previous races at Laguna Seca with a best showing of second in 1999. The native of Brazil is looking for another strong performance here as he tries to reenter the top-10 in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series standings. Moreno is currently 11th in the championship race with 74 points, just two points out of 10th place and 12 out of seventh. He has finished 14 of 17 races, tied for second most, and placed in the points 11 times. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. He has points paying finishes in eight of ten road/street events this year with five top-10 showings including three podiums and the win. Moreno has finished in the points in 21 of his last 33 road/street course races with 16 top-10 placements, nine top-five showings, six podiums and two wins. He has finished in the top-10 in 24 of his last 50 starts and in the points 33 times.
Vasser, who announced today that he has signed with Team Rahal for the 2002 season, was painfully slow in morning practice. His fastest lap was run in the primary car and came in at 71.277 seconds (113.035 mph) placing him 25th on the morning practice report. In the afternoon session he came on strong, but in a much more workmanlike fashion than his teammate. Vasser steadily climbed his way up the speed charts moving into the top-10 about half way through the 90-minute session. He roared into the top-five with about 30 minutes remaining and was running in the top-three with a fast time of 69.799 seconds (115.429 mph) with about 20 minutes left. At that point the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team decided to forgo using a final set of new tires and fine-tuned the car. As a result, Vasser dropped a couple of places late in the session placing sixth on the afternoon speed charts and seventh on the combined report.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team made some big changes from the morning session to the afternoon that really improved the car," Vasser said. "I am pretty happy. We didn't run new tires at the end, which means we didn't run our fastest time. Overall, I think we are looking good for qualifying," Vasser concluded.
Vasser will be racing at Laguna Seca for the 10th time. In nine previous starts he has qualified in the top-10 five times including four of the last five years. His best starting position is third in 1998. Vasser has finished in the points six times including five top-10 showings, three top-five placements and a victory in 1997.
The native of California is currently 14th in the championship standings with 56 points, just 18 points out of 10th. Vasser, who is coming off points paying finishes in consecutive races for the first time since the start of the season, is looking to make a late season charge as he tries to finish in the top-10 in the championship race for the seventh consecutive year (including a championship in 1996).
Vasser finished in the top-six in the first four events before falling victim to bad luck placing in the points in just three of his last 13 races. Overall, Vasser has scored points in seven of 17 races this year placing in the top-10 six times, the top-six five times and the top-five four times. The Las Vegas, resident has finished in the points in four of the of ten nine road/street races, with three top-six showings.
Vasser, who is in this 10th CART season and first with Patrick Racing, has started 164 CART races finishing in the top-10 a total of 92 times including 26 podium performances. He has finished 95 of his last 120 races placing in the points 88 times (from Milwaukee '95). In 99 CART career road/street races finishing in the points 57 times with 49 top-10 finishes, 25 top-five showings, 14 podiums and four wins.
Visteon/Patrick Racing has had their best performances of the season on the street circuits in 2001. In six street races, 12 starts, the team has produced eight finishes in the points with five top-10 performances, four top-five showings and two podium appearances including a win. In ten road/street races, 20 starts, Visteon/Patrick Racing has finished in the points 12 times, with eight top-10 showings, five top-five, three podiums and the win. In 22 starts at Laguna Seca Patrick Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 a total of 14 times. Their best starting position is third, in 1983 (Chip Ganassi) and 1997 (Scott Pruett). The team has finished in the points 13 times, with 12 top-10 showings and five top-five placements. Patrick Racing's best finish is third, 1983 (Chip Ganassi) and 1996 (Scott Pruett).
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning from 10:00 - 11:15 AM. Qualifying will be run in two groups. The first group, including Vasser, will go out from 1:45 - 2:15 PM. The second group, including Moreno, will take to the track from 2:30 - 3:00 PM. The Honda Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300 will be run on Sunday, October 14 at 1:00 PM (PT) and will be televised live on ESPN.