MONTERREY, MEXICO - SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2001 -- Round ...
MONTERREY, MEXICO - SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2001 -- Round #1 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Jimmy Vasser made his debut with Patrick Racing a successful one finishing sixth in the season opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix presented by Herdez, today in Monterrey, Mexico. Teammate Roberto Moreno was on his way to a top-ten showing, but got caught up in some track debris in Turn #12 and went into the wall, he finished 27th.
Vasser, driving the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, with OXXO sponsorship (a Mexican convenience store chain) for his maiden race with the Patrick team, qualified ninth. During the morning warm-up session the team continued the steady improvement that had marked their effort all weekend and by race time they had a very solid car.
In the race, Vasser, moved up one spot at the start of the. He held station for the next 20 laps then picked up another spot on lap 21 when teammate Moreno went out of the race. He pitted shortly thereafter dropping a couple of places as several teams decided to see how far they could stretch their fuel window. By lap 38, everyone had pitted at least once and Vasser was back in eighth place. He passed Tora Takagi on lap 46 to move into seventh place. On lap 51, he fell back to ninth when another driver made a bonsai move in one of the turns forcing Vasser to move over, allowing two cars through, or crash. Maintaining his cool, Vasser started working his way back. He was still in ninth place following the second round of pit stops, but quickly moved back into seventh when Dario Franchitti was accessed a penalty and Alex Tagliani had an engine problem. He stayed in seventh until lap 75 when he got by Helio Castroneves moving into sixth place where he finished. Vasser scored eight points for his effort. He has now finished 86 of his last 104 starts and placed in the points 82 times (dating to Milwaukee '95).
"Overall, it was a pretty good first outing for the #40 Patrick Racing team," Vasser said.. I would like to have placed higher, but we finished the race and got some points and that is important. During the race I had the best car I have had all weekend and that is a good feeling. We made a few mistakes today, and I lost a couple of places when one of the drivers made a bonsai move that I didn't really appreciate. But a sixth place finish in the first race of the season, with a new team, gets us off on the right foot. We just need to correct our mistakes, continue to improve and we will be able to challenge for some wins," Vasser concluded.
Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, had a more difficult day. He qualifed tenth, but beginning with the morning warm-up he began to struggle. In the morning session something in the car didn't feel right so the Visteon team spent most of mid-day checking parts and systems, and making changes. In the race Moreno remained where he started, 10th, for the first 16 laps, then dropped to 11th when Tagliani got around him. Following Tagliani closely in an effort to apply pressure the two cars exited Turn #12 and Moreno got caught up in some tire rubber (marbles) or a rock possibly thrown from Tagliani's car. The car pushed to the outside and hit the wall ending Moreno's day. Moreno has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 34 starts and in the points 22 times.
"It is a shame for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team," Moreno said. "The team did a great job preparing the car and I had a good race going. I got into the marbles in turn 12 and just washed up into the wall. There were a lot of marbles there. I am not really sure where they came from. I was following very close to the car in front of me and I couldn't see very much, but when I saw them it was too late."
Next up for Patrick Racing is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach presented by Toyota in Long Beach, California, April 6-8.