CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Patrick Racing Friday qualifying report

Visteon/Patrick Racing starts 2003 season strong: Servia qualifies third on provisional grid for inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA -- FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2003 -- Round ...

Visteon/Patrick Racing starts 2003 season strong:
Servia qualifies third on provisional grid for inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA -- FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2003 -- Round #1 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- Visteon/Patrick Racing got the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season off to a strong start qualifying third on the provisional grid for the season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Driver Oriol Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, which is powered by Ford/Cosworth, uses a Lola chassis and Bridgestone tires, steadily improved both his time and position throughout the first day of practice and qualifying. The 28-year-old Spaniard was 14th on the speed charts following the first morning practice session with a fast time of 69.343 seconds (93.760 mph) on the challenging 1.806-mile temporary street circuit. In the second practice he moved up to seventh place, on both the individual and combined practice report, despite having an engine problem with 14 minutes remaining in the 50-minute practice. His time was commensurately quicker, 63.171 seconds (102.921 mph), as the track improved dramatically with more use.

In the short, pre-qualifying afternoon practice, Servia gave an indication of things to come as he topped the speed charts after the 10-minute session. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team began qualifying brimming with confidence and was rewarded as Sevia continued to be among the fastest drivers on the track. Following his first stint in qualifying he was third on the speed charts with a quick lap of 62.062 seconds (104.760 mph) despite having some problems with traffic. Unfortunately, after putting on his second set of tires his final set of laps was interrupted by a pair of red flags that prevented him from taking full advantage of a still improving track (per Champ Car rules a total of 15 qualifying laps are permitted during a 40-minute period).

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team had a very good day and I am very happy to be where I am on the provisional grid," Servia began. "I was a little frustrated with the traffic, but the Visteon/Patrick Racing car is fast and we are still improving," he noted. "I am very happy with how the team has come together. The engineering staff, led by Steve Challis, has done a great job and the crew has been fantastic. They had to change an engine after the second practice and they did it very fast and the car performed flawlessly in qualifying. I also want to compliment Bridgestone for giving us an excellent tire. They were very consistent and durable, which is a big help when you are racing on a new track," Servia explained.

Commenting on the St. Petersburg street circuit, Servia said, "This is a very nice circuit.almost a perfect circuit. It could be a little longer and they should move the wall in the back chicane, but other then that I really like it. I also think it is going to be a very exciting track for the fans. The back straight is very quick and the track is wide, so there should be a lot of passing."

Servia, who is in his fourth Champ Car season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is making his 54th career CART start and 11th with the team. The resident of Miami, Florida ran the first three races of 2002 with PacWest Racing before signing with Visteon/Patrick Racing for the final 10 events. He finished in the points in eight of his 13 starts and five of ten with Visteon/Patrick Racing. Sevia scored six top-ten showings; four coming with Visteon/Patrick Racing, including two top-five finishes. Servia placed 16th in the championship standings with 44 points. In 53 previous Champ Car starts Servia has earned 23 top-ten finishes including six top-five (Third, Detroit - 2000; Fourth, Rockingham - 2002; Fifth, St. Louis -2000, Vancouver and Germany - 2001 and Fontana - 2002) and one podium.

Servia's best qualifying effort last year was ninth at Elkhart Lake and Australia. His highest Champ Car career qualifying position is third at Texas in 2001, however the race was cancelled. His highest starting position is fourth at Nazareth in 2001. Visteon/Patrick Racing's best starting position in 2002 was fifth at Long Beach. Now in its 31st year of open wheel competition, Patrick Racing has a total of 31 poles in 769 starts. Roberto Moreno captured the team's last pole at the 2001 Australia race.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on Sunday, February 23 from 1:00 - 3:30 PM (ET) on Speed Channel. The pre-race show will air from 12:30 - 1:00 PM (ET). Speed Channel will also televise Saturday, November 16, qualifying live from 1:30 - 3:00 PM (ET).

For background, statistical information, releases, notes, quotes plus updates on race weekends, go to (www.patrickracing.com

-pr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Oriol Servia