CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Patrick Racing race report

Electrical gremlin haunts Visteon/Patrick Racing at season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2003 -- Round ...

Electrical gremlin haunts Visteon/Patrick Racing at season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2003 -- Round #1 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season - An problem with the engine's electrical system stymied what had been a strong performance by the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team at today's 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Driver Oriol Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, started the race ninth, but took advantage of the mistakes of other drivers and a solid pit strategy orchestrated by team owner U. E. "Pat" Patrick and General Manager Jim McGee, to move into fourth place just prior to the second pit stop on lap 46. Within three laps of the stop, suddenly, the car began to produce puffs of smoke. Servia immediately pitted and the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew went to work. Over the course of five laps the team pitted four times as they attempted to rectify the problem. During those stops they changed the spark box, Electrical Control Unit (ECU) and ignition wires before the car was able to rejoin the contest, albeit nine laps off the pace and with an engine that was not performing to its maximum, in 15th place.

During the next 44 laps, Servia scraped, clawed and battled his way around the track, while the team again performed flawlessly during the final pit stop for fuel. The hard work and "never say die" attitude paid off in the end as three other competitors succumbed to mechanical problems moving Servia into 12th place and earning the team one championship point.

"We had a problem with the engine's electrical system," said Patrick. "We won't know exactly what went wrong until we take it apart, but it appears that there is some sort of gremlin that is causing a problem," he noted.

Sevia said, "It is just a shame and obviously I am disappointed. The Visteon/Patrick Racing car was fast all weekend and I had a good racecar today. We started the race ninth and just took advantage of other driver's mistakes to move into fourth place, behind Michel Jourdain, just before the halfway point. If we had just stayed behind Michel until the end of the race we would have finished third. Unfortunately, we had a problem and had to make several pit stops. That dropped us way back. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a great job to get the car back on track. I am proud of the way the team hung in there and fought back to earn a championship point. You never know.at the end of the season that point could be very important."

This was the second time that Visteon/Patrick Racing experienced an engine problem during the weekend. During Friday practice the team suffered another incident the cause of which is still be investigated.

Servia, 28, who is in his fourth Champ Car season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, was making his 54th career CART start and 11th with the team. The native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain has now finished in the points in six of his 11 starts for Visteon/Patrick Racing with four top-10 finishes and two top-five performances. In 54 Champ Car starts the resident of Miami, Florida has earned 23 top-ten finishes including six top- five showings and one podium a career best third place performance at the 200 Detroit Grand Prix.

Next up for Visteon/Patrick Racing is the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix March 21-23 at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico.

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 Oriol Servia , Michel Jourdain