CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: PKV Racing Friday report

PKV RACING'S DA MATTA SIXTH, VASSER EIGHTH ON PROVISIONAL GRID FOR SUNDAY'S LEXMARK INDY 300 SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA -- FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2005 -- Round ...

PKV RACING'S DA MATTA SIXTH, VASSER EIGHTH ON PROVISIONAL GRID FOR SUNDAY'S LEXMARK INDY 300

SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA -- FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2005 -- Round #12 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Cristiano da Matta is sixth and teammate Jimmy Vasser eighth on the provisional grid following today's qualifying session for Sunday's Lexmark Indy 300 on the temporary street circuit in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.

Da Matta driving the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry turned in a fast lap of 1:48.492 (92.869 mph), while Vasser, who pilots the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, ran a quick time of 1:48.792 (92.488 mph) during a qualifying session that was run on a very wet track and with rain constantly threatening.

The day began with a steady drizzle that forced teams to go with rain tires during the morning practice session. Da Matta ran just five laps in morning practice, but still managed to produce the eighth fastest lap with a time of 1:48.237 (92.963 mph). During the waning minutes of the session the intensity of the rain increased and during the break prior to qualifying it became a torrential downpour. The precipitation stopped prior to the 15-minute warm-up that proceeds qualifying, but track conditions were so bad that rain tires were still the order of the day. Da Matta ran six laps in the warm-up with a quick time of 1:58.987 (84.564 mph), placing him 16th on the speed charts. During the 10-minute break between the warm-up and qualifying the track continued to dry, but in qualifying rain tires were still required. Both PKV Racing cars sat out the first six minutes of the 35 minute qualifying session to let conditions continue to improve. However, when it became apparent that more rain was on the way the team took to the track. On his first stint da Matta ran seven timed laps getting as high as second on the speed charts on just his third lap. He ran his fastest lap of the session during his second stint, the second timed lap of the stint and number 10 overall.

"I think the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team got everything out of the car today that we could given the conditions," da Matta said. "Obviously, it is the same for everyone, so you just do the best you can. The good news is that we are supposed to have good weather tomorrow," he noted. "The whole PKV Racing team has been working very hard and we have developed a lot of new things for the car on street circuits. I think we have made some real improvement and hopefully, with good weather conditions tomorrow so we will really got a good chance to see what we have," da Matta concluded.

Da Matta, who is in his fifth Champ Car season and first with PKV Racing, will be making his 91st career start, 12th with the team and fifth in Surfers Paradise this weekend. The talented 31-year-old Brazilian, who was as high as fifth in the championship race following a victory in Portland, the first and so far only win in PKV Racing's two plus year history, is currently 10th in the championship standings with 130 points. Da Matta is 32 points out of ninth place and mathematically can still finish as high fifth in the season ending standings. This will be the fourth consecutive time and fourth time in five Champ Car seasons that the 2002 Series Champion has placed in the top-10.

Da Matta, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula 1, opened the season with three top-10 finishes in the first four races including the win in Portland. He then battled through a series of incidents in the next five events, before rallying with a solid performance in Montreal. The resident of Miami, Florida has finished in the top-10 in five of the 11 races contested this year and qualified in the top-10 in 10 of the 11 events this year (missing out only in San Jose) with a best starting position of second in Cleveland. In four previous starts in Surfers Paradise he has started in the top-10 all four times taking the pole in 2002 and finishing in the top-10 three times including the win in 2001.

Vasser ran eight laps in the morning practice clocking a fast lap of 1:56.155 (86.626 mph), which placed him 16th on the speed charts. In the afternoon warm-up the 39-year-old Californian did not turn a wheel electing to save his tires for qualifying. In qualifying, Vasser, like his teammate, sat for the first six minutes. He ran the fastest lap of each stint on his first timed lap with the quickest coming during the second stint on his seventh lap overall.

"Today's qualifying really came down to a timing issue for the PKV Racing team," Vasser said. "With the tricky track conditions and unpredictable weather, you had to make your best guess when to take your qualifying run," he explained. "It worked out okay for the Gulfstream/PKV Racing team, but I think we still have some more left in the car. The good news is I keep hearing that Queensland really needs this rain," Vasser concluded.

Vasser is sixth in the standings with 173 points just 13 points out of fifth place, 41 out of fourth and 43 out of third. The highly respected 39-year-old native of California has as strong shot at finishing in the top-five in the championship standings, which would be his best season since 1998 and establish a new team record by topping his eight place showing in his inaugural season at PKV Racing last year. It will also be the ninth time in the last 11 years that the perennial championship contender, and 1996 Series Champion, has place in the top-10 in the standings.

Now in his 14th year of Champ Car competition, Vasser will be making his 230th career, record 209th consecutive and 14th start this weekend in Surfers Paradise. The resident of Las Vegas, NV, who is coming off a season high third place performance in Las Vegas, has finished in the top-10 in seven of the 11 races this season with three top-five showings, the third in Vegas, a fourth in Toronto and a fifth in Milwaukee. Vasser has qualified in the top-10 in 10 consecutive races and 10 of the 11 events this year including the first pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. He has finished 143 of his last 185 races and placed in the top-10 in 130 of his 229 events including 65 top-five showings and 32 podium finishes. In 13 previous races in Australia, Vasser has qualified in the top-10 a total of 10 times with one pole in 1996. He has finished in the top-10 five times and is one of 14 past winners (no driver has ever repeated in Surfers Paradise) capturing the victory in 1996.

PKV Racing will be making its fourth and fifth starts while competing in its third race in Australia. In three previous starts the team has qualified in the top-10 twice with a best starting position of eighth by Vasser last year. Their best finish is 11th by Mika Salo in 2003 and Roberto Gonzalez in 2004.

After the first 11 races in the 2005 Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history in Portland (round #4) while Vasser earned the team's first pole in round #3 at Milwaukee. The two drivers have combined to set team records for best combined qualifying, first and fourth at Milwaukee and best combined finish, first and sixth at Portland. They have both qualified in the top-five twice (Milwaukee and Las Vegas, Vasser -- third, da Matta -- fourth) and in the top-10 in a team record nine races, including a team record six consecutive races. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race three times (eighth/10th at Long Beach; first/sixth, Portland and sixth/seventh, Montreal) this year and at least one of them placed in the top-six in seven of the 11 events including five consecutive races (the streak ended in Edmonton), which is also a team record.

The Lexmark Indy 300 will be televised taped delayed on Sunday, October 23 at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on SPEED Channel. For more information please visit: www.pkvracing.com or www.gulfstream.com.

-pkvr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Mika Salo , Roberto Gonzalez , Cristiano da Matta