Visteon/Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia qualifies fourth for tomorrow's U. S. Bank presents the Cleveland Grand Prix CLEVELAND, OHIO - FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2003 -- Round ...
Visteon/Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia qualifies fourth for tomorrow's U. S. Bank presents the Cleveland Grand Prix
CLEVELAND, OHIO - FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2003 -- Round #9 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season --
Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Oriol Servia qualified fourth today and will start on the outside of row two in CART's second ever night race, The Cleveland Grand Prix set for 8:30 PM (ET) tomorrow evening in Cleveland, Ohio.
Servia actually had the third fastest time of this evening's final qualifying session, running a fast lap of 58.502 seconds (129.596 mph), but Paul Tracy's provisional pole time from yesterday held up putting Servia fourth on the starting grid.
Servia started the day fourth on the grid following Thursday afternoon's provisional qualifying with a quick lap of 59.186 seconds (128.098 mph). However, his fastest lap yesterday came in the evening when teams got their first look at the challenging Burke Lakefront Airport runway temporary street circuit under the lights. In the second of two evening sessions Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, which is powered by Ford/Cosworth and uses a Lola chassis with Bridgestone tires, ran the third fastest lap of the night clocking a time of 59.039 seconds (128.417 mph).
In today's afternoon practice Servia turned a quick lap of 59.689 seconds (127.018 mph) as the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team worked with old tires and experimented with some setup changes in search of more speed. He ended up ninth on the speed charts for the session, but was seventh on the combined report based on his time from the previous day.
In qualifying, with rain a possibility, the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team decided to go out on their first set of tires right at the start of the forty-minute session. At the end of his first stint, Servia was on the top of the speed charts with a quick lap of 58.686 seconds. With a solid lap already in the books the team sat until there were just ten minutes left in the session and track conditions were at their optimum. Servia, now sitting third on the charts, went back out and after getting his tires up to temperature began his assault on the pole. On his final lap he ran his fastest time of the weekend, which put him second in the session. Unfortunately, one lap later Patrick Carpentier nicked him by .053 of a second to move into second for the night and drop Servia to fourth on the grid.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team is in a good starting position for the race tomorrow," Servia said. "Beginning on Thursday we were quick and we just kept making the car better. We tried something this morning that didn't really work, so we went back to where we were yesterday and the car worked well tonight in qualifying," he explained. "You are always hoping for the pole and we thought we had a chance at the pole, but it just didn't work out for us. The whole Visteon/Patrick Racing Team deserves a pole position, but we deserve a win too, so that is our goal for tomorrow," Servia noted.
Commenting on track conditions this evening, Servia said. "The track was definitely quicker tonight. It had more rubber, so more grip. The lighting was also better tonight. I had no problems at all. It is actually fun to race these cars under the lights."
Regarding tomorrow's race, he said, "Everybody knows that Turn #1 here in Cleveland at the start of the race is dangerous, but it is also the time and place that you can make up the most positions. Obviously, I will be looking to make something happen there, but if there isn't an opening the Visteon/Patrick Racing car is good enough to make up some positions later in the race."
Servia will be making his ninth consecutive start in the top-10, which is his CART career high. Tonight's qualifying effort equaled his best starting position this season achieved at Monterrey, Mexico and Brands Hatch, England. His highest career CART qualifying position is third at Texas in 2001, however the race was cancelled. The fourth place starting position also equals Servia's highest CART career starting position, which he first achieved at Nazareth in 2001 and then equaled at Monterrey, Brands Hatch and now Cleveland this year. The fourth place starting position is also Servia's highest in three attempts at Cleveland. He qualified 11th and finished 23rd in 2000 and started 12th and placed 17th in 2001.
The Cleveland Grand Prix will be just the second CART race held under the lights and will afford Servia a unique opportunity. The talented native of Spain earned his CART career best finish a little over a month ago when he placed second at the inaugural CART night event in Milwaukee. A similar, or better, performance would make him the preeminent Champ Car night racer.
Tomorrow's race will also provide the resident of Miami, Florida with the chance to continue the hot streak that has propelled him into the 2003 championship hunt. After the first eight events of the season, Servia has already established several CART career records in what amounts to a career year. He has finished in the top-six a CART career high five consecutive times, placed in the top-ten a career high tying five straight times and finished in the points a career high six straight times. All his streaks are active. Servia has also set a career high for number of top-five finishes in a season at four.
As impressive as the streaks are it has been his consistency that has really moved Servia into the ranks of championship contender. He has placed in the top-five in four of his last five races and scored points in seven of the eight events this year. Servia is sixth in the standings with 58 points just five points out of fifth place, 12 out of fourth and 41 out of first.
Servia, who is campaigning with his fourth CART team in three plus seasons, will be making his 62nd career CART start and 19th for Visteon/Patrick Racing tomorrow. In 61 career CART starts he has earned 28 top-ten finishes including ten top-five showings with two podium performances. Since joining Visteon/Patrick Racing in the middle of the 2002 season, Servia has stepped up his performances and began to show the championship form that many predicted for him following his 1999 Indy Lights Championship. In his 18 starts with the team, 10 in 2002 and eight this year, Servia has finished in the points 12 times with nine top-10 finishes including six top-five showings and one podium (Milwaukee).
Patrick Racing will be making its 31st start at Cleveland tomorrow. The team has now qualified in the top-10 a total of 16 times with one pole (Roberto Moreno in 2000) in 31 attempts at Cleveland. In 30 previous starts they have finished in the top-10 a total of 17 times including nine top five showings with two wins (Emerson Fittipaldi in 1987 and 1989).