FIRST LAP INCIDENT AT CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER CLAIMS BOTH PKV RACING CARS VASSER CONTINUES AFTER REPAIRS FINISHES 15TH, DA MATTA FALLS OUT FINISHES 18TH DENVER, COLORADO -- SUNDAY, AUGUST 14, 2005 -- Round ...
FIRST LAP INCIDENT AT CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER CLAIMS BOTH PKV RACING CARS
VASSER CONTINUES AFTER REPAIRS FINISHES 15TH, DA MATTA FALLS OUT FINISHES 18TH
DENVER, COLORADO -- SUNDAY, AUGUST 14, 2005 -- Round #9 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- A five car pile-up in the first corner on the opening lap of today's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver on the temporary street circuit in Denver, Colorado, sent PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser to the pits for major repairs and knocked teammate Cristiano da Matta from the contest.
The incident started when the field charged toward Turn #1 and began to funnel down causing an accordion effect. In the ensuing melee da Matta, in #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, Alex Tagliani and Justin Wilson made contact. With cars spinning in all directions, Vasser, behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing entry, and Timo Glock were collected. Glock was able to continue. Both Da Matta and Wilson's cars were damaged beyond repair. Vasser and Tagliani made it back to pit lane where their crews affected initial repairs. However, both Vasser and Tagliani needed additional stops to fully fix the damage dashing any hopes of a top-10 finish.
Vasser, who earned his second highest qualifying position of the season starting sixth, displayed his champion's heart for the second consecutive race. After pitting following the crash, he immediately urged the team to repair the car saying, "We are only one point ahead of Tagliani in the standings. He's going back out, let's get out there". The Gulfstream/PKV Racing crew, who were already setup to repair the damage, leapt into action changing the rear wing and replacing the right rear wishbone. When Vasser rejoined the contest he was 15 laps off the pace and five laps behind Tagliani. After running four laps, Vasser pitted again this time to replace the right rear toe link. Heading back out, he was now 21 laps behind the leaders and 17 behind Tagliani. With the goal to gain as many championship points as possible, Vasser fought the good fight in hopes of picking up some additional positions through attrition. It also became apparent that the Gulfstream/PKV Racing machine, despite the accident and to the credit of the crew, was very fast. So fast, that a shot at the point for the fastest race lap was a distinct possibility. Unfortunately, Vasser came up just short finishing with the second fastest lap of the race. With six laps left in the race and it was obvious that there were no more points to be had, the team called Vasser in ending his race.
"I guess when you get caught in a tangle in the opening corner you just try and salvage something out of the day," Vasser said. "That is what the Gulfstream/PKV Racing team did. The crew did a great job in the pits today getting everything fixed and we ended up with six points," he noted. "You never know how important that those points will be at the end of the season," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who is in his 14th Champ Car season, made his 227th career and record 206th consecutive Champ Car start today. He has finished 141 of his last 183 races and placed in the top-10 in 128 of his 227 events including 64 top-five showings. This was Vasser's fourth race in Denver. His sixth place qualifying position is his best in four tries at Denver and the first time he has qualified in the top-10. His best finish is 10th in 2002.
Vasser has now qualified in the top-10 in eight consecutive races and eight of the nine events this year including taking the first pole in PKV Racing's two plus year history, at Milwaukee. The highly respected 39-year-old Californian has now finished in the top-10 in five of the nine races this year with two top-five showings, a season high fourth in Toronto and a fifth in Milwaukee. He is fifth in laps completed with 849 (out of a total of 938) and eighth in laps led with 27. The 1996 Series Champion, who resides in Las Vegas NV, is currently tied for seventh in the championship race with 131points.
Da Matta, who started ninth, got a good jump with the drop of the green flag passing Oriol Seriva. Heading into Turn #1 the field was spread out and running three abreast. At that point da Matta noticed that Tagliani had moved toward the center of the track creating a gap to his right. Looking to take advantage of the situation, on a course that is not known for many passing opportunities, da Matta committed himself to the inside line. As the cars scrambled for position entering the corner, Tagliani moved back to the right leaving da Matta no place to go.
"From my point of view the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team had a good start to the race," da Matta began. "I passed Servia right away. Tagliani was right ahead of me then he moved a little toward the middle of the track leaving me a gap on the right side. I don't know what was happening in front of Tagliani, but when he left me the gap on the inside I went for it. After I was already committed to the inside he started to drive back to the right," he explained. "After we touched I didn't see anything else because it happened so quick. I don't know if he was trying to avoid something or moved to the right because he saw me coming. I have no idea," da Matta concluded.
Today's 18th place finish is da Matta's lowest of the season and extended his streak of bad luck to five consecutive DNF's (did not finish). The talented 31-year-old Brazilian has been as high as fifth in the championship standings after opening the season with three top-10 finishes in the first four races including the first win in PKV Racing taking the title in Portland. Since then he has had a couple of strange incidents with rookies, a mechanical failure, been the victim of the treacherous Turn #4 wall in San Jose and had today's incident.
Da Matta, who is contesting his fifth Champ Car season, made his 88th career Champ Car and second in Denver today. The resident of Miami, FL, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula 1, was making his second start in Denver have contested the inaugural event in 2002. He has qualified in the top-10 both times starting seventh in 2002 to go with his ninth place staring position this year. His best finish is third in '02.
Da Matta has now finished in the top-10 in four of the nine races contested this year including the victory in Portland. He has qualified in the top-10 in eight of the nine events missing out only in San Jose. His best starting position is the second in Cleveland followed by a fourth in Milwaukee and a fifth in Edmonton. He is third in laps led with 59. The 2002 Series Champion currently sits 11th in the standings with 102 points.
PKV Racing made its fourth and fifth starts while competing in its third race in Denver today. They have qualified in the top-10 twice in five attempts (Vasser, sixth and da Matta, ninth, this year). Their best finish is 12th by Roberto Gonzalez last year.
Next up for PKV Racing is the Molson Indy Montreal, August 26-28, at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Molson Indy Montreal will be televised live on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m. (ET).