CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: PKV Racing Saturday report




DENVER, COLORADO -- SATURDAY, AUGUST 13, 2005 -- Round #9 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing's Jimmy Vasser qualified sixth while teammate Cristiano da Matta will start ninth in tomorrow's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver on the temporary street circuit around the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Vasser drove the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car to a fast time of 59.995 seconds (99.428 mph). Meanwhile, da Matta recored a quick lap of 60.493 seconds (98.610 mph) in the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine. Today's qualifying effort was the seventh time in nine races this season that both PKV Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 missing out only at the season opener in Long Beach and two weeks ago in San Jose.

Vasser started the day 13th on the grid following Friday's provisional qualifying with a time of 61.389 seconds (97.171 mph). The team then spent most of Friday evening analyzing data and making changes to the Gulfsteam/PKV Racing car. Saturday morning's practice session provided the first indication that they had turned the corner with the setup as Vasser improved his time by almost .4 seconds and picked up two places on the speed charts. His fast lap in morning practice was clocked at 61.000 seconds (97.790 mph) putting him 11th on both the individual and combined practice reports. Heading back into the engineering offices for another review of the data the team made some more changes to the car and in the 15-minute pre-qualifying warm-up Vasser continued to show improvement turning a fast lap of 60.634 seconds (98.380 mph) good for 10th on the speed charts. During the ten minute break between the warm-up and qualifying Vasser and the engineering staff came up with some final adjustments, which resulted in a big gain and an improvement of four more places for a total of seven positions from yesterday's provisional qualifying spot.

"It was a good qualifying session for the Gulfstream/PKV Racing team," Vasser said. "We made a lot of gains and worked hard to find the magic that is the setup. The car was much better in final qualifying and I am very happy with the PKV Racing engineering staff. We also got some help with the setup from Cristiano (da Matta)," he explained. "The thing is that we need to come to races on Friday more in the ballpark, but the race is tomorrow and that is what counts," Vasser concluded.

Vasser, who is in his 14th Champ Car season, will be making his 227th career and record 206th consecutive Champ Car start tomorrow. He has finished 141 of his last 182 races and placed in the top-10 in 128 of his 226 events including 64 top-five showings. This will be Vasser's fourth race in Denver. Today's sixth place qualifying spot is his best in four tries at Denver and the first time he has qualified in the top-10. In three previous races Vasser's best finish is 10th in 2002.

Today's sixth place qualifying position is Vasser's second best of the year behind a pole in Milwaukee, the first in the two plus year history of PKV Racing. The 39-year-old Californian has now qualified in the top-10 in eight consecutive races and eight of the nine events this year. He has finished in the top-10 in five of the eight races this year with two top-five showings, a season high fourth in Toronto and a fifth in Milwaukee. Vasser is coming off two 11th place finishes, in Edmonton and San Jose, where he had to battle back from adversity to score valuable championship points. He is fifth in laps completed with 784 (out of a total of 841) and eighth in laps led with 27. The 1996 Series Champion, who resides in Las Vegas NV, is currently tied for sixth in the championship race with 125 points.

Da Matta began the day 10th on the grid following provisional qualifying with a fast lap of 61.214 seconds (97.448 mph). His provisional grid position was somewhat misleading as he was among the top-five fastest drivers in the morning practice session and for much of Friday's qualifying, but he was a casualty of a red flag late in the Friday qualifying session. In Saturday morning's practice da Matta and the Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew spent most of the session tuning the car as they continued to run consistently in the top-five. However, at the end of the session while running on old tires he dropped to ninth on the speed charts with a fast lap of 60.860 seconds (98.015 mph), which also placed him ninth on the combined practice report. In the afternoon warm-up da Matta turned a fast time of 60.398 seconds (98.765 mph) placing him sixth on the practice report and seventh on the combined report. Unfortunately, in final qualifying the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team struggled a bit and while da Matta improved both his time and position, it was not as dramatic as his teammates.

"The Bell Micro/PKV Racing team struggled in qualifying today," da Matta noted. "We have a lot of work to do before the race, but the good thing is that Jimmy's (teammate Jimmy Vasser) car is quick, so I know that the PKV Racing engineering staff has a good idea of which direction to go with the setup," he said. "To be honest, I am just looking forward to finishing the race tomorrow and getting some championship points," da Matta concluded.

Da Matta, who is competing in his fifth Champ Car season, will be making his 88th career Champ Car and second in Denver. The 2002 Series Champion, who spent the last two seasons competing in Formula 1, competed in the inaugural Denver event, in 2002, qualifying seventh, to go with today's ninth place staring position, and finishing third.

Da Matta has now 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. The 31-year-old Brazilian, has finished in the top-10 in four of the eight races contested this year, has fallen on some hard luck in recent events. He opened the season with three top-10 finishes in the first four races including the first win in PKV Racing taking the title in Portland. However, in the last four events da Matta has had a couple of strange incidents with rookies, a mechanical failure and been the victim of the treacherous Turn #4 wall in San Jose. The resident of Miami, FL, who is third in laps led with 59, currently sits 10th in the standings with 99 points.

PKV Racing will be making its fourth and fifth starts while competing in its third race in Denver tomorrow. Today's top-10 qualifying positions are the first for PKV Racing in five attempts at Denver. In three previous starts (two races) the team team's best finish is 12th by Roberto Gonzalez last year.

After eight races of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series season, PKV Racing has already established a number of team records. Da Matta scored the team's first victory in their two plus year history in Portland 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-10 in a team record seven races, including a team record six consecutive races. Da Matta and Vasser have finished in the top-10 in the same race twice (eighth and 10th at Long Beach and first and sixth at Portland) this year and at least one of them placed in the top-six in five consecutive races (the streak ended at Edmonton), which is also a team record.

The Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by PacifiCare, August 12-14, will be televised live on SPEED Channel beginning at 3:30 p.m. (ET).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Gonzalez