PKV RACING'S DA MATTA TO START FIFTH, VASSER SEVENTH FOR INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON EDMONTON, CANADA -- SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2005 -- Round ...
PKV RACING'S DA MATTA TO START FIFTH, VASSER SEVENTH FOR INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON
EDMONTON, CANADA -- SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2005 -- Round #7 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- Rain and red flags played havoc with today's practice and final qualifying for the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton. As a result PKV Racing's Cristiano da Matta will start fifth and teammate Jimmy Vasser seventh in tomorrow's race at Finning International Speedway, located at City Center Airport in Edmonton, Canada.
Severe rain showings in the morning cancelled practice and forced Champ Car World Series officials to modify the schedule for the day. Instead of a one hour morning practice, followed by a 15 minute afternoon warm-up and 45-minute qualifying session the schedule was altered to allow for a 45-minute practice starting at 1:30 p.m. immediately followed by 10 minutes of down time for setup changes and a 35-minute qualifying session. It was apparent from the beginning that no one was going to go faster than yesterday's pole time, however, with one championship point and a front row starting spot at stake everyone was scrambling to get themselves in the best position possible.
Although the track was already drying by the time practice commenced, teams elected to run on rain tires for the first 20 minutes of the session in an effort to avoid accidents and further dry the circuit. They all switched to slick or dry tires for the second half of practice and times dropped appreciably. Da Matta in the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine ran a fast lap in practice of 61.649 second (115.214 mph), which was good for second on the practice report and led to hopes of a solid qualifying run and a potential front row spot on the grid.
However, in qualifying, after waiting as long as possible for track conditions to be at their optimum, da Matta went out for his first stint. Almost immediately, a red flag came out when there was a three car incident between Turn #1 and Turn #2. Da Matta returned to the pits and with time quickly running down the team decided to immediately go to the alternate red tire, which is faster. Unfortunately, da Matta barely got a lap in before a second red flag brought a halt to the session. In all, the talented Brazilian ran a total of two laps in qualifying, did not improve his time from yesterday and will, therefore, start from inside of Row #3 based on his provisional qualifying time from yesterday which came in at 59.769 seconds (118.838 mph).
"It is just a shame for the fans and the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team that we could not get a full qualifying session in today," da Matta said. "Sometimes things like this happen on the street circuits. If you have bad weather and then some people make mistakes you just can't get the proper time on the track," he noted. "We were not going to be able to go faster than yesterday, but we had a good car for today's qualifying session and I think we had a shot at quick time for the day. That would have put us on the front row and gotten us a championship point," da Matta explained. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Mostly, I feel bad for the fans. The Bell Micro/PKV Racing team is starting fifth and I think we have a good race car, so I am looking forward to tomorrow's race," he concluded.
Da Matta has now qualified in the top-10 in all seven events this year including three times top-five starting spots (second in Cleveland, fourth in Milwaukee and fifth here in Edmonton). He has finished in the top-10 in three of the six races. The 31-year-old resident of Miami, FL, who is in his fifth Champ Car season, will be making his 86th career start in tomorrow's inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton. Da Matta will be looking to regain the form that saw him win in Portland and climb into the top five in the championship standings before experiencing problems in the last two races. He started the season with three top-10 showings in the first four events including the win in Portland, which was the first in PKV Racing's two plus year history. However, at Cleveland and Toronto, he was the victim of incidents involving rookie drivers that have knocked him out of the race. Da Matta is currently eighth in the championship standings with 84 points. The 2002 Series Champion is one of four former champions and three Brazilians competing in the series.
Vasser met the same fate in final qualifying as his teammate and therefore will start the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car on the inside of Row #4 based on his provisional time of 59.873 seconds (118.631 mph).
"I am really impressed by the fans here in Edmonton," Vasser said, literally in awe. "They came out in the rain and filled the place. I just wish we would have given them a better show," he noted. "The Gulfstream/PKV Racing team was looking forward to having a good qualifying run today, but because of the red flags we just couldn't get our laps in. It is really disappointing, but mostly I am disappointed for the fans. The good thing is it looks and sounds like they are still having a lot of fun," said Vasser. "I am looking forward to the race tomorrow. I like the track. It is fast and challenging and the fans are very enthusiastic. The weather looks like it is going to be good tomorrow, the stands are going to full, the fence line will be packed and I think Champ Car is going to put a great show," he concluded.
Vasser has now qualified in the top-10 in six consecutive races and six of the seven events this year including capturing the first pole in PKV Racing's history, at Milwaukee. He is coming off a season high fourth place showing in Toronto and is riding a streak that has seen him finish in the top-six in four consecutive races and in the top-10 in five of the six races this year. The 39-year-old Californian, who is competing in his 14th Champ Car season, will be making his 225th career start this weekend which will extend his record of consecutive starts to 204. He currently stands sixth in the championship race with 105 points.
Vasser, a resident of Las Vegas, NV has finished 140 of his last 180 races and placed in the top-10 in 128 of his 224 events including 64 top-five showings. The 1996 Series Champion is the only owner/driver, one of four former champions and three Americans competing in the 2005 Champ Car World Series.
After the first six 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 six consecutive races for the first time in team history. 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 has placed in the top-six in each of the last five races, which is also a team record.
The West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, July 15-17, will be televised live on SPEED Channel beginning at 3:00 p.m. (ET).