Vasser Victimized in Very First Turn, Gonzalez' Gearbox Goes in Long Beach Season Opener LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 18, 2004) -- Former Long Beach Champion Jimmy Vasser ( ...
Vasser Victimized in Very First Turn, Gonzalez' Gearbox Goes in Long Beach Season Opener
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 18, 2004) -- Former Long Beach Champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came to Southern California in search of his fifth-straight top five finish in a record 13th consecutive Long Beach start, but his race was cut short after being collected in a multi-car, first-turn tangle that left his machine with terminal front-end damage. The 1996 Series Champion started in 10th position, but finished 16th as a result of being the odd man out in an accordion-effect incident in today's 30th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
"First corner, first race of the new season. I don't really know what to say," said Vasser. "I got hit in the left rear tire. There was chaos out there with guys weaving all over the place. I don't know, we just got spun around and collected. It's too bad because it's a beautiful day and we were running here for our local sponsor Gulfstream."
Vasser's PKV Racing rookie teammate Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings, Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Mexico gridded 17th, and found himself in 13th after the melee at the start. The 2004 Champ Car Rookie-of-the-Year candidate finished 14th in his third career start in the series, running some of his quickest times of the afternoon late in the race before his gearbox seized just short of the finish line.
"The idea was to finish the race today," said Gonzalez. "We never found the correct balance in the car, so it was never quite right. The incident on the first lap was crazy. I had to wait until the Champ Car Safety Team cleared the track before I could continue. As a result of better tires near the end of the race, we were able to turn our fastest laps. But going into turn eight just short of the finish, the rear tires locked up and we lost the gearbox."
Next week, the PKV Racing pilots head to Portland International Raceway for a two-day test in preparation for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix in Monterrey, Mexico, May 23rd in Round 2 of the 2004 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered By Ford.