PKV RACING'S SERVIA AND VASSER IMPROVE GRID POSITION IN FINAL QUALIFYING FOR SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LEGGE MAKES BIGGEST GAIN IN SPEED WILL START 17TH LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2006 -- Round ...
PKV RACING'S SERVIA AND VASSER IMPROVE GRID POSITION IN FINAL QUALIFYING FOR SEASON OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
LEGGE MAKES BIGGEST GAIN IN SPEED WILL START 17TH
LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2006 -- Round #1 -- 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing drivers Oriol Servia and Jimmy Vasser both moved up one spot on the starting, while teammate Katherine Legge will line-up 17th for tomorrow's 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA.
Servia, who will campaign the #6 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro-PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, qualified with a speed of 67.869 seconds (104.389 mph) and will start on row four in the eighth position. Vasser, behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro - PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, had a fast qualifying lap of 68.246 seconds (103.813 mph) and will start in row six from the 12th spot. Katherine Legge, who pilots the #20 Optium -- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, qualified with a lap of 69.254 seconds (102.302 mph). She will start in 17th place on row nine.
Servia, who began the day 11th on the grid after Friday's provisional qualifying with a quick time of 68.753 seconds (103.047 mph), improved his time by almost a full second over the course of the day. In Saturday's morning practice the 31-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain immediately began to gain speed running a fast time of 68.643 seconds (103.212 mph) putting him ninth on the morning and combined practice reports. During the short, pre-qualifying afternoon practice/warm-up, Servia posted a time of 68.637 seconds (103.221 mph), which placed him ninth for the session and tenth on the combined practice report.
"The #6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing team definitely wanted to be better in final qualifying," Servia began. "This morning the car felt great during the first run in practice, but we just didn't get any better as the track changed. I am still fitting some issues with the car, which is making driving it a little harder," he explained. "The car is faster than it was yesterday, but I really felt that we should have qualified in the top-six. Overall, I think we should have qualified higher, but I can definitely race and be competitive from the fourth row," Servia concluded.
Servia, who is entering his seventh Champ Car season, will be making his 99th career Champ Car start and seventh at Long Beach tomorrow. Today's eighth place qualifying position ties his best starting spot in seven attempts at Long Beach (also eighth in 2003). It also ties the team's best qualifying effort at Long Beach achieved by Cristiano da Matta last year. In six previous races at Long Beach, Servia's best finish is sixth, in 2000.
Servia has earned 51 top-ten finishes including 25 top-five showings, 12 podium performances and one victory (Montreal 2005). He had the best season of his Champ Car career in 2005, placing second in the standings. After starting the year with Dale Coyne Racing, he replaced Bruno Junqueira in the Newman/Haas Racing machine after Junqueira was injured in the Indianapolis 500. Servia made 11 starts for Newman/Haas, earning seven podiums including the win in Montreal, his first career Champ Car victory. He ended the 2005 season with five consecutive podium finishes. The resident of Miami, Florida started on the front-row a career high four times in 2005 including earning his first career pole (Australia).
Vasser, who was did not run his second stint in provisional qualifying on Friday because of a spin on his out lap, began the day 13th on the provisional grid with a time of 69.091 seconds (102.543 mph). However, he started making progress with the cars' setup from the opening bell. The 40-year-old native of California turned a fast lap of 68.844 seconds (102.911 mph) during the morning session, which placed him 11th on the individual and combined reports. During the short, pre-qualifying afternoon warm-up, Vasser posted a time of 69.134 seconds (102.479 mph), which placed him 13th on the individual practice report, but 12th on the combined report based on his morning time. His quick lap in final qualifying time was .845 faster than his provisional qualifying time.
"I am just out here having fun," Vasser said. "Anytime I can get a chance to drive a Champ Car it is fun. Sometimes, when I am are not running good it is frustrating and it is not any fun, but I am looking forward to racing in Long Beach one more time and would really like to have a good performance tomorrow."
Vasser went on to say, "The #12 Gulfsteam/Bell Micro -- PKV Racing car should be running better. Oriol (Servia) is doing okay, but we expected him to be higher up the grid. I am happy that Katherine got this first qualifying session out of the way. She is learning and it is going to take some time. I am sure she is not going to be happy with where she qualified, but she is learning and will get better."
Vasser, who recently announced he would compete at Long Beach and selected other races during the 2006 season, is in his 15th Champ Car season. He will be making his 232nd career and 211 consecutive Champ Car start (an ongoing Champ car record) on Sunday. This will be his 15th at Long Beach. In 15 qualifying attempts in Long Beach, the resident of Las Vegas, Nevada has qualified in the top-10 eight times with three top-three starting positions including a pole, in 2002. In 14 previous races he has finished in the top-10 a total of ten times including nine of the last ten years with five top-five showings including three podium performances and a win in 1996 in route to the Series Championship.
Vasser, who joined PKV Racing in 2004 in the dual roles of owner and driver, stands among the leaders in most of the career Champ Car statistical categories including wins (10), podium finishes
(33), poles (9), laps led (988) and earnings $12,076,744 (sixth all-time, second among active drivers, one of eight drivers to earn more than $11 million in series competition). He is known for being one of the most durable drivers in the paddock. In addition to his Champ Car record streak of 210 consecutive starts, his 231 career starts rank 11th all-time and place him second among active drivers. A determined and consistent competitor, Vasser has finished 145 of his last 187 races (dating to Milwaukee in 1995) and placed in the top-10 in 132 of his 231 events including 66 top-five showings and 33 podium finishes. The 1996 Series Champion, who is one of four former champions and the only owner/driver (he is the V in PKV Racing) in the series, is a perennial championship contender having finished in the top-10 nine times including nine of the last 11 years. He finished a team record sixth in the championship last year.
Legge, who is competing in her first Champ Car event, continued to pick up valuable knowledge and experience while making the biggest gain in speed of the three PKV Racing drivers. In all, the talented and determined 24-year-old native of Great Britain shaved over 1.6 seconds off her time from the previous day. Legge was 15th on the provisional grid with a time of 70.900 second (99.927 mph) following Friday's qualifying session. In this morning's practice she improved by almost 1.5 seconds running a quick lap of 69.514 second (101.919 mph) placing her 16th on the individual and combined practice reports. During the afternoon warm-up she ran a time 70.892 seconds (99.938 mph) placing her 18th on the individual practice report, but leaving here 16th on the combined report based on her morning practice time. In final qualifying, Legge and her Optium -- PKV Racing crew worked diligently to get back on track. The hard work paid off as Legge significantly improve her time in final qualifying although she dropped two positions on the grid.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with my first Champ Car qualifying effort," Legge said. "It is a learning process for me, but the the Optium -- PKV Racing team has been very supportive. Jimmy (Vasser) and Oriol (Servia) have also been great teaching me the things I need to know," she noted. "At this point I just have to continue to work hard and keep learning. I am looking forward to continuing that process in tomorrow's race," Legge concluded.
Legge, considered a rising star, burst on the open-wheel racing scene last year when she captured three races in route to a third-place showing during her rookie season in the Atlantic Championship Series, which is part of the Champ Car World Series ladder system. The 25-year-old won her debut event in the Atlantic series taking the victory in Long Beach, which made her the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America. The win in Long Beach earned Legge Southern California's Top 2005 Racing Moment of the Year Award in voting by the public. She also won the 2005 Atlantic Championship Series BBS Rising Star Award and recently was named the winner of RACER magazine's Most Promising Road Racer Award as voted by fans around the world. In the off-season tested with Formula 1's Minardi Team in November, A1 Grand Prix's Great Britain Team in December and Champ Car's Rocketsports Racing also in December. She subsequently tested twice with PKV Racing, late in December and in January before signing on February 14th. Legge's contract with the team is a multi-year agreement.
PKV Racing will be making its sixth, seventh and eighth starts while competing in it fourth Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The team's best qualifying position is eighth by Servia this year and da Matta last year. The team's best finished is a ninth by Jimmy Vasser also last year.