CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: PKV Racing Saturday report

PKV RACING IMPROVES GRID POSITION IN FINAL QUALIFYING DA MATTA TO START EIGHTH, VASSER 11TH IN TOMORROW'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 2005 -- Round ...

PKV RACING IMPROVES GRID POSITION IN FINAL QUALIFYING

DA MATTA TO START EIGHTH, VASSER 11TH IN TOMORROW'S TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, CA -- SATURDAY, APRIL 9, 2005 -- Round #1 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- PKV Racing drivers Cristiano da Matta and Jimmy Vasser used today's final qualifying to improve their starting positions for tomorrow's 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA.

Da Matta, who will campaign the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, picked up three places on the grid and will start on row four in the eighth position. Meanwhile, Vasser in the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, moved up two places and will start in row six from the 11th spot.

Da Matta, who began the day 11th on the grid after Friday's provisional qualifying with a quick time of 69.626 seconds (101.755 mph), improved his time by over one second and almost two mph clocking a quick lap in final qualifying of 68.493 seconds (103.438 mph). The 31-year-old Brazilian and his Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew made steady progress with the setup of the car throughout the day. In morning practice session da Matta ran a fast time of 69.674 seconds (101.685 mph), which placed him 10th on both the individual and combined practice reports after three practice sessions. In the short, pre-qualifying afternoon practice/warm-up, da Matta only managed a quick lap of 69.861 seconds (101.413 mph), which put him 10th on the individual report, but dropped him to 13th on the combined practice report after four sessions. However, he reported that the Bell Micro/PKV Racing machine was improved and he was ready to qualify.

"The PKV Racing team made some gains today, especially when we ran the Bridgestone alternative tire," da Matta said. "I still have some concerns when we run the primary tire, but I have much higher grip and less problems when I am on the alternative tire," he explained. "However, I have to say we still have a lot of work to do before the race," da Matta noted.

Commenting on the overall qualifying effort and tomorrow's race da Matta said, "I am pretty disappointed with our qualifying effort because we were so much better in testing during the off-season. I think part of the problem is that the Long Beach circuit is bumpy and we don't have a lot of data in that area. However, I am looking forward to tomorrow's race. The first corner of the first race of a championship is always a concern, but we have some very talented drivers in this series, so I am not really worried."

Da Matta, who was qualifying a Champ Car for the first time in three years after spending the last two seasons in F1, made his fifth qualifying effort on the 1.968-mile, 11 turn Long Beach temporary street circuit today. He has now qualified in the top-10 three times and the last three times in a row. His best starting position is second in 2002 (qualified 16th in 1999; 12th in '00; fourth in '01 and second in '02). The resident of Miami, Florida, who is contesting his fifth Champ car season, has finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of second in 2001 at Long Beach (placed 20th in 1999; 25th in '00 and eighth in '02). His only victory at Long Beach came in 1998 when he won the Indy Lights Championship race in route to the 1998 Indy Lights title. Da Matta, the 2002 Series Champion will be making his 80th career Champ Car start tomorrow.

Vasser started the day 13th on Friday's provisional grid with a time of 69.739 second (101.512 mph).

His final qualifying effort saw him pick up almost a second and 1.5 mph as he posted a fast lap of 68.792 seconds (102.989 mph). The 39-year-old native of California and his crew worked diligently in an effort to find more speed in the Gulfstream/PKV Racing car and in the end their efforts paid off. Vasser, ran a quick time of 69.867 seconds (101.404 mph) in the morning practice, which placed him 12th on both the individual and combined practice report. In the afternoon warm-up things looked even more promising as he clocked the sixth fastest time of the session turning a quick lap of 69.464 seconds (101.992 mph), which put him 11 on the combined report. Finally, after a long morning and early afternoon of hard work Vasser appeared ready for qualifying.

"The PKV Racing team made a little improvement in final qualifying--not as much as we wanted, but the car was a little better. I really liked the Bridgestone alternative tire. It has more grip and that was one of the biggest factors in our improvement. Overall, as an owner and a driver, I am obviously disappointed with where both cars ended up on the grid. I expect to qualify higher. We still have a lot of work to do before tomorrow's race, but we have the warm-up session tomorrow to see how the changes we come up with tonight will work."

Vasser, who will be making his 198th consecutive and 218th career Champ Car start (an ongoing Champ car record) tomorrow, was qualifying at Long Beach for the 14th time. He has now qualified in the top-10 eight times with three top-three starting positions and a pole, his most recent and the eighth of his Champ Car career, in 2002. In 13 previous races he has finished in the top-10 a total of nine times including eight of the last nine year. Vasser has five top-five showings with three podium performances and a win in 1996 in route to the Series Championship.

Da Matta's eighth place staring position for tomorrow's Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix is the best in five attempts by PKV Racing at Long Beach over its three year history. The teams' best finished is 13th in 2003 with Patrick Lemarie.

The 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be run tomorrow, Sunday, April 10 at 1:00 p.m. (PT). The race will be broadcast live on NBC at 4:00 p.m. (ET).

For more information please visit: www.pkvracing.com or www.gulfstream.com.

-pkvr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Lemarié , Cristiano da Matta