CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Patrick Racing Thursday practice report

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2003 -- Round ...

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2003 -- Round #6 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season - Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Oriol Servia had a solid first day of practice for Saturday's historic Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 on the Milwaukee Mile oval in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, which is powered by Ford and uses a Lola chassis with Bridgestone tires, ended up sixth on the combined practice report with a fast lap of 21.239 seconds (174.923 mph).

The talented 28-year-old native of Spain made significant progress throughout the first day of practice, which consisted of two sessions in preparation for the first night race in CART history. During the first practice session, held in the afternoon, Servia steadily moved up the speed charts as the team improved the car with each change they made. By the end of the session Servia had settled in at the number five spot with a quick lap of 21.970 seconds (169.103 mph). However, he was a little over a half a second off the fast time of the session.

For the second practice CART had the first of what will prove to be several historic moments this weekend. Running at night under the lights for the first time in series history and with ideal cool conditions, times began to drop almost from the outset of the 90-minute practice that began at 8:00 p.m. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team continued to work diligently on the setup during the evening session and, once again, they steadily moved up the speed charts. Toward the end of the session the team make a change that that resulted in a big gain. Servia's fast time during the evening practice put him sixth in the session and sixth on the combined practice report, however it closed the gap the top spot to just two tenths of a second.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing car is always good on the ovals," Servia began. "We are just trying to get the car to be more neutral without going loose (understeer). It is just of matter of working through the procedures detail by detail," he explained. "The car was better this evening. We were two tenths off the pace during the night session, but this afternoon we were a half a second slower, so we are definitely improving. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team is making steady progress and we just have to keep improving tomorrow," concluded Servia.

As for running at night under the lights Servia said, "There was no difference running at night. They have done such a great job with the lighting that it looks like you are driving in daylight. It is cooler that is the only indication that you have that you are running at night. I think this is a great idea. It is the same for the drivers as racing during the day and it is going to be great for the fans."

Servia will be looking to extend a couple of streaks this weekend in Milwaukee. He has finished in the top-five in two consecutive races placing fourth at Brands Hatch and fifth in the German 500. This is the second time in his career that he has had two straight top-five finishes, however, he has never placed in the top-five three times. In addition to back-to-back top-five performances, Servia, who is currently 10th in the championship standings with 24 points, has placed in the points in four of the first five events including three in a row. Finally, Servia will be looking to extend his streak of top-10 qualifying positions, which currently sits at a CART career high of five.

The resident of Miami, Florida, who will be making his 59th career CART start and 16th with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is competing at Milwaukee for the third time. In two previous events his best starting position is 15th and his best finish is 14th. However, throughout his four-year CART career, and particularly over the last two seasons with Visteon/Patrick Racing, Servia has demonstrated that he can be extremely competitive on ovals. Of Servia's eight career top-five finishes, five have come on ovals including three of his four top-five performances with Visteon/Patrick Racing.

Servia's best CART qualifying position is third on the oval in Texas in 2001, however the race was cancelled. His highest starting position is fourth achieved on the oval in Nazareth also in 2001 and then matched twice while competing with Visteon/Patrick Racing when he qualified fourth at Monterrey and Brands Hatch this year.

The Milwaukee Mile has been especially kind to Patrick Racing over the years. The team, which will be making its 70th start in Milwaukee, has qualified in the top-10 a total of 51 times, including 28 in the top-five with five poles. They have finished in the top-10 a total of 37 times including 22 top-five showings, 13 podium performances and three wins.

The Milwaukee Mile 250 will be televised live on Speed Channel on Saturday, May 31 at 9:00 PM (ET). The pre-race show will begin at 8:30 PM (ET). Speed Channel will also air qualifying live on Friday, May 30 at 9:30 PM (ET).

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia