PKV RACING HAS BEST RACE OF YOUNG 2006 SEASON FINISHES BOTH CARS IN TOP-SIX SERVIA FINISHES FIFTH LEGGE BECOMES FIRST FEMALE TO LEAD CHAMP CAR RACE PLACES SIXTH MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN -- SUNDAY,...
PKV RACING HAS BEST RACE OF YOUNG 2006 SEASON
FINISHES BOTH CARS IN TOP-SIX
SERVIA FINISHES FIFTH
LEGGE BECOMES FIRST FEMALE TO LEAD CHAMP CAR RACE PLACES SIXTH
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN -- SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2006 -- Round #4 -- 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- After qualifying both cars in the top-10 for the first time this season, PKV Racing went on to have its best race of the young 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season placing both cars in the top-six today at the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 on the historic Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Oriol Servia, who was forced into the backup #6 Gulfsteam -- PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine following an incident during Friday's open test, battled a car that was loose for the first half of the race, but valiantly fought throughout the contest to post both the team's and his first top-five finish of the season. However, Katherine Legge, who was making her oval debut, stole the show by becoming the first female to lead a lap in Series history when she not only took over, but held the top spot for 12 laps early in the race. The talented and determined 25-year-old Brit wrestled with a damage front wing on the #20 Bell Micro -- PKV Racing Ford Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, throughout the race, but held on to finish a career high sixth in just her fourth Champ Car event.
Servia and his Gulfstream -- PKV Racing crew, who had to overcome a series of mishaps over the course of weekend, began the day fine tuning the backup car during the morning warm-up prior to the race. Starting a season-high tying seventh, Servia moved into fourth place on the second lap when Mario Dominguez became entangled with Bruno Junqueira and the pair collected Paul Tracy. Servia moved into third place on lap 21 when pole sitter and eventual race winner Sebastien Bourdais was forced to pit with a flat tire. On lap 25, the second caution flag of the day flew and Servia, like most of the lead group, pitted for the first time. He rejoined the contest in fourth place, but soon thereafter made the first of several calls informing the team that his car was loose (back end breaking away). Utilizing his considerable talent, Servia managed to fight the problem while engaging in several pitch battles most notably with Nelson Philippe. Servia manage to stave off all contenders through lap 59, when his teammate, Legge, made her first stop moving Servia into third. Still battling a loose car he remained third until lap 88 when A. J. Allmendinger began experiencing problems moving Servia into second. Servia briefly dropped to third when Bourdais all but completed his charge to the front, then briefly moved back into second place when then race leader Justin Wilson pitted for fuel. Servia pitted for the second time on lap 104 coming back out in fifth place where he once again joined battle with Philippe. On lap 118, the 20-year-old Frenchman managed to get by dropping Servia to sixth, but when Legge and Andrew Ranger, who were both out of pit sequence with the lead group, stopped on laps 131 and 132 respectively, Servia was back up to fourth. He ran in fourth until his final stop on lap 153 reentering the fray in fifth where he remained until the checkered flag.
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"It was a tough weekend for the Gulfstream -- PKV Racing team," Servia began. "We had some bright moments, but we had a few things going against us. First we had a mechanical failure and I crashed, so we couldn't work on the race setup and had to run the backup car. That put us behind some. Then in qualifying we had a problem with the waste gate, so we ended up qualifying seventh instead of higher up the grid. In the race we had a good start and were running fourth, but the car was loose the whole first half of the race. Then I went down a lap down and lost any chance of fighting for a podium finish," he explained. "At the end of the race the car was very good and we fought hard. Overall, it was a good race and I am pleased. We came away with our best finish of the season and picked valuable championship points," Servia concluded.
Servia, who made his 102nd career Champ Car start, fourth with PKV Racing and sixth in Milwaukee today, has now qualified in the top-10 in all four races this year. In addition to the pair of sevenths here in Milwaukee and two weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico he has a pair of eighths (in Long Beach and Houston). After being the victim of on-track incidents in the first two races of the season, the 31-year-old Spaniard, has had two consecutive solid performances. In addition to today's fifth place showing he finished eighth in Monterrey. Servia currently sits 12th in the championship standings with 48 points.
In his six races in Milwaukee, Servia has now qualified in the top-10 three times. His seventh place qualifying position equals his previous best starting spot first established in 2003. Servia has finished in the top-10 four times, all in the last four years, with a best showing of second in 2003 (2004-seventh; 2005 -- third; 2006 - fifth). Servia, who is in his seventh Champ Car season, has now earned 53 top-ten finishes including 26 top-five showings, 12 podium performances and one victory (Montreal 2005). The resident of Miami, Florida who has finished in the top-10 in the standings the last three years, is coming off his best Champ Car season after placing second last year.
Legge, who gained valuable oval track time and experience by running an extraordinary number of laps during Friday's open test and Saturday's practice, continued that trend in this morning's warm-up. She ran 50 laps this morning, the most of any driver, focusing on a couple of long runs to get a feel for the car in race conditions. The Bell Micro -- PKV Racing team also spent an extensive amount of time practicing pit stops, a key to any oval race. The extensive track time definitely paid off as Legge drove like a ten-year veteran instead of the rookie she is on the tricky one-mile Milwaukee oval. From the opening green flag she ran a smart, patient race, but when she need it her skill and trademark determination were evident. Legge wisely did not challenge Tracy when he used his patented high line going into Turn #1 on opening lap and reaped the benefits when the ensuing three car pile-up moved her into fifth place. When the second yellow flag came out the Bell Micro -- PKV Racing team decided to go with an alternative fuel strategy and remained on track, thus putting Legge into the race lead for the first time in her young Champ Car career and making history. Not content to just lead the race, Legge then proceeded to defend her position against her fellow countryman Wilson for the next 12 laps. Eventually, a damaged wing which caused her car to understeer (push) and Wilson's newer tires prevailed and Legge dropped to second where she battled Allmendinger until pitting on lap 59. After the first of three brilliant pit stops by the Bell Micro -- PKV Racing crew, which would go on to execute the fastest pits stops of the race, Legge rejoined the competition in sixth place. She dropped to seventh as Bourdais continued to climb through the field and remained there until the leaders began their second round of pit stops. Legge moved back into second place on lap 104 and held off Ranger, but once again fell victim to Wilson. Legge made her second stop on lap 131, which dropped her back to eighth, her lowest position since the start of the race. However she did get some payback on Wilson as she passed him in Turn #4 to keep from going a lap down. Legge moved back into seventh when Ranger pitted one lap later and remained in seventh through her final stop on lap 152 when the team decided to take advantage of a yellow and pit for a final load of fuel. Legge moved into sixth place on lap 156 when Power also again pitted and remained sixth until the end.
"I am actually disappointed with my race today because we had such a great car all weekend," Legge said. "It felt really good at the beginning of the race then, unfortunately, about a quarter of the way into the race something went wrong with the front wing. From that point on I was struggling with a massive push, massive (understeer) and the more I turned the wheel the more I would scrub the front tires away. I was just holding on trying not to hit the wall. Fortunately, the rear was very secure, which is what you want on an oval, but it was a big struggle--it was a tough race," she explained. "If someone had said yesterday that I was going to finish sixth I would have been happy with that, but now I am not so sure. It is a learning process and I made it to the end of the race, so that is good. The Bell Micro -- PKV Racing team did a fantastic job. The pits stops and strategy were great and I am really proud of my team," Legge concluded.
When asked about leading a Champ Car race for the first time, Legge said, "That is the point isn't it. That is my job. It is not really significant. I mean it is a nice feeling. We had a good pit strategy, so we took the lead legitimately and I was racing with Justin (Wilson), so I proved that I could be competitive and run with good speed."
Legge, who is in her first Champ Car season, made her fourth career Champ Car start today. She has now qualified eighth, 15th and 17th twice in her first four races. Legge has been considerably more competitive in the races. In addition to her sixth place showing today, she finished eighth in her Champ Car debut at Long Beach, was headed for another top-10 finish, when she was hit by another competitor and eventually placed 14th in Houston, and was 14th again in Monterrey after a questionable penalty was accessed for blocking while she was running 13th. Legge is currently 11th in the championship standings with 49 points. The resident of Indianapolis, Indiana is second in the Champ Car rookie points race just one point behind Power.
Legge, who continues to set Champ Car records for a female driver, is considered a rising star in the Champ Car World Series following a standout rookie season in the Atlantic Championship Series in 2005. She won three races last year in route to a third place finish in the standings. Her win in her debut Atlantic event at Long Beach made her the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America. Stepping up to Champ Cars this year she became the first female to start a Champ Car/CART race since Lyn St. James at Michigan in 1995, when she took the green flag in Long Beach on April 9. Her sixth place showing gives her the two best finishes (eighth in Long Beach) by a female in Series history surpassing a ninth place finish by Janet Guthrie at the 1978 Indianapolis 500 (Note: The Champ Car World Series record book includes USAC Champ Car events back to 1909).
PKV Racing made its sixth and seventh starts in four racings on the Milwaukee Mile. The team has now qualified in the top-10 five times in seven attempts with one pole, by Vasser last year. They have now finished in the top-10 four times with a best showing of fourth by Vasser in 2004.
PKV Racing co-owner/driver Jimmy Vasser, who earlier this year announced he would compete at Long Beach and selected other races during the 2006 season, was on the sidelines in his other capacity as co-owner of PKV Racing. The 40-year-old native of California, who is technically in his 15th Champ Car season, made his 232nd career and 211 consecutive Champ Car start in Long Beach. His consecutive start streak came to a halt when he did not run in Houston.
Next up for PKV Racing is The G. I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 16-18, at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. The G. I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, Round #5 of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, willl be broadcast live on CBS at 3:30 p.m. (ET).