DA MATTA SIXTH, VASSER 14TH IN INCIDENT FILLED TECATE/TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX PKV RACING/TEAM MEXICO'S GOETER SURCUMBS TO MECHANCIAL PROBELM MONTERREY, MEXICO -- SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2005 -- Round ...
DA MATTA SIXTH, VASSER 14TH IN INCIDENT FILLED TECATE/TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX
PKV RACING/TEAM MEXICO'S GOETER SURCUMBS TO MECHANCIAL PROBELM
MONTERREY, MEXICO -- SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2005 -- Round #2 -- 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season -- Cristiano da Matta finished sixth while teammate Jimmy Vasser placed 14th today in an incident filled Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix on the Fundidora Park road course in Monterrey, Mexico.
Historically the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix has a high number of yellow flags and this year's race was no exception. There were nine incidents that brought out yellow flags for a total of 32 laps run under caution. In addition, there were numerous other occurrences that caused a disruption in the race, but did not warrant a yellow flag. Both da Matta and Vasser literally and figuratively felt the impact of what was a hard fought and aggressively driven event.
Piloting the #21 Bell Micro/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone machine, da Matta was running as high as third and appeared headed for a podium finish, when on lap 49 he was collected in a crash involving race leader Sebastien Bourdais and second place driver Paul Tracy. Da Matta suffered a damaged front wing and was forced to pit for repairs dropping him well back in the field. Aided by some outstanding pit work from his Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew, da Matta made a determined charge back through the field to salvage an impressive sixth place finish. Vasser, behind the wheel of the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car, was denied at least a top-10 finish when on lap 38, while running in eighth place and on the move toward the top-five, the first of several incidents involving the #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing car occurred. The end came on lap 54 when Vasser and Mario Dominguez got together knocking both cars from the field.
On another note, Jorge Goeters, who piloted the #52 PKV Racing sponsored Team Mexico Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone entry, fell victim to a mechanical problem on lap 23 and finished 18th.
Da Matta made steady progress all weekend. He was 10th on Friday's provisional grid, qualified ninth on Saturday and was on the move from the start of the race on Sunday. Da Matta was eighth after the first lap and seventh after the second. On lap 16 the second of the nine yellow flags waved and although not in the fuel window the leaders all decided to pit. Da Matta's Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew was at the top of their game and he picked up one spot in the pits rejoining the race sixth in the lead group, but eighth overall because two teams stayed out. Several laps later the two cars pitted and da Matta made a pass to move into fifth place just prior to the second round of stops, which were precipitated by a yellow flag on lap 46. Once again the lead cars pitted and again the Bell Micro/PKV Racing crew worked their magic getting da Matta out third among the lead group and seventh overall. Three laps later the two lead cars came together forcing da Matta into the pits for repairs. After another unbelievably fast stop by his crew da Matta rejoined the race in 13th place and immediately began working his way back through the field. Passing cars like a man possessed and benefiting from attrition he was back challenging for a top-five finish by the end of the race, but came up just one sport short.
"It was a very eventful race for the Bell Micro/PKV Racing team," da Matta began. "Between all the yellows it left a lot of options for different strategies, which made for some very interesting situations," he noted. "At the end of the day we didn't have a bad result. I really want to congratulate my crew for the job they did in the pits. We had great pit stops. I had a lot of fun out there today and passed a bunch of cars. The last few few laps were especially exciting," da Matta said. "The PKV Racing team is getting better, but we still need to do some more work. We are not at 100% yet," he concluded.
Da Matta, who rejoined the Champ Car World Series this year after two seasons in Formula 1, made his 81st career Champ car start and third in Monterrey today. In his three starts in Monterrey da Matta has now finished in the top-six all three times winning in 2001 and 2002 to go with today's sixth place showing. He also established a new team record for highest finishing position in Monterrey eclipsing the seventh place showing by Roberto Gonzalez last year. Da Matta has now finished in the top-10 in both races this season (10th in the season opener in Long Beach) and currently sits eighth in the championship standings with 30 points. The 31-year-old Brazilian, who is campaigning his fifth Champ Car season, is the 2002 Series Champion. The resident of Miami, FL is one of four former champions and one of two Brazilians (Bruno Junqueira) competing this season in Champ Car.
Vasser was on a similar, but slightly better schedule than his teammate until race day. He was ninth on Friday's provisional grid then moved up to eighth on the starting grid after Saturday's final qualifying. However, once the green flag fell he took a different path. Using an outside line to start the race he dropped two places on the first lap. Vasser moved up to ninth one lap later and was 11th after the first round of stops (ninth among the lead group). Pits stops and a passed car put him in eighth place on lap 37 and with the car handling well Vasser was on the move and looking at a possible top-five position. Suddenly he became a magnet for other cars. Two contacts and two pit stops later he was running in 14th and battling to get back into the top-10 again. Unfortunately, the bad luck continued and the third and final contact brought his day to an end on lap 54.
"I got into more trouble out there than I could possibly imagine," Vasser said. "We lost a couple of places on the start, but the Gulfstream/PKV Racing car was running well and we were working our way back through the field. I was getting good fuel mileage and had a good strategy going, but then it was just one incident after another," he explained. "I am very happy for Cristiano and the team for their result. The PKV Racing team is improving, but we still have to do better," Vasser concluded.
This was Vasser's 220th career Champ Car start, 199th consecutive start and fifth start in Monterrey.
He has now finished 136 of his last 176 starts and placed in the top-10 in 124 of his 220 career starts. In five races in Monterrey, Vasser has placed in the top-10 once placing sixth at the inaugural event in 2001. He is currently 14th in the championship standings with 21 points. The 39-year-old native of California, who is in his 14th Champ Car season, is the 1996 Series Champion and the only owner driver in the series. The resident of Las Vegas, NV, is one of four former champions and three Americans competing in the 2005 Champ Car World Series.
Jorge Goeters, who was signed to drive the #52 PKV Racing/Team Mexico car earlier this week, competed in his first Champ Car event today. After spending most of the weekend familiarizing himself with the car he started 18th and was working his way through the field. By lap 23 he was 15th and on his way to a very respectable showing, but fell victim to a mechanical problem which ended his race.
Next up for PKV Racing will be the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 presented by U. S. Bank on the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, WI on June 3-4. The race will be televised live on CBS at 1:00 p.m. (ET). For more information please visit: www.pkvracing.com or www.gulfstream.com.