SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2001 -- Round ...
SURFERS PARADISE, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2001 -- Round #20 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - It began last night with showers, then this morning sprinkles turn again to a torrential downpour during the first day of practice at the Honda Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.
Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Jimmy Vasser, behind the wheel of the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was first on the combined practice report at the end of the day, while teammate Roberto Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, sits fourth. Both drivers, along with much of the field, ran a limited number of laps in the morning on a partially dry track that rapidly became to wet to effectively practice. Only a handful of drivers went out in the afternoon when conditions were extremely wet.
Vasser ran 12 laps in his backup car, and one lap in his primary car in the morning posting a fast time of 96.911 seconds (103.827 mph). Because of the increasing rain and wet conditions he did not run in the afternoon.
"I am glad the #40 Visteon/Patrick took the opportunity to run some laps this morning when it was fairly dry," Vasser said. "We learned some things and I got a chance to see how the track has changed from last year due to the resurfacing."
Vasser, who is currently 13th in the championship standings with 68 points, 15 points out of 10th, is making his tenth appearance at Surfers Paradise. He has qualified in the top-10 seven times in nine previous attempts, taking the pole in 1996. Vasser has finished in the points four times including three top-10 showings, two podiums and a victory in 1996.
The native of California, who has placed in the points in his last three races, is attempting to finish in the top-10 in the championship standings for the seventh consecutive year. He has scored points in eight of 18 races this year placing in the top-10 seven times, the top-six six times and the top-five five times. His best finish is a fourth at Nazareth. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has finished in the points in five of the of 11 road/street races, with four top-six showings. He has started 100 CART career road/street races finishing in the points 58 times with 50 top-10 finishes, 26 top-five showings, 14 podiums and four wins. In 165 CART career starts Vasser has 93 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings. He has finished 96 of his last 121 races placing in the points 89 times (from Milwaukee '95).
Moreno ran seven laps in his primary car in the morning and took just one lap in his backup to make sure it was okay. He ran a fast time of 97.612 seconds (103.082 mph). Like his teammate, Moreno and his #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew took the afternoon off because of the rain.
"The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team ran a little in damp conditions this morning, which was good," Moreno said. "We were able to shakedown the cars and get a good read on the direction to go with the setup for tomorrow. We decided not to run in the afternoon because there was so much rain and there is a good chance it will be dry tomorrow. Whatever we would have learned this afternoon won't be of any use tomorrow when the track conditions are dramatically changed," Moreno noted.
Moreno, who is making his 100th career CART start this weekend, is currently 11th in the championship standings with 74 points, just nine points out of 10th place. The eight-year CART veteran, who is in his second season with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is making his third appearance at Surfers Paradise. In two previous starts his best starting position is 19th, in 1996, and his best finish is 12th the same year. Moreno, however, is no stranger to racing in Australia. Prior to becoming a Formula One event the Australia Grand Prix was run in identically prepared Atlantic cars featuring past F1 champions and drivers. Competing against the likes of Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet, Moreno won the race three of four times placing first in 1981, '83 and '84 and finishing third in 1982.
Moreno is seeking to end a streak of fourth consecutive races where he failed to finish in the points. Despite his recent struggles the native of Brazilian remains one of the most reliable and consistent drivers this year. He has finished 14 of 18 races, tied for second most, placing in the points 11 times. Moreno has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. The Weston, Florida resident has points paying finishes in five of the six street races this year with three top-10 showings, two podium appearances and a win. He has finished in the points in eight of 11 road/street events this year with five top-10 showings including three podiums and the win. Moreno has finished in the points in 21 of his last 34 road/street course races with 16 top-10 placements, nine top-five showings, six podiums and two wins. He has finished in the top-10 in 24 of his last 51 starts and in the points 33 times.
Visteon/Patrick Racing has been especially strong on road/street circuits this year and their history at Surfers Paradise is easily the strongest of any team. Visteon/Patrick Racing has had their best performances of the season on the street circuits in 2001. In six street races, 12 starts, Moreno and Vasser have combined to produce eight finishes in the points with five top-10 performances, four top-five showings and two podium appearances including a win. Of the 11 road/street races, 22 starts, Visteon/Patrick Racing has finished in the points 13 times, with nine top-10 showings, six top-five, three podiums and a win. Patrick Racing's record at Surfers Paradise is even more impressive. The team has competed in seven of the 10 races since 1991, 11 starts, placing in the points a remarkable 10 times with nine top-10 finishes, seven top-five performances, five podium appearances and two wins (Pruett - 1997 and Fernandez - 2000).
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning from 10:00 - 11:15 AM. Qualifying will be run in two groups. The first group, including Vasser, will go out from 1:45 - 2:15 PM. The second group, including Moreno, will take to the track from 2:30 - 3:00 PM. The Honda Indy 300 will be run on Sunday, October 28 at 3:00 PM (local time) and will be televised on ESPN at 3:30 PM (ET)