HOUSTON, TEXAS - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2001 -- Round ...
HOUSTON, TEXAS - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2001 -- Round #18 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - It rained in the afternoon, but Visteon/Patrick Racing still managed a strong performance today in preparation for the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix on the temporary street circuit in Houston, Texas.
Defending Houston Grand Prix Champion Jimmy Vasser, piloting the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was fourth while teammate Roberto Moreno, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was eighth on the combined speed charts following today's practice sessions.
As has been their habit this year on road and street circuits the Visteon/Patrick Racing team came off the transporter fast during the 1 hour and 45 minute Friday morning practice session. Vasser ran consistently in the top-five spending most of the session in the top-three and held down the top spot for part of the morning practice session. He ran his fastest time of the morning at the end of the session when the car's setup had been fine-tuned and track conditions were at their optimum. Vasser's quick lap was 61.478 seconds (89.417 mph) placing him fourth on the morning practice report. In the afternoon, Vasser went out for only the first few minutes of the of the 90-minute practice session because of steady rain. The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team worked on their rain setup and after satisfying themselves that things were in order, parked the car because there was nothing else to learn and everything to lose. Vasser's fastest lap in the afternoon session was 74.927 seconds (73.367 mph) putting him 19th on the afternoon practice report. However, when the morning and afternoon times were combined he ended up fourth overall based on his strong morning practice run.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard came off the transporter in very good shape," Vasser said. "We made some adjustments and tried a few different things in the morning practice and improved the car. Unfortunately, because of the rain this afternoon we didn't get a chance to really see what we have. However, I am optimistic heading into tomorrow's qualifying," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, who is 14th in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series standings with 56 points, is looking to make it two in a row here in Houston as he tries to finish in the top-10 in the championship standings for the seventh consecutive season.
The native of California, who is 20 points out of 10th place in the 2001 standings, will be racing on the streets of Houston for the fourth time. In his three previous starts he has qualified in the top-three twice, third in 1998 and 2000, and finished in the top-four twice, fourth in 1998 and the win last year. Vasser has finished in the top-six in three of nine road/street races, all three times on street circuits. The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has been very strong on road/street circuits throughout his CART career. In 98 CART career road/street races, Vasser has finished in the points 56 times with 49 top-10 finishes, 25 top-five showings, 14 podiums and four wins.
The 1996 CART Champion started the 2001 season impressively finishing in the top-six in the first four races before falling victim to a series of incidents that can only be described as bad luck. He has scored points in just two of his last 12 races and snapped a streak of seven consecutive starts without a points paying showing two weeks ago at Rockingham. Vasser has placed in the top-10 seven times, the top-six five times and the top-five four times in the 16 races this year.
During his nine plus CART seasons, Vasser has established himself as on of the most consistent and reliable drivers in the series. In 163 CART starts he has 92 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings. He has finished 94 of his last 119 races placing in the points 87 times (from Milwaukee '95).
Moreno started the day a little slower than his teammate as the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team chased some "gremlins" in the car and worked diligently to get the proper balance. By the end of the morning practice he was able to put together several quick laps that moved him steadily up the speed charts where he finally settled into the eighth spot with a fast lap of 61.758 seconds (89.012 mph). During the rain soaked afternoon practice Moreno and the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew spent more time on track then his teammate working out a few more bugs and checking through various systems. His fastest time in the afternoon practice 73.549 seconds (74.742 mph) put him 10th on the afternoon practice report, but because of his fast time in the morning session he ended up eighth on the combined report.
"It was a bit of a different day for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team because of the wet session in the afternoon," Moreno said. "This morning was quite good. It took us a while to get going because we had a few gremlins that the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew quickly fixed. Then, towards the end of the session we had a couple of good runs and the car felt good. In the afternoon, we didn't want to take to many chances, but I wanted to sort a couple of things out with the gearbox. Hopefully it will be dry the rest of the weekend," Moreno concluded. Moreno, who is currently 11th in the championship standings with 74 points, has flirted with the top-10 in the standings for much of the season reaching as high as eighth in the points. The native of Brazil is just two points out of 10th place and 18 out of fifth going into this weekend's race. Moreno, who qualified 14th and finished 11th last year in his Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix debut, has had tremendous success at the street events this year. He has finished in the points in all five street races with three top-10 showings, two podium appearances and a win, a month ago in Vancouver. He has finished in the points in eight of nine road/street events this year with five top-10 showings including three podiums and a win. Moreno has finished in the points in 21 of his last 32 road/street course races with 16 top-10 placements, nine top-five showings, six podiums and two wins.
The Weston, Florida resident has had a remarkably consistent 2001 season. He has finished 14 of 16 races this year, tied for the most of any driver, and placed in the points 11 of 16 times including eight of the last 11 events. Moreno has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. He has finished in the top-10 in 24 of his last 49 starts and in the points 33 times.
Visteon/Patrick Racing has had their best performances of the season on the street circuits in 2001. In five street races, 10 starts, the team has produced seven finishes in the points with five top-10 performances, four top-five showings and two podium appearances including the win by Moreno in Vancouver. In fact, the Visteon/Patrick Racing team has achieved most of its success this season on the road and street circuits. In nine road/street races, 18 starts, Visteon/Patrick Racing has finished in the points 11 times, with eight top-10 showings, five top-five, three podiums and the win. Additionally, Patrick Racing's record at Houston is another indication that at least a points paying finish is in the offing. In three previous races in Houston, six starts, Patrick drivers have finished in the points five times.
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning from 9:30 - 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 Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston will be run on Sunday, October 7 at 1:00 PM (CT) and will be televised live on ESPN at 2:00 PM (ET).