LAUSITZ, GERMANY - FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2001 -- Round ...
LAUSITZ, GERMANY - FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2001 -- Round #16 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing drivers Townsend Bell, Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser all turned in solid performances during a two-hour practice session today at EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany in preparation for tomorrow's inaugural German 500.
After losing two practice sessions on Thursday, and another one Friday morning due to rain CART competitors finally got their first track time on the new two-mile EuroSpeedway tri-oval late Friday afternoon. Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, ran the 13th quickest lap of today's practice while Moreno, piloting the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, had the 14th fastest time. Bell, who is making his champ car debut behind the wheel of the #19 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, was close behind his teammates placing 16th on the individual practice report.
Because of the limited practice schedule CART officials decided that qualifying would be abandoned and competitors would grid for tomorrow's race based on championship series points. Therefore, Moreno will start eighth, with Vasser lining up 14th, and the rookie Bell, gridding last.
Vasser, who clocked a fast lap of 35.828 seconds (203.271 mph), made steady improvement throughout the session turning his quick lap during his last stint.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team did a good job today," Vasser said. "We didn't have the best car at the start of the session, but we worked hard and made some changes that really improved the car. With what we learned today, plus a 30-minute warm-up session tomorrow morning, we will be ready for the race tomorrow afternoon," Vasser concluded.
Vasser is looking for a strong finish here in Germany as he tries to regain the consistency that has been the hallmark of his CART career and move back into the top-10 in the FedEx Championship Series standings. The talented and determined native of California, who has finished in the top-10 in the championship standings for six consecutive years, is currently 14th in the title race with 50 points. He is just 16 points out of 10th place. Vasser started the season with four consecutive top-six finishes, but has run into a streak of bad luck that has seen him score points just once in his last 10 events, despite being extremely competitive each time out. He has placed in the top-five four times and in the top-six in five of 14 races this year.
The Las Vegas, Nevada resident, who captured the CART championship in 1996, has finished in the points twice in five oval races this year placing fifth at Japan and a season high fourth at Nazareth. A veteran of nine plus CART seasons, Vasser has an impressive career record on ovals. In 63 CART oval starts he has finished in the points 45 times with 42 top-10 finishes, 23 top-five showings, 12 podiums and five wins. Vasser has started 161 CART races with 91 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings. He has finished 92 of his last 117 races placing in the points 86 times (from Milwaukee `95).
Moreno, who turned a quick lap of 35.968 seconds (202.480 mph) during Friday's practice, also made steady progress throughout the session as the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team worked diligently to get the proper balance for the car.
"This is a great circuit," Moreno exclaimed. "I am quite impressed with the skill that is required to drive here. It is quite important to have a well-balanced car. We were able to get a good base balance for #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard during today's practice. The car is quite good and I believe the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team will be right up there at the end of the day tomorrow," Moreno said.
Moreno is seeking his second consecutive win, and first career victory on an oval, as he attempts to move into the top-five in the championship standings. His victory two weeks ago at Vancouver, the second of his eight-year CART career, 95 starts, and second in his two years with Patrick Racing, moved him to a season high eighth in the championship race with 74 points. The talented and personable Brazilian has scored the second most points of any driver since Detroit and is now just 11 points out of fifth place and 41 out of first. Moreno has been one of the most consistent drivers this year finishing 13 of 14 races, the most of any driver, and placing in the points 11 of 14 times including eight of the last nine. He has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win this year.
The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the points in three of the five oval races this season (Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Michigan - 12). He has scored points in 14 of his last 19 oval contests with ten top-10 finishes, six top-five performances and four podiums. Moreno finished a CART career high third in the 2000 FedEx Championship Series standings in no small part due to his performance on ovals. He had the best record on ovals of any active driver in 2000 with seven top-10 finishes, five top-five showings and four podiums in nine races. Moreno also notched the two best oval performances, and best 500-mile oval finish, of his CART career placing second at Homestead and Fontana.
Bell took a slightly different path than his teammates with almost equally successful results during today's practice. The 26-year-old newcomer, who had driven a champ car just twice during tests prior to today, took his time while adjusting to the bigger more powerful car and his first full CART practice. Running in the mid-20's for much of the session, he began to feel comfortable with the traffic and the car toward the end of the practice. On his last lap he clicked off a very respectable time of 36.121 seconds (201.622 mph).
"It was real busy out there," Bell said. "I am used to running with ten or 11 cars in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship Series not 27. I spent most of the session just getting comfortable with everything. I am working with new people and this is a new car and track for me. Toward the end of the practice I started to find my feet a little bit and the #19 Visteon/Patrick Racing team was able to stick in a good lap just before the checkered flag. The main thing for me today was to get in as many laps as I could," Bell concluded.
Bell has driven the #30 DIRECWAY Dorricott Racing Lola to a 22-point lead in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship Series, 131-109, with three races remaining. The native of San Francisco, California has four wins and five poles in nine Lights races this year. He has six career Indy Lights wins and was the "Rookie of the Year" in 2000.
The German 500 will be run tomorrow, Saturday, September 15 at 1:30 PM (local time) and will be televised live on ESPN at 7:30 AM (ET).