MONTERREY, MEXICO - FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2001 -- Round ...
MONTERREY, MEXICO - FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2001 -- Round #1 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Patrick Racing drivers Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser made steady progress with their car set-ups during the first practice for Sunday's Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix presented by Herdez.
Moreno, who is in his eighth CART season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, was 16th on the practice report while teammate Vasser, who is beginning his tenth CART season and first with Patrick Racing, holds down the number 23 position.
The day began with a morning practice session that was scheduled for two hours. However, the session was halted early when CART officials decided to allow the support series to practice and add rubber to the track. As a result, 45 minutes were added to the afternoon Champ Car practice. During the afternoon session times rapidly improved as drivers and their cars became accustomed to the new track.
Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth, was among the leaders for most of the two and a half hour afternoon practice remaining in the top ten for most of the session. Only during the last half hour, when the Visteon/Patrick Racing team began to experiment, did he fall back settling in the 16th spot on the practice charts with a fast time of 80.753 seconds (93.797 mph).
"I am quite happy today with the performance of the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard," said Moreno. "This was a day where you had to judge things by the situation. This is a brand new track and the conditions changed every lap. The car improved every time we went out even at the end when we were experimenting. We just didn't improve as much as the other drivers toward the end of the session. I like the changes we made to the car today. We still have a ways to go, but the Toyota engine is good and we have time tomorrow before qualifying to make the changes we need," Moreno noted.
Commenting on the new Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix circuit after driving it for the first time, Moreno said, "The circuit is beautiful. It is very challenging to drive and the more we clean it and get rubber down the better it will become."
Moreno, 42, is coming off career year in 2000, his first season with Visteon/Patrick Racing. The native of Brazil finished a CART career high third in the championship standings in 2000, led the CART standings for the first time, captured his first CART victory and pole (both at Cleveland) and had his best showing in a 500-mile race finishing second in Fontana. Moreno was among the point's leaders all season dropping out of the top five in the standings only once and remaining in the top three for most of the season. The Weston, Florida resident finished 14 of 20 races in 2000, each time in the points with 12 top-10 showings including eight top five finishes and six podium appearances with one victory. The talented and personable Moreno, has finished in the top-10 in 18 of his last 33 starts and in the points 22 times.
Vasser, driving the #40 Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, struggled early in the session. He began to make some gains during the middle of the practice and was beginning to move up the practice speed chart when the team decided to try a change that ended up setting them back. With time running out it was to late to recover from the experimental move and he ended up 23rd on the practice report with a fast time of 81.585 seconds (92.841 mph).
"The #40 Patrick Racing team struggled a little today," Vasser said. "We started to make some gains and then we made a change that set us back a little. The good news is we know what direction to go as far as the set-up. I think the track will be very exciting once we get some rubber down. It is a new circuit and anytime you have that situation it takes some time to get the rubber on the track so you can get some grip. Overall, I think it is a beautiful setting with great fans and it is going to be a fantastic race," Vasser concluded.
Vasser, 35, is one of four CART Champions and three Americans currently competing in the FedEx Championship Series. The native of California, who won the CART Championship in 1996, has started 147 races with 86 top-10 finishes including 26 podium showings, nine victories and seven poles. Last year he finished sixth in the championship standings with 14 top-ten finishes, six top-five showings and four podium performances including a victory at Houston. The 2000 season was the sixth consecutive year that Vasser has finished in top-10 in the point's race. A determined and consistent competitor, Vasser has finished 85 of his last 103 starts and placed in the points 81 times (dating to Milwaukee '95).
(Note: Vasser will carry OXXO sponsorship for the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. OXXO is a chain of Mexican convenience stores.)
Qualifying for the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix presented by Herdez will begin at 1:45 pm (CT) tomorrow. The race will be run on Sunday, March 11 at 3:00 p.m. (CT) and will be televised live on ABC.