DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2001 -- Round ...
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2001 -- Round #7 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing had the best qualifying effort of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season as Jimmy Vasser qualified fifth and Roberto Moreno seventh for tomorrow's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on the Belle Isle temporary street circuit in Detroit, Michigan.
The fifth place qualifying position for Vasser and seventh place starting position for Moreno are both individual season highs. This is the second time this year that Patrick Racing has qualified both cars in the top-10. They also achieved the feat in the season opening inaugural Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix of Mexico when Vasser qualified ninth and Moreno tenth. It is also the best qualifying effort by Patrick Racing since the 2000 Cleveland Grand Prix when Moreno captured his CART career first pole and Adrian Fernandez qualified ninth.
Vasser, who is running with Visteon, and its associate sponsors, corporate identification on his car this weekend started the day 12th on the combined practice report after Friday's practice sessions with a quick lap of 75.693 seconds (111.577 mph). In Saturday morning practice he made solid gains running in the top three for most of the session and spending considerable time in the No. 1 slot. However, with about 20 minutes left in the morning practice, he tapped the wall while on a very quick lap and had to park his car for the rest of the session. His fast lap of 74.978 seconds (112.641 mph) put him tenth on the morning practice report. In qualifying, Vasser, who is tied for third in the championship standings, went out with the second group (qualifying groups are based on points with the points leaders running in the second or "fast" group). During his qualifying run Vasser was able to notched a fast time fairly early in the session, but then, just as he had gotten his first set of new tires up to pressure a red flag came out negating what should have been a very quick lap. After the debris was cleared and qualifying resumed he put in his fastest lap of the weekend, and the session, running a time of 74.066 seconds (114.028 mph). With one last set of new tires waiting to be used things were looking good for Vasser, but once again lady luck failed to smile. With ten minutes remaining in the session the new tires went on, temperatures and pressures were once again run up to optimum levels, and once again the red flag waived. The session resumed with just slightly over a minute remaining, effectively ending any chance of Vasser taking the pole.
"The red flags fell at absolutely the wrong time for the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team," Vasser said. "Both the red flags came out just when my tires had come up to pressure and I was on quick laps. That's just the way it goes sometimes, but I think it's great that both the Visteon/Patrick Racing cars are up in the top-10 after qualifying. It shows that Roberto and I both have very good cars and we should have a good showing for Visteon here at their home race."
Vasser, who tied his highest starting position of the year (he also started fifth at Milwaukee which was gridded based on points due to rain) will line-up on the inside of Row #3 in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard. He has now qualified in top-10 in three of five races and will be starting in the top-10 for the fourth time in six races (Milwaukee rain grid). The 35-year-old Californian also earned his highest starting position at Detroit and has now qualified in the top-10 twice in nine attempts. He has finished in the top-10 five times at Detroit (the top-seven the last four years) and in the points six times in eight previous starts with a best showing is a second place finish in 1995.
The Las Vegas, Nevada resident, who is 30 points out of first place, but just seven out of second, has finished in the top-six in four of the first five races this year ((Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth;). He has a very strong CART career record on street/road circuits. In 91 street/road starts he has placed in the points 55 times with 48 top-10 finishes including 24 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories. In addition, he is working on a streak that has seen him finish 89 of his last 108 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995). Additionally, Vasser's has extensive experienced and success with the Toyota engine on road/street circuits. He scored Toyota's first podium finish placing third at Long Beach in 2000 and captured Toyota's first road course victory taking last year's Houston Grand Prix.
Moreno, in the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, started the day sixth on the combined practice report following Friday's practice session with a fast time of 75.360 seconds (112.070 mph). In Saturday morning practice he continued to improve holding down the top spot on the speed charts for much of the latter part of the session before dropping to fifth overall with a quick time of 74.617 seconds (113.186 mph). In qualifying Moreno, who is tied for 17th in the championship standings, went out with the first group. Early in the session he made additional gains clocking his fastest time of the weekend turning a quick lap of 74.284 second (113.693 mph). The time put him first on the speed charts for his group until the later portion of the session. As the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew continued to fine-tune the car in preparation for one final run with new tires, Patrick Carpentier turned a lap that was .1 tenth faster than Moreno. Then just as Moreno put on his final set of new tires, Carpentier, hit the wall, bringing out a red flag and ending both the session and Moreno's hopes of turning a quicker lap.
"I am very happy with the #20 Visteon Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard and the Visteon team," Moreno said. "The car was great today and the crew did an outstanding job preparing it. My first set of tires were extremely good. I was able to put a good time in very early and it held up well through my qualifying and the second qualifying sessions. Unfortunately, because of the red flag we didn't get a chance to get a time on our second set of tires, so we will just save them for the race tomorrow."
Moreno, who earned his second top-10 qualifying position of the year, has now qualified in the top ten in four of five attempts at Detroit (with a high of third in 1997). The native of Brazil is looking for a strong showing in Detroit as he attempts to climb back into the thick of the championship race. His previous best finish at Detroit is a fifth place showing in 1997. Moreno has finished in the points in 12 of his last 21 road/street course starts with nine top-10 placements, five top five showings and three podiums including the win at Cleveland. He has finished in the top-10 in 19 of his last 38 starts and in the points 25 times
"I think the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard is a good race car. We have been extremely quick in every session so I am very confident going into the race. The fact that we are starting toward the front of the field is, obviously, very important at this track and it means we won't have to rely on strategy as much as we have in the past."
The Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit will be run on Sunday, June 17 at 2:00 PM (ET) and will be televised live on ABC.