MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2001 -- Round ...
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2001 -- Round #19 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing had one of its best qualifying efforts of the season today at the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
Roberto Moreno, driving the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, qualified a season high fourth, while teammate Jimmy Vasser, piloting the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, will start 11th.
Moreno began the day fifth on the combined practice report following Friday's two practice sessions with a fast lap of 69.602 seconds (115.755 mph). During Saturday morning practice the Visteon/Patrick Racing team began to experiment and while things didn't turn out quite they way they hoped, the data they gained would prove invaluable later. Moreno's fast time in the morning practice was 69.820 seconds (115.394 mph) putting him 14th on the morning practice report. In qualifying, Moreno went out with the second or "fast" group because of his 11th place position in the championship standings and the team immediately began to put what they learned in morning practice to use. After getting the tires up to temperature he ran his fastest lap of the weekend notching a time of 69.057 seconds (116.669 mph). The fast time put him at the top of the speed charts, but he soon dropped to second, and then third. With 20 minutes remaining the team tried one more setup change as they searched for more speed. Moreno came in made his final change and put on his last set of new tires with 10 minutes remaining. By now he was fourth on the grid, but confident that he could turn one faster lap. Unfortunately, on his last lap the track was red flagged, and the checkered flag was thrown simultaneously, because three cars spun off course. Moreno will start on the outside of Row #2.
"The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew and Toyota did a great job today," Moreno exclaimed. "This is a place that we have struggled in the past and we were able to get the most out of the car this weekend. We worked slowly and made progress each session and now we have a good package not only for qualifying but also for the race," Moreno said. "You have to be careful with the tires here. They are very consistent and very good, but you get the most out of them the first three or fourth laps after they come up to temperature. I was able to manage the tires well on my first set in qualifying, but because my session ended early I did not get the maximum out of them on the second set," Moreno explained. "It is very important to start up front here and save your equipment, so overall, I happy with our qualifying effort and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race," he concluded.
The native of Brazil will be starting in the top-10 for the ninth time in 19 attempts this year. This is his highest qualifying position in seven attempts at Laguna Seca surpassing a sixth place starting position in 1985. In his six previous appearances in Monterey, Moreno has finished in the points three times and in the top-10 twice including a second place showing in 1999.
Moreno is currently 11th in the championship race with 74 points, just two points out of 10th place and 12 out of seventh. He has finished 14 of 17 races this year, tied for second most, and placed in the points 11 times. The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 six times with three podiums and one win. He has points paying finishes in eight of ten 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 33 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 50 starts and in the points 33 times.
Vasser started the day seventh on the combined practice report following Friday's practice with a fast time of 69.799 seconds (115.429 mph). In today's morning session, he, like his teammate, went in search of that final ounce of speed. He found some, running a fast lap of 69.721 seconds (115.558 mph), but not enough in comparison to the rest of the field. He finished the morning practice session in 12th place on the practice report. Qualifying with the first or "slow" group based on his 14th place position in the standings, Vasser spent the entire session in the top-three and much of it in first place. Toward the end of the session he lost some time when he had a problem with the starter shaft, but still come out of his group in third place. At the end of the second session he was in 12th place, but Bryan Herta, who had finished first in the first group, was disqualified at technical inspection moving Vasser to the inside of Row #6.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team struggled with the same basic problem today as we had yesterday," Vasser said. "The car was pushing in the corners and we just didn't make any gains. Fortunately, my teammate (Roberto Moreno) seems to have figured something out, so we will just have to sit down with them, analyze the data and see what we can come up with. I think we have a good race car, but we just didn't get all the speed out of the car today in qualifying. Even though we qualified lower than I wanted and expected too, I still feel the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team should have a good race tomorrow," Vasser concluded.
Vasser has now qualified in the top-10 seven times in 19 attempts this year and five times in ten attempts at Laguna Seca. In nine previous starts in Monterey, he has finished in the points six times including five top-10 showings, three top-five placements and a victory in 1997.
The native of California, who coming off points paying finishes in consecutive races for the first time since the start of the season, is trying to continue a late season charge in an attempt to finish in the top-10 in the championship standings for the seventh consecutive year. The 1996 CART Champion is currently 14th in the standings with 56 points, just 18 points out of 10th. Vasser finished in the top-six in the first four events before falling victim to bad luck placing in the points in just three of his last 13 races. He has scored points in seven of 17 races this year placing in the top-10 six times, the top-six five times and the top-five four times. The Las Vegas, resident has finished in the points in four of the of ten nine road/street races, with three top-six showings.
Vasser, who is in this 10th CART season and first with Patrick Racing, has started 164 CART races finishing in the top-10 a total of 92 times including 26 podium performances. He has finished 95 of his last 120 races placing in the points 88 times (from Milwaukee '95). In 99 CART career road/street races finishing in the points 57 times with 49 top-10 finishes, 25 top-five showings, 14 podiums and four wins.
Visteon/Patrick Racing has had their best performances of the season on the street circuits in 2001. In six street races, 12 starts, the team has produced eight finishes in the points with five top-10 performances, four top-five showings and two podium appearances including a win. In ten road/street races, 20 starts, Visteon/Patrick Racing has finished in the points 12 times, with eight top-10 showings, five top-five, three podiums and the win. In 22 starts at Laguna Seca Patrick Racing drivers have qualified in the top-10 a total of 14 times. The team has finished in the points 13 times, with 12 top-10 showings and five top-five placements. Patrick Racing's best finish is third, 1983 (Chip Ganassi) and 1996 (Scott Pruett).
The Shell 300 will be run on tomorrow, Sunday, October 14 at 1:00 PM (PT) and will be televised live on ESPN.