CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Patrick Racing Saturday qualifying report

Visteon/Patrick Racing qualifies ninth for season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. First lap incident hampers Servia's qualifying effort. ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2003 -- Round ...

Visteon/Patrick Racing qualifies ninth for season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
First lap incident hampers Servia's qualifying effort.

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2003 -- Round #1 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season - An incident on the first lap sent Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Oriol Servia to the pits for repairs hampering his efforts in final qualifying for tomorrow's 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season opening inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, which is powered by Ford/Cosworth, uses a Lola chassis and Bridgestone tires, has been one of the fastest drivers all weekend, but will line-up ninth on the starting grid.

The 28-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain began the day third on the provisional grid following Friday's qualifying session with a quick time of 62.062 seconds (104.760 mph) on the exciting 1.806-mile St. Petersburg temporary street circuit. During the Saturday morning practice session, Servia continued to improve his time, running a fast lap of 61.853 seconds (105.114 mph). The quick lap put him fifth on the individual morning and combined practice reports.

In qualifying, Servia went on the track almost immediately in an effort to get one quick lap on the board. The plan was to then have him sit until 10 minutes remained in the session when, with fresh tires, he would go back out and try and improve his time. Unfortunately, on the very first lap he attempted to overtake the slower Alex Tagaliani and lost control of the car skidding into the wall. That brought out a red flag and sent Servia to the pits for repairs. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team quickly accessed the damage and immediately went to work replacing a lower right front A-arm. Working efficiently, and at warp speed, the crew made the necessary repairs and had the car back out on the track with approximately 10-minutes remaining in the 40-minute qualifying session. The main problem was that Servia would now have to run at least two very fast laps to move up on the starting grid. Champ Car rules stated that the penalty for causing a red flag situation during a qualifying session is the loss of your fastest

lap in that session. Fighting the clock, a car that was not 100% and red flags that interrupted his run, Servia still managed to turn the third fastest lap of the session on his last lap with a time of 61.612 seconds. Because of the penalty the lap was lost and in the end it was his time from Friday's provisional qualifying that was left standing putting him on the inside of Row #5,

"I am always very careful when I am driving on cold tires," Servia began. "However, today, on the first lap of the qualifying session I came up on Alex Tagliani. He was going slow and I didn't want to follow him around during qualifying, so I got on the power and just lost control of the Visteon/Patrick Racing car," he explained. "It was a shame because the Visteon/Patrick Racing car has been very good all weekend and I was looking forward to final qualifying."

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did an amazing job to get the car repaired as quickly as they did," Servia continued. "It allowed us to get back out on the track and at least try for a better position on the grid. Even though the car was not exactly the same, I was still able to run the third fastest time of the session. Unfortunately, we lost our fastest lap as a penalty for causing a red flag."

Commenting on tomorrow's race, Servia said, "The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team has a good race car and, fortunately, the St. Petersburg street circuit is one that you can pass on. I would feel more comfortable if we were starting on the front row, but this is the best race car I have had in my Champ Car career and I know we can race for the win from ninth place on the starting grid."

Servia, who is in his fourth Champ Car season and second with Visteon/Patrick Racing, is making his 54th career CART start and 11th with the team. The resident of Miami, Florida started 10 races for Visteon/Patrick Racing in 2002 finishing in the points in five of ten events with four top-10 finishes and two top-five performances. Servia placed 16th in the championship standings in 2002 with 44 points. In 53 previous Champ Car starts Servia has earned 23 top-ten finishes including six top-five showings and one podium a career best third place performance at the 200 Detroit Grand Prix.

Today's qualifying effort tied Servia's best starting position of last year, which he earned at Elkhart Lake and Australia. His highest Champ Car career qualifying position is third at Texas in 2001, however the race was cancelled. His highest starting position is fourth at Nazareth in 2001.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on Sunday, February 23 from 1:00 - 3:30 PM (ET) on Speed Channel. The pre-race show will air from 12:30 - 1:00 PM (ET).

For background, statistical information, releases, notes, quotes plus updates on race weekends, go to (www.patrickracing.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia , Alex T