CLEVELAND, OHIO - FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2001 -- Round ...
CLEVELAND, OHIO - FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2001 -- Round #9 of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series - Visteon/Patrick Racing driver's Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Moreno are 14th and 27th respectively on the combined speed charts following the first day of practice for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar on the temporary street circuit at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.
In morning practice Vasser and his #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team worked diligently getting the proper balance to the car. During the session, which was broken up by several red flags as cars slide off the slippery and bumpy Burke Lakefront Airport runway, Vasser turned a fast lap of 59.858 seconds (126.660 mph) placing him 14th on the morning practice report.
In afternoon practice Vasser appeared to be vastly improved as he was running in the top-five during the first part of the session. Then, 16 minutes into the practice he experienced a mechanical problem that forced him into the back-up car. After getting the car up to speed, Vasser clicked off his fastest lap of the day turning a quick time of 59.117 seconds (128.247 mph) putting him 14th on the afternoon speed charts and 14th on the overall combined practice report.
"The #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing team lost a little momentum when we had a mechanical problem early in the afternoon practice," Vasser said. "We switched to the back-up car and it took us a little while to get up to speed. The car feels fine, but we ran our quick lap on old tires, so it is hard to tell how we stack up against the competition. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has definitely made the car better, but it is still not fantastic."
Vasser, in the #40 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard, is competing at Cleveland for the ninth time. In eight previous contests he has started in the top-10 twice taking the pole both times (1996 and 1998). He has finished in the top-10 four times with a best showing of third in 1995. The 35-year-old native of California is trying to regain the form that saw him finish in the top-six in the first four races of the 2001 season (Mexico - sixth; Long Beach - fifth; Nazareth - fourth; Japan - fifth). Vasser has failed to finish in the points his last three races getting knocked from the competition while running in third at Milwaukee, crashing into the wall at Detroit and placing 15th at Portland. He is currently tied for ninth in the championship standings with 40 points.
The Las Vegas, Nevada resident has started 93 CART road/street races placing in the points 55 times with 48 top-10 finishes including 24 top-five showings, 14 podium appearances and four victories. He has finished 90 of his last 110 races placing in the points 85 times (dating to Milwaukee in 1995).
Moreno, who is the defending pole and race winner here in Cleveland, had a more difficult day. The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing team, like their counterparts on the #40 side, spent much of the morning practice working with the set-up. Unfortunately, with about 12 minutes remaining in the session Moreno brushed the tire barrier between turns five and six bringing an end to his practice. His fastest time was a lap of 60.397 seconds (125.529 mph).
In the afternoon practice the team continued to work with the set-up and, while definitely improving the car, they were only able to run a fast lap of 59.599 seconds (127.210 mph). The time put him 27th on the overall speed charts.
"The Visteon/Patrick Racing team came here with the same setup as last year and it just didn't work very well," Moreno said. "So we had to start over. We need to work on the shocks so we can get overall grip and get the most out of the aerodynamics of the car. This morning I was trying to go quick and I went off damaging the car. The #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a great job getting the car back together for the next session. It was tough out there today. We are going to have to work hard tonight and tomorrow to get the car handling well."
Moreno, who captured his first career CART pole and win last year at Cleveland, will be making his fifth start on the Burke Lakefront Airport runway. In four previous races he has qualified in the top-10 twice starting fifth in 1999 to go with the pole last year. He has also finished in the top-10 twice placing eighth in 1999 along with last year's victory.
The native of Brazil is looking to duplicate last year's effort here at Cleveland as he tires to maintain the momentum that has jumped him from 17th place in the championship standings (six points and 64 out of first) two weeks ago to 12th in the standings with 36 points (40 points out of first. Moreno piloted the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard to a season best finish of second last weekend at the Freightliner/G. I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Oregon. It was Moreno's second consecutive podium showing (third in Detroit) and the second year in a row that he has finished second at Portland. He has now placed in the points in five of his last six races and five of the seven races this season (Long Beach - 11th; Nazareth - 12th; Japan - 10th; Detroit - third; Portland - second).
The Weston, Florida resident has finished in the top-10 in 21 of his last 40 CART starts and in the points 27 times. He has finished in the points in 14 of his last 23 road/street course starts with 11 top-10 placements, seven top five showings and five podiums including the victory in Cleveland.
There will be another practice session tomorrow morning beginning at 10:00 AM. Qualifying will be split into two groups with Group #1 going out at 1:45 PM (both Moreno and Vasser will qualify in the first group) and Group #2 taking to the track at 2:30 PM. The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by Firstar will be run on Sunday, July 1 at 1:00 PM (ET) and will be televised live on ABC.