Vassmer Runs Strong In First Visit to Portland PORTLAND, Ore., June 21 - Ricardo Vassmer felt he had a car that could have been on the podium twice last weekend at Portland International Raceway here, but after two rough trips in rounds five and...
Vassmer Runs Strong In First Visit to Portland
PORTLAND, Ore., June 21 - Ricardo Vassmer felt he had a car that could have been on the podium twice last weekend at Portland International Raceway here, but after two rough trips in rounds five and six of the NASA Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship he'll now have to try to get those podiums this weekend in another doubleheader at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio.
The popular young driver from Caracas, Venezuela finished fifth in a field of 27 in Saturday's 22-lap race at Portland and 22nd in Sunday's 15-lapper while carrying the colors of Meridiano Television and Santa Barbara Airlines. Both races on the 1.964-mile road course supported the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.
A similar doubleheader at Cleveland this coming weekend will push the 14-race series past the half-way point. Vassmer is fifth out of 35 drivers in the point standings going into the Cleveland doubleheader.
"I had a car for an easy two-race podium finish, but two difficult starts and two different incidents in turn one on the first lap faded those podium finishes away," Vassmer said of his runs last weekend. "My new team, JDC Motorsports, gave me an awesome car; it was good enough to qualify second for the first race and third for the second race.
"The car was just awesome," he emphasized. "I'm sure that the results from Cleveland will be a different story."
Although he'd never seen the Portland track before, Vassmer qualified second Saturday morning, just 0.333 of a second off the pole.
The start of the race later that day was when the troubles began. According to reports he had a slow start, losing two spots entering turn one, and then coming out of turn one Dane Cameron hit his car's right-rear wheel. The rear-alignment issues took their toll and from that point on Vassmer had his hands full just holding on to fifth place, but he did just that until the checkered.
The starting grid for Sunday's race was established by each competitor's fastest lap during Saturday's race. Despite the problem in the first race, V assmer still ran times that would have earned him the pole for Sunday's event until two other drivers eked out faster laps right at the end. Vassmer's fastest lap ended up being just 0.15 of a second off the time that secured the pole for Sunday's race, and he lined up third for that event.
He got a clean start on Sunday and immediately tried to pass J.R. Hildebrand on the right. Hildebrand countered so Vassmer tried again on the left side. Hildebrand drove defensively again, and this time Vassmer was squeezed against Robert Podlesni, which damaged Vassmer's car's front wing. Seconds later Andy Knight spun in turn two to bring out the yellow.
Without the proper downforce from the front wing Vassmer got off the track in Turn Five just before the pace car got on the track, falling all the way back to 23rd spot. He kept on trying, however, and had made his way back as far as 16th place before he finally crashed in turn one on lap 14, just before the finish. His official finishing spot ended up being 22nd.
Even with the damaged wing, Vassmer's fastest lap in Sunday's race was just 1.5 seconds slower than the fastest lap run during that event.
After this weekend's races in Cleveland, the circuit travels to Exhibition Place in Toronto July 7-9; Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario Sept. 1-3, and Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Sept. 22-24. Doubleheaders are held at each venue.