CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Toyota preview

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 8TH 2002 WIN - With seven wins in the season's first 12 races, Toyota has established a new program record for wins in a season. Cristiano da Matta has led the charge with six wins, while boyhood friend Bruno Junqueira added the...

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 8TH 2002 WIN - With seven wins in the season's first 12 races, Toyota has established a new program record for wins in a season. Cristiano da Matta has led the charge with six wins, while boyhood friend Bruno Junqueira added the other triumph. Ironically, da Matta has usually edged out a fellow Toyota driver for his victories - as other Toyota-powered cars have finished second to the Brazilian at Laguna Seca (Christian Fittipaldi), Portland (Junqueira), Chicago (Junqueira) and Toronto (Kenny Brack). Of course, the manufacturer doesn't plan to slow down after setting a new program victory record, especially when arriving at another permanent road course in Montreal. So far this season, Toyota-powered cars have won four of the five permanent road course events at Mexico, Laguna Seca, Portland and Road America, while finishing second in the other at Mid-Ohio.

Over the last 50 CART races, Toyota has scored more victories than any other CART manufacturer with 18, holding a slight advantage over Honda (17) and Ford (15).

DA MATTA CLOSING IN ON CART SINGLE-SEASON WIN RECORD - With six victories in the season's first 12 races, Cristiano da Matta is now clearly in a position to shoot for the all-time CART record of eight wins in a season set by Al Unser, Jr. (1994) and Michael Andretti (1991). Of course, before he can attempt to win his eighth race, he'll have to get number seven first - a victory level attained by only four CART drivers - Unser, Jr., Andretti, Juan Montoya (1999) and Alex Zanardi (1998).

Da Matta, who has never driven anything but a Toyota-powered Champ Car in his four CART seasons, should be aided by the remaining schedule that includes two permanent road courses (Montreal and Mexico City), where he's won four of five events this season.

POINTS LEADERS - At the current pace, both Toyota and Toyota-powered driver Cristiano da Matta are on pace to win CART titles in 2002. Toyota has extended its Manufacturer's Championship points lead to 28 over second-place Honda (209-181), with Ford 45 points behind in third (164).

Da Matta continues to hold down a comfortable lead in the Driver's Championship with a 143-101 advantage over fellow Toyota driver Bruno Junqueira and Patrick Carpentier. Christian Fittipaldi makes it three Toyotas in the top-five as he currently stands fifth with 82 points.

GREAT EIGHT - Cristiano da Matta heads into Montreal with an amazing eight-race stretch that has seen him win five times and earn six front-row starting spots. During that time, da Matta has jumped from 13 points down in fifth-place to a 42-point lead.

SECOND, BUT AIMING HIGHER - While Cristiano da Matta has been the top dog on the circuit for much of the season, one driver has repeatedly loomed large in his mirrors - fellow Toyota pilot Bruno Junqueira. The Target Toyota driver stole the pole away from da Matta at Road America a week ago and appeared to have a great shot at the victory before an inopportune yellow for Junqueira proved to be his downfall as far as the race win. In addition, he was right behind da Matta in second at both Portland and Chicago prior to the Road America event. Junqueira has finished no worse than fourth in the last four permanent road course events which should bode well for Montreal. In addition, Junqueira should be a leading contender at each of the two remaining ovals after registering a victory (Japan) and a second (Chicago) in three oval track races this season.

NOT JUST THE POINTS LEADER - As mentioned above, Cristiano da Matta leads the CART point standings, but that's not all he leads in. To date, da Matta holds the top spot in points (143), wins (6), top-three podium finishes (6), laps led (491), pole positions (5), front-row starting spots (7) and road course points (120).

TITLE ON LAND AS TOYOTA ATLANTICS RETURN TO MONTREAL - While Montreal may be a first-time event for the Champ Cars, it's been a standard on the Toyota Atlantic Championship (TAC) schedule for more than 20 years. This weekend's action in Montreal could mean either a title for Canadian Michael Valiante or a wild shoot-out in the season finale at Denver to determine who becomes the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Champion. Valiante currently holds a 14-point lead over second-place Jon Fogarty, 136-122. A total of five drivers remain in the title hunt as Alex Gurney (106), Luis Diaz (104) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (104) also remain alive in the championship chase.

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "It's great to get back on the right track with a Toyota win at Road America. We've really been able to excel on the traditional road courses, so we're very optimistic heading into Montreal as well. Yet, the key to our success from this point on is to stay hungry and not become satisfied. We've set a Toyota record for wins already, but if we don't keep pushing forward it won't be enough by season's end."

Bruno Junqueira, #4 Target Toyota: "We had a good result last week, winning the pole and finishing third. Hopefully, we'll keep that momentum going this weekend in Montreal. The track looks like it is going to be both challenging and fun to race on. There are some long straights, and that should be good for us because the Toyota makes very good power - we were very fast on the straights at Road America. There are fast corners, slow corners and chicanes. We need to keep having good finishes to stay in the championship race. We're in second now, and I feel that we have a chance to win itâ^À¦But a couple of wins would make it much easier."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar
Drivers Alex Gurney , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Luis Diaz , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Cristiano da Matta