CHAMPCAR/CART: Da Matta takes Monterrey win

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Cristiano sa Matta earned his second CART FedEx Series victory today, winning the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix by 1.982 seconds over Gil De Ferran. The 27 year old Brazillian took the lead when early...

By David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Cristiano sa Matta earned his second CART FedEx Series victory today, winning the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix by 1.982 seconds over Gil De Ferran. The 27 year old Brazillian took the lead when early race leader Kenny Brack developed a problem with his engine. Brack's engine problems did not persist, allowing the Swede to bring his Shell sponsored car home in fifth place.

"After working so hard in the off-season testing, it's very, very good to get a payoff this early," said da Matta, who made his Newman Haas Racing debut today. "We're just going to keep working harder and try to run stronger to the end of the championship. The whole race weekend was very smooth for us and I am just very, very happy."

Despite feeling ill all weekend, defending series champion Gil de Ferran kept his Marlboro Team Penske Honda on track for a second place finish. "I'm very pleased about the way things went today," said de Ferran. "It's unfortunate that I became sick. I haven't been able to eat anything since Saturday morning and I was feeling really bad."

"Once I got in the car, all of the enthusiasm from the great fans in Mexico kept me going. Second place for us is great considering the circumstances."

One of the greatest challenges in today's race was simply staying on track. Several drivers slid off course with Roberto Moreno and Christian Fittipaldi ending their day after colliding with the turn 12 barrier.

Third place finisher, Paul Tracy had a similar mishap in Friday's practice session. "I'm real pleased with the job the team did this weekend," said Tracy. "We got a little behind on Friday when I crashed, and as a result didn't qualify all that well. But the car was good in the race and I was able to make some passes, make some things happen out there."

Tracy made things happen as soon the green flag was displayed. On the first lap, he drove from the 15th starting position to 9th. "I made a good start. That's my forte, the start. If we keep it going all season, we'll win the championship."

Michael Andretti, who switched from Newman Haas Racing to Team Motorola during the offseason, drove his Honda-powered car to a fourth place finish today. Despite problems with the racing surface, Andretti was pleased with the performance of the Honda engine and his new team. "It was really slippery and the track was breaking up in turn 12. You had to be really careful because it was like ice out there. It was pretty much a one-line track and passing was a problem."

"But fourth is pretty good with a brand new team and all," said Andretti. "First race, new team, new car and engine package, we'll take fourth place points."

Two time CART champion Alex Zanardi made his return to the FedEx series after brief stint racing Formula One. Zanardi qualified 22nd driving for Mo Nunn, his former race engineer at Target Team Ganassi. Zanardi had two off track excursion before the midpoint of the race, the second ending his day when he tangled with Shinji Nakano.

"It was a lack of patience, I guess, mixed with a little bit of bad luck that put us out of the race," said Zanardi. "I'd like to apologize to Pioneer and WorldCom and the whole Mo Nunn team. The worst part is now we have to wait a month before we get to go out and redeem ourselves. I had a good car today after our share of little problems all weekend long. We still have a little bit of ground to cover, but we're in good shape as we move on from here."

Zanardi was credited with 24th place.

Jimmy Vasser finished sixth, followed by Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Tora Tagaki in tenth.

Round two of the CART FedEx Series takes place on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. April 6-8, 2001.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske