CHAMPCAR/CART: Lexington: Newman/Haas pre-event notes, quotes

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, ...

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: - AT MID-OHIO: Will be his fourth Champ car race at Mid-Ohio. Finished 10th in 2001 after starting 11th; finished 17th after contact with Tony Kanaan after making his highest start to date here of seventh place; earned his best finish to date here of ninth place in 1999 after starting 14th.

- 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER: Led 52 laps in route to victory in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey Mexico which was his third consecutive win in the series dating back to the final two rounds in 2001 (Australia, Fontana). It was also his second consecutive victory in the season-opener in Mexico. At the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, da Matta looked set to match a CART record fourth consecutive victory when he built a seven second lead after taking over the top spot for the first 30 laps before he was taken out of contention when hit departing his second of three pit stop and ultimately finished eighth after starting second. He started 8th in Japan but mechanical failure sidelined him near the end of the race in 13th place. Was in sixth place in Milwaukee when a fuel pressure problem forced a 10-pit stop race (instead of 3) and dropped him to an 11th place finish. Ran in front of eventual third place finisher Max Papis. Won his first pole as well as his first win from the pole in Monterey, Calif. (6-9-02) after leading 82 of 87 laps. Won all 23 points available in Portland (prov. pole, pole, win, most laps led). Earned 21 of 22 points available in Chicago (win, most laps led) to build a 25 point lead over 2nd place in the standings. Won all 23 points in Toronto (prov. pole, pole, win, most laps led) to build his lead to 48 over second place in the standings. Won each point available on Friday and Saturday in Cleveland by setting the fastest lap times in qualifying. Led the first 19 laps from pole and build a 2.3-second lead on second place before he suffered mechanical failure and ended his bid to earn a CART record fifth consecutive win. Led 36 laps in Vancouver and increased his lead over second place to five seconds in his first stint before a drive shaft failure later ended a highly possible victory while leading on Lap 64 of 100.

- SEVEN WINS IN 12 RACES/MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS: With his victory in Toronto (7-7-02), da Matta scored his seventh victory in 10 races dating back to his win in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, da Matta won his third consecutive event in the CART FedEx Series (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) and became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). Wins in Monterey, Calif., Portland, Ore., Chicago and Toronto earned him four consecutive victories which matched a CART record set by Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi. Failed to score a CART record fifth consecutive victory after mechanical problem in Cleveland while leading by 2.3 seconds and drive shaft failure ended his chance to win 8 of 12 in Vancouver after he led 36 laps.

* DIVERSE TALENT: With his 9 wins in CART, he has won on each of the four different types of tracks the series competes on.

* CART FedEx ALL-STAR TEAM: Was nominated to the five-driver 2001 CART FedEx Championship All-Star Team. The elite group is voted on by drivers, a select group of motorsports media and fans.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:
- AT MID-OHIO: Will be his seventh race here. Finished 8th in 2001. Earned his best finish here - of third place - in 2000 after matching his best start here of fifth place (also 1996) as well as his best start here of fifth place. Did not compete in 1999 after he suffered a subdural hematoma from a testing accident caused by a gearbox failure; finished 13th in 1998 after the team struggled; suffered transmission failure in 1997 after he started eighth; finished seventh in 1996 after earning his best start of fifth place here; suffered engine failure in 1995 and retired in 25th place.

- NINTH IN 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP (64 pts. out of first): Has FOUR top-4 finishes in 10 races to date. Has run in the TOP-THREE in SEVEN of 10 races this season and in the TOP-FIVE in NINE of 10 races this season. At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, Fittipaldi ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers. His second fastest lap resulted in a fourth place start and a subsequent third place finish after running as high as second. In Long Beach, Fittipaldi set the second fastest time in provisional qualifying but dropped to a 9th place start in final qualifying, ran as high as 3rd and retired in 13th after gearbox failure. Struggled at the first short oval race of the season in Japan and finished 11th. Team improved their short oval set up for the race Milwaukee where he finished fourth after leading three laps. Drove to his best finish of second place since his victory in the 2000 season-finale at the California Speedway 500-mile race in Monterey, Calif. after leading four laps. Was third fastest in provisional qualifying in Portland but failed to improve his time on Saturday and started fifth. A mid-race collision with Paul Tracy, who attempted a pass, dropped him 10 laps down to the leader by the time he resumed racing although he ultimately retired from the race in 13th place with seven laps to go. A probable top-six finish eluded him in Chicago after his left rear wheel came following his second pit stop. He finished third in Toronto. He was running third in Cleveland but ran out of fuel before his final stop. A third place finish would have put him second in the point standings but he fell to seventh place. Drive shaft failure ended his race in Vancouver after running ahead of eventual third place finisher Kanaan.

* CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99/71st CART start), He bettered his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 by winning the 2000 season-finale Marlboro 500. For his 2nd place finish to (eventual 1997 Formula One World Champion) Jacques Villeneuve, he was also named 1995 Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year."

* CART POLES - 1: Fittipaldi set a track record en route to his first CART pole in his homeland of Brazil on May 14, 1999.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:

Your best finish at Mid-Ohio is 9th. Do you think you stand a chance to better that with a win at Mid-Ohio, and why?

"I think I will have a chance to make this a lot better. We've had so much speed and so much success at these type of tracks this year. So I believe that the car will be running good. We had a good test at Mid-Ohio too so everything indicates that we are going to have a good race. You know, when the race weekend comes it's always different, but you know I expect to have a good weekend and be on the top five every session, and I think it should be good.

Now at the midway point to the season, how important is it to continue the momentum that you had at the first half of the season through Mid-Ohio?

"Well, it's important to carry over momentum from our five wins through the Mid-Ohio race. To win the championship, momentum is always important. You have to score big points every race, not only one race or the other. You have to just be there every time. So not only winning races, but being there in the top five is the most important and what we're focusing on. After dropping out of the past two races while in the lead and not scoring any points, our focus is to get some solid points from a top-five finish. Of course we always try to go for the race win, but it's not always possible.

Why do you call road courses your favorite type of track? What kinds of challenges do to they pose, and what do you like about Mid Ohio?

"I think Mid Ohio is the perfect example of why I like road courses better. It's just more challenging for the drivers. It's more difficult to produce the lap times. Everything is more difficultit's more complicated. I think you have seen in the past, more drivers that weren't so good win races on the ovals and maybe super speedways, but if the driver wins a race in Elkhart Lake or Mid Ohio you can know for sure he's good."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "I'm looking forward to racing at Mid-Ohio because our car has been good on road courses. For a few years it was one of the toughest tracks for our team but we have been able to get a good set-up for the Lola that allows us to put the power down and maximize the horsepower from the Toyota engine. In order to be competitive you have to understand all of the things that allow the Toyota engine, Lola chassis and Bridgestone tires to work together. Then you have to put together a trouble free race that includes everything from the having flawless pit stops, no mistakes by the driver and getting everything to the finish line in one piece. Earlier in the season we had second place (in the standings) in sight as well as the potential to close the gap to Shorty (da Matta) but had some DNF's (did not finish) that put us behind but we know the potential is there if we can have a flawless race. There are nine more races and nine more chances to put the Lilly car in Winner's Circle this season. There is still a long way to go in the Championship."

-nhr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Al Unser Jr. , Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi