Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start second in the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio; Havoline driver da Matta to start third. CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, ...
Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start second in the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio; Havoline driver da Matta to start third.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "The car was good. I'm happy to be P2 (position two) but for a moment I thought I could be on pole because I was watching my splits (segment times) in my car (during my fast lap) and I had made up some time. I was trying to decide if I should push a little more or not risk screwing up the lap. I would say we were 99 percent in qualifying. I was P1 for a moment but Pat beat me. I went out on my second set of tires and thought I had a shot at the pole but once the tires were up to temperature and at their peak I couldn't get a clear lap without traffic. When I put my fast time in it was on the sixth lap on those tires and that obviously isn't the peak time. If I had been able to get a clear lap on the second lap on the tires we might have been able to put it together. Pat put it together and we didn't. I'm happy to start on the front row though. It's going to be a long race with a minimum of three stops so a lot can happen but at least we are starting up front. We have the first challenge behind us."
· NOTES: His second place start is his best of the season as well as his best since the Nazareth event in 2000. Will be his seventh race here. Finished 8th in 2001. Earned his best finish here - of third place - in 2000 after matching his previous best start here of fifth place (also 1996). 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. He is currently in 9th place in the point standings, 65 points back from leader and teammate Cristiano da Matta.
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "Third place is not too bad. Of course it is not as good as being on pole but it is still good. We made some changes to the car this morning and it wasn't as good as it had been but we know what the changes were so we can go back on them and try to pick up 2-1/2 tenths and catch up with Pat (Carpentier) so he doesn't run away from us (in the race). We just need to improve on some areas where we weren't so good. It looks like people are definitely making some improvements on road courses and closing the gap on us. At the beginning of the season we had an advantage on the field but everyone has caught up to us. I had a pretty good session. It was pretty tense at the end because nobody went out. It seemed that everyone was waiting for the next guy to go out first. With a few minutes to go everybody went out and I thought 'Now I have to try to get a clear lap.' I had a couple of clear laps but we just didn't have enough grip to improve on our time. We will work tonight on making changes that will get our grip back as well as get a good balance in our car in race trim. After dropping out of the last two races with mechanical problems, we just need to concentrate on finishing in the top-five and collecting some points. If we can get a win, even better."
· NOTES: Earned his top starting spot here of third place today. Da Matta has won seven of past 12 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). After leading 30 laps and building a strong lead in Long Beach, a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., and Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after being sidelined with mechanical failure after leading the first 19 laps from pole. He led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race. A win in Mid-Ohio would be his eighth in the past 13 races. Will be his fourth CHAMP CAR race here. Finished 10th in 2001 after starting 11th; finished 17th after contact with Tony Kanaan after making his previous highest start here of seventh place; earned his best finish to date here of ninth place in 1999 after starting 14th. He is currently leading the standings with a total of 122 points.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning warm-up will take place from 9-9:30 AM ET. The CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio is set to start at 12:30 PM ET and will be televised live on CBS Sports.