Lola Cars started the 2001 CART season in dominant style when Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/ Kmart Toyota Lola) won the opening round of this year's Fedex Championship Series held in Monterrey, Mexico on Sunday. In front of a massive 118,000...
Lola Cars started the 2001 CART season in dominant style when Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline/ Kmart Toyota Lola) won the opening round of this year's Fedex Championship Series held in Monterrey, Mexico on Sunday. In front of a massive 118,000 crowd, the young Brazilian started the 78-lap race from the front row of the grid and took the lead from fellow Lola racer Sweden's Kenny Brack on lap 43. Although da Matta briefly lost his advantage during the final pit stops, he was always in control and took a convincing victory -- a record 98th Champ Car success for Lola.
Underlining Lola's superiority on the new 2.1-mile permanent road course built in the Fundidora Park, Brack and da Matta topped the time sheets in official qualifying to ensure an all-Lola front row for Sunday's inaugural race. The Swede racing for Team Rahal took his first-ever Champ Car pole position in his Ford-powered Lola with da Matta equalling his best-ever qualifying performance by setting the second fastest time in his Toyota-powered Lola.
Making the best of their starting positions, the two Lolas then dominated the early exchanges with Brack leading da Matta, who has replaced Michael Andretti at Newman/Haas Racing, until the first round of pit-stop on lap 23. Brack, the reigning 'Rookie of the Year' then retook the lead after the completion of the refuelling stops and seemed on target to score his maiden CART victory until being slowed by an intermittent engine problem that effectively ended his challenge. The Scandinavian finally finished in a fighting fifth place.
As Brack's hopes faltered so da Matta moved to the front and, despite, a pace car situation bunching up the field in the closing few laps, the Brazilian finally crossed the finishing line nearly two seconds clear of defending CART champion, Gil de Ferran. It was da Matta's second Champ Car victory -- his first triumph, also with a Toyota, came at the Chicago Speedway last summer.
"It was a very encouraging start to the season," says Daniel Partel, President of Lola Cars International Inc. "Last year we were at our strongest on oval tracks but we have worked hard over the winter months at improving our speed on road courses and it's clear from our performance in Monterrey that we have made significant strides forward. It was particularly pleasing to see both Toyota and Ford powered chassis to the fore -- this was a low grip circuit that really put the emphasis on chassis technology for traction. One of our cars not only won the race but our drivers also collected the two extra points awarded for pole position (Brack) and leading the most laps during the race (da Matta), so it was a very promising start. We must now build on our success."
Having kicked off in Mexico, the 21-round 2001 Fedex Championship Series moves to the United States for the second race of the year which takes place on the streets of Long Beach in California over the weekend of 7-8 April.