CRISTIANO da MATTA, ...
CRISTIANO da MATTA, #6 Chevron Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:
2002 CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER: Holds a 58-point lead over second place in the point standings with four events to go. 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. In Long Beach, he 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 stops 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) 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 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 of the Cleveland race 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. Started third in Mid-Ohio and was in second place when he slid off course while alongside the race leader on lap 69 of 92. Ran fastest race lap. His 13th place finish shrunk his lead from 38 to 27 points over second place. Won one point for the provisional pole in Road America, started second, led 22 laps and won his sixth race of 12 so far this season and increased his point lead from 27 to 42 over the weekend. Earned one point for setting the fastest times in each of the qualifying sessions and led 35 of 80 laps but finished second after running a conservative pit stop strategy. Finished third in Denver after starting seventh but his points lead dropped from 55 to 52 over second place. Earned his fourth consecutive podium finish of second place in England and ninth of the season.
- EIGHT WINS IN 17 RACES/MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS: With his victory in Elkhart Lake (8-18-02), da Matta scored his eighth victory in the past 14 races dating back to his win in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. Won '01 races in Australia and Fontana and 2002 races in Monterrey, Mexico, Monterey, Calif., Portland, Ore., Chicago, Toronto and Elkhart Lake. (Monterey, Portland, Chicago and Toronto wins earned him four consecutive victories, which matched a CART record set by Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi.) A string of three bad races (mechanical failure while leading in Cleveland; drive shaft failure after leading 36 laps in Vancouver; off course excursion while 2nd in Mid-Ohio) shrunk his points lead although he increased it after scoring points with a win in Elkhart Lake, 2nd place in Montreal and 3rd in England.
- DIVERSE TALENT: With his 10 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:
FIFTH IN 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP: Has SIX top-five finishes and EIGHT top-7 finishes in 15 races to date. Has run in the TOP-THREE in NINE of 15 races this season and in the TOP-FIVE in 12 of 15 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. Earned his highest starting spot of second place since Nazareth 2000 in Mid-Ohio and finished second despite 14-second pit stop due to his airjack malfunctioning. Pit strategy enabled him to move from his 11th place start into a sixth place finish although a top-four finish was possible had the caution flags not come out or a problem on his final stop not occurred. In Montreal, was fifth fastest in provisional qualifying but slipped to an 11th place start. Picked up three spots on the first lap but a slow pit stop dropped him in running order and he eventually finished seventh despite late race gear problems. Started fifth in Denver and was in third place during his final pit stop when the airjack failed for the second time in three mandatory stops thus dropping him to a fifth place finish. Retired from the race in England due to mechanical failure.
0x00b7 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."
0x00b7 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 Chevron Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "There is always a little bit of surprise when you go to an event for the first time but I expect it will be a good race. It's not only a home race for me, I only live one block away. Just the friends of mine that are planning to come will probably pack the place. Everyone has been talking about this race since it was added to the schedule. As I live really close to the track, I can either get to the track my bike or by scooter. I definitely won't be going by car because parking is always difficult at street races so I might as well give up my parking spot to someone else since I live so close. I have friends from Miami and Brazil who are coming to the race. Miami is where the biggest population of Brazilians live outside is Brazil so I'm sure lots of Brazilians will be at the race. They are at most of our races and it's good that we have been able to give them something to cheer about. They follow open-wheel racing and soccer - they go everywhere for those two things. It's going to be nice to race in front of the crowd in Miami. Every time you race in front of a lot of people from your home, it makes you feel special and important. "The track is pretty short in length -- it's 1.4 miles long so we know that since the straights aren't long, we probably won't need all seven gears. The engineers had a track map that had the radius of the corners on it. Before the team gets to Miami, they will have done computer simulations to get a baseline set-up for the car. It is still a question mark until we get on track for the first practice session though. Qualifying will be very important in Miami. The guys who are fast off of the truck and qualifying well will have an advantage. We have unloaded fast at the road and street courses this season so our goal is to continue this in Miami.
On the possibility of clinching the Championship in Miami:
"We are going to Miami to score as many points as we can. It's the same mindset as we have had at all of the races we have gone to this year but obviously more is on the line at this point in the season. It is an important race for our team not only for the Championship but also because Chevron and Lilly will have many guests at the race. To run well in my home race would be great but to clinch the Championship there would be even better but we plan to take it one race at a time."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "I'll actually get to sleep in my own bed during a race weekend. I think the race will be great because it's downtown. There are many drivers who live in the Miami area so it's going to be a big party for all of our friends while we are working. We had a huge crowd for the last race we had downtown and the atmosphere was like CART races in Long Beach, Surfers Paradise and our races in Canada. I don't see why the event won't be as good or better than it was the last time we were in town. This time it is actually a triple-header with the CART FedEx Series, ALMS and Trans-Am running so there should be something for all different kinds of racing fans. It will be a smaller street course but it will be interesting. It will be very important to get a good starting position because passing will be tough. There are four more races left this season and we are going to try to win one or more of them and close the gap (in points) to Shorty (da Matta) and finish as high as possible in the Championship. Not only are there going to be plenty of Brazilians and local fans to help root for us but Lilly is going to have many guests at this race so it would be nice to bring home a good finish for them too."