Da Matta takes victory and drivers' championship; Lola earns coveted constructors' title. Cristiano da Matta knew what he needed to take CART's Vanderbilt Cup at the inaugural Grand Prix Americas. He had to put his ...
Da Matta takes victory and drivers' championship; Lola earns coveted constructors' title.
Cristiano da Matta knew what he needed to take CART's Vanderbilt Cup at the inaugural Grand Prix Americas. He had to put his #6 Chevron Lola/Toyota in front of the #4 Team Target Lola/Toyota of Bruno Junqueira by 10 points; he needed to beat Dario Franchitti's #27 Team KOOL Green Lola/Honda by three. Da Matta did it all, pacing the most laps (58 of 105) and leading teammate Christian Fittipaldi's #11 Lilly Lola/Toyota to the checkered flags by .734 seconds. American veteran Jimmy Vasser gave Lola cars all three places on the podium, taking third in the #8 Shell Lola/Ford, 1.343 seconds behind the leader.
Held under mostly sunny skies, with air temps from 89-91 and track temps of 118-127 degrees along the Miami, FL waterfront, the 16th race of the Champ Car season was an eventful one, with a total of six caution periods. Dario Franchitti's spin on lap 90 eliminated him as a championship contender; Bruno Junqueira's contact on lap 94 resulted in a 4th place finish when he needed to take third to stay in contention. Slippery conditions about the new 16-turn street course took their toll, as only nine cars were running at the close after polesitter Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Lola/Honda) and Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Lola/Honda) had nose-to-tail contact on the last lap.
"I owe this championship to the whole Newman/Haas Racing team, to Toyota and to Lola," da Matta declared after his seventh win of the year. Carl Haas understands this better than anyone: 'to win, you have to keep winning.' You have to know your limits and make less mistakes and be more consistent. That's what we have done this year." Fittipaldi lauded "a good car all the time today. We were quicker than other guys and track position was the key today. We had that." Vasser, who had a tough pit stop when he left his car in gear and spun the wheels. "We didn't qualify well, but we were pretty good under braking, unlike some others. This is a fantastic venue," Vasser said, "track aside. It's like polished marble out there."
With a lead of 335-193 at the close of the Grand Prix Americas today, Lola Cars officially clinched the manufacturers' title, according to CART. The next of three events on the Champ Car docket is the Honda Indy 300 on October 27th in Surfers Paradise, Australia.