Newman/Haas Racing'S Fittipaldi Energized By New Structure At Team --- Team Aims For Third Consecutive Cart Fedex Victory And Ninth In A Season-Opener MONTERREY, Mexico (March 6, 2002) --- Christian Fittipaldi, 31, begins his seventh season with...
Newman/Haas Racing'S Fittipaldi Energized By New Structure At Team --- Team Aims For Third Consecutive Cart Fedex Victory And Ninth In A Season-Opener
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 6, 2002) --- Christian Fittipaldi, 31, begins his seventh season with Newman/Haas Racing and eighth overall in the CART FedEx Championship series as one of the more experienced drivers. He hopes to utilize that experience to regain the consistency he and the team collectively earned in the 1999 season after he won his first race and pole position.
"Consistency. That's what we're going to concentrate on this year," said an optimistic Fittipaldi. "In this series, you don't have a chance without it. If we can just put an entire season together we should have a great chance at the Championship by the end of the season. If we could put a season together with the consistency of 1996, the momentum of good results like we had in the first part of 1999 before my testing accident and the qualifying from 2000 where we were in the top-six or eight everywhere then we would be looking good. When we left Portland last year, I was in fifth place ahead of Gil in the point standings and from that point on we went downhill. This season, our aim is consistency and scoring points at every race."
Newman/Haas Racing, the most successful active team in CART, begins its 20th season in 2002 with drivers Christian Fittipaldi and his teammate Cristiano da Matta, winner of the 2001 Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. Newman/Haas drivers have won the CART season opener eight times in the team's previous 19 seasons. A win by Fittipaldi or his teammate da Matta would bring the team an almost 50 percent average (45 percent) of scoring victories in season-opening races.
Fittipaldi anticipates on starting the season off on the right track here at Monterrey, Mexico. He will be working with a new engineer, Craig Hampson, 32, a nine-year veteran of the team who was promoted from assistant engineer to da Matta.
"We had a change in the engineering setup at the team and I think change is good sometimes," said Fittipaldi. "So far in testing Craig and I have communicated pretty well and that's encouraging. I think it will only make the entire team stronger now that Peter (Gibbons) is overseeing both programs. I think Toyota has a strong package and the new Lola also looks improved. To me, the championship looks up for grabs, and I intend to be one of the guys trying to get my hands on it."
In addition to CART mandating the Head and Neck Support Device (HANS) that Fittipaldi actively assisted in development of, the series has also added anti-intrusion panels on all cars to lessen the chance of side intrusion into the area of the chassis where the driver is seated. Traction control has recently been approved for use and the qualifying procedure has been changed in an effort to make qualifying fairer for the drivers and more exhilarating for the fans. Fittipaldi sees these changes as positive, but he also thinks that it will take some time to learn how to best utilize them.
"I think that the legalization of traction control will help everyone," said Fittipaldi. "The new qualifying system will be interesting for everyone. Especially the first two races where everyone will go through a learning curve to see how to get the most out of the session. After Long Beach, everyone will be better prepared for the other races in terms of getting over the learning curve."
On-track action from the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will be televised on the SPEED Channel Friday-Sunday, March 8-10. Friday's qualifying session will air at 9:00 PM while the all-new CART Friday Night show will air at 10:30. Saturday's qualifying session will air at 8:00 PM while race day programming will begin at 3:30. All times are Eastern.
Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, competes in the CART FedEx Championship Series. The team will begin their 20th season in the series in 2002 as the most successful active competitor with 61 race wins and 63 pole positions. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.texaco.com/racing or www.cart.com. The 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series 19-race schedule will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS and Fox Cable Networks Group, including Speedvision/Speed Channel.