da Matta performs hat trick Takes third straight Lola victory MONTEREY, Mexico--Brazilian Cristiano da Matta claimed his third consecutive victory in the ...
da Matta performs hat trick
Takes third straight Lola victory
MONTEREY, Mexico--Brazilian Cristiano da Matta claimed his third consecutive victory in the #6 Havoline Lola/Toyota at Fundidora Park today, leading the most laps (52) to claim his second straight Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey. His win marked Lola Cars' 107th Champ Car title since the firm entered CART competition in 1983. "The team's strategy to have me pit with an empty track ahead was perfect," da Matta admitted. Despite an early race tangle with Shinji Nakano and cosmetic damage to his right-front wing, da Matta noted, "I couldn't believe the wing was still there! When I saw the car was not too different," he shrugged, "I just kept on it," pulling out as much as 12 seconds per lap.
This season opener was held under partly cloudy, mid-60-degree skies and featured race-long duels. Only two caution periods (at the start and near the finish) punctuated continual action. The final caution on lap 78 of 85 preceded a three-tour dash to the flags between da Matta and Dario Franchitti, and the Lola driver emerged with a 1.679-second margin of victory.
Da Matta's Newman/Haas Racing teammate Christian Fittipaldi, who saw his potential pole-winning lap taken away on Friday due to causing a red flag, finished third from fourth starting slot. The #11 Lilly Lola/Toyota was "very good at the beginning. The last three laps, I tried all I could to pass Dario" for second place.
Michel Jourdain Jr., whose opportunity to pilot #9 Gigante Lola/Ford came only five weeks ago, gained fourth place after. He drove a smooth, savvy race from sixth on the grid. This was the 25-year-old Mexican's 102nd career CART race and his best road race finish. "Team Rahal gave me a perfect car. We played our strategy well and it worked. I have to thank [sponsor] Gigante for their trust in me," Jourdain Jr. said.
Six of the top ten finishers piloted Lola cars. The 2001 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Scott Dixon brought his #7 PWR Championship Racing Lola/Toyota to 6th place. Max Papis completed his 100th Champ Car race in 9th, driving the #Sigma's 22 Rockwell First Point Lola/Ford. Oriol Servia claimed 10th in the #17 PWR Lola/Toyota. Polesitter Adrian Fernandez finished 13th in the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Lola/Honda. He had early-race problems with his traction control system.
The CART FedEx Championship Series takes a five-week hiatus before engaging once more on the streets of Long Beach, Cal., for the 27th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.