CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey race winner, da Matta, interview transcript - part one

March 13, 2001 CHAMPIONSHIP AUTO RACING TEAMS, INC. Teleconference An Interview With: CRISTIANO da MATTA T.E. McHALE: Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to...

March 13, 2001 CHAMPIONSHIP AUTO RACING TEAMS, INC. Teleconference An Interview With:
CRISTIANO da MATTA T.E. McHALE: Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing the winner of Sunday's FedEx Championship Series Season opener the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix presented by Herdez in Monterrey, Mexico. Good afternoon Cristiano and congratulations and thanks for joining us today. CRISTIANO da MATTA: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. T.E. McHALE: Cristiano, the driver of the NO. 6 Texaco, Havoline, KMart Toyota Lola recorded his second career FedEx Championship Series victory Sunday in his 41st start. His inaugural victory came at Chicago last year. It was Cristiano's first start for Newman/Haas Racing where he replaces veteran Michael Andretti and who has moved on to Team Motorola. This marks the first of 19 seasons in which the Newman/Haas Racing has not had at least one Andretti either Michael, his father Mario, or both, in the driver's seat. Sunday's victory was also the team's 8th season opening win in FedEx Championship Series competition joining triumphs by Mario Andretti at Long Beach in 1984, 1985, 1987 and at Phoenix in 1988. Nigel Mansell at Australia in 1993 and Michael Andretti at Homestead in 1997 and 1998. Cristiano leads the FedEx Championship Series driver standings for the first time in his career following Sunday's victory and heading into Round 2 the April 8th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, he stands first in the series with 21 points. With that we will begin taking questions for Cristiano. Good afternoon, do you have a question for Cristiano da Matta.

Q. Did you have a concept of how quickly the team was geling? CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, I felt personally a big, big improvement, especially on the last two months of the off-season testing. So as we started, of course, it starts everybody is new to everybody, so it was a little bit more difficult. But it wasn't a difficult start that I can call difficult anyway. It is the start and everything is not going as fast as -- when everybody of course is working with each other for a long time. So after November and December we got into January. I felt like our performance in testing improved a lot and we were able to make a lot bigger steps during test days, make a lot more improvement on the car during those test days in January and February then before. Then I was used to in the past. So I knew that we were getting along really good and really -- and of course getting better everyday, so I knew we were ready to start.

Q. Congratulations and you were really a star, everybody noticed you right off the bat when you got to CART Racing. One of the few drivers have driven both Formula 3000 and Indy Lights. Which have those two series, Formula 3000, Indy lights do you think prepared you better for CART Racing? CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, for me it is a little bit of an unfair comparison to make because the team I drove to has a lot to do with the team you drive for and the kind of people you are learning stuff from. So when I was in 3000 I was driving for a pretty bad team. To be honest, in that year, 1996, I didn't learn much. The two years had in Indy Lights, I drove for two very good teams so I learned a lot when I was driving lights.

Q.  Maybe that is the answer to the question. 
        
CRISTIANO da MATTA:  Yeah, I think it depends a lot on the team.
Q.  Way to go Mr. Rock & Roll?
        
CRISTIANO da MATTA:  Thanks.

Q. It looked like you had a little bit of fun out there with Kenny Brack. Was there a point where you thought maybe he might take the both of you out and talk a little bit about the battle that you two had? CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, it was the biggest thing for me, the most difficult thing for me on the race is that, of course, I didn't want to give him easy life to try to overtake me. But at the same point I didn't want to make contact with him. I could see from my mirrors that he was getting more excited and more aggressive and he was feeling like he could pass me so I had to keep a close eye on him. I think twice I really had to turn the car where I wanted to avoid him. Fortunately his two overtaking maneuvers didn't go right because from inside the car, driving ahead, the places he tried to pass me I was sure he wasn't going to be able to pass. Actually one of the opportunity I actually let him by because I knew there wasn't anyway he was going to make it through the turn. So just waited 'til he passed by me then I turned and of course he couldn't make it. So -- but, yeah, we were having fun but I had to keep a real close eye on him. I think he drove a very good race, but it was just a situation like off line it was so dirty that it made his life a little bit more difficult.

Q. Did you laugh each time when he went off the course and went through the grass? CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, no, there wasn't any time to laugh about that. Maybe after the race, but not at that time.

Q. What do you think is going to be the most important way to keep your momentum going? Last year we saw the season opener winner not capitalize on it. A lot of people wouldn't want to see that happen to you. What do you think you personally and the team would have to do to keep the momentum going? CRISTIANO da MATTA: The biggest thing is to just keep doing our normal work, I think. We just -- it is a good thing that I am racing for an experienced team; that they have won many races before, so I know that another race win is not going to change their attitude about their work. So we are just going to keep doing the same kind of work we have been doing this last season and in this first race I am sure the results will keep on coming naturally to us.

Q. Certainly strong future in Mexico but do you see anything that really gives this venue a foot hold in the CART calendar in many years to come? CRISTIANO da MATTA: Biggest thing I saw there was, which is probably apart from the race itself is -- the most important thing is the crowd. There was a lot of people there. I heard more than 100,000 people watching the race. Just by being there you could see that it is not -- they were not just normal race fans that are just there watching having fun. They are very, very big part of them, they knew a lot about what CART Series was all about; knew the drivers, the teams, what were the changes from last year. I was impressed that a lot of people knew that Newman/Haas had spent so many years with Ford and now we have Toyota and I was replacing -- like a lot of fans had a lot of knowledge. So I think it is very promising.

--end part one FastScripts by ASAP Sports

-CART

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Nigel Mansell , Mario Andretti , Cristiano da Matta