CHAMPCAR/CART: Newman/Haas Cleveland race report

Cleveland, Ohio --- July 1, 2001 Texaco/ Havoline/Kmart Driver da Matta Finished 7th and Kmart Driver Fittipaldi Finished 11th After a Late Race Splash of Fuel in The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da...

Cleveland, Ohio --- July 1, 2001

Texaco/ Havoline/Kmart Driver da Matta Finished 7th and Kmart Driver Fittipaldi Finished 11th After a Late Race Splash of Fuel in The Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland

Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta posted the fastest time in practice on Friday but was unable to realize a chance to fight for his first CART Champ car pole on Saturday after rain drenched the track during the "fast group" qualifying session comprised of the top-13 in point standings and he had to settle for a disappointing 19th place start for the 100-lap Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. On the first lap of the event, da Matta and the field approached the infamous Turn 1 of Lap 1 in Cleveland. He chose to go to the outside, which appeared to be clearer, but Gil de Ferran chose to do the same thing and da Matta was slowed. The caution flag flew immediately after 9th place starter, Carpentier, and 12th place starter Oriol Servia made contact and also collected sixth place starter Tony Kanaan as well as 25th place starter Roberto Moreno. Da Matta managed to end up in 18th place despite front runners being knocked out due to being held up and passed by Michael Andretti, Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves.

The race was resumed on lap four. By lap 14, he passed Shinji Nakano, Bruno Junqueira and Michael Andretti for 15th place but was passed by Dario Franchitti and Junqueira on lap 16. He passed Servia on lap 21, Junqueira on lap 26 and teammate Fittipaldi on lap 28. As the field pitted, da Matta moved up as high as sixth place due to conserving fuel and staying out as long as possible. He made his first stop on lap 33 and returned to the race in 14th place. He moved into 13th when polesitter Mauricio Gugelmin made his first stop and held the position until lap 58. He moved all the way into 3rd place as others began making their second stops and he pitted on lap 67 and returned to the race in 12th. By lap 73 he moved into 10th place but Fittipaldi passed him on lap 75 and Tora Takagi on the following lap.

He held 12th place until lap 85 when he spun and Alex Zanardi and Castroneves passed him. He moved into 13th when Adrian Fernandez retired and into 10th when third place Herta went onto the grass and then collided with fourth place Moreno. Alex Zanardi, who was running in 11th pit as well. Da Matta moved into 9th place when Tagliani pit and into seventh when Fittipaldi and Castroneves pit on lap on lap 93. He held seventh place until the checkered flag came out to signal Dario Franchitti as the winner. Franchitti was so tight on fuel that he slowed on course immediately after taking the checkered flag. Da Matta collected six points for his seventh place finish and is only 29 points back from leader Kenny Brack who has 84. Following are da Matta's post race comments:

"The car wasn't as good when we were in a fuel conservation mode which was most of the race," said da Matta. "When I ran harder, the car started to get better but because we were on a two-stop strategy we didn't get to run rich very much. On the start, Junqueira and myself went to the outside but Gil went there as well and we got stuck behind him. I saw the smoke ahead of me and thought I better back off. It was a big gamble to come in early like Dario did because there was a good chance that a yellow would come out later.

The strategy definitely played out in his favor. We ran strong most of the weekend but not qualifying up front hurt us a lot. My engineers and team did a good job but the weekend just didn't go our way. Not only did the rain effect us here but also it will carry over to Toronto because our pit selection depended on our qualifying here but we are confident that we will be competitive. I was competitive in Toronto last year and led the race and Newman/Haas ended up winning it so that combination should help us. I'm looking forward to results equaling the effort there."

Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi and his team were optimistic about earning a top-four qualifying position for the 100-lap Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland but rain drenched the track during the "fast group" qualifying session comprised of the top-13 in point standings and he had to settle for a disappointing 15th place start. On lap one, 9th place starter Patrick Carpentier and 12th place Servia made contact and collected sixth place starter Kanaan as well as 25th place starter Roberto Moreno and Fittipaldi was passed by Kenny Brack and Scott Dixon, moving him into 13th place.

The race was resumed on lap 4 and Fittipaldi passed Shinji Nakano on lap 6. He held 12th place until Gil de Ferran passed him on lap 16. He moved back into 12th place for one lap after passing Servia but was then passed by Helio Castroneves on the following lap. As was dictated by the lack of caution periods thus far, Fittipaldi had to continue to run a "fuel conservation" race and the team monitored the consumption per lap. He ran in 13th place and was attempting to hold off eventual race winner Dario Franchitti, who pit under the first and only caution period of the race and was presumably running a "full rich" fuel setting. Franchitti passed him on lap 26 and two laps later he was passed again by teammate Cristiano da Matta but had to maintain a certain mileage and also try not to drop further than his current place of 15. On the following laps, he moved up as high as 9th place as the frontrunners made their stops. He made his first stop on lap 32 and was hit from behind by rookie Bruno Junqueira when entering the pit lane.

After a quick stop for fuel and tires, he returned to the race in 16th place after Michael Andretti was able to pass him in the pits. On lap 38, Alex Tagliani passed him but regained 16th place on lap 41 when polesitter Mauricio Gugelmin fell back. On lap 48, the team told him via radio that he could run more fuel as it appeared the majority of the field would need to make three stops due to the lack of slower caution periods. He moved into 15th place on lap 51 after he passed Michael Andretti and then into 12th place after three drivers pit. He made his second stop on lap 63 and returned to the race in the same position of 15th place. He moved into 14th after Tony Kanaan pit on lap 67 and into 13th after passing Helio Castroneves on lap 68. He swapped positions with Tagliani for two laps but moved into 11th place on lap 73 when eighth and ninth place runners Tora Takagi and Scott Dixon tangled. By lap 75 he was in 11th place and held his position for 11 laps before sixth place Adrian Fernandez slowly entered the pits and subsequently retired. He moved from 9th place into seventh on the following laps as a few drivers made a late race pit. On lap 93 of 100, Fittipaldi had to pit for eight gallons of fuel and returned to the race in 12th place and remained there until the final lap when 11th place runner Takagi slowed and handed the position to Fittipaldi. He scored two points for his 11th place finish and dropped from fifth to eighth in the CART FedEx standings with a total of 48 points and is only 36 points back from leader Kenny Brack. Following are his post race comments:

"It's obvious now that we maybe should have run a different pit strategy or I should have burned less fuel but it's hard to make that call at the beginning of a race where you think there will be some yellows," said Fittipaldi.

"We started the race with a good car but it lost grip as the race went on. At the start of the race I thought we were looking pretty good car-wise but it went away. Toronto has been a good track for Newman/Haas Racing and myself in the past so we will have to get back on track in the points chase there." <pre> Top-Five Results from the Marconi GP of Cleveland - Round 8 of 21 DRIVER / TEAM / STARTED 1. Dario Franchitti Kool Honda-Reynard 14 2. Memo Gidley Target Toyota-Lola 5 3. Bryan Herta Zakspeed/Forsythe Ford-Reynard 4 4. Gil de Ferran Marlboro Honda-Reynard 20 5. Jimmy Vasser Patrick Racing Toyota-Reynard 24

7. Cristiano da Matta Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola 19* 11. Christian Fittipaldi Kmart Toyota-Lola 15* *rained during qual.

CART FedEx Championship Series Point Standings - After Round 8 of 21 1. Kenny Brack Shell Ford-Lola 84 2. Helio Castroneves Marlboro Team Penske Honda-Reynard 70 3. Dario Franchitti Kool Honda-Reynard 65 4. Gil de Ferran Marlboro Team Penske honda-Reynard 56 5. Cristiano da Matta Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola 55 8. Christian Fittipaldi Kmart Toyota-Lola 48

North of the Border - The CART FedEx Championship will take a well-deserved weekend off before traveling north of the U.S. border for the Molson Indy Toronto on July 15. Da Matta led 73 of 112 laps in Toronto last season but the wrong pit strategy dropped him to a fourth place finish and former Newman/Haas Racing driver Michael won the event. Fittipaldi's top finish of third place came in 1999 at the track.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Mauricio Gugelmin , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Team Zakspeed