CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Target aims to visit Rio podium again

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- Team Target driver Juan Montoya was surprisingly optimistic following the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where mechanical trouble forced him out early for the second straight race. The second-year star calmly...

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil -- Team Target driver Juan Montoya was surprisingly optimistic following the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where mechanical trouble forced him out early for the second straight race. The second-year star calmly assessed the situation. "Last year, I only had three points after the first two races of the season," said Montoya, who has earned points in 17 of his 22 CART races. "I have one point now, so I'm really not that far behind last year's pace. One important thing I learned in my rookie year is that it's a long season, so you can't panic and you can't get overconfident. It's disappointing that we haven't been able to finish a race, but the car has also been unbelievably good at times, so I know we'll be fine." Another reason for Montoya's confidence is that he's returning to Rio, where he led 93 of 108 laps en route to the checkered flag in 1999. The Colombia native has his sights set on Team Target's third straight Rio 200 podium finish (former team driver Alex Zanardi finished second in 1998). "Rio was one of my favorite races in 1999," recalled Montoya, the 1999 CART champion. "It was my second straight oval win, so that's when I really started to believe in my ability and realize how talented Team Target was. It was also my third straight win. I still can't believe that. Rio is a great place to race. The fans really get into it, so I'm excited to race there again. I'm confident we'll run well in Rio." Jimmy Vasser, the 1999 CART champion, shares his teammate's confidence heading into Rio. Vasser kicked off the 2000 season with a fourth-place finish in Miami and a third-place effort in Long Beach. In his last 10 races, Vasser has finished fifth or better seven times. "Our team is doing a lot of things right, and the results are beginning to show," said Vasser, whose best finish at Rio was sixth in 1998. "I'm really getting comfortable with the new Toyota-Lola package, and I was extremely impressed with the Firestone tires at Long Beach. The whole team is excited about how we're racing, and I'm looking forward to continuing the hot streak in Rio." Vasser ranks second in the series points standings, trailing Paul Tracy 34-26. A year ago, it took Vasser seven races to reach 26 points. "Obviously it's way too early to be looking at the point standings but, as you learn pretty quickly, every point is important," Vasser said. "I told Juan yesterday, 'Be happy you have that point from the Nazareth pole -- it could come in very handy at the end of the season'."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Alex Zanardi