Cristiano da Matta keeps rolling by taking CART provisional pole at Molson Indy Toronto. TORONTO, Ontario, Canada - (July 5, 2002) Country crooner Jerry Reed sang 'When You're Hot, You're Hot' but Cristiano da Matta ( ...
Cristiano da Matta keeps rolling by taking CART provisional pole at Molson Indy Toronto.
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada - (July 5, 2002) Country crooner Jerry Reed sang 'When You're Hot, You're Hot' but Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) is living the heat wave in the CART FedEx Championship Series.
The winner of the last three Champ Car events and six of the last nine overall, da Matta looked almost human on the last lap of provisional qualifying for Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto as he made a rare mistake and wrinkled up some Newman/Haas Racing machinery, but saved his miscue until after he had already earned the provisional pole and the championship point that goes along with it.
Da Matta earned the provisional pole and guaranteed himself his fourth front-row starting spot of the 2002 season Friday with a top lap of 58.487 seconds (108.024mph/173.847km/h), and also extended his championship lead to 26 points over Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone).
The points leader got crossed up and hit the Turn Three wall with five minutes to go in the session, but was able to point his car into one of the new 'safe havens' which are designed to allow a driver to find an area to park a broken car where it will not stop the session, therefore allowing the driver to avoid a penalty that would cost him his best lap of the day according to the new CART rules. Ironically, it was da Matta that provided the impetus for the new rule when he lost an engine during qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca but stayed on the track to avoid losing what proved to be a polewinning lap.
Junqueira would finish second to da Matta as Toyota-powered cars extended their streak of 1-2 qualifying finishes to five consecutive sessions. Junqueira, who has finished second to da Matta in each of the last two races, was .237 seconds in arrears of his Belo Horizonte, Brazil childhood foe after his best lap of the 1.755-mile temporary street course and will have to duplicate the feat in Saturday's final qualifying to clinch another front-row starting spot.
A crowd of 44,018 watched the battle on a Chamber of Commerce day in Toronto but despite da Matta's late problems, Junqueira and the rest of the CART field were unable to lower the time set by the former Indy Lights champion in their final laps.
Canadian Paul Tracy (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) may not have been able to run down da Matta, but he made his final lap count, climbing into the third spot in the provisional order with a best lap of 58.953 seconds (107.170mph/172.473km/h). Tracy rebounded from the disappointment of losing his appeal of the Indianapolis 500 finish this week and snared the third spot as he looks for his first pole. He has a season-best qualifying effort of second at Milwaukee - a race he would go on to win.
Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) put a second Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in the top four with a best effort of 58.984 seconds (107.114mph/172.383km/h), posting his fastest circuit with 18 minutes to go in the hour-long session. Team KOOL Green put both of its cars in the top-five as Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) slipped into the fifth spot with a trip around the Toronto circuit in 59.016 seconds (107.056mph/172.289km/h).
Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) claimed the sixth spot in the provisional order as he looks for his first Champ Car pole, attempting to better his 2002 best starting spot of fourth, gained at Milwaukee in what was his first weekend with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
After finishing second in the morning's first practice, Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would take the seventh position while Team Rahal's Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the best of the Ford contingent. Vasser had mechanical trouble that kept him out of the first half of the session, but he was able to find the speed he needed in the last few minutes to get in the top half of the grid.
Hometown favorite Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was ninth-fastest with a top lap of 59.359seconds (106.437mph/171.293km/h) while Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
Saturday's qualifying will set the final grid for Sunday's 112-lap Molson Indy Toronto, a session that will be televised live by SPEED Channel at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Sunday's race will be broadcast live on CBS beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
CHAMP CAR PROVISIONAL TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): (On the incident that prematurely ended his session) "We knew that the [Target Chip] Ganassi [Racing Team] and Team KOOL Green cars were running extremely well, so it was the right thing to do. Nobody could have predicted that we would have a mishap like that. I think it's maybe my first incident like this on the season, so it's not that disappointing for the team. I actually got into the corner too deep and locked up the rear wheels as I was in the middle of a downshift. I only had one hand on the wheel and it just got away from me."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think it was a good run, but not good enough. I think the car was good, but we made a change for our second run and it didn't help us. I thought we had a shot at it when Cristiano crashed but it wasn't meant to be and we couldn't manage to get up to speed. Last year I struggled with consistency and this year I have really focused on improving in that area. It's just a matter of waiting for da Matta to screw up."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "We turned a good lap. I had to wait until later in the session until the tires really warmed up and the traffic spread out. I also had to wait a few times to get up to speed, but the last two laps proved to be my fastest. We basically guessed on the setup but it worked out well. We just need to get a good lap in tomorrow's qualifying when traffic has calmed down."
* Alex Zanardi made his first appearance at a CART event since his crash last September, holding a press conference to address the huge throng of reporters that wanted to speak to him. Zanardi also accepted the Greg Moore Achievement Award in a ceremony on Thursday night.
* Bruno Junqueira will be looking for his eighth-consecutive top-seven qualifying spot in Saturday's final session after starting the season with seven in a row, six of those being top-fives. If he earns a spot in the top seven, Junqueira will be the first driver since Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) to start a Champ Car season with eight straight top-seven qualifying efforts.