CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Saturday summary

Cristiano Da Matta completes CART qualifying sweep by claiming Molson Indy Toronto Pole. TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, (July 6, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta ( ...

Cristiano Da Matta completes CART qualifying sweep by claiming Molson Indy Toronto Pole.

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, (July 6, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) maintained his position as one of the hottest drivers on the planet as he continued his recent blazing run in the CART FedEx Championship Series, winning his third pole in the last four races Saturday by leading final qualifying for Sunday's Molson Indy Toronto.

Da Matta backed up his provisional pole-winning effort from Friday by setting a top time of 58.135 seconds (108.678mph/174.900km/h) to take his third consecutive pole on a road or street course, combining today's effort on the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street course with top-qualifying efforts at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Portland International Raceway.

The pole gives da Matta another championship point, as he earns both of the series points that were available this weekend to widen his series lead to 27 points over Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone). Saturday's qualifying session was the eighth in a row in which da Matta has finished in the top two, adding six bonus points to his season total.

Hometown favorite Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) threatened to steal da Matta's thunder late in the session, rebounding from a lap in which he went into the runoff area in Turn One to snap off an orbit of 58.172 seconds (108.609mph/174.798km/h), which put him on pole with three minutes left in the qualifying, only to have da Matta eclipse his time less than 30 seconds later with a lap of 58.151 seconds (108.648 mph/174.852 kph). For good measure da Matta would shave another .016 seconds off his best time on his next lap to seal the pole for his Newman/Haas Racing squad.

Tracy would settle for the second spot in front of a partisan crowd of 51,243 fans, his best road- or street-course qualifying effort since he took the second spot at Vancouver in 2000 in a race he would go to win. The number-two spot has been good for Tracy this season as well, as he won his only race of the season after starting second at the Milwaukee Mile.

The third spot in the qualifying order was tossed around like luggage until the final seconds of the session when Junqueira vaulted into the inside of the second row. Junqueira missed more than half of the 60-minute session with electrical problems in the engine and started his final lap in the eighth spot on the grid, a starting position that would have been his lowest of the 2002 season.

But instead of settling, the Brazilian sophomore turned up the wick and shaved a quarter-second off of his time, giving him the third-fastest time. The run gave Junqueira his seventh consecutive top-five starting spot and made him the first driver since two-time defending Molson Indy Toronto winner Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) to start a season with eight straight qualifying efforts of seventh or better. Andretti fashioned his streak in 1995 while with Newman/Haas Racing.

Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) will start alongside his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate in the second row, claiming the fourth rung on the ladder by posting his fastest time on his final lap of the day. Brack backed up his provisional showing that had him in the fourth spot Friday, claiming the position with a circuit of 58.334 seconds (108.307mph/174.303km/h).

Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) held the pole briefly during the session but would settle for a top-five run, his third fifth-place finish in the last three road- or street-course events. His run of 58.477 seconds (108.042mph/173.877km/h) was a scant .011 seconds faster than that of Chicago polesitter Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) to give him the inside spot in the third row.

Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) established his CART career high for qualifying on a road or street course as he posted the seventh-best time of the day, besting Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the inside of the fourth row. Vasser overcame mechanical problems early in the day to lead the Ford-Cosworth contingent by taking the eighth spot.

Sunday's 112-lap Molson Indy Toronto will get the green flag at 1:30 p.m. and will be shown live on CBS.

CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUALIFIER QUOTES

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): (On not knowing Paul Tracy had the pole momentarily) "I always ask my team to be quiet on the radio because I'm trying to be focused and get the most out of the car." (On the streak) "The wins, the poles and the results only help the streak. In order to be a successful driver you have to remain confident. The most difficult part is to be confident when you are down. My team and my car are great and very well balanced, so it allows me to focus and go out there and perform."

PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Cristiano is responding every time someone else raises the bar. We were hoping to stay in the top five in the session today, but with the Lola it has been tougher. Teams like [Target] Chip Ganassi [Racing] have been running this chassis for about three years. It's a credit to Team KOOL Green with the limited amount of time we've had this season with the car after switching from Reynard." (On beating da Matta) "He's driving the best right now and he's got one of the best teams behind him. But someone is going to come along and challenge him, and when that happens for a full race he can be overtaken."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Unfortunately, I had my first crash in the series this year (In the morning practice). I saw that I was almost a quarter-second faster than yesterday and I got excited. After the incident the car was being extinguished and the foam shorted out the electrical system in the engine. We had to come in and change out all the electrical parts on the engine. I was praying that I would have time to get back out there. But with about five minutes to go, on worn tires and without the best setup, I told myself that I must improve."

NOTEWORTHY:

D * Michael Andretti withdrew his primary car after losing power during the first lap of the final qualifying session Saturday, losing his provisional time in order to roll out his backup car. The two-time defending Toronto winner will start shotgun in the 18-car field. He set a race record last season however, coming from the 13th starting spot to win.

* Cristiano da Matta was awarded the Greg Moore Pole Award for leading the final qualifying session, the award that was named for the British Columbia native that perished in the season-ending event of the 1999 season.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing