Vancouver Race Story

Sept 6, 1998 Cristiano da Matta Seals The PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship With Vancouver Victory Cristiano da Matta led every lap in the Medley/LCI Lola to clinch the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship with a ...

Sept 6, 1998 Cristiano da Matta Seals The PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship With Vancouver Victory Cristiano da Matta led every lap in the Medley/LCI Lola to clinch the 1998 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship with a series-leading fourth victory Sunday at the Molson Indy Vancouver. Da Matta, who won at Vancouver from the pole for the second straight year, won the title with two races remaining in the 14-race schedule and gave the Steve Horne-led Tasman Motorsports Group its fourth Indy Lights championship since debuting in CART's "Official Development Series" in 1993.

"I cannot explain how happy I am right now," da Matta said. "It has been a long time since my last championship. [da Matta was the 1994 Brazilian Formula 3 champion] Last year Tasman finished one-two in the championship and I battled against them, so I was happy when I was able to sign with them. Afterwards I learned how much pressure comes with the position. We started the season well but then we had three DNFs in a row in the middle of the year. It was nothing we could do anything about but our lead went from 47 points down to 10. Since then we have been back on form and now that we have clinched the championship we have two races in which to have fun!" Da Matta, who averaged 76.404 mph for 42 laps on the 1.802-mile circuit, earned $22,000 for his victory which included $2,000 in Sea-Doo/Ski-Doo bonuses for winning from the pole. He won a series-high third pole on Saturday at a record average speed of 92.094 mph (70.441 seconds) on the new False Creek layout and was never seriously challenged for the lead. Da Matta crossed the finish line 3.456 seconds ahead of Derek Higgins (Quaker State/Team Go Lola). "On Friday, when we were last on the grid because of our fuel pressure problems," Higgins said. "I didn't think I'd be here on the podium today. But this team is very good and they got things straightened right out. It is quite impressive as this is a new team to the Indy Lights championship this year. We've taken the win on an oval and shown we are competitive on road courses." Tasman's second driver Airton Dare (Banestado/LCI Lola) completed the team's championship day by finishing third. "I am happy with my result but I really wanted to make it a Tasman one-two," Dare said.."Derek was too good, though. Especially on the restarts he was able to go faster than I was. My car had a lot of push on cold tires." Mike Borkowski drove the Textron Automotive Lola to fourth place, an Indy Lights best for the first-year effort from Team Rahal. Felipe Giaffone completed the top five in his Hollywood/Cafe do Ponto/Banco Sofisa Lola. "We're happy with our result today, just a little disappointed it wasn't one spot better," Borkowski said. "I think we had the measure of Airton after that last restart but he had a pretty good idea what was on my mind and, without a mistake on his part, there wasn't a lot I could do to get by him." Tasman - which has won more Indy Lights championships than any other team - has arguably established a series dynasty. The team's four titles - Bryan Herta (1993), Steve Robertson (1994), Tony Kanaan (1997) and da Matta - have been earned in just five seasons of Indy Lights competition. The team sat out the 1995 Indy Lights season to launch its CART Champ Car program. Tasman returned to Indy Lights competiton in 1996, finishing second with Kanaan. Da Matta, meanwhile, has the 1998 championship, 1997 Rookie of the Year honors and seven career wins in 25 race starts to his credit - a 28% winning percentage. Guy Smith, da Matta's only championship rival heading into Vancouver, finished eighth and was mathematically eliminated. Da Matta sealed his title with 152 points, 45 ahead of Smith who holds second and the rookie lead heading into next weekend's race at Laguna Seca. With da Matta's victory Sunday, Brazil clinched the inaugural Elf Nation's Cup with 219 points. The United States is second (146 points) and England is third (107). Da Matta, Dare, Giaffone and Luiz Garcia, Jr. (Lubrax/Marlboro/Sofisa Lola) - who all earned points for their winning country - will be featured in a photo opporunity at next week's race at Laguna Seca. An encore telecast of the Vancouver race will be shown on Tuesday, September 8 at 3:00 a.m. EDT (12:00 midnight PTD).

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Guy Smith , Felipe Giaffone , Airton Daré , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Derek Higgins , Mike Borkowski , Steve Horne , Steve Robertson , Cristiano da Matta , Luiz Garcia