CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Long Beach preview

CALIFORNIA BUILT TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 2ND 2001 WIN AT LONG BEACH -Toyota's RV8F engine, designed and built in Costa Mesa, Calif., will be looking for its second straight CART victory after Cristiano da Matta won the season-opening CART FedEx ...

CALIFORNIA BUILT TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 2ND 2001 WIN AT LONG BEACH -Toyota's RV8F engine, designed and built in Costa Mesa, Calif., will be looking for its second straight CART victory after Cristiano da Matta won the season-opening CART FedEx Championship Series event at Monterrey, Mexico. The Toyota RV8F joins its predecessor, the Toyota RV8E, as the only engine designed and built in the U.S. to win CART events in the last 20 years. The RV8F went from design board in Feb. 2000, to the dynamometer by August, onto the race track for testing in November and the Monterrey Winner's Circle in March 2001.

After 19 years without a victory by an engine designed and built in the United States, the Toyota RV8E won 2000 CART events at Milwaukee, Michigan, Chicago, St. Louis and Houston.

POINTS LEADERS - With the victory at Monterrey, both Toyota and Cristiano da Matta have taken the points lead for the first time. Toyota is on top of the CART Manufacturer's Championship for the first time in its six-year CART run, while da Matta takes the early lead for the 2001 Vanderbilt Cup awarded to the Driver's champion.

DIXON COMFORTABLE UP FRONT AT LONG BEACH - Twenty-year-old Scott Dixon became the first rookie to lead a lap in 2001 after he took the point position for 14 laps at Monterrey and now he returns to the race track where he began his trek to the 2000 Indy Lights title. Dixon dominated at Long Beach a year ago on his way to victory in the Indy Lights opener. His success at "The Beach" extends even further as he placed second in the 1999 Indy Lights in just his second Lights race at age 18.

TOP ROOKIES - Toyota-powered rookies Tora Takagi and Nic Minassian moved to the front of the rookie standings after each scored points in their CART debuts at Monterrey. Takagi earned a top-10 finish with a 10th, one spot ahead of Frenchman Minassian.

LONG BEACH FIRST-TIMERS - Three Toyota-powered rookies will be racing at Long Beach for the first time April 6-8. Target drivers Bruno Junqueira and Nic Minassian will join Tora Takagi in their debut performances through the Long Beach streets. Junqueira and Minassian finished first and second in the European FIA Formula 3000 championship a year ago, while Takagi won the Japanese F3000 title.

TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP OPENS 2001 SEASON - The Toyota Atlantic Championship, one of the leading producers of open-wheel talent in North America, will open its 2001 season at Long Beach. Southern California native Rocky Moran Jr. is expected to be one of the leading contenders for the 2001 title along with fellow Atlantic returnees Hoover Orsi and Martin Basso.

TOYOTA PRO/CELEBRITY RACE SET FOR 25th RUNNING - A field of 17 drivers is set to take the flag for the 25th running of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race on Saturday, April 7. Celebrities in this year's field include actors William Shatner and David Alan Grier, former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and nine-time Olympic medallist swimmer, Dara Torres. They, along with eight other celebrities and the annual Toyota Charity Ball auction winner, will start the race with a 30-second advantage over four professional drivers. Former CART star Scott Pruett, four-time Goody's Dash champ Robert Huffman, rising young open-wheel star Sara Senske and 2000 Toyota Pro/Celebrity race champion and actor, Josh Brolin will try to charge through the celebrity field to win the race overall - a feet that has been accomplished 11 times in the past 24 years.

PRUETT MAKES LONG BEACH RETURN -Scott Pruett returns to race as a professional in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race for the first time since 1984 when the then-karting champion dueled with veteran driver David Hobbs for the victory in matching Toyota Celicas. Pruett came up just short that Saturday, but the exposure he gained helped in the process of securing his first major full-time automobile ride in IMSA. On Sunday, Pruett will be in the ABC television booth as part of the CART broadcoast. Pruett also can be seen on ESPN's RPM Tonight, as well as heard on the CART radio network.

Cristiano da Matta, #6 Texaco/Havoline Toyota: "This is my third year with Toyota, and I always saw from one year to the other a big, big difference performance-wise. They were always improving a lot in the off-season time. I think this year is no different. This year they made a huge jump. They raised their game again, and it has been working better than ever. My expectations are good for Long Beach. We have been doing good off-season testing at Sebring, which is the same kind of rough circuit as we have at Long Beach. So I would imagine that we are going to have a good competitive car there. It's tough to know how competitive we are going to be because the way the series is today. It's just so competitive sometimes, you just get to the racetrack you don't know if you are going to be Top-5 or Top 20."

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "It was great to start the season with a victory at Monterrey, but the FedEx Championship Series is a marathon rather than a sprint, and there's 20 more races beginning with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. On the race track, Cristiano was terrific in winning Monterrey, and we're confident that each of the other eight Toyota-powered drivers are capable of winning, as well. In addition, with Toyota having served as a sponsor at Long Beach for the past 27 years, this is, undoubtedly, the most important race of the season for us. Our U.S. headquarters are just minutes away in Torrance and TRD is only 30 minutes south in Costa Mesa. We're expecting in the neighborhood of 3,000 guests and associates at the race."

<pre> Date: April 8, 2001 Broadcast: ABC, 4 p.m. ET (Live) Race Length: 82 laps for 161.376 miles Track Length: 1.99-mile, 11-turn street course 2000 Winner: Paul Tracy Toyota's Best Finish: 3rd - Jimmy Vasser, 2000 Toyota's Best Qualifying: 2nd - Juan Montoya, 2000 Track Speed Records Qualifying: 104.96 mph - Gil De Ferran, 2000 Race: 82.626 mph - Paul Tracy, 2000

Manufacturer's Championship: Toyota - 21, Honda - 16, Ford - 11, Phoenix - 0


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About this article
Series Atlantic , IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Scott Pruett , Martin Basso , Hoover Orsi , Rocky Moran Jr. , David Hobbs , Robert Huffman , Cristiano da Matta