LOLA'S DA MATTA EXTENDS CART CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD Lola-Toyota racer Cristiano da Matta extended his lead in the CART Fedex Championship Series with a strong second place in yesterday's (Sunday) Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Having won the...
LOLA'S DA MATTA EXTENDS CART CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Lola-Toyota racer Cristiano da Matta extended his lead in the CART Fedex Championship Series with a strong second place in yesterday's (Sunday) Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Having won the opening round in Mexico, the Brazilian underlined his and Lola's title credentials by qualifying his Texaco/Havoline Kmart Lola in a fine fourth place for the 83-lap race on the notoriously challenging Californian street circuit.
Despite putting increasing pressure on the leading car of Helio Castroneves, the hard-charging da Matta finally settled for a safe second place and thus he extended his series lead. The Lola driver has now amassed 37-points, seven more than defending champion Gil de Ferran. "I tried to put pressure on Helio but there are limited overtaking places on this circuit and he could drive defensively," said da Matta. "This is going to be a long and hard championship and I'm pleased to have scored some more good points."
Other Lola drivers were also among the major points scorers in Long Beach. The two Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lola-Toyotas of newcomers Nicolas Minassian and Bruno Junqueria both finished in the top ten -- the latter's showing was particularly meritorious as he had been forced to start from the back of the 28-car grid following a troubled qualifying session. Michel Jordain was another Lola driver to impress; the Mexican ran strongly in sixth place in the early laps before suffering a slow refuelling stop and then a pit-lane speed violation to leave him a frustrated 13th position at the finish.
"Overall, it was another encouraging performance from our various teams," enthused Daniel Partel, President of Lola Cars International Inc. "We have now won on a permanent road course and come close to winning on a street track -- that augurs well for the rest of the 2001 season. We now face another big test -- next up on the 2001 CART calendar is the high-banked 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, an exciting new event that is sure to push the drivers and cars to the full."