CHAMPCAR/CART: da Matta, Fittipaldi Cleveland Friday notes

CRISTIANO da MATTA, ...

CRISTIANO da MATTA, #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota-Lola: "The car was good right out of the box. We are still working on areas that we need to improve where we are weak. I would say that my car was better this morning than this afternoon. We were fastest in both sessions so that makes us happy but today was a learning day. It doesn't give any points or tell you where you are going to start the race so we better keep working hard and be ready for qualifying. It's bumpy here but that is normal. The only ones that don't like the bumps are the guys that don't have their car working as good over them. We have the privilege of running on a wide-open track. This is probably the safest track we run on. I think it's very good. Of course if they wanted to repave the whole place, it would be even better. I wasn't concerned with ending up fastest. We had a big list of things we wanted to try but of course we are happy that the car is also fast. If it rains tomorrow for practice, and then qualifying, I'll be happy but if it just rains for qualifying, I won't. You need to be able to work on your rain set-up before qualifying. (On heat:) I live in Miami so I am used to the heat. I work out in this heat but it is a little different in the racecar. I was expecting the heat. I even prefer this to cold weather. My biggest concern is if it rains in one qualifying session and not the other. That is not fair for anyone. Qualifying should be about the best team and driver, not the ones that have the better conditions. I like driving here. This place is a challenge and as a driver, I like challenges. It makes the accomplishment that much better."

· da Matta is fourth in the CART standings. Will be his third Champ car race in Cleveland and first with NHR. Da Matta scored his first CART podium of third place here in '00 after dropping to the back of the field after a Lap 1, Turn 1 incident. Finished 20th in '99 due to suspension damage.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Kmart Toyota-Lola: "We quit with time left in the session because we were pretty happy with the car and didn't think we could improve too much with four minutes left. We didn't even run new tires at the end of the session to put in a faster lap. When I went out on my second set of tires, we found that they were in perfect condition for the race so we are saving them. With the additional track time this year and the fact that we have the same number of tires as last year, we have to be even smarter about how we use them. Qualifying will be interesting. There were a bunch of guys off track today. Wait until qualifying when everyone is hanging it out there."

Fittipaldi is fifth in the CART standings. Will be his seventh start in Cleveland. Hopes to continue a strong points run as he moved from 11th to 5th place in the point standings (46 points, 30 back from leader Brack), after a third place finish in Portland. Highest start was fifth place in 1997 where he also scored his highest finish of sixth place. Ran in 3rd in 2000 before his engine blew near the end of the race; had a strong race car in 1999 before he spun in the pits during a torrential downpour while trying to get rain tires; was leading when a caution period came out and was called into pits but a radio malfunction forced him to miss the stop; was leading in 1997 when he pitted but his airjack broke. Led a total of 23 laps.

Qualifying for the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar will air 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2. CART 2Day airs 11 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2, while ABC-TV's live race broadcast begins 1 p.m. ET. Twenty of 21 FedEx Championship Series events are being televised live on ABC-TV or ESPN, and 18 are being televised live on Eurosport, a European network that reaches 250 million viewers in 54 countries. Sunday's race will also air on the CART Radio Network and on CART's official website, at www.cart.com .

-NHR-

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Series IndyCar