Havoline driver Cristiano da Matta, winner of the three previous CART FedEx Series races completed his first oval test of 2002 at Miami-Homestead Speedway today. HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 27, 2002) --- Havoline driver Cristiano da Matta got back...
Havoline driver Cristiano da Matta, winner of the three previous CART FedEx Series races completed his first oval test of 2002 at Miami-Homestead Speedway today.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 27, 2002) --- Havoline driver Cristiano da Matta got back behind the wheel of his Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone for the first time since winning his third consecutive CART FedEx Championship Series race at the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico for his first test on an oval track. Fresh from a week of relaxation and physical training at his home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, da Matta completed a two-day test today at the 1.5-mile Miami-Homestead oval track, located a mere 45 minutes from his U.S. base of Miami.
"I haven't been on an oval since winning the Marlboro 500 in Fontana," said da Matta, who immediately hopped on an airplane at the conclusion of the test to travel to Los Angeles for the annual Toyota Motorsports Day tomorrow. "We ran a lot of miles and learned about the areas we need to work on. It was the first time to work with "Rocky" (Guillaume Rocquelin, his race engineer) on an oval so naturally it was a learning process in terms of getting to know how I like the car on ovals. Since it was our first test on an oval we were trying a bunch of different things and trying not to put too much emphasis on a fast lap time but instead making the car feel good. The test ended on a positive note but it would have been nice to run one more day. Unfortunately we are limited on test days but it is the same for everyone."
"The car was not as good as we had hoped at the beginning of the test but by the end of today we feel like we will be in good shape for the first oval race in Motegi, Japan," added Brian Lisles, General Manager of Newman/Haas Racing. "Da Matta ran 260 trouble-free miles on Tuesday and 240 today. In addition to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach being important for our engine partner Toyota, the race in Japan is as well for obvious reasons. Cristiano had a good car last year but he was taken out of the race on the first lap. We are hoping to bring Toyota a victory in both of those events with either da Matta or Fittipaldi this year as well as collect as many points as possible early in the season for a run at the championship."
Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, competes in the CART FedEx Championship Series. The team began their 20th season in the series in 2002 as the most successful active competitor with 62 race wins and 63 pole positions. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.texaco.com/racing or www.cart.com. Round 2 of 20 in the CART FedEx Championship Series takes place on April 12-14 on the streets of Long Beach. The 20-race schedule will be broadcast by new television partners CBS, Fox and the Fox-owned Speed Channel.