CHAMPCAR/CART: Da Matta takes Toronto provisional pole

It took just eight of his allotted 15-laps laps for Cristiano da Matta to take the provisional pole position for the Molson Indy Toronto. Then the championship leader crashed his Newman/Haas Lola Toyota at turn three. It made little difference for...

It took just eight of his allotted 15-laps laps for Cristiano da Matta to take the provisional pole position for the Molson Indy Toronto. Then the championship leader crashed his Newman/Haas Lola Toyota at turn three. It made little difference for the Brazilian championship leader as he already had the bonus point and a guaranteed front row start in the bag, but if anything, the remaining drivers can at least take solace that da Matta made a mistake.

The session started as so many Champ Car qualifying sessions do in 2002 with no one bothering to take to the track thanks to the maximum 15-laps rule imposed by CART at the start of the season. Indeed it was not until the 16th minute of the one-hour session that Michael Andretti recorded the first timed lap. Thereafter however it was frantic action at the 1.755-mile Toronto street circuit.

It was Bruno Junqueira, the Target driver who has finished as runner up to da Matta at the last two events at Portland and Chicago, who was the main challenger once again this weekend in Toronto. The Target Chip Ganassi driver pushed as hard as he dared, but was unable to get closer than 0.237 seconds of the seemingly unbeatable Newman/Haas driver.

Paul Tracy -- something of a hero at the moment in CART thanks to the Indy 500 ruling this week -- took the third fastest time overall after a mixed qualifying hour. However, the Team KOOL Green driver was almost half a second off the best that da Matta could come up with and as with Junqueira, has a great deal of work to do in tomorrow's final practice session to try and close the gap to the man of the moment, da Matta.

Kenny Brack set the fourth fastest time today in qualifying after setting the pace in the morning practice session. Still for Brack, yet to really get his season underway with Ganassi, it was an encouraging performance while the third Target car of Scott Dixon was sixth fastest behind the consistent Dario Franchitti in the second KOOL car.

Christian Fittipaldi was seventh fastest in the second Newman/Haas entry and must be beginning to get depressed that he cannot get close to the race winning pace that his teammate produces week in week out. For Fittipaldi, the writing may be on the wall... but non-the-less seventh fastest must be a building block for the rest of the weekend.

Jimmy Vasser was once again the faster of the two Team Rahal drivers taking the eighth fastest time, while Michel Jourdain Jr was once again uncompetitive in terms of pure speed back in 15th. A betting man would not rule out another points finish for the Mexican though.

Ninth place for Patrick Carpentier will hardly set his heart racing with anticipation in his Players Cosworth on home soil, but at least he took top honors as a Reynard runner on a day once again dominated by the Lola Toyota combination. Teammate Alex Tagliani was 11th with Tony Kanaan finding some pace in his Mo Nunn Lola Honda to split the two Players drivers.

Shinji Nakano was undoubtedly delighted last time out in Chicago to secure his best ever result of fifth place. The Japanese driver today showed the way to his team boss/leader with 12th position.

Townsend Bell failed to replicate his Long beach street circuit form back in 14th place for Patrick racing while he did manage to out-qualify the slow and consistent Michel Jourdain Jr in his Rahal car.

Bringing up the rear were Mario Dominguez who also brushed the wall at turn three while last year's winner Michael Andretti will be hoping that the race starts to fall his way as it did last year as he was once again failed to show any real pace in his Motorola car. Tora Takagi -- hot off his fine fourth position at Chicago was oddly off the pace in his Walker car and was slowest of all.

And so to the second day of the Molson Indy Toronto and the question once again -- as it has been in virtually every race so far in 2002, who can beat da Matta. The answer sadly from a spectator point of view is probably no one.

-Courtesy of CART-Racing.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , Chip Ganassi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain , Mo Nunn