Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start fifth in the Shell Grand Prix Of Denver; Havoline driver da Matta to start seventh. Â· OVERVIEW: The track appeared to slow down as the qualifying session progressed rather than getting faster as it usually does...
Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start fifth in the Shell Grand Prix Of Denver; Havoline driver da Matta to start seventh.
· OVERVIEW: The track appeared to slow down as the qualifying session progressed rather than getting faster as it usually does at most road and street course venues. This possibly favored those who began their 15 lap maximum runs earlier in the session. A late session red flag for Adrian Fernandez eliminated his fastest lap time in the session which ranked fourth although he will start the race in second place due to being guaranteed a front row start by being the provisional pole sitter on Friday. Fittipaldi ended the session fourth fast and da Matta sixth fast although each will start one position lower due to Fernandez having a guaranteed front row start. The session was run under blue skies and extremely warm conditions.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "These qualifying sessions are a toss of the coin. We knew about it. You just have to have your stuff geared up and ready to go and hope you time it (your run) perfectly. (On the lap when Fernandez caused the red:) I was quicker on that lap up to the middle of the track. I don't know if I could have beat Bruno's time but I was quicker up until half way around when the red came out and I had to slow down. The track looked better at the beginning of the session. If I regret something, I regret that we waited too long. This morning the more rubber that was on the track, the slower we went. (On keeping the engine cool:) We will try to open all of the holes - the radiator ducting - to make more airflow to help keep the engine cool. Let's hope and pray that the car doesn't overheat and that the brakes stay cool. It's going to be a survival race. There is plenty of room for passing so the fans are going to see a pretty interesting race."
· NOTES: Was second fastest in provisional qualifying yesterday. Although he has yet to race at this high altitude, he received private instruction prior to the IronMan Training Camp in Boulder in 1999. Will be his first Champ car race here. He is currently 5th place in the point standings, 62 points back from leader and teammate Cristiano da Matta.
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "What worked in the morning session wasn't working in qualifying. We didn't have a very good car this afternoon. Something happened between the morning practice and qualifying that we don't understand yet. We are about one-half of a second slower than (pole sitter) Bruno so we're going to have to find out why. The balance was okay but we just didn't have any grip. The race is going to be wild because of the lack of grip so it was important to start as far forward as possible. We need to stay out of trouble tomorrow, take care of the equipment and score some points."
· NOTES: Lowest starting position since starting in seventh place at Milwaukee race in June. He has won EIGHT of past 15 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999). Led 30 laps in Long Beach and built a strong lead before a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win. Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., and Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after he lead the first 19 laps from pole but retired with mechanical failure. Led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race. Was in second in Mid-Ohio when he slid off-course and ultimately finished 13th. His win two races ago in Elkhart Lake was his eighth in 14 races. Will be his first event at the track. He is currently leading the standings with a total of 161 points.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The 30 minute morning warm-up will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the Shell Grand Prix of Denver beginning at 1 p.m. local time. SPEED Channel will televise the race live.