CHAMPCAR/CART: Fittipaldi, da Matta Mid-Ohio race report

Lexington, Ohio --- August 12, 2001 - Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi came to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to attempt to better his third place finish in 2000 but was unable to do so and finished eight. After running the fourth fastest lap on...

Lexington, Ohio --- August 12, 2001 - Kmart driver Christian Fittipaldi came to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to attempt to better his third place finish in 2000 but was unable to do so and finished eight. After running the fourth fastest lap on Friday, Fittipaldi and his Kmart team failed to improve and settled for a ninth place qualifying position for the 83-lap Miller Lite 200. In the race, Fittipaldi held ninth place on the 2.258-mile, physically demanding road course and conserved as much fuel as possible until the field began making their first pit stops and moved up into seventh place on lap 29 before pitting on the following lap. He lost one position in the pits to Bruno Junqueira but regained ninth place by lap 35 after Jimmy Vasser retired due to contact with Michel Jourdain.

He held the position until his second stop on lap 54 under caution to remove the car of Adrian Fernandez, who lost control of his car and slide through the sand and into the tire wall. The Kmart team completed a quick stop and Fittipaldi gained one position but returned to the race in ninth place because current race leader, Oriol Servia, was out of pit sequence and would have to make one more stop. He held ninth placed until he was passed by Alex Tagliani on lap 64. On lap 67, he moved into eighth place when Servia pitted. On lap 74, a caution flag came out to move the stalled car of Tora Takagi into a safe location. While under caution and seconds from the restart on lap 76, Fittipaldi was passed for position by Alex Zanardi.

In the ensuing laps, CART consulted their observers and confirmed that Zanardi did pass during the caution and relayed to his team that he needed to give the position back before he crossed the start/finish line. As his radio was reported to be malfunctioning, the team was instructed to notify him somehow or he would be penalized. He was black-flagged on lap 71 with two laps to go. He allowed Fittipaldi to regain his position and dropped back in the running order as CART stopped scoring him after he failed to come into the pits to serve his drive through, black flag penalty. Fittipaldi took the checkered flag in eighth place and collected five points to move him up to 10th place with 54 points. He is currently 50 points back from leader Kenny Brack who failed to score any points and has 104. Following are his post race comments:

"We came here and were confident of being competitive but didn't run as well as we thought we would and we need to figure out why and improve on it so it doesn't carry over to the other races," said Fittipaldi. "Everyone on this team are winners and that is what we are here to do. We just need to get the car working a little better and finish higher and we'll all be happier. We have always run in the top four in Elkhart Lake so hopefully we can score more points next weekend than we did today but overall I am happy to leave here with five points. I was just hanging in there the whole day and hoping the race would come to us on strategy."

- Texaco/Havoline/Kmart driver Cristiano da Matta returned to the Mid-Ohio road course with high hopes of reclaiming his dominant effort earlier in the season on road courses. The team worked endlessly to improve the set-up on the Toyota-powered Lola chassis but qualified 11th for the Miller Lite 200. On the first lap, he was passed by Scott Dixon. He held 12th place until lap 18 when Roberto Moreno passed him after closing the gap and putting pressure on him for five laps. He held 13th place until the first round of pit stops began and moved up into seventh place before stretching his fuel and making his first stop on lap 31. As he was leaving his pit stall, Max Papis, who had made contact with his teammate and points leader Kenny Brack, was rolling into his pit stall and the two nearly made contact. He returned to the race in 13th place but moved into 12th when third place runner Jimmy Vasser retired after making contact while trying to pass Michel Jourdain. A few laps later he moved into 11th place on lap 37 and held the position until he made his second and final pit stop on lap 54 with the rest of the field during a caution period for Adrian Fernandez, who slid off course and across the sand into a tire wall. He gained one position in the running order by passing Bruno Junqueira and Scott Dixon in the pits. Although he was running 10th, he was in ninth of those on the same pit strategy as race leader, Oriol Servia had to make another stop. He held 10th place overall until lap 62 when Alex Tagliani passed him. On lap 67, race leader Oriol Servia made his second stop out of sequence and da Matta moved into 10th place which he held until lap 73 when Alex Zanardi passed him in Turn 3. He held 11th place until lap 76 when Oriol Servia passed him on the race restart from the caution to remove the stalled car of Tora Takagi who went off course. He was only in 12th place for one lap before moving into 11th when previous fourth place runner Dario Franchitti lost control of his car on the restart and dropped back to 17th place. On lap 81, he moved into 10th place after Alex Zanardi, who passed teammate Fittipaldi under caution prior to a restart, failed to pit after being black flagged and was not being scored by CART for his laps. Da Matta took the checkered flag after completing 83 laps and collected three points for his finish. He moved up to sixth place in the CART point standings with a total of 70 points and is tied with Scott Dixon.

Because both drivers have won races in 2001, the tiebreaker is the driver with the second highest finish, which is da Matta's second place in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Da Matta is only 34 points back from leader Kenny Brack, who has 104 and failed to score points after making contact with his teammate Max Papis. Following are his post-race comments:

"On the last restart, (Oriol) Servia got a run on me on the restart and when everyone was braking in front of me in the turn and getting bottled up, he got passed," said da Matta. "We weren't very good under braking today. We thought we would run much better here since we are back to road courses but we were able to come away with a few points. We'll keep working hard and try to discover something to regain our position at the front on road and street courses. There are eight races remaining and five of those are on road and street courses. The championship is very competitive and no one is going to take a break. The team has run well at Elkhart Lake in the past and we hope to be competitive again this year. Everyone is catching up to Kenny and there are a number of guys still in it for the Championship. I'm not thinking Championship anymore though. A top three or top-five finish would be good. I'm thinking more about working on the car set-ups and winning some races. Once we can do that the rest will take care of itself."

- Looking Forward to Elkhart Lake: The FedEx Championship Series will race at the scenic Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. Fittipaldi is looking forward to returning to the venue where he has never ran lower than fourth place as well as the track being the site of his first CART victory when he won the Texaco/Havoline 200 in 1999.

-MHR

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain