Da MATTA WINS RACE AND DE FERRAN WINS CART CHAMPIONSHIP IN AUSTRALIA SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 28, 2001)---Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing drove to his second victory of the FedEx Championship Series season while Gil de...
Da MATTA WINS RACE AND DE FERRAN WINS CART CHAMPIONSHIP IN AUSTRALIA
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 28, 2001)---Cristiano da Matta of Newman/Haas Racing drove to his second victory of the FedEx Championship Series season while Gil de Ferran of Marlboro Team Penske became the fourth back-to-back champion in CART history at Sunday's Honda Indy 300 on Australia's Gold Coast.
Da Matta, winner of the season-opening event at Monterrey, Mexico, in March, earned his second victory of the campaign before an appreciative crowd. He led the final 14 laps after getting by then-leader Roberto Moreno on the 52nd of 65 laps and went on to a 5.786-second victory over Michael Andretti of Team Motorola in the 20th and penultimate round of the FedEx Championship Series championship. After the race a delighted Da Matta joked, "I'm actually pretty mad that [Tony Kanaan] hasn't been able to win a race. I have to give him a second bicycle of the season [as part of a preseason bet], but if I have to give him 20 bicycles, I'll do it. I think my performance is very related to the amount of people that are watching the race [da Matta also won before 118,000 fans at Monterrey, Mexico, in the season opener]. I'm the kind of guy who likes to show off, I guess. Coincidence or not, it's great to win a race in front of a lot of people. "
"We're still looking for our first big win in the U.S. this year, and Fontana is our last chance, plus the prize money [$1 million] is really attractive." he added. "I couldn't quite follow the pace Gil [de Ferran] and [Roberto] Moreno brought in the beginning of the race and I had to drive for mileage. I stopped on the same lap as Moreno [on the first round of pit stops], but he was able to go faster and get the same mileage. On the second stint, I was getting even better mileage, but I couldn't get close to Gil and Paul [Tracy] was behind me, but he couldn't get close to me. But then I was able to pass Moreno before the second stop. Anytime you win a race is a very good feeling."
De Ferran meanwhile, finished fourth to clinch his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title and earn the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup symbolic of that accomplishment. De Ferran joins Rick Mears (1981-82), Bobby Rahal (1986-87) and Alex Zanardi (199 7-98) as back-to-back CART champions. "I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet." Said De Ferran. " All I can think is I'm a very fortunate person to driving for a guy like Roger [Penske] and a team like we have. All I can think is how much I like these guys. To me, I've been living in a dream since I joined the team two years ago. Since I joined the team, my life has been wonderful from a personal and from a professional standpoint. I've been able to drive better and keep reaching new heights. Never in a million years did I ever think I would achieve this much success. For me to be speaking here as a two-time champion is very special. From here, I guess we'll just keep going."
De Ferran's championship was the ninth CART crown for Team Penske. He holds an insurmountable 191-163 lead over Team Rahal's Kenny Brack in the championship standings with a maximum of 22 points available in next week's season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. The podium result was da Matta's fourth of the season and his third top-six finish in the past four events, dating to a podium performance of third at Rockingham, England, last month. Andretti meanwhile, collected his fifth podium result of the season and his first since finishing third at Vancouver last month. He moved into a third-place points tie with reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske, at 141 points each. Third place went to Alex Tagliani of Player's Forsythe Racing, who ascended the podium for the second time this season and the first since a career-best runner-up performance at Toronto in July. De Ferran's fourth-place finish was his eighth top-five result in the past nine events while Brack (Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola) finished fifth, matching a season-best result on a road or street course established in the season opener at Mexico.
The 2001 FedEx Championship Series concludes with the Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, next Sunday, November 4, at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Thanks to a partnership between Marlboro, Toyota, CART and California Speedway, the event will pay $1 million to the winner, one of the richest paydays in all of motorsports. An additional $1 million, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup, will be awarded to Gil de Ferran as the FedEx Championship Series champion.