Da Matta, De Ferran, Delight Throng Of 110,187 At Honda Indy 300 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...
Da Matta, De Ferran, Delight Throng Of 110,187 At Honda Indy 300
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 (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota/Lola)---winner before 118,000 fans in the season-opening event at Monterrey, Mexico, in March---earned his second victory of the campaign before an appreciative crowd of 110,187 Sunday. 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.
De Ferran (Marlboro Honda/Reynard), 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 (1997-98) as back-to-back CART champions.
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.
Da Matta became the 11th different winner in as many CART events contested in Australia, dating to 1991. He averaged a race-record 97.511 miles per hour en route to his victory, shattering the 91.849 mph averaged by Dario Franchitti en route to the 1999 checkered flag here.
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 (Motorola Honda/Reynard), 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 (Marlboro Honda/Reynard) of Marlboro Team Penske, at 141 points each.
Third place went to Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard) 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.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
CRISTIANO da MATTA, Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota/Lola: "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. 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. To win in Australia is good because we come here so early, and you get to make friends and go out to dinner and those sorts of things. I've been here since Friday [last week] and you just start to enjoy it so much. They really enjoy our racing. It's a very special taste."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI, Motorola Honda/Reynard: "It was a pretty good day. It was a pretty quiet day, but we got pretty lucky before that first yellow. A lot of guys got caught when they closed the pits, but that helped us a little bit. On our second stop, we made up some ground on some guys, and I was able to pass Roberto [Moreno] and [Alex] Tagliani. I was starting to run Cristiano down, but then they came on the radio and told me that I had to start saving fuel. I was a little disappointed, but I'm pretty happy with second. The Honda engine ran great, the Firestone tires were great, and I'm really happy to do it here for [Team Motorola owners] Barry and Kim [Green]. I also must congratulate Gil [de Ferran]. He did a great job all year."
ALEX TAGLIANI, Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard: "I'm pretty pleased. The Player's team has been really strong. We've qualified in the top five in many street and road course races. Vancouver was ours, but we had a gearbox problem. At the start of this race we did a lot of battling with Michael. Toward the end, I was being held up by Gil and Paul [Tracy], but then [Player's/Forsythe Racing Vice President of Operations] Neil Micklewright came on the radio and said, 'You need to pass Gil.' I didn't want to screw up his championship, but I passed him clean at the end of the back straightaway. I was starting to catch Michael but I ran out of time."
GIL de FERRAN, Marlboro Team Penske: "I guess it hasn't completely sunk in yet. 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."
** Cristiano da Matta's (Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Toyota/Lola) victory was the third of his CART career, the others having come at Chicago last year and Monterrey, Mexico this season. He logged his fourth podium finish of the season, including second at Long Beach and third at England, in addition to his two victories.
** Cristiano da Matta's victory was the fifth of the season for Toyota, as well as the ninth of the season for Lola. It was Toyota's second win in the past three street-course events, including a victory by Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota/Reynard) at Vancouver last month.
** Michael Andretti's (Motorola Honda/Reynard) runner-up finish was the 94th podium result of his career, in his CART-record 289th start. It was his fifth podium finish of the season, including a triumph at Toronto, which added to his CART career-record 41 victories, runner-up finishes at Milwaukee and Road America and third at Vancouver.
** Alex Tagliani (Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard) finished third to score championship points for the first time in six events, dating to an eighth-place finish at Road America. It was his second podium result of the season, topped only by a career-best runner-up finish at Toronto.
** Native New Zealander Scott Dixon (Nextel Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota/Reynard) of the PacWest Racing Group finished 15th and scoreless Sunday, but clinched the $50,000 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year Award in the process. With a 98-56 championship points lead over Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota/Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon holds an insurmountable advantage with a maximum of 22 points available in the championship. Dixon has built his rookie title on six top-five finishes to date, including a victory at Nazareth, which made him, at age 20 years, nine months and 14 days, the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel event.
** By leading the first 21 laps of Sunday's event, Gil de Ferran moved into sole possession of 13th-place on the CART career laps led list with 1,283. He passed Al Unser, who led 1,282 laps during his career. Bobby Unser, Al's brother, stands 12th on CART's career laps led list, with 1,298.
** Sunday's attendance of 110,187 brought the four-day total for the 2001 Honda Indy 300 to 286,610, an increase of 16,720 over last year's four-day total of 269,890.
** Michel Jourdain Jr. (Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola) and Roberto Moreno (Visteon Toyota/Reynard) made their 100th CART career starts Sunday, finishing seventh and 22nd, respectively. Jourdain's finish equaled a career best in four starts at Australia, established last year, while Moreno led a race-high 24 laps from the pole position before bowing out due to mechanical difficulties after completing 54 of 65 laps.
** Pit crews for the Marlboro Team Penske cars driven by Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Honda/Reynard); the Team Rahal car driven by Kenny Brack (Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola) and the Sigma Autosport car driven by Oriol Servia (Sigma Autosport Ford-Cosworth/Lola) joined the crew for the PacWest Racing Group car driven by Mauricio Gugelmin (Nextel PacWest Toyota/Reynard) in qualifying for the $50,000 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shoot Out, to be held next Saturday, November 3, following qualifying for the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota at California Speedway. Now in its third season, the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge was instituted in 1999 to recognize the efforts of the mechanics who build, maintain and service the race cars. Champ Car teams competed all year, scoring points according to the same scale used to score FedEx Championship Series drivers, but based on least time spent in the pits at each CART event. The top four teams at the conclusion of Sunday's Honda Indy 300 qualified for the season-ending Shoot Out, while Gugelmin's crew earned its wildcard berth by spending the least time in the pits during the July 22 Harrah's 500 Presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway.
De Ferran's crew finished the season with 151 points, followed by the crew for Castroneves, with 140. Brack's and Servia's crews rounded out the top four finishers, with 119 and 112 points, respectively. The shootout will consist of two timed pit stops per entrant, with the fastest time claiming the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Trophy and $50,000 in cash. The Team KOOL Green crew of Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda/Reynard) is the two-time defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champion.
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.