CHAMPCAR/CART: IRL: Toyota open-wheel notebook 2002-10-15

TOYOTA POWERS DA MATTA TO CART TITLE Long-time Toyota pilot Cristiano da Matta won his seventh race of the season in Miami on Oct. 6, clinching the 2002 CART Driver's Championship in the process. Da Matta is the first Toyota-powered driver to win...

TOYOTA POWERS DA MATTA TO CART TITLE Long-time Toyota pilot Cristiano da Matta won his seventh race of the season in Miami on Oct. 6, clinching the 2002 CART Driver's Championship in the process. Da Matta is the first Toyota-powered driver to win the title.

TOYOTA/DA MATTA LONG-LASTING RELATIONSHIP COMBINES FOR TITLE Having started more Champ Car races (76) with Toyota power than any other driver, it would seem appropriate that Cristiano da Matta would become the first Toyota driver to win a major open-wheel championship. The partnership dates back to da Matta's rookie Champ Car season in 1999 and has progressed hand-in-hand ever since.

In his very first Champ Car start, da Matta established a new Toyota-best in qualifying. Three races later, he established a new best finishing position. A year later, the Brazilian won his first Champ Car race at Chicago. After switching to Newman/Haas in 2001, he became the highest-finishing Toyota driver ever by placing fifth overall and matched Juan Montoya's mark for most wins in a season with three. With consecutive wins to close out the 2001 campaign, the stage was set for a da Matta/Toyota championship in 2002, and da Matta hasn't disappointed with seven wins, 10 podium finishes and six poles in 2002 through the season's first 16 races.

Cristiano da Matta "I've grown up with the Toyota engine since 1999. In 2001, when I joined Newman/Haas, I felt like I was ready to fight for the championship. Certainly Toyota felt the same way. It was just a matter of consistency. I probably made some mistakes last year. But I think the biggest thing was last year, Lola wasn't the best car to have. They made huge progress on the car between last season and this season. This year, the Toyota/Lola was definitely the best package, the most consistent combination. It's just a happy feeling. It was like the fruit of my work with Toyota and Newman/Haas. It was just everybody's hard work together. We got ourselves to a level this year, a level of consistency, a level of speed, everything - that nobody could match."

TOYOTA RECORDS SIXTH ONE-TWO IN 2002 Toyota earned its sixth one-two finish of the season at Miami when Newman/Haas teammates Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi placed first and second on the South Florida streets. In addition, Toyota has registered three of the four podium sweeps in CART this season.

TOYOTA EXTENDS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD With its one-two at Miami, Toyota has extended its CART Manufacturer's Championship lead to 46 points over Honda (287-241) with just three races remaining. Ford is 81 points behind and has been eliminated from the championship race with three races remaining. Toyota needs a total of 20 points, or a sixth-place finish or better in each of the season's final three races to clinch the 2002 Manufacturer's Championship.

TOYOTA NOTCHES RECORD NINTH 2002 WIN With nine wins in the season's first 16 races, Toyota has established a new program record for victories in a season. In addition, the manufacturer closed out the 2001 campaign with wins at Australia and Fontana to give Toyota 11 wins in the last 18 Champ Car events. Those victories have included every type of CART track, with street-circuit wins at Australia, Toronto, Denver and Miami; permanent road-course victories at Mexico, Laguna Seca, Portland and Road America; a short oval win at Chicago; and victories at the 200+ mph super speedways in Fontana and Motegi.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING In addition to the Manufacturer's Championship points lead, Toyota also leads all manufacturers in victories (nine), poles (10), front-row starts (16), laps led (1045 51%), road-course points (215) and oval-track points (72 - tied). Toyota-powered drivers Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Junqueira are first and second in the CART Drivers Championship.

DA MATTA ON TOP OF THE CHARTS With his seventh win and 10th podium finish of the season this past weekend in Miami, series champion Cristiano da Matta currently leads the series in points (212), wins (7), top-three podium finishes (10), laps led (584), pole positions (6), front-row starting spots (8) and road-course points (173).

DA MATTA'S PLACE IN HISTORY With seven victories, Cristiano da Matta is just one shy of tying the all-time CART single-season record for wins in a season of eight currently held by Al Unser Jr. (1994) and Michael Andretti (1991). His seven victories makes him one of just five drivers to win that many in a season, joining Unser, Andretti, Juan Montoya (1999) and Alex Zanardi (1998). With two wins to closeout last season, da Matta has now won nine of the last 18 CART races.

Da Matta also is in position to earn the second-highest single-season points total in CART history. With three races remaining, da Matta needs 23 more points to surpass Michael Andretti's 1991 total of 234 to earn the second-highest single season mark ever. The Brazilian can move into third by scoring 14 points to pass Unser's mark of 225 set in 1994. Alex Zanardi holds the all-time record of 285 points scored in 1998.

TOYOTA DRIVERS LOOK FOR 1-2-3 FINISH With Cristiano da Matta clinching the championship at Miami, the points fight now turns to a battle for the second and third positions. Target Toyota driver Bruno Junqueira currently sits second with 143 points and can clinch the spot by scoring 55 points in the season's final three races. In addition, Christian Fittipaldi is just 15 points out of third-place in his attempt to make it a Toyota 1-2-3 finish in the Driver's Championship. He is currently in fifth-place, one point out of fourth. All three drivers are on place for career-best finishes.

TOYOTA COMPLETES SUCCESSFUL FIRST INDY TEST With veteran Gil de Ferran behind the wheel of a Marlboro Team Penske-prepared Toyota Dallara, Toyota's Indy V8 IRL engine ran approximately 450 miles over two days at Toyota's first test at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week. De Ferran returned to the cockpit for the first time since an injury at Chicago sidelined him for the IRL season finale.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , HART