CHAMPCAR/CART: Lola Cars Fontana race report

Da Matta gives Lola 10th Champ Car win. Papis second in emotional Team Rahal farewell. Cristiano da Matta played the fuel game to perfection today, winning the $1 million prize for victory in CART's season-ending Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota.

Da Matta gives Lola 10th Champ Car win.
Papis second in emotional Team Rahal farewell.

Cristiano da Matta played the fuel game to perfection today, winning the $1 million prize for victory in CART's season-ending Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota. When his #6 Texaco/Havoline/Kmart Lola/Toyota crossed the stripe first, da Matta earned Lola Cars its tenth victory of the 2001 season. Max Papis was second in his final ride for the #7 Miller Lite Lola/Ford Team Rahal squad, while polesitter Alex Tagliani was third.

The scheduled 250-lap contest was shortened to 220 tours of the 2.029-mile California Speedway oval for several reasons. Morning showers necessitated a one-hour delay for the start. Nearly 55 laps were run under caution and, finally, daylight began to fade as the laps wound down on a crisp, partly sunny day. Track temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, while ambient temps were about 10 degrees cooler.

"My car was so comfortable that it was natural to run up front today," said da Matta, who took fifth place in the championship. This was da Matta's second consecutive victory, his third of the season and fourth of his career. He has won on every type of circuit where Champ Cars compete: the natural Fundidora Park road course, Chicago Motor Speedway's mile oval, and the streets of Surfers Paradise and today on a superspeedway.

Da Matta knew he had a good car. "Ever since Friday, I could go high or low on the track here. My car was good from the moment we unloaded," he noted. "I was somewhat worried because we were running in tight packs, but I knew I could go flat all day long. The most important thing was to use my head and with the support I get from Newman-Haas Racing in the pits, I could do that."

Papis' second place finish came with some controversy, as the race ended under yellow when rookie Scott Dixon hit the turn 4 wall with only five laps remaining. Papis lauded both da Matta and Tagliani for "some very clean and good racing. The team has done a beautiful job all year long despite [all] the circumstances. I feel that I gave it my heart all race long. We tuned the car and it was right where we wanted it to be."

Lola Cars designer Ben Bowlby, on hand for the final race of the CART season, had a few words to say about Lola's tenth win before flying back to England. "If you consider how modified some of the Reynard cars are, particularly the Penskes, we've won twice as many races as anyone else with one-third of the grid. That's substantial!"

-LC-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Scott Dixon , Cristiano da Matta