Da Matta on top at CART sneak preview Leads all four practice/test sessions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Cristiano da Matta wasted no time in picking up from last November, when he successfully captured the final two 2001 CART FedEx Championship...
Da Matta on top at CART sneak preview
Leads all four practice/test sessions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Cristiano da Matta wasted no time in picking up from last November, when he successfully captured the final two 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series races, elevating himself to fifth in the final standings and becoming a CART All-Star in the process. This week the young Brazilian, starting his second season in the #6 Havoline Lola/Toyota of Newman-Haas Racing, led all four Sneak Preview test sessions held February 9-10 on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca's 2.238-mile road course.
"The new Lola is improved from last year," da Matta acknowledged throughout the weekend. "There are gains in traction and in braking. At the end of the day, racing is all about grip and I am very, very optimistic about this season." This test was very important for his team, da Matta noted. "We had a big list to try and we did pretty well with that list." He had intended to work on speed in the final session, but numerous red flags put that idea to rest. Da Matta's top Sunday speed made him the only driver to break the 69-second barrier, turning 68.981 seconds (116.797mph).
In all, six of Lola Cars' 12 drivers were in the top ten for the meeting, out of 19 drivers at the open test. Bruno Junqueira, starting his second season in the #4 Team Target Lola/Toyota, placed fourth overall and was third in the final session, at 69.633sec/115.704mph. Oriol Servia logged the fifth best speed in his first run in PacWest Racing Group's #17 Lola/Toyota.
Christian Fittipaldi in the 11 Lola/Toyota was 7th, Scott Dixon in PacWest's #7 Lola/Toyota was 8th, and Kenny Brack, in the #12 Team Target Lola/Toyota was tenth for the two-day affair. Twelve drivers tested within one second.
New Lola runners Fernandez Racing had a difficult two days of testing, as they tried to find harmony in their Lola/Honda package. During the weekend, Adrian Fernandez struggled with different problems in his #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex machine that kept him off the track. "It was a tough weekend, but it's early and we have another test coming up next week at Homestead," the Mexican said. Teammate Shinji Nakano had driveshaft troubles that limited his time in the #52 Alpine/Mitsuba Lola. Rookie Mario Dominguez' first open test in the #16 Herdez Lola/Ford was difficult, as well. He caused a red flag in Sunday morning practice and had to use his backup in the afternoon.
Michel Jourdain turned his first laps in the #9 Gigante Lola/Ford as he and teammate Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Lola/Ford) accomplished many items on their Team Rahal "to do" list.
Da Matta, overall, was the star of this Champ Car show. "I think there are many guys who can be pointed out as favorites (for the title) and I think I am one of them."