CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Newman/Haas Friday qualifying report

Lilly driver Fittipaldi fastest until final seconds in provisional qualifying for the Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante CART season finale and set second fastest time; Havoline driver da Matta tenth. Fittipaldi held the fastest time through the final...

Lilly driver Fittipaldi fastest until final seconds in provisional qualifying for the Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante CART season finale and set second fastest time; Havoline driver da Matta tenth.

Fittipaldi held the fastest time through the final half of the provisional qualifying session and until the final few seconds when Bruno Junqueira ran a lap time that was one-tenth of a second quicker.  The session ran in cloudy conditions with the threat of rain although light sprinkles were the only hindrance.  By setting the fastest lap in provisional qualifying, Junqueira is guaranteed a front row starting position.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:  "I was in the pits watching everyone try to beat my time and said 'That was it.  My lap was all I could get out of the car so if someone comes along and goes faster, they beat me fair and square.'  Then Bruno kicked my butt with his last lap.  Of course it would have been nice to be fastest and be guaranteed a front row start.  At least we are in a better position if it rains tomorrow.  We only ran old tires in the morning practice so I knew there was more in the car for qualifying.  Because of the chance of rain, we went out early.  Maybe it was a little too early but you can't take that big of a chance.  We are 20-30 percent down on downforce due to the altitude so we suffer a bit but the surface is very grippy.  The track is awesome.  I really like the back part of the track.  This is one of the two best tracks we race on.  This track and Road America.  It's good to run on this type of track for my last race in CART.  The track is great.  It's like were on a huge vacation here and we are really enjoying ourselves.  I think it will be a great race and the fans are going to see a lot of passing.  I was here in 1992 for the Formula One race and the track is not as bumpy as it was then.  The Mexicans have done a good job here.  What they added in the stadium is really nice and when it is packed with fans on Sunday it will be even nicer."

· NOTES: Raced here in the 1992 Formula One event. He is currently in 5th place in the point standings and could finish as high as fourth.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:   "I was on a fast lap and was only 50 meters from completing it when the red flag came out.  I was so far on my lap that I didn't even see the red flag.  I ran a 26.6 which would have been good enough for fourth quick which might be very important if it rains tomorrow.  I wasn't very happy with the car this afternoon.  This morning I was a lot happier with the car but we made some changes and I think we went backwards in qualifying.  It was just a bad session.  Probably this morning (electronic problem) set me back.  I only ran six laps at speed and that probably caused me to have a lot less experience on this track.  I think we should have done better.  Even if we were fourth there was still quite a long ways to go. I think I can still improve on my time.  I ran one lap, got in traffic on the next, ran one lap, and got in traffic again.  The track is very good. The track is by far the best one we go to all season.  I think for the drivers it will be the most fun we have all season.  For me it is perfect.  I couldn't ask for more.  I have really enjoyed myself in CART.  I have many friends here, have scored many wins and have earned some good results.  On top of everything is the fact that I feel I have learned a lot."

· NOTES: Has had nine front row starts this season.  He has won NINE of past 20 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999).  Led 30 laps in Long Beach before a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win.  Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after he lead the first 19 laps from pole but retired with mechanical failure.  Led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race.  Was in second in Mid-Ohio when he slid off-course and ultimately finished 13th.  He won in Elkhart Lake and his Miami win was his ninth in 18 events. Led all racing laps in Australia but finished 8th in a race dictated by rain.  Was about to resume the lead in The 500 before his engine failed with 14 laps to go in the 500-mile race.  He clinched the 2002 CART FedEx Championship in Round 16 of 19 in Miami after winning the event and building an insurmountable lead of 69 points over second place with 68 points maximum left in the season.  Is hoping to MATCH the record for most wins in a season at eight set by Michael Andretti (and Newman/Haas) in 1991 (in his eighth season) and Al Unser Jr. in 1994 (12th season).

THE THREE AMIGOS: Fittipaldi, da Matta and fellow Brazilian and friend Tony Kanaan are all sporting similar helmet designs this weekend in commemoration of their final race together.  Each of the drivers have their own helmet design on the front of their helmets with the other two on the back.  Da Matta's brothers Felipe and Gustavo designed and painted the helmets.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning practice session will take place from 10:00-11:15 AM CT which will be followed by final qualifying from 1:45-2:45 PM CT.  SPEED Channel will televise qualifying on a tape delay bases.

-nhr-

Kathi Lauterbach Director of PR Newman/Haas Racing 317-297-8064 office 317-297-8065 fax

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan