CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Newman/Haas pre-race notes, quotes


CRISTIANO da MATTA, #1 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: 

100 % WIN AVERAGE IN MEXICO: Da Matta won both Champ car events he has run in Mexico (Monterrey - 2001 & 2002).  He led 32 laps from a second place start to win the 2001 season opener in Monterrey and led 52 laps from a fifth place start to win the 2002 season-opener there.  If he wins in Mexico City, he would have started and finished each of the last two seasons with wins.  In CART history, Rick Mears (1989) is the only other driver to both open and close a season with a victory.

- CHAMP CAR STARTS: Mexico City will mark his 79th Champ car start. (40 w/PPI Mtsp. from 1999-2000; 39 with NHR).

- 2002 CHAMPION: Holds an insurmountable 73-point lead over second place in the point standings with one event to go.  Led 52 laps in route to victory in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey Mexico which was his third consecutive win in the series dating back to the final two rounds in 2001 (Australia, Fontana).   It was also his second consecutive victory in the season-opener in Mexico.  In Long Beach, he looked set to match a CART record fourth consecutive victory when he built a seven second lead after taking over the top spot for the first 30 laps before he was taken out of contention when hit departing his second of three pit stops and ultimately finished eighth after starting second.  He started 8th in Japan but mechanical failure sidelined him near the end of the race in 13th place.  Was in sixth place in Milwaukee when a fuel pressure problem forced a 10-pit stop race (instead of 3) and dropped him to an 11th place finish.  Ran in front of eventual third place finisher Max Papis. Won his first pole as well as his first win from the pole in Monterey, Calif. (6-9) after leading 82 of 87 laps. Won all 23 points available in Portland (prov. pole, pole, win, most laps led).  Earned 21 of 22 points available in Chicago (win, most laps led) to build a 25 point lead over 2nd place in the standings.  Won all 23 points in Toronto to build his lead to 48 over second place in the standings.  Won each point available on Friday and Saturday in Cleveland by setting the fastest lap times in qualifying.  Led the first 19 laps of the Cleveland race from pole and build a 2.3-second lead on second place before he suffered mechanical failure and ended his bid to earn a CART record fifth consecutive win.  Led 36 laps in Vancouver and increased his lead over second place to five seconds in his first stint before a drive shaft failure later ended a highly possible victory while leading on Lap 64 of 100.  Started third in Mid-Ohio and was in second place when he slid off course while alongside the race leader on lap 69 of 92.  Ran fastest race lap.  His 13th place finish shrunk his lead from 38 to 27 points over second place.  Won one point for the provisional pole in Road America, started second, led 22 laps and won his sixth race of 12 so far this season and increased his point lead from 27 to 42 over the weekend.  Earned one point for setting the fastest times in each of the qualifying sessions and led 35 of 80 laps but finished second after running a conservative pit stop strategy.  Finished third in Denver after starting seventh but his points lead dropped from 55 to 52 over second place.  Earned his fourth consecutive podium finish of second place in England.  Clinched the 2002 Championship with a win in Miami and led the most laps.  Led all laps under racing conditions in rainy Australia but finished 8th after the race was shortened.  Was resuming the lead in Fontana when his engine failed with 14 laps to go in the 500-mile event. 

- GOAL IS TO MATCH RECORD FOR MOST WINS IN A SEASON AT EIGHT: With his victory in Miami  (10-6), da Matta scored his ninth victory in the 18 races dating back to his win in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.  Won '01 races in Australia and Fontana and 2002 races in Monterrey, Mexico, Monterey, Calif., Portland, Ore., Chicago, Toronto and Elkhart Lake.  (Monterey, Portland, Chicago and Toronto wins earned him four consecutive victories, which matched a CART record set by Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi.)  A string of three bad races (mechanical failure while leading in Cleveland; drive shaft failure after leading 36 laps in Vancouver; off course excursion while 2nd in Mid-Ohio) shrunk his points lead although he increased it after scoring points with a win in Elkhart Lake, 2nd place in Montreal, 3rd in England and his seventh victory of the season in Miami.   With seven victories, he 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 - in his 12th full season) and Michael Andretti (1991 with NHR - in his 8th season). 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).

- CART FedEx ALL-STAR TEAM: Was nominated to the five-driver 2001 CART FedEx Championship All-Star Team. The elite group is voted on by drivers, a select group of motorsports media and fans.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: 
- IN MEXICO: Will be his inaugural Champ car race at this track although he competed in the 1992 Formula One race here in his rookie season in the series (started 17 but did not finish).  Highest Champ car start in the county of Mexico was fourth in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico.  He ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers.  His second fastest lap resulted in a fourth place start and a subsequent third place finish after running as high as second.  Started 16th and finished 20th in 2001 Monterrey race after contact.

- CHAMP CAR STARTS: Mexico City will mark his 134th Champ car start.  Of those, all but 17 have taken place with NHR.

- FIFTH IN 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP: Has SEVEN top-five finishes and NINE top-7 finishes in 18 races to date.  Has run in the TOP-THREE in 11 of 18 races this season and in the TOP-FIVE in 15 of 18 races this season.  At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, Fittipaldi ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers.  His second fastest lap resulted in a fourth place start and a subsequent third place finish after running as high as second. In Long Beach, Fittipaldi set the second fastest time in provisional qualifying but dropped to a 9th place start in final qualifying, ran as high as 3rd and retired in 13th after gearbox failure.  Team struggled at the first short oval race of the season in Japan and he finished 11th.  Team improved their short oval set up for Milwaukee where he finished fourth after leading three laps.  Drove to his best finish of second place since his victory in the '00 season-finale at the California Speedway 500-mile race in Monterey, Calif. after leading four laps.  Third fastest in prov. qualifying in Portland but failed to improve his time on Saturday and started fifth.  A mid-race collision with Paul Tracy, who attempted a pass, dropped him 10 laps down to the leader by the time he resumed racing although he ultimately retired from the race in 13th place with seven laps to go.   A probable top-six finish eluded him in Chicago after his left rear wheel came off following his second pit stop.  He finished third in Toronto.  Was running third in Cleveland but ran out of fuel before his final stop.  A third place finish would have put him second in the point standings but he fell to seventh.  Drive shaft failure ended his race in Vancouver after running ahead of eventual third place finisher Kanaan.  Earned his highest starting spot of second place since Nazareth 2000 in Mid-Ohio and finished second despite 14-second pit stop due to his airjack malfunctioning.  Pit strategy enabled him to move from his 11th place start in Elkhart Lake into a sixth place finish although a top-four was possible had the caution flags not come out or a problem on his final stop not occurred.  In Montreal, was fifth fastest in provisional qualifying but slipped to an 11th place start.  Picked up three spots on the first lap but a slow pit stop dropped him in running order and he eventually finished seventh despite late race gear problems.  Started fifth in Denver and was in third place during his final pit stop when the airjack failed for the second time in three mandatory stops thus dropping him to a fifth place finish.  Retired from England race due to mechanical failure. Second in Miami.  Looked likely to finish second in Australia but finished 11th after the race ran under caution for all but seven laps before ending early.  Finished eighth in Fontana.

CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99/71st CART start), He bettered his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 by winning the 2000 season-finale Marlboro 500. For his 2nd place finish to (eventual 1997 Formula One World Champion) Jacques Villeneuve, he was also named 1995 Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year."

· CART POLES - 1: Fittipaldi set a track record en route to his first CART pole in his homeland of Brazil on May 14, 1999.

What They're Saying About--

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: 

"I am looking forward to the race in Mexico City.  The place is going to be packed which isn't a surprise considering what we are used to in Monterrey (Mexico).  The layout is very nice from what I have seen.  I actually have an old computer game that is pretty similar except for the last turn, which has been changed.  Even though I haven't been to the track, I can already be familiar with it because of the computer game.  I have heard that the changes that the promoter made to the surface and other areas are so nice.  I'm looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes.  We have had a good car for the road courses and we hope that Mexico City will be more of the same.

"It's going to be a pretty special race for me because it will be my last with Newman/Haas Racing, at least for a while.  I don't want to think about that until after the race is over though.  Instead we are concentrating on ending the season the way we started it - with a win in Mexico!  I want to go out with a win and at least try to match the record.  Other than that, it's an important race like any other."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: 

"I think we will run well in Mexico City.  The car was very competitive on road courses and especially at Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio which are traditional road courses like the one in Mexico City.  Apart from the elevation changes, which you don't have in Mexico City, the track is a little like Mid-Ohio.  It doesn't have a lot of chicanes like in Montreal or Australia. 

On his last race with Newman/Haas Racing:

"I don't want to think about it until after the race.  I'm just going to Mexico City as if it is just another race.  It would be great to end on a high note with a win or podium finish but we'll take it one session at a time.  Will I miss open wheel racing?  Yes, of course because I have done it my whole life.   I'm starting a new phase in my life.  When I came here from Europe, are there things I missed about where I came from?  Yes, but you adapt and find a new group of things that are even better.  I have made a lot of friends at Newman/Haas Racing and have had a lot of good times in CART and there is still one more race that we can win together."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Rick Mears