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

Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start second for the Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante CART season finale; Havoline driver da Matta to start 12th. OVERALL: The red flag was shown four times during the 35 minute final qualifying session (30 minutes...

Lilly driver Fittipaldi to start second for the Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante CART season finale; Havoline driver da Matta to start 12th.

OVERALL: The red flag was shown four times during the 35 minute final qualifying session (30 minutes guaranteed green time) today which hindered drivers' attempts to get into a rhythm or complete consistent fast laps and thus better their times from Friday.   Most drivers agreed that the track provided even less grip than Friday and the result was the inability to improve their lap times from Friday's provisional qualifying session.  The basic reduction of grip is attributed to the high altitude of Mexico City and the further reduction could be a result of warmer temperatures as well as overnight rains that washed some of the rubber away.   Jimmy Vasser, Tora Takagi, Dario Franchitti and Cristiano da Matta lost their fastest lap times of the day after each of them caused the red flag to be shown.  Christian Fittipaldi matched his best qualifying effort of the season of second place at Mid-Ohio while a potential fourth place start for Cristiano da Matta was negated by a red flag for another driver in Friday's qualifying session and he will start 12th, his worst qualifying effort since mid-2001.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:  "Qualifying wasn't that big of an effort today because of all of the red flags that stopped the session.  I'm pretty happy to be starting in the front row but unfortunately things didn't go as planned and I didn't get to go for pole position.  I was really happy with the car this morning.  I thought when it came down to the time to qualify, we had a good shot at it.  Unfortunately it didn't go as planned and I didn't get to try for it.  Things happened in the session that I didn't understand which added to the frustration.  Like when the green flags came out after the red flags.  No one was able to get into a rhythm and put any laps together.  I will drive my very best to finish as good as possible tomorrow since I'm not going to be in CART next year.  I hope everyone can be civilized going into the first turn.  There are a lot of guys that are going to be pushing as hard as they can because it's the last race.  I'm sure it's going to be a fun race to drive and to watch."

· 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:   "When we lost our 26.6 lap time on Friday because of Michel's red flag, I hoped it wouldn't rain today so we could try to set a better time.  Then the track was slower today and all of the red flags kept us from trying to better our time.  Losing our 26.6 and fourth place (from Friday) hurt us again today.  The red flag I caused today wouldn't have even changed that. Fourth place is much better than twelfth.  On my first run I wasn't very happy but the track got a lot worse.  There was a lot less grip.  Then on my second set of tires I never got a run because of all of the red flags.  I don't think we are in good shape but the qualifying sessions didn't help us either.  We wanted to end the season up front in every session but instead this is our worst qualifying.  I spun and brought out the red then lost my fastest lap of the day and we were one of the few to go faster.  It dropped me two spots.  The race should be fun and there are places to pass but the field is so competitive that it is more difficult.  We will have to not only pick up positions on track but also in the pit stops.  The Havoline crew has done it many times this year and hopefully tomorrow will not be an exception."

· 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).

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning warm-up will take place from 10:00-10:30 AM CT which will be followed by the Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante CART season-finale at 3 p.m. CT.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Tora Takagi , Cristiano da Matta