Cristiano da Matta: Fundidora, Best CART Circuit Tecate-Telmex Grand Prix 2001 winner, Cristiano da Matta from Newman/Hass Racing visited Fundidora Park circuit in Monterrey this week. This young driver from Minais Gerais came to recognize the...
Cristiano da Matta: Fundidora, Best CART Circuit
Tecate-Telmex Grand Prix 2001 winner, Cristiano da Matta from Newman/Hass Racing visited Fundidora Park circuit in Monterrey this week. This young driver from Minais Gerais came to recognize the ground, notice about changes made to track and be prepared to defend his crown conquered at the 2001 inaugural date. Cristiano was interviewed by reporters, went around the circuit accompanied by journalists and rode a mountain bike -one of his favorite hobbies- to go over part of the course making spectacular jumps over the new "rumble strips" placed on the slow turns. He also went up to winners podium, reminiscing about his last year victory and ended with an autograph session in a music store in a shopping mall, before going to the airport to take a plane to his native Belo Horizonte, to relax before starting the 2002 season.
In the course of his long press conference (almost one hour) held before local media, Cristiano talked a little about everything and among the topics mentioned, the brazilian "miner" said Indy Lights will be missed since its cars "were a good CART training, powerful and difficult to drive, 450 hp. Now Atlantic Formula cars are 250 hp and personally I think it is a big step going from that to CART with 800 hp. This will be interesting as some Indy Lights teams went to Atlantic and improved its competitiveness". The driver also commented about his 2002 expectations: "I am 100% focused on my objective, the CART championship. We have good opportunities, I believe I am one out of six drivers with good possibilities". Then he spoke about his country drivers, who won two Nations Cups consecutively: "This year we have 4 drivers less (Helio, Gil, Moreno and Gugelmin) but I hope to represent my country as well as the others in the past years. When on the track, nationality does not come into play, I do not distinguish drivers I pass, whether Brazilians or not. Gil (de Ferran) leaving to IRL is a shame because, one, as a driver, always want to win when the champion defends his title, but I think neither him nor Helio (Castro Neves) are happy, as there is no comparison between IRL and CART, that series is at the Indy Lights level. However, CART also loses because they are a couple of excellent drivers".
Cristiano, strong favorite among CART 2002 title candidates, also talked about the track, Monterrey and the new rules: "I could see the track in the morning, its changes. A lot of improvements, such as rumble strips placed on turns to prevent drivers cutting across the grass, and everything is now ready for the race. This circuit is one of the best ones, with a very smooth pavement, very nice and in a beautiful place. It is better than any track in the USA and only in its second year therefore more things can be made (in the future). I think its level is close to Formula 1....... Monterrey fans, I am sure, are among the best ones. They know what happens, what do you do as driver, understand about competition and I am feeling very honored to arrive to a place where people talk about me and enjoy what am I doing. I like it very much......Concerning rules changes, for 2002 I think more important than scoring on Friday, is the fact that all of us will be into one group to qualify. Friday qualifying is going to make the show more exciting for the fans, because in the past we focused on setup and testing changes for the race. But I like to be qualifying in one group, not in two groups as the last year. It is more fair and exciting for the fans, and increases competitiveness -which is very high in CART- although I hope not so much because I want to win many races".
Finally, Cristiano also talked about the mexican drivers running in CART and evaluated their possibilities:
Michel Jourdain: "Is who I contact more, he's got a great opportunity running with the winningest racing 2001 team. For the first time Michel has a winning opportunity to make the job with a good team behind him all the season. Maybe he will have difficulties in the beginning because he is integrating to Team Rahal, but from mid-season on he should be fighting against the best ones".
Mario Dom?nguez: "I ran with him in Indy Lights in 1998 and he is good, but he has more to do than Michel because only 10 testing days are allowed for new drivers in pre-season and the learning phase is longer for them. He is a good driver and will become better by learning".
Adri?n Fern?ndez: "He has made many changes in his team and should improve what he got last year when starting as team owner. He is a good driver, always a dangerous competitor".