Eli Lilly and Company driver Fittipaldi to start fourth despite setting fastest overall time in qualifying while Havoline driver da Matta to start fifth despite setting fastest time in both morning sessions - rain hindered attempt to set faster...
Eli Lilly and Company driver Fittipaldi to start fourth despite setting fastest overall time in qualifying while Havoline driver da Matta to start fifth despite setting fastest time in both morning sessions - rain hindered attempt to set faster time today
POLE: Adrian Fernandez 1:18.929
4th Christian Fittipaldi 1:19.270 (disallowed lap - 1:18.824 / 96.093 mph)
5th Cristiano da Matta 1:19.275
SESSION NOTES: Intermittent sprinkles began falling 30 minutes prior to the start of the 1:45-2:45 PM local time session and continued throughout the session thus rendering attempts to set faster lap times impossible. Adrian Fernandez earned one point for setting the fastest lap time in the wet session while Fittipaldi and team elected not to risk an accident on the slick track. Da Matta and team ran one lap in the final five minutes of the session to make an installation check before another red flag was brought out for a car that spun and stalled.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Eli Lilly and Company Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:
"We had a shot at the pole yesterday but a mistake kept the lap from being counted. Both Newman/Haas cars had a shot at the pole today so it is disappointing not to be able to have a fair shot at showing our potential. A win is possible if you start in the top six and we are so we are still optimistic although starting further up front was definitely possible if it didn't rain. No matter whether it is wet or dry, it is slippery out there. We know we have a good car. I enjoy driving in the rain so if it is wet we will deal with the situation in the best way possible. Usually the only time I prefer the rain though is when the car isn't that good but it is so I hope it is dry for the race. I'm ready to start the season on a positive note and am looking forward to the race. The car is good and the team is ready."
· NOTES: Ran the fastest lap time in provisional qualifying (1:18.824 / 96.093 mph) on Friday but the time was disallowed because he caused a red flag situation in the session so he was relegated to fourth place based on his second fastest lap time. Rain in Saturday's final qualifying session prevented faster lap times. Started 16th and finished 20th in the inaugural event in 2001 after running on a part of the track that was breaking up and subsequently losing traction and hitting the concrete barrier. Will work with a new race engineer, Craig Hampson, 32, a nine-year veteran of the team who was promoted from asst. engineer to da Matta.
CRAIG HAMPSON, Race Engineer for the #11 Eli Lilly and Company car:
"On Friday I said we had a shot at the pole if it didn't rain today but unfortunately it did rain so we weren't able to set the fastest time again. We know the car is good and didn't want to run the risk of running in the rain for one point so we used a conservative approach. Winning the race is the goal and a fourth place start is the first step toward that goal."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:
"If I had a better qualifying spot it would be easier to win but I think we are still one of the contenders. Passing will be difficult but we have a very fast car. With the new rules we have more options to pick up some positions with the three mandatory pit stops. The team has gotten me some positions after quick pit stops in the past so that is one way we can do some passing tomorrow. We probably have the fastest car so hopefully we can do some tricky things in the race to get ahead of everyone."
· NOTES: Led 32 laps en route to victory in his debut with the team in the inaugural event here in 2001. Will work with a new race engineer, Guillaume "Rocky" Rocquelin, 32, who begins his first season at NHR since joining the team in December of 2001. Rocquelin most recently was race engineer for Scott Dixon who was named 2001 Jim Trueman CART Rookie of the Year.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The race day warm-up will take place from 11-11:30 AM local time with the 85-lap race to begin at 3:00 PM.
WHERE TO WATCH: On-track action from the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix will be televised on the SPEED Channel Friday-Sunday, March 8-10. Saturday's qualifying session will air at 8:00 PM while race day programming will begin at 3:30. All TV times are Eastern.