CART FeDez Championship Series to be showcased at site of Canadian Grand Prix as Champ Cars make first visit to Montreal INDIANAPOLIS (August 20, 2002) - Like a distance runner saving his kick for the last lap of the 5,000-meter run, Cristiano...
CART FeDez Championship Series to be showcased at site of Canadian Grand Prix as Champ Cars make first visit to Montreal
INDIANAPOLIS (August 20, 2002) - Like a distance runner saving his kick for the last lap of the 5,000-meter run, Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) noticed the rest of the CART FedEx Championship Series pack eating into his series lead before last weekend's event in Road America, so he lengthened his stride and his advantage in the standings by rolling to his sixth win of the 2002 campaign.
Da Matta became the first driver since Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999 to win as many as six races in a season but still has work to do before he can see his name engraved on the Vanderbilt Cup, work that continues this weekend as the CART series makes its first visit to the 2.747-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for the Molson Indy Montreal.
The track, which is named for the fabled Ferrari driver and father of former CART champion Jacques Villeneuve, has been the site of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix since 1978 - a race that was won by the track's namesake-to-be. The 13-turn circuit will host the Champ Cars for the first time on the same layout that has seen legendary World Champions such as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost climb the winner's podium in the past.
The event will not be the first in the Canadian province of Quebec for the CART series as Sanair Super Speedway in St. Pie hosted the series from 1984-86 with Danny Sullivan, Pancho Carter and Bobby Rahal earning victories on the tricky tri-oval. The track will be a familiar one for a number of the current crop of CART drivers as well, both through the drivers that have F1 experience and the pilots that tasted victory there in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, which annually serves as one of the support races for the Canadian GP.
Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone), Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola Bridgestone) Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer/Denso Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) have all participated in F1 events on the island circuit which sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, with Nakano earning a career-best finish with a sixth-place run in 1997. Three members of the current lineup have walked away with victories from the circuit from their Atlantic days, including Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in 1991, Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) in 1996 and Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard Bridgestone) in 1999.
Carpentier will hope to use some of the lessons learned from his Atlantic days as he looks to stay within reach of championship leader da Matta. The winner at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio, Carpentier has scored top-10 finishes in seven of the last eight events to move into second place, as he and Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola Bridgestone) stand 42 points behind the front-running da Matta in the championship chase. Junqueira ended a string of three DNFs with a fourth at Mid-Ohio followed by a third-place effort last weekend at Road America, where he won his first-ever road-course pole in Champ Car competition.
Carpentier's Player's/Forsythe Racing teammate Tagliani is also on a roll as he has scored in a personal-best eight consecutive races. Tagliani matched his career high with a second-place run last weekend at Road America, vaulting him into a tie for sixth place in the title hunt.
Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) is hoping that a new venue will bring some new life to his title aspirations as the winner of the Molson Indy Vancouver heads to Montreal in fourth place in the standings. His climb up the ladder has been halted by four DNFs in the last five races, allowing a trio of drivers to close to within five points of him in the season ledger.
Franchitti's Team KOOL Green stablemate Paul Tracy (#26 Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) has had previous success at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, having won a Formula Ford race there in the early days of his career. Tracy will look to rebound after an unceremonious exit at Elkhart Lake, which came when he was knocked out of the race after contact with Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) after leading the first 24 laps of the event. It has been a case of podium-or-push in the last five races for Tracy who has sandwiched three DNFs around podium placings at Cleveland and Vancouver.
Two of the drivers that have been at home on the road courses this season will be looking to take advantage of CART's final true road course event before the season finale at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and will have the added boost of having turned some laps on the Montreal layout situated on the banks of the rowing basin built for the 1976 Olympic Games. Andretti and Fittipaldi have each run in the Canadian GP and are third and fourth respectively in CART road course points this season. Fittipaldi has earned four podiums on road courses this season and has parlayed them into the fifth spot in the points while CART's all-time victory leader Andretti extended his Champ Car record of seasons with at least one win to 15 when he took the checkers at Long Beach this year.
The race will also be a chance to keep momentum going for a pair of drivers that have not had the best of racing luck this season. Tony Kanaan (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) climbed 14 spots last weekend to finish fourth at Road America, giving the former Dayton Indy Lights champion two top-four finishes in the last three events and moving him to 13th in the points chase. Team Rahal veteran Vasser also had a promising Road America weekend, earning his first top-five finish since he finished second after winning the pole at Long Beach in the season's second race.
The festivities will get underway with a Friday practice session, followed by provisional qualifying at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The final grid will be set on Saturday with a final qualifying run at 1:45 p.m., with fans able to follow the action live on SPEED Channel or on www.cart.com. Sunday's CART FedEx Championship Series Molson Indy Montreal will also be shown live on SPEED Channel with the green flag scheduled to fly at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the CART FedEx Championship Series. Current points leader Cristiano da Matta, along with former series champions Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser, are among the stars who will battle for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title with championship-winning teams such as Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Newman/Haas Racing, Patrick Racing and Team KOOL Green. CART Champ Cars are thoroughbred racing machines that reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, showcasing the technical expertise of manufacturers such as Ford Motor Company, Lola Cars, Reynard Motorsport and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC. The 19-race 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS, FOX and SPEED Channel. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.CART.com.