Da Matta takes Portland points bonanza, leads podium sweep for Lola. Cristiano da Matta extended his lead by 20 points in the CART FedEx Championship at Portland International Raceway, starting from pole position, leading the most laps...
Da Matta takes Portland points bonanza, leads podium sweep for Lola.
Cristiano da Matta extended his lead by 20 points in the CART FedEx Championship at Portland International Raceway, starting from pole position, leading the most laps and winning the G.I. Joe^Òs 200 in his #6 Chevron Lola/Toyota. Bruno Junqueira took second place, .625 seconds behind his countryman in the #4 Target Lola/Toyota. Dario Franchitti nabbed the third podium slot in the #27 Team KOOL Green Lola/Honda, in only his third Lola race. All three drivers^Ò celebrated triumph with their fathers, on site for this traditional Father^Òs Day Champ Car event.
^ÓThis was a very tough race from beginning to end,^Ô da Matta admitted. The first three starts were waved off by CART starter Jim Swintal, as Kenny Brack had aligned his #12 Target Lola/Toyota behind, rather than beside da Matta. Brack went on to lead 55 of the 110 laps, but did not receive the point because he retired on the 61st lap when his left rear wheel separated from the car after his second pit stop. ^ÓIt felt like qualifying from lap one to lap 110,^Ô da Matta said, ^Óand the race like this was a lot of fun. It was so very fast that it was one of the most fun races I^Òve ever driven.^Ô
Hounded by Junqueira from lap 61 to the close, da Matta tried to keep a good gap, ^Óbut Bruno was behind me putting the pressure on the whole time.^Ô Junqueira credited ^Óa very good car. I had to be patient and push, too. I waited for him to make a mistake but he didn^Òt, unfortunately.^Ô Told to push by his team, Junqueira nearly lost it, locking his wheels after exiting the pits from his final pit stop on lap 90. ^ÓI was a little bit faster than Cristiano, but not enough to pass him.^Ô Junqueira is now tied for second-place points with Michel Jourdain Jr., who took sixth from 17th on the grid in his #9 Gigante Lola/Ford.
Franchitti, starting seventh, held off charging Townsend Bell despite brake problems on his car. ^ÓI lost four places after my first stop and had to push all day. I kept a good gap, but he caught me in the chicane. It^Òs not my best race, but I^Òll take it. We^Òre finally starting to understand how to properly balance our Lola chassis on the road courses.^Ô The Scot now owns fourth place points, five behind Junqueira and Jourdain Jr.
Twelve of eighteen starters finished the contest on a cool, overcast day (air temps 68-69, track temps 85-88) and, while the first three laps were run under yellow, only two more full-course cautions were called, one for contact on lap 4 and the second for Brack^Òs wheel separation. The CART Champ Cars take next weekend off and resume their fight at Chicago Motor Speedway on June 30th.