CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Race report

CRISTIANO DA MATTA RETURNS TO CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES VICTORY LANE WITH WIN IN SUNDAY'S G.I. JOE'S PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND PORTLAND, Ore. (June 19, 2005) -- All Cristiano da Matta ( ...

CRISTIANO DA MATTA RETURNS TO CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES VICTORY LANE WITH WIN IN SUNDAY'S G.I. JOE'S PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 19, 2005) -- All Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) wanted on a sunny Sunday in Portland was a little space.

The 2002 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion was simply looking for a chance to stretch the legs of his 750hp turbocharged Champ Car, which he felt was being bottled up a bit in the traffic flowing around the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway circuit. He started 10th for today's G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, but decided that in order to get the most out of what he knew was a very fast PKV Racing machine, he needed a little room to run.

So the PKV squad decided to give Cristiano his space, calling him down Pit Lane for his first fuel stop on Lap 13 of the 105-lap Portland event, a stop that was nearly 20 orbits earlier than those of his competitors. The strategy worked to perfection, as the open air provided by the early stop allowed da Matta the chance to turn a long series of quick laps, paving the way for a trip to Victory Lane. He would be joined by Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on the podium, and became the fourth different winner in the year's four races.

The race fell to da Matta right about the same time that it slithered away from polesitter and race leader Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The second-year driver had led 43 of the first 45 laps of the day building a 10-second lead on the field when his RuSPORT car was felled by mechanical problems, bringing out the day's only caution flag. The yellow flag sent all of the leaders down Pit Lane for their second stop, putting everyone behind da Matta, who had followed up his early first stop with a second stop of Lap 43.

Da Matta roared away from the rest of the field on the Lap 52 restart, putting a full second per lap on the trailing train of Tracy, Bourdais, Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The lead was 5.8 seconds by Lap 56, 10 seconds seven laps later up to a chunky 18 seconds by Lap 73.

With da Matta running away the field, but known to be on a different pit strategy, Tracy and Bourdais contented themselves with battling each other for what they both expected to be the race win. Tracy led Bourdais by five seconds while in pursuit of da Matta, but Bourdais made up all of that ground when the 2003 champion ran into lapped traffic on Lap 73. Bourdais got on the power-to-pass button on his Ford-Cosworth XFE powerplant coming down the frontstretch and bested Tracy rolling into the Festival Curves, snaring second place.

Da Matta pitted on the same lap that Bourdais made his pass of the '03 champ, giving up the lead to the defending Portland race winner. Bourdais immediately tried to put some distance between himself and the rest of the field, running the only sub 60-second lap of the day on Lap 79, but had to dive down Pit Lane on Lap 81, followed by Lap 82 by Tracy. The stops gave da Matta the lead, again with a nine-second advantage over the rest of the field, with 23 laps left in the day.

Once again in clean air, da Matta held serve as Tracy, Bourdais and Dominguez took their best shots. The Brazilian was never seriously threatened and rolled across the finish line with a 10.128-second margin of victory, taking his first win since he scored a victory in the Grand Prix Americas in Miami in 2002. The win is the 12th of his career and moves him into 18th on the all-time Champ Car victory list.

Bourdais' second-place finish allowed him to stretch his series points lead to eleven over the third-placed Tracy, who vaulted ahead of the luckless Wilson after four races. Dominguez and Allmendinger battled each other throughout the entire last half of the event for the fourth spot, with Dominguez coming out on top over the American prodigy. Allmendinger held on to the fifth spot, giving him back-to-back top-five runs and keeping alive his streak of seven consecutive top-10 finishes dating back to last year. American veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended his day in the sixth spot, followed by a stream of Champ Car rookies.

Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the rookie parade with a seventh-place finish, moving into a tie for the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year lead with Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who finished 10th. HVM Racing rookies Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came home in eighth and ninth respectively, keeping themselves in the thick of the rookie points chase as well, with Bremer standing just two points behind Ranger and Glock after four races.

Rookie Michael Valiante (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished a strong 11th in just the second race of his Champ Car career, coming in ahead of Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and the career-best finish for Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who ended up 13th.

The Champ Car World Series gets right back to work next weekend with the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank, which takes place Sunday on the Burke Lakefront Airport airport course.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

Cristiano da Matta, #21 PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "It feels really good. Obviously, it's not like a normal win. A normal win feels great, but this being so far away from the winner's circle for so long, and also with a new team that we've been working together not for so long, so it feels even better than a normal win."

Sebastien Bourdais, #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "I'm still very happy both for my team and for Cristiano, because I think it's been a long time. He's a good guy. He went through a lot of political crap. It's good to see him back at the top. It's a good day for open-wheel racing, I think, much better than Indy, for sure. You know, what can I say? Really happy to be there. We still have the lead on the championship. Although we don't feel so great, we finished strong, and that's what it takes to win the championship."

Paul Tracy #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "Sebastien got a run on me on the front straight. We had a nice clean dice down in the first corner. I really thought that was the race for the lead. I had no idea that da Matta was that far out. I didn't think he'd get far enough out on us to make up the difference that it was going to take. I mean, all in all, a half decent day. Moved us up in the points. Collect another trophy. So we'll go away with a smile."

NOTEWORTHY

* Today's event marked the first time that three former Champ Car titlewinners have been on a Champ Car podium since 1998 when Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Michael Andretti filled the three steps in Toronto.

* Cristiano da Matta led 50 laps on the day, giving him 897 for his career. He moves into the top 25 in the all-time Champ Car career laps led list, surpassing Wally Dallenbach Sr. for 25th.

* Cristiano's 10.128-second margin of victory was the largest winning margin at Portland since Al Unser Jr. romped to a 28.561-second win here in 1995.

* Paul Tracy's third-place run allowed Canada to maintain the lead in the Nation's Cup standings, giving the Great White North a 112-101 lead over France, with Brazil just three points behind after da Matta's win.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Michael Valiante , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe , Ronnie Bremer , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing