MONTEREY, Calif. (February 10, 2002) - Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta ( ...
MONTEREY, Calif. (February 10, 2002) - Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola) retained his unofficial title of "King of Testing" as CART Sneak Preview concluded from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Da Matta had tested two days prior to CART Sneak Preview, and each time he logged the unofficial fastest time. This weekend, da Matta was the quickest driver in each of the four on-track sessions, wrapping up CART Sneak Preview with an overall best lap of 1:09.231 (116.376 mph).
Second quick this weekend was Patrick Carpentier in the #32 Player's Ltd./Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard, who turned in a best lap of 1:09.519 (115.893 mph). Carpentier's teammate, Alex Tagliani (#33 Player's Ltd./Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard), was third with a best lap of 1:09.545 (115.850 mph) and the Team Player's pair were the lone Ford-Cosworth-powered drivers inside the top ten.
Fourth fastest on the weekend, and third fastest on Sunday, was Bruno Junqueira in the #4 Target Toyota/Lola with a best lap of 1:09.633 (115.704 mph), while Oriol Servia (#17 PWR Racing Toyota/Lola) rounded out the top five with a lap of 1:09.700 (115.593 mph). In fact, seven of the top ten drivers in testing were powered by Toyota.
Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard) was the quickest Honda driver, turning the sixth-best lap overall at 1:09.720. Seventh quickest was Christian Fittipaldi in the #11 Newman/Haas Racing Toyota/Lola at 1:09.726 (115.549 mph), followed by Scott Dixon in the #7 PWR Racing Toyota/Lola at 1:09.786 (115.450 mph). Rookie Townsend Bell (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota/Reynard) turned a best lap of 1:09.880 (115.295 mph) and Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola) filled out the top ten with a best lap of 1:09.901 (115.260 mph).
The top twelve cars turned laps within one second of each other. Twenty drivers turned laps over the course of the two days of CART Sneak Preview, and 25 cars ran a total of 2,787 laps. The only major incident of the weekend occurred in the Sunday morning session, when rookie driver Mario Dominguez did a significant amount of damage to his #16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola when he made contact with the barrier at the exit of Turn 10. Dominguez was not injured in the accident, but he was forced to run his backup for the remainder of the day.
The 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series officially gets under way next month at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico with the Tecate Telmex Grand Prix, March 8-10.
Off the track, the CART Winners Circle Fan Club registered over 1,500 new members throughout the two days of CART Sneak Preview, or nearly half the total of members for all of 2001. There were 3,100 WCFC members last season.
In other news this weekend, CART has elected to reevaluate and revamp its audio services for the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season. CART Radio Network operations have been discontinued for the upcoming season, but CART will continue to provide an audio feed of all of its weekend action through the World Wide Web.
Fans will still be able to follow all of the action of the CART FedEx Championship Series on the official web site of the series, www.cart.com, as Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions will be hosted by CART's international broadcast team of Leigh Diffey and Jeremy Shaw. On race day, fans will be able to log-on to CART.com and hear the international broadcast team as they present a commercial-free simulcast of the race.
CART will continue to reevaluate its options regarding its radio program throughout the course of the 2002 campaign.
Quotes from the day's three fastest drivers follow below:
CRISTIANO da MATTA: "I had a pretty good day, especially the morning session was pretty good. In the afternoon, because of all the red flags, we couldn't get through our whole list of things we wanted to accomplish. The car was still good to drive and the car was still quick. Unfortunately, right now it doesn't count points or anything. It's still quite early, and there's still quite a lot of work to do before the season starts. We weren't going for overall speed, we were trying things that would work for us in every road course. I think there are many guys that can be pointed to as favorites, and I think I'm one of them. But I think this test has nothing to do with what we do for Monterrey (Mexico). I'm not going to say I'm not confident, I feel good. But there's still a long way to go."
PATRICK CARPENTIER: "We still have some work to do. We're pretty happy. We thought the Reynard had a little disadvantage to the Lola chassis, but it's really good. We're pretty close and we've still got a couple of days of testing before we meet again. We tried a few things this weekend. Some worked, some didn't, but we're going to put it all together when we go to the first race. We've been getting better and better every year. Team Player's has made a lot of changes. The team seems to be getting stronger, and we seem to be running very well this winter. The team has been doing a lot of development. We're going to try to come up with a little more so we can be up here with these guys."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: "It was very good. This morning I had a problem with the fuel tank, and I just started one hour after the second session started. We put on new tires pretty early on and I did my best lap. I was really interested to put on new tires and see if I could be close to Cristiano's time. I don't know if I could have beaten him. It was good to finish third here today. Last year, I struggled here, but I think Lola did a good job with the car, and the Toyota engine is very strong. For sure to have an experienced and fast teammate is a big help. Kenny is really fast and pushes the team. But what I think is the biggest difference is my experience. I know what to expect and it makes things less difficult."