Newman/Haas Racing - PREVIEW Honda Indy 300 - Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia Round 17 of 19 in the CART FedEx Championship CRISTIANO da MATTA, ...
Newman/Haas Racing - PREVIEW
Honda Indy 300 - Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia
Round 17 of 19 in the CART FedEx Championship
CRISTIANO da MATTA, #6 Caltex/Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: - DEFENDING WINNER IN AUSTRALIA: Led 16 laps en route to his first street course victory in 2001 event. Will be his fourth race here. Highest start to date was third in '01. Finished fourth in '00 and 13th in '99 due to transmission failure.
- 2002 CHAMPION: Holds an insurmountable 69-point lead over second place in the point standings with three events to go. Led 52 laps in route to victory in the 2002 season-opener in Monterrey Mexico which was his third consecutive win in the series dating back to the final two rounds in 2001 (Australia, Fontana). It was also his second consecutive victory in the season-opener in Mexico. In Long Beach, he looked set to match a CART record fourth consecutive victory when he built a seven second lead after taking over the top spot for the first 30 laps before he was taken out of contention when hit departing his second of three pit stops and ultimately finished eighth after starting second. He started 8th in Japan but mechanical failure sidelined him near the end of the race in 13th place. Was in sixth place in Milwaukee when a fuel pressure problem forced a 10-pit stop race (instead of 3) and dropped him to an 11th place finish. Ran in front of eventual third place finisher Max Papis. Won his first pole as well as his first win from the pole in Monterey, Calif. (6-9) after leading 82 of 87 laps. Won all 23 points available in Portland (prov. pole, pole, win, most laps led). Earned 21 of 22 points available in Chicago (win, most laps led) to build a 25 point lead over 2nd place in the standings. Won all 23 points in Toronto to build his lead to 48 over second place in the standings. Won each point available on Friday and Saturday in Cleveland by setting the fastest lap times in qualifying. Led the first 19 laps of the Cleveland race from pole and build a 2.3-second lead on second place before he suffered mechanical failure and ended his bid to earn a CART record fifth consecutive win. Led 36 laps in Vancouver and increased his lead over second place to five seconds in his first stint before a drive shaft failure later ended a highly possible victory while leading on Lap 64 of 100. Started third in Mid-Ohio and was in second place when he slid off course while alongside the race leader on lap 69 of 92. Ran fastest race lap. His 13th place finish shrunk his lead from 38 to 27 points over second place. Won one point for the provisional pole in Road America, started second, led 22 laps and won his sixth race of 12 so far this season and increased his point lead from 27 to 42 over the weekend. Earned one point for setting the fastest times in each of the qualifying sessions and led 35 of 80 laps but finished second after running a conservative pit stop strategy. Finished third in Denver after starting seventh. Earned his fourth consecutive podium finish of second place in England. Earned seventh win of season in Miami as well as clinched the 2002 CART FedEx Championship by building an insurmountable lead of 69 points over second place with three races (and 68 point maximum) left in season.
- GOAL IS RECORD FOR MOST WINS IN A SEASON OF NINE: With his victory in Miami (10-6), da Matta scored his ninth victory in the past 18 races dating back to his win in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. Won '01 races in Australia and Fontana and 2002 races in Monterrey, Mexico, Monterey, Calif., Portland, Ore., Chicago, Toronto and Elkhart Lake. (Monterey, Portland, Chicago and Toronto wins earned him four consecutive victories, which matched a CART record set by Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi.) A string of three bad races (mechanical failure while leading in Cleveland; drive shaft failure after leading 36 laps in Vancouver; off course excursion while 2nd in Mid-Ohio) shrunk his points lead although he increased it after scoring points with a win in Elkhart Lake, 2nd place in Montreal, 3rd in England and his seventh victory of the season in Miami. With seven victories, he is just one shy of tying the all-time CART single-season record for wins in a season of eight currently held by Al Unser Jr. (1994) and Michael Andretti (1991). His seven victories makes him one of just five drivers to win that many in a season, joining Unser, Andretti, Juan Montoya (1999) and Alex Zanardi (1998).
- CART FedEx ALL-STAR TEAM: Was nominated to the five-driver 2001 CART FedEx Championship All-Star Team. The elite group is voted on by drivers, a select group of motorsports media and fans.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: - IN AUSTRALIA: Will be his eighth Australian event although he is only credited with starting six due to an accident on Lap 2 in the 1997 event (see below for details). His highest start and finish of third place came in his return to the site in 1998.
- FIFTH IN 2002 CHAMPIONSHIP - CAPABLE OF SECOND: Has SEVEN top-five finishes and NINE top-7 finishes in 16 races to date. Has run in the TOP-THREE in 10 of 16 races this season and in the TOP-FIVE in 13 of 16 races this season. At the season-opener in Monterrey, Mexico, Fittipaldi ran the fastest qualifying lap but it was disallowed after he brought out a red flag due to hitting the concrete barriers. His second fastest lap resulted in a fourth place start and a subsequent third place finish after running as high as second. In Long Beach, Fittipaldi set the second fastest time in provisional qualifying but dropped to a 9th place start in final qualifying, ran as high as 3rd and retired in 13th after gearbox failure. Struggled at the first short oval race of the season in Japan and finished 11th. Team improved their short oval set up for the race Milwaukee where he finished fourth after leading three laps. Drove to his best finish of second place since his victory in the 2000 season-finale at the California Speedway 500-mile race in Monterey, Calif. after leading four laps. Was third fastest in provisional qualifying in Portland but failed to improve his time on Saturday and started fifth. A mid-race collision with Paul Tracy, who attempted a pass, dropped him 10 laps down to the leader by the time he resumed racing although he ultimately retired from the race in 13th place with seven laps to go. A probable top-six finish eluded him in Chicago after his left rear wheel came following his second pit stop. He finished third in Toronto. He was running third in Cleveland but ran out of fuel before his final stop. A third place finish would have put him second in the point standings but he fell to seventh place. Drive shaft failure ended his race in Vancouver after running ahead of eventual third place finisher Kanaan. Earned his highest starting spot of second place since Nazareth 2000 in Mid-Ohio and finished second despite 14-second pit stop due to his airjack malfunctioning. Pit strategy enabled him to move from his 11th place start into a sixth place finish although a top-four finish was possible had the caution flags not come out or a problem on his final stop not occurred. In Montreal, was fifth fastest in provisional qualifying but slipped to an 11th place start. Picked up three spots on the first lap but a slow pit stop dropped him in running order and he eventually finished seventh despite late race gear problems. Started fifth in Denver and was in third place during his final pit stop when the airjack failed for the second time in three mandatory stops thus dropping him to a fifth place finish. Retired from the race in England due to mechanical failure. Finished second in Miami.
CART VICTORIES - 2: Scored his first CART victory in the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America (7-11-99/71st CART start), He bettered his previous best 500-mile finish of 2nd place in the 1995 Indy 500 by winning the 2000 season-finale Marlboro 500. For his 2nd place finish to (eventual 1997 Formula One World Champion) Jacques Villeneuve, he was also named 1995 Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year."
CART POLES - 1: Fittipaldi set a track record en route to his first CART pole in his homeland of Brazil on May 14, 1999.
What They're Saying About
CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #6 Caltex/Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "I feel that the race in Australia last year was one of my best performances because it was very competitive between myself, (Roberto) Moreno and Gil (de Ferran). We drove full throttle from the beginning of the race until the end. I started third and dropped down to fourth behind Tracy on the start but passed Tracy and Moreno and got by Gil on a pit stop so there was a lot of action. It was a race I really enjoyed driving because it was such as fast pace because we were pushing 100 percent lap after lap, the pit stops were all great, the conditions were difficult because it was hot last year and I just really enjoy driving on the track. I was very pleased with the race I drove last year and I'm looking forward to getting back on track. I think we stand a good chance to repeat our win last year. Now that we have the pressure of winning the Championship off of our backs we can concentrate on winning a few more races rather than having to be conservative in order to make sure we score a few points each race. Racing is goal oriented and our new goal is to beat the season win record. Michael (Andretti) and Al (Unser Jr.) won eight races so we are going to try to win at least two more. We won the race in Australia and Fontana last year and should be competitive on those tracks again. Mexico City is a new race but based on our performance on road courses this season, we hope to run well there too. Everyone on the Havoline team has done their job very well this season and it would be great for us to keep achieving results.
"It's going to be my fourth time to race in Australia and every year the event just gets better and better and it was already great to begin with. There were more than 100,000 people there last year on race day alone and ticket sales are way up this year. The Australians really know how to put on a race. We certainly enjoy going there. That's why everyone gets there so early and uses the excuse that we do that to get acclimatized and get used to the time difference but it's because we enjoy going there because they treat us so well. (On his brothers Gustavo and Felipe joining him) It doesn't happen often that I get to travel with my brothers because they are working hard most of the time back home in Brazil so this year should be very fun because we get to spend 10 days together in a fun place like Australia. We are going to go to the beach, go surfing and biking. We are all taking our road bikes so we can cycle which is one of the sports we enjoy together. It's going to be fun."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone: "The race in Australia will always stand out in my mind for a variety of reasons. It was one of the more difficult times in my CART career because of my accident in 1997 but it is also one of the best races in the series because of the following we have in Australia. I've been able to do a lot of memorable things in Australia while I was there for the races including proposing to Andrea. I'm making a quick trip to New Zealand for the America's Cup before coming to Surfers for the race. Everyone always looks forward to racing there and this year is no different. There are three more races this season and we are really trying to win one or two before the year is up. We have had five podium finishes so far this season including two second place finishes so we've come close but we really want to win. The Lilly car was good in Miami, the strategy worked and the crew made some quick stops and we were able to finish second. We want to carry over the momentum. Our car has been performing well on the street courses and hopefully the Surfer's Paradise course will be no different. Since Shorty clinched the Championship, everyone is now shooting for second place including us. A good finish in Australia will help us get both cars in the top-three of the standings which is our goal."