CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Newman/Haas Racing Friday report

Da Matta 4th down under; electrical problems dropped Fittipaldi to 18th. CRISTIANO DA MATTA, ...

Da Matta 4th down under; electrical problems dropped Fittipaldi to 18th.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Caltex Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:   "We were quick right away but we don't want to fool ourselves and begin to take it easy.  Others seemed to hit their peak in qualifying.  It was a difficult session but the timing of the reds (flags) and the fact that Christian and myself we the last two to go out didn't really hurt us.  I was behind Kenny Brack and getting closer and closer and screwed up my lap time in the chicane.  I don't know if I screwed up because I was too close.  I would have had a 31.8 but that would have only been good enough for third - we didn't have a car capable of beating Bruno's time.  We'll just have to work hard to come up with a better car for tomorrow.  At this point in the weekend, the car is better than it was here last year so we still hope to be the first two-time winner here.  I really enjoy driving on this track and to be the first two-time winner here would be great.  Especially since it would tie us for most wins in a season with Michael (Andretti) and Al (Unser Jr.).  The fun is just beginning."

* NOTES: Has had eight front row starts this season.  He has won NINE of past 18 CART events dating back to his first three-peat (Australia and Fontana in 2001 and Mexico in 2002) where he became the first driver to accomplish the feat since Juan Montoya (1999).  Led 30 laps in Long Beach and built a strong lead before a pit accident derailed his bid for a CART record-tying fourth consecutive win.  Wins in Laguna Seca, Portland, Chicago and Toronto enabled him to tie two others (Unser, Jr., and Zanardi) with a CART record fourth consecutive win although he failed to score a fifth consecutive win in Cleveland after he lead the first 19 laps from pole but retired with mechanical failure.  Led 36 laps in Vancouver before a drive shaft failure ended his race.  Was in second in Mid-Ohio when he slid off-course and ultimately finished 13th.  His win in Elkhart Lake was his eighth in 14 races and his Miami win was his ninth in 18. Led 16 laps en route to his first street course victory in 2001 Australia 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.  He clinched the 2002 CART FedEx Championship in Round 16 of 19 in Miami after winning the event and building an insurmountable lead of 69 points over second place with 68 points maximum left in the season.  Is hoping to beat the record for most wins in a season at eight set by Michael Andretti (and Newman/Haas) in 1991 and Al Unser Jr. in 1994.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:  "The car wasn't very good in the morning practice but during the 15 minute practice session before qualifying, the car was much, much better but unfortunately we had an electrical problem.  Our only timed lap was when Jimmy Vasser crashed so the lap didn't count because the red flag came out.  The other two were 'in' and 'out' laps.  It was a 34.0 on only the out lap so the car was pretty good.  I was driving and I thought I smelled something then I saw some smoke and the car lost power but it came back.  I think the car had a short because it didn't want to turn off.  The spare car wasn't 100 percent because we took some parts off of it after the morning session so we decided to just sit out the session because it's pole position or nothing.  Hopefully the track will be faster tomorrow but it's hard to say because the track might be cooler today than it will be tomorrow.  We really need to run well here and we have the potential to if we can have a trouble free qualifying session and race."

* NOTES: 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 press kit for details).  His highest start and finish of third place came in his return to the site in 1998.  He is currently 5th place in the point standings and could finish as high as second place based on the maximum of 58 points available in the three remaining events.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning practice session will take place from 9:45-11:00 AM local time which will be followed by a one-hour final qualifying session from 2:00-3:00.  SPEED Channel will televise qualifying live.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Kenny Brack