CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Newman/Haas Saturday report

da Matta won 7th pole down under; Fittipaldi to start 13th. Polesitter: Cristiano da Matta 1:30.223 - track record (fastest in morning practice) 13th: Christian Fittipaldi 1:32.204                  (11th fastest in morning ...

da Matta won 7th pole down under; Fittipaldi to start 13th.

Polesitter: Cristiano da Matta 1:30.223 - track record (fastest in morning practice)
13th: Christian Fittipaldi 1:32.204                  (11th fastest in morning practice)

OVERALL: Caltex/Havoline driver da Matta earned his seventh pole position of the season as well as the seventh in the past 13 races by one-hundredths of a second over fellow Belo Horizonte native Bruno Junqueira.  It was the fifth pole for NHR in Australia and 70th overall.  It was also the 11th by a Toyota powered car this season.  Lilly driver Fittipaldi went out early in the session due to being 18th place in Friday's session due to an electrical problem and set the fifth fastest lap before he spun in Turn 1 and brought out a red flag, thus losing his fastest lap.  Ultimately he finished 13th. NHR will attempt to break a tie for most wins in Australia at three with Ganassi Racing.  No driver has earned multiple wins in the previous 11 races here and as defending winner, da Matta would be the first to do this is he is victorious.  A win would also put him in a three-way tie for most wins in a season at eight with Michael Andretti (1991 with NHR) and Al Unser Jr. (1994).

CRISTIANO DA MATTA, #1 Caltex/Havoline Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:   "I'm pleased that the Caltex/Havoline car is on pole and that we won our seventh this season.  On the first set of tires the car was more balanced but on my last lap, I made a mistake and felt like I left a couple of (of a second) on the table.  The second run was good and I was able to get clear laps but if you talk to all of the drivers, they all feel like they left a tenth or two on the table.  I was more concerned about qualifying than for the race so it feels good to be on pole. I really felt like I got everything out of the car yesterday and we weren't quickest. My engineers and crew worked hard since yesterday to get the car good overnight.  This race is usually very physical especially with the heat.  You are running flat out 100 percent of the time so it is more physical and of course harder on the car as well.  The curbs are hard on the car also so this is going to be a very difficult race for the driver and the car.  I think that who ever is not on the curbs tomorrow will be in the back though.  I think the track improvements had a lot to do with the lower qualifying times - especially lowering the curbs.  We gained a second in the Fosters turn alone.  It would be difficult to match the pole time from last year if they didn't lower the curbs."

* NOTES - This will be his NINTH front row start 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.  He won in Elkhart Lake and later in Miami which  was his ninth victory in 18 events.   IN AUSTRALIA -- Led 16 laps en route to his first street course victory in 2001 event.  Will be his fourth race here.  Highest previous start here 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.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI, #11 Lilly Toyota-Lola-Bridgestone:  "I tried everything to set a faster lap - I braked early, braked late, everything but nothing made us quicker.  To go fast here, you have to drive over the curbs and that isn't how I normally do it."

* 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 68 points available in the three remaining events.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: The morning warm-up will take place from 10:00-10:30 AM local time.  The Honda Indy 300 will begin at 2:00 PM local time and will air live in the United States on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 12:00 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on SPEED Channel.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Christian Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing