Cristiano da Matta wins Molson Indy Toronto, ties CART Fedex Championship Series record by taking fourth consecutive victory. TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, (July 7, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta ( ...
Cristiano da Matta wins Molson Indy Toronto, ties CART Fedex Championship Series record by taking fourth consecutive victory.
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, (July 7, 2002) - Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) put his name in the CART FedEx Championship Series record books Sunday with a dominating wire-to-wire victory at the Molson Indy Toronto, tying a CART record with his fourth consecutive Champ Car win.
Da Matta led all 112 laps to claim the win, beating Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) to the line by 4.398 seconds to join Al Unser Jr. (1990) and Alex Zanardi (1998) as the only drivers to take four consecutive checkered flags in the series. The win is da Matta's fifth of the season and ninth of his career, moving him into a tie with Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for 14th on the all-time CART victory list.
The diminutive Brazilian escaped trouble on the first lap when fellow front-row starter Paul Tracy (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) jumped the start and beat him to the first turn, but Zanardi, who served as the honorary starter for the event, rightly waved the yellow flag instead of the green to reset the field for a second try. Da Matta would lead the field into the opening turn on the second time around the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place temporary street course and would simply roll away from the field.
Tracy tried to stay within shouting distance of the rampaging Newman/Haas machine but found himself nearly five seconds behind after just 12 orbits of the Toronto track. The lead would shrink slightly as da Matta ran up behind the lapped car of Townsend Bell (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone), with the leader being held up as Bell, the pacesetter in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year standings, fought to stay on the lead lap.
The battle would end with the first round of pit stops, a cycle that would see Tracy maintain his second spot, albeit 5.570 seconds in arrears. The lead would balloon to more than 10 seconds as the race hit the halfway point, with da Matta securing the bonus point for leading the most race laps after pacing the first 56 of the 112 circuits. The second round of pit stops left Canadian native Tracy in second place again, but his race would end soon after as problems with his brakes sent him spinning into the first-turn wall.
With the hometown favorite out, Brack would assume the second spot ahead of da Matta stablemate Christian Fittipaldi (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) and Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone). The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver would pick up the pace in the next few laps, cutting his fastest circuits of the race, but had his job made easier by a caution banner that flew for Tracy's last of three meetings with the Turn One tire barrier.
With his advantage erased momentarily, da Matta went back to work when the emerald flag waved with 20 laps to go, but the race slowed again one trip later as Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) had his race ended after being hit by Bell in Turn One. Junqueira had been running in the top five and was looking to keep in touch with da Matta in the point standings after finishing second in the last two events, but would go home scoreless after getting driven into the tires. Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach would end Bell's event soon after as he excluded the rookie for the remainder of the day because of the incident.
The race restarted with 15 laps to go and da Matta would roar away again, running his fastest lap of the day on Lap 108 to seal the victory. Brack would end the day in the second spot and use his season-best finish to move from 11th to 7th in the series points while Fittipaldi would hold on to snare the final spot on the victory podium, claiming his third road-course top-three finish of the 2002 campaign.
Nakano would post his career-best finish for the second straight week, coming home in the fourth spot one week after carding a career-best fifth in Chicago. The Fernandez Racing pilot has scored 22 championship points in the last two weeks, nearly equaling his total of 23 that he compiled during his first two full seasons of CART competition.
Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) would round out the top five with his best finish of the season. Dixon claimed the fifth spot, extending his streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes and holding down the sixth spot in the season standings despite not having led a single race lap all season. Vasser would leave with the sixth position, his best finish since his runner-up effort at Long Beach while Alex Tagliani (#33 Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was the best of the Canadian contingent with a seventh-place run.
CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUOTES
* CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm very pleased with the effort this weekend, of course. We didn't have any problems except for the incident on Friday when I was in trouble." (On Alex Zanardi waving off the start) "He did an excellent job on the start because [Paul] Tracy obviously took off before me. The second time we came around clean and he did a very good job." (On the mid-season success) "We are pretty confident right now, especially on the road and street courses. I am concerned about two races though - the oval races in Germany and England. In Germany last season we were slow - very slow. But my team has been working very hard on the ovals. England wasn't as bad as Germany because we finished on the podium. Those tracks are going to be important."
* KENNY BRACK (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): (On gaining ground on da Matta) "On the restarts I tried to catch him a little bit, but I was always a fraction behind. That was pretty much it for us. I can't really complain about the result today so we'll keep going and look forward to Cleveland."
* CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "We were pushing it all the time. On my last stint I was trying to hang with this man [Kenny Brack] and I ended up burning off my tires. I had a lot of push in the car toward the end. Apart from that, it was a trouble free race." (On feeding off da Matta's success) "Cristiano is on a roll. Apart from that, my guys and I have only had two DNF's this year. But racing incidents happen. Cristiano is doing very well and there's nothing more I can really say. Maybe I'll have to lose a little weight to catch up with him."
* Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) won his fifth race out of the first eight starts of the 2002 season, the first time a CART driver has accomplished the feat since Al Unser Jr. in 1994.
* The Toyota sweep of the victory podium was its second in the last four races and marks the fourth consecutive race in which Toyota-powered drivers have finished first and second. The win is also the eighth in the last 10 races for Toyota.
* Dario Franchitti (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) was dropped back a spot by CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach after course workers observed that he had cut a corner in making a pass of Scott Dixon for seventh place. Dallenbach said after the race that he had no video proof of the incident and that he had relied on the call of the course workers in making the decision.
* Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Office Depot Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his streak of top-10 finishes broken Sunday but did manage to bring his Team Rahal car home in the 12th spot, making him the only driver in the series to have scored points in every race this season.