CHAMPCAR/CART: Toyota Motegi preview

TOYOTA TAKES POINTS LEAD TO JAPAN - On the strength of two wins in the season's first three races, Toyota leads the manufacturer's championship as the FedEx Championship Series heads to Motegi. In three races this season, Toyota has scored two...

TOYOTA TAKES POINTS LEAD TO JAPAN - On the strength of two wins in the season's first three races, Toyota leads the manufacturer's championship as the FedEx Championship Series heads to Motegi. In three races this season, Toyota has scored two victories and a second.

DA MATTA CONTINUES TO LEAD DRIVERS RACE - Cristiano da Matta (Texaco/Havoline Toyota) continues to lead the CART Driver's Championship as he has since the first race of the start. The third-year Toyota driver has strung together a victory and a second among three top-10 finishes in his first season with Newman/Haas Racing.

DA MATTA, VASSER LEAD TOYOTA POINTS HUNT - Cristiano da Matta has led the points since day one of the Champ Car season, but a total of six Toyota-powered drivers are among the top-13 in CART points as the FedEx Championship Series heads to Japan. Jimmy Vasser (Patrick Racing Toyota) has quietly moved into a tie for third with 30 points with three consecutive top-six finishes in his first season with Patrick Racing. On the strength of his Nazareth victory, Scott Dixon (PacWest Toyota) has climbed up to seventh with 20 points. Toyota drivers also stand 11th (Bruno Junqueira, 11), 12th (Christian Fittipaldi, Kmart/Texaco Toyota, 10) and 13th (Nicolas Minassian, 7). Dixon leads Junqueira and Minassian (Target Toyota) in the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year standings.

To date, four different Toyota-powered drivers have earned top-five finishes (da Matta, Dixon, Vasser and Fittipaldi).

TOYOTA OFF TO BEST CHAMP CAR START EVER - With 58 Manufacturer's Championship points after three races, Toyota remains on its best-ever streak to open a Champ Car season. The 58 points in three races (out of a maximum 66) is 16 better than Toyota's previous best start to season of 42 set last year.

TOYOTA LOOKS FOR 6th Win IN LAST 7 OVAL RACES - After Scott Dixon's victory at Nazareth, Toyota has now won five of the last six oval track races run in Champ Car competiton heading into Motegi. The current streak has seen three different drivers earn those five wins - 2000 Milwaukee (Juan Montoya), 2000 Michigan (Montoya), 2000 Chicago (da Matta), 2000 St. Louis (Montoya), 2001 Nazareth (Dixon). The only driver/team to interrupt the streak was Christian Fittipaldi and Newman/Haas - who now race for Toyota - at Fontana to close out the 2000 season.

LAST YEAR AT MOTEGI - Juan Montoya dominated last year's Motegi event in his Target Toyota only to see victory slip away late in the race due to a bizarre pit incident. Montoya won the pole position and then ran away from the field in opening up more than a 10-second lead on his way to leading 172 of the first 175 laps of the event. Misfortune hit the team on it's last pit stop, though, when the hose to the air jack wrapped around the pop-off valve inlet basically unplugging the unit and forcing Montoya to pit on consecutive laps. The problem was quickly fixed, but Montoya had dropped well back in the field and a late yellow halted any chance of victory as he finished seventh.

GOING THE DISTANCE - Two Toyota drivers, Cristiano da Matta and Jimmy Vasser, have completed every (385) lap run in the first three Champ Car races run this season. In addition, rookie Scott Dixon has completed 384 of the 385 laps run this season.

TOYOTA ROOKIES TURNED UNIQUE TRICK AT NAZARETH - Scott Dixon's victory, coupled with a pole position from Bruno Junqueira (Target Toyota), marked the first time since 1983 at Michigan International Speedway that two different rookies had won the race and the pole position at the same FedEx Championship Series event. Teo Fabi won the pole and John Paul Jr. won the race at MIS in '83.

Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports: "We're thrilled to win two of the first three races this season, but it's just as fulfilling to see that we've had four different drivers earn a top-five finish this season. With as competitive as this series is, it's going to take a contribution from all nine Toyota-powered drivers to win a Manufacturer's Championship. Motegi is obviously a big race for Toyota. It was tremendously disappointing to dominate like we did last season only to lose the victory on a fluke incident. Hopefully, we'll get a little bit of luck on our side this time around."

-TRD

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Dixon , John Paul , Teo Fabi , Cristiano da Matta