After registering Toyota-best finishing results in two consecutive races, Jimmy Vasser (Target/Chip Ganassi) has climbed up to second in the FedEx Championship Series points race. The 1996 CART champion earned Toyota's first-ever podium...
After registering Toyota-best finishing results in two consecutive races, Jimmy Vasser (Target/Chip Ganassi) has climbed up to second in the FedEx Championship Series points race. The 1996 CART champion earned Toyota's first-ever podium finish at Long Beach and matched the previous-best by a Toyota set by Cristiano da Matta at Nazareth in 1999 with a fourth at Homestead.
With Jimmy Vasser's second in qualifying at Long Beach, a Toyota-powered car has qualified on the front row in each of the past four races. Even more impressive is that three different drivers - Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya and Jimmy Vasser, have accomplished it. During that time, the manufacturer has earned two pole positions (Montoya-Nazareth, Pruett-Fontana) and two outside front row spots (Montoya-Homestead, Vasser-Long Beach).
A year ago, it was Cristiano da Matta earning Rookie of the Year runner-up honors in a Toyota. This season it appears the manufacturer may have a pair of drivers ready to challenge for rookie honors. Oriol Servia (PPIM/Telefonica) moved up as high as third at Long Beach on his way to a very impressive sixth-place finish in just his second Champ Car event.
Norberto Fontana (Della Penna/Videomatch) also showed his vast amount of skills through the streets of Long Beach. A past German F3 champ, Fontana carved his way through the field and appeared to be on his way to a top-10 finish when he hit the wall in an attempt to move into seventh place. Three of the five Toyota-powered drivers are from South America, with Cristiano da Matta (PPIM/Pioneer) the only Brazilian heading home for the Rio 200. Defending race and series champion Juan Montoya (Target/Chip Ganassi) is from Colombia, while rookie Norberto Fontana is from Argentina. Large fan contingents from all three countries are expected at Rio evidenced by eight charter jets that flew into Miami from Colombia to support Montoya at the Homestead season opener. The last Argentine to compete at the Rio CART event was Toyota pilot Juan Manuel Fangio II. Fangio, a two-time IMSA GTP champ for Toyota, was aided early in his career by countrymen John Della Penna - the current owner of Fontana's car.
In addition to the Champ Car action at Long Beach, Toyota and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach jointly announced that Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., has extended its title sponsorship of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach through the 2005 season....Buddy Rice earned his second Toyota Atlantic Championship victory in three races this season and continues to lead the points race over second-place Daniel Wheldon, 60-50.... Josh Brolin won the celebrity category of the 24th annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, and Derek Daly won the pro category.
JIM AUST, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. vice president of motorsports:
"You can see the progress we've made, but we need to keep working for that victory. We had our first podium finish at Long Beach, now we've got to keep pushing forward to give our drivers the best opportunity to win at Rio. The nice thing is that we've finished in the top four in two consecutive races and haven't really had a whole lot of luck go our way. To win in a series as competitive as this you have to have a good engine, good drivers, good cars and teams and, maybe most of all, a little luck on your side."
#12 Jimmy Vasser, Target Toyota:
"Toyota keeps making advances every time we hit the track - horsepower, mileage, driveability. There's going to be a lot more of Toyota to come. The first Toyota victory is right around the corner."