The opening round of this year's Indy Lights Championship was staged before last Sunday's Champ Car opener at Monterrey in Mexico, with racers representing six different nations lining up on the grid for the first of 12-rounds. The experienced ...
The opening round of this year's Indy Lights Championship was staged before last Sunday's Champ Car opener at Monterrey in Mexico, with racers representing six different nations lining up on the grid for the first of 12-rounds. The experienced Irishman Derek Higgins (Mexpro Racing Lola) was quickest in qualifying and underlined his determination to make the best possible start to the 2001 season by scoring a dominant lights to chequered flag victory. Although Higgins looked unbeatable on the challenging new Fundidora road circuit, he was chased hard by two Americans -- Townsend Bell (Dorricott Racing Lola) claimed second place less than 0.2 seconds behind the victor while Bell's fellow countryman and team-mate Jon Fogarty kicked off his rookie campaign with third place.
Adding to the international strength of the Stateside category, drivers from four different nations filled the next four finishing positions: Mario Dominguez (Mexico) took fourth place from Dan Wheldon (Britain), Kristian Kolby (Denmark) and Nilton Rossoni (Brazil). Wheldon's performance was notable as he started tenth on the grid and his overtaking efforts were rewarded with the 'Move to the Front' award.
"The success of the Indy Lights Championship as a breeding ground for tomorrow's talent is well-proven," says Daniel Partel, President of Lola Cars International Inc.. "Past champions such as Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta and Oriol Servia are all now well established as front-runners in the full-blown Fedex Championship Series while the reigning champ Scott Dixon wasted no time proving his potential by leading the opening round of this year's series. That's why I'm so sure the 2001 Indy Lights Championship will unearth another generation of Champ Car stars."
Indeed, as if to emphasise the importance of graduation via Indy Lights, 1998 champion Cristiano da Matta won the opening round of this year's Fedex Championship in Mexico racing a Toyota powered Lola chassis. The young Brazilian's victory was particularly noteworthy as he was making his debut for Newman/Haas Racing; it was also Lola's record breaking 98th Champ Car triumph.
The second round of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship takes place on the streets of Long Beach in California over the weekend of 7-8 April.
-Lola Cars International Ltd