Da Matta wins provisional CART pole

July 12, 2002 at 7:50 PM
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CLEVELAND, July 12 (UPI) -- Cristiano da Matta continued his dominance of the CART circuit Friday, claiming the provisional pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Da Matta was the only driver to cover the 2.106-mile temporary road course at Burke Lakefront Airport in under 58 seconds, clocking 131.531 miles per hour in his Toyota/Lola.

The Brazilian added a point to his lead in the overall standings and can start no worse than second after Saturday's second day of qualifying.

"It's good to get one more point," he said. "It's just Friday, though, and the track will be much faster tomorrow after more rubber is laid down. Hopefully we can keep up the pace and get another point tomorrow."

It was the fourth pole of the season for da Matta, who is turning CART into a one-driver circuit. He has won the last four races, tying a series record set by Al Unser Jr. in 1990 and tied by Alex Zanardi eight years later.

Last week's flag-to-flag victory in the Molson Indy Toronto was the fifth of the year for da Matta, who holds a commanding 119-70 lead over compatriot Bruno Junqueira atop the standings. He is gunning for his first series championship.

"We are still in a state where we are looking at this one race at a time, but I think we have a good possibility that we can keep this going," da Matta said. "I'm 100 percent sure we can continue this pace. I'm not saying that we are going to win all of them, but I think we can consistently run in the top five."

Da Matta finished third here in 2000 and seventh last year.

Tony Kanaan was second at 130.510 mph in a Honda/Lola. He attributed his best starting position of the year to some time he spent with da Matta.

"I think it did me some good to spend the past week at Cristiano's house," Kanaan said. "After the race at Toronto last week, I told him I wanted to see for myself what is his secret to all his recent success. I can't check out his team, so the next best thing is to check out his house.

"He's been on such a roll lately that I wanted to eat like him, sleep like him, play video games like him, drink his milk -- whatever I could learn from him. It must have worked because here I am."

The second row is comprised of Scott Dixon in a Toyota/Lola and Michael Andretti in a Honda/Lola. Christian Fittipaldi rounded out the top five in a Toyota/Lola and was the last driver to break 130 mph.

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