Da Matta to start first in CART race

July 13, 2002 at 4:24 PM
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CLEVELAND, July 13 (UPI) -- Cristiano da Matta, who seems to be all but unbeatable in the CART series this season, kept his pole position Saturday for Sunday's Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Da Matta added another point to his already significant gap in the standings during the second day of qualifying. He turned a lap of the 2.106-mile temporary road course at Burke Lakefront Airport in 57.040 seconds, averaging 132.917 miles per hour.

On Friday, the Brazilian driver was the only one to post a time under 58 seconds with a speed of 131.531 mph. He was the only driver to break the 132 mph mark.

Da Matta has 120 points and leads countryman Bruno Junqueira by 50 in the championship race standings entering the ninth of 20 races on the schedule.

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 stretched the commanding advantage over Junqueira, who qualified eighth.

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

Patrick Carpentier of Canada improved from 10th to claim the second starting position in a Honda/Lola. Carpentier made a strong run on his final lap with a time of 57.470 seconds at 131.923 mph.

Defending winner Dario Franchitti of Scotland also made an improvement from seventh to third. Last year he charged his way through the field after starting 14th.

Franchitti is third in the overall standings with 64 points. Christian Fittipaldi will start on the outside of row two in a Toyota/Lola.

The third row is comprised of Michael Andretti and Tony Kanaan in Honda/Lolas.

"I got only one clean lap out of the 15 laps we get to run," Kanaan said. "It was a mess traffic-wise. That's racing."

Andretti won here in 1991 and was second in 1998, third in 1999 and fourth in 2000. Of his 42 career wins, 28 have come on road courses, including earlier this year at Long Beach.

The last driver other than da Matta to win a race was Paul Tracy, who qualified 11th in a Honda/Lola. Tracy won the Miller Lite 250 on June 2.

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