Da Matta keeps CART pole

MONTREAL, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Cristiano da Matta improved his time by a half second Saturday to keep the pole position for Sunday's inaugural CART Molson Indy Montreal at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

The Brazilian completed the sweep of the two qualifying sessions and added two more points to his overall lead for a total of 145 before the start of the 13th race. The bonus points gives him 17 this season, leaving him just three short of earning the equivalent of a race win (20).


Da Matta has been successful in Canada, where he also has started from the pole in events at Toronto and Vancouver in July.

Coming off a victory at the Motorola 220 at Road America, the 28-year-old averaged 123.512 miles per hour in his Toyota/Lola and was the only driver to break the 1:19 barrier at 1:18.959 around the 2.7-mile track.

"It feels good but I also didn't know what was coming behind me out there," da Matta said. "I just kept pushing. The clock in my car stopped working so I had to go as fast as I could until I saw the checkered flag."

The sixth pole this season and of career matches his six wins recorded in 12 races this year including four straight between June 9-July 7.


Dario Franchitti of Scotland was second fastest at 122.928 mph in a Honda/Lola with a top time of 1:19.334. Brazilian Bruno Junqueira improved from eighth to third position in a Toyota/Lola.

"There were about three laps out there I really felt like I had things going, but I was a bit greedy on the curbs and I just messed things up," Franchitti said. "It's really good to be starting on the front row."

"I'm happy with the results today," Junqueira said. "I think we'll have to improve a bit for the race to put pressure on Cristiano."

Quebec native Patrick Carpentier also moved up five spots to start fourth. Junqueira and Carpentier trail da Matta by 44 points.

Sweden's Kenny Brack and Jimmy Vasser comprised the third row.

Other qualifiers in the top 10 were Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani, Shinji Nakano and Paul Tracy. Tagliani and Tracy improved from Friday's provisional round, giving the local fans reason to cheer as Carpentier make it three Canadians in the top 10.

CART is racing for the first time on the 13-turn circuit named for the legendary Ferrari driver and father of former CART and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve. The venue has hosted the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix sine 1978.


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