MARCH 12, 2001
Toyota getting the hang of CART
CRISTIANO DA MATTA's victory in last weekend's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix marks Toyota's sixth race victory in CART and gives the Japanese car company a head start in this year's series over rivals Honda and Ford.
Toyota, which enters Formula 1 next year, has struggled to be competitive in CART since entering the series in 1996 with Dan Gurney's All American Racing and with the Arciero Wells team.
It took five years for the company to score its first CART victory in Milwaukee last year, thanks to Target Chip Ganassi's Juan-Pablo Montoya. The Colombian went on to score another two wins in Michigan and St Louis and his team mate Jimmy Vasser won in Houston while PPI Motorsport driver Cristiano da Matta added a further victory in Chicago.
The promise shown last year has enabled Toyota to strengthen its attack in CART with Ganassi (Nicolas Minassian and Bruno Junqueira) being joined by Newman Haas Racing (da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi), PacWest (Scott Dixon and Mauricio Gugelmin), Patrick Racing (Roberto Moreno and Jimmy Vasser) and Derrick Walker Racing (Tora Takagi).
In the Monterrey race Toyota ended up with three in the top 10 (da Matta, sixth-placed Vasser and 10th placed Takagi) while Honda had six and Ford only one.
Most observers in F1 feel that Toyota's plans in Grand Prix racing will result in an even longer lead time than was the case in CART before the company is in a position to win races.