Cristiano Da Matta took his first career CART FedEx pole position on Saturday at Laguna Seca but not in the way either he, or his rivals wanted him to after blowing his Toyota engine and coating half the circuit with oil shortly after setting his best time.

Da Matta's engine began spewing oil and smoke on the way up the hill before the demanding corkscrew turn but instead of moving off the track and risking having his pole time disallowed, Da Matta toured back to the pits on the racing line.

"The end of the session was very intense for me," said Da Matta. "I heard a strange noise come from the engine and I was very concerned that the car would stop because I didn't want to bring out the red flag. Those things happen but it was just very bad timing.

"After my engine problem, I just had to sit in the pits and watch everyone try to beat my time and there was nothing I could do. We set our fast lap on only our third timed lap and the car had much more in it so I am disappointed that I didn't get a chance to show the potential of the car.

"It's not the way I wanted to win my first pole. I wanted to fight Kenny and Bruno until the end because I know we had a strong enough car to win pole. There is not much I could have done differently. If I would have stopped on track, CART would have taken away my fastest lap time so I knew I just needed to get back to the pits as fast as I could.

"I have never won a pole and I wanted to accomplish that not only for myself but also for the team and Chevron that is based only one hour from the track. Winning a pole or a race is never easy especially with the competitive field we have today but I think we have a good car for the race. We are pretty confident. We have been fastest in seven of the eight sessions so we hope to keep it up until the checkered flag."

Newman-Haas Racing's Christian Fittipaldi was virtually the only car left on the circuit at the end of the 60 minute session after everyone else gave up and returned to the garage with no realistic hope of improving their lap times. Fittipaldi eventually settled for fifth place on the grid.

"My car was definitely not a front row car but it was a solid third through fifth place car. I'm happy with a fifth place start. The car had a little oversteer. Tony and Kenny were lucky that they ran their fast laps before the oil was on the track. No one improved their times on their second and final set of tires because of the oil. I think we have a good car for the race and I am looking forward to a strong result."

 

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