Winning Tradition

Home / History / Champions / Cristiano da Matta

Cristiano da Matta
CHAMPION 2002 | Drove for NHR from 2001-2002 | 39 starts

Cristiano da Matta earned a series high seven wins and seven pole positions as well as led almost twice as many laps as the driver ranked second in that category to earn the team its fourth title. Despite winning a total of seven races, his domination exceeded that mark as victory was within reach in another seven events (Long Beach, Cleveland, Vancouver, Montreal, Australia, Fontana, Mexico City) but each win eluded him due to a variety of circumstances. He matched Al Unser Jr. and Alex Zanardi’s CART Champ Car record for four consecutive wins although he was unable to break the record due to an engine failure in the fifth event. He was one win away from matching a CART record for most wins in one season – at eight -- despite leading the race in two of his final three attempts and finishing second in his third. With three races left in the season, he clinched the championship with a win in Miami. In addition to seven pole positions, he started on the front row a total of nine times in 19 events. Largely on the strength of 11 podium finishes in 19 races, he had accumulated the second highest number of points in modern CART history with 73 over second place Bruno Junqueira, behind only Alex Zanardi’s 116-point winning margin in 1998. By setting the fastest race lap the most times during the season – at six -- he won the Honda Fast Lap award as well as a Honda motorcycle. Da Matta became the first open wheel driver since Nigel Mansell in 1993 (with NHR) to win the National “Driver of the Year” award, which is voted on by a national panel of journalists. He also earned the honor of being named to the AAWRBA First Team and was voted by fans as Racer Magazine’s “Road Racer of the Year” and was a close second to five-time F 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher for “Overall Racer of the Year.” Due to da Matta and NHR’s efforts, the successful season earned him a test and later, the opportunity to race for Toyota’s Formula One program for 2003. Overall, in da Matta’s two seasons with the team, he earned 10 wins and seven pole positions.

Back to List

Schedule a WebEx

Media Information

Commercial Operations