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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 11:28 GMT
$1m bonus for Da Matta
Max Papis (left) and Patrick Carpentier (right) douse Cristiano da Matta in champagne
Papis, Da Matta and Carpentier celebrate
Brazilian Cristiano da Matta has won his second Cart race in succession - and added $1m to his bank account - with a victory in the last race of the season.

Da Matta was leading the Marlboro 500 at the California Speedway from Italian Max Papis when the race was put under caution with less than 10 laps to go.

The race ran to the end under yellows.

After a crash involving rookie Scott Dixon on lap 216, Da Matta and Papis raced hard for the finish line knowing that whoever got there first would likely win the race.

It's unfortunate that the yellow flag came out - I still think that I beat him
Max Papis

Da Matta got the nod, crossing the line a whisker ahead of his rival.

"I thought I had to stay in the lead, and that's what I was trying to do," Da Matta said.

"What I didn't want to do is fight a lot with Max or Alex (Tagliani) because I didn't want a lot of others to be in the fight at the end."

Papis, who does not yet have a drive for next year, felt he had been shortchanged.

"It's unfortunate that the yellow flag came out. I still think that I beat him," Papis said.

"I learned a lot in my years of experience on a superspeedway. I'm still going to have to watch the video and check it out. But it was a great race, I accept the results."

Pit stops at the California 500
The Cart teams battle for position in the pit lane
The race was shortened from 250 laps to 230 and finally to 220 because of darkness. Rain had delayed the start by nearly an hour.

It was the fourth Cart career win for Da Matta, who also won in Surfers' Paradise last time out.

"I was pretty confident in the car and could go flat down to the end," Da Matta said.

"You need to be a little lucky, being in the right place at the right time. For everybody, it's a very exciting race. We were racing all together all the time."

The victory was also the second in a row at California Speedway for Newman Haas Racing. Christian Fittipaldi won last year.

The win moved Da Matta up on place in the championship to fourth, ahead of fellow countryman Helio Castroneves.

Penske quit rumours

Brazilian Gil de Ferran had wrapped up the title in Surfers' Paradise.

Swede Kenny Brack was second, with American Michael Andretti, who was eighth in Fontana, third.

Pole-sitter Alex Tagliani of Canada was third in the race, followed by Brazilian rookie Bruno Junqueira and countryman Tony Kanaan.

De Ferran was sixth. There is strong speculation that his Penske team will move into the Indy Racing League next year.

Papis ended the season on a high note, considering he may be without a ride next year - both he and team-mate Brack are leaving Team Rahal.

Papis has scored points in each of his last six races after failing in his previous four, improving from 12th to sixth in the final standings with 106 points.

Papis said: "This was my last race for Team Rahal. I don't know if this is goodbye or see you later because there's a lot of things still up in the air. I drove really hard for my whole career."

Cart Marlboro 500, Fontana, California 220 laps:

1 Cristiano da Matta (Bra) Lola-Toyota two hours 59 mins 39.716 secs
2 Max Papis (Ita) Lola-Ford at 0.123secs
3 Alex Tagliani Reynard-Ford at 0.492
4 Bruno Junqueira (Bra) Lola-Toyota at 0.922
5 Tony Kanaan (Bra) Reynard-Honda at 1.186
6 Gil de Ferran (Bra) Reynard-Honda at 3.131
7 Michael Andretti (USA) Reynard-Honda at 3.848
8 Casey Mears Honda/Reynard at 4.006, 9 A Barron (USA) Lola- Ford at 4.963
10 Patrick Carpentier (Can) Reynard-Ford at 5.818
Not Classified: Dario Franchitti (GB) Reynard-Honda 74 laps

Drivers Championship: 1 Gil de Ferran (Bra) 199 pts
2 Kenny Brack (Swe) 163
3 Michael Andretti 147
4 Helio Castroneves (Bra) 141
5 Cristiano da Matta (Bra) 140
6 Max Papis (Ita) 107
7 Dario Franchitti (GB) 105
8 Scott Dixon (Aus) 98
9 Tony Kanaan 93
10 Patrick Carpentier (Can) 91

See also:

05 Nov 01 |  Motorsport
McRae edges in front
30 Oct 01 |  Motorsport
Zanardi out of hospital
28 Oct 01 |  US Sport
De Ferran celebrates second title
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