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CART and Le Mans to share in future

By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 7, 2002

MIAMI -- CART and the American Le Mans Series, which raced Saturday, ran events at the same venue on the same weekend for the first time. CART president Chris Pook and ALMS officials met Sunday to discuss sharing a weekend next year.

"I think we're past the exploratory stage," Pook said. "We danced together this weekend and we didn't step on each other's toes."

Talks are to resume this week. Pook said sharing the Miami venue again is very likely and that the circuits may try to schedule more than one such weekend.

Pook also said that CART expanding its Latin-American following is a major goal for next season.

"It's very much a strategic part of our whole plan," Pook said. Miami is important to us; Tampa-St. Pete will be important to us."

WRONG TURN: Stuart Hayner was less than one lap away from winning Sunday's Trans-Am Series race, run after the grand prix. Then his steering failed.

That gave points leader Boris Said his third straight Trans-Am win.

Hayner led for the final 13 laps before he crashed into a retaining wall. He wound up fourth, behind Said, Justin Bell and Randy Ruhlman.

"I felt bad for about two seconds," Said said. "He deserved to win, but I got lucky."

With six Trans-Am wins and two races to go, Said has 296 points, 58 more than runner-up Paul Gentilozzi, who was 12th Sunday.

"There's no way we're going to lose the championship now," Said said. "I'd have to be the biggest idiot in the world if I threw it away."

THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR: For five of Sunday's drivers, the Grand Prix of the Americas wasn't their first look at racing through downtown Miami. Christian Fittipaldi, Jimmy Vasser, Adrian Fernandez, Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy were in the field for the 1995 Miami Grand Prix before CART moved the Indy-car race to Homestead.

Andretti also was in the five previous CART races in Miami, winning in 1987 and finishing out of the top 15 the other times.

A VIRTUAL CRAWL: Six caution flags resulted in Cristiano da Matta running the race at an average speed of 68.723 mph, the second-slowest winning speed in CART. Juan Montoya averaged 65.279 at Vancouver in 1999.

Da Matta has a 69-point lead over Bruno Junqueira, who finished fifth. With three races remaining, no driver can earn more than 68 points.

PIT STOPS: The victory by Toyota was the carmaker's ninth of the season, and its 1-2 finish was the sixth this year. ... Da Matta clinched the championship with three races remaining, the earliest since Alex Zanardi did it in 1998 with four to go. ... Da Matta's victory after starting sixth was only the second in 16 races in which the winner failed to qualify in the top five. Andretti started 15th at Long Beach.

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