Friday pm practice: Da Matta again

Cristiano da Matta saved his best lap for last and pipped Helio Castroneves for the fastest time in Friday afternoon's Champ Car action at Cleveland

Friday pm practice: Da Matta again

The 28-year old Brazilian's time of 57.905 seconds (130.932 mph) was exactly one second faster than he managed in the Friday morning session, when he was also fastest. Cristiano earned his first trip to the podium in Champ Cars at Cleveland in 2000 before breaking through to score his first win at Chicago Motor Speedway a few weeks later.

"For sure it was hot, but it wasn't a problem for me," da Matta said after completing 50 practice laps in the afternoon session. "My car was good in the morning, actually better than it was in the afternoon. We made some big changes, and some of them didn't work. But today doesn't really count for anything anyway."

Conditions were slightly more pleasant in the afternoon than in the sweltering morning session because of considerable cloud cover, but the drivers still faced temperatures near 90 degrees with stifling humidity.

"Days like today are gruelling," noted Kenny Brack, who improved to third overall in the Shell Lola-Ford on his last practice lap. "You don't think about it in the car when you're driving, but when you're in the pits, talking over changes to the car with the engineers, it's unbelievable. But when you're on the move, you blank it out."

"I live in Miami, so I'm used to it," said da Matta. "I work out every day in the heat. Cleveland is always hot. I heard about it before I started coming here in Indy Lights. But to be honest, I prefer it to cold weather."

Brack improved from fourth to second in the afternoon, but he said his morning result was not indicative of his car's potential.

"We had about a 12th place car in the morning, but we were one of the only ones to run new tyres, so I don't think that gave a true reading," he said. "We were struggling in the morning, but we made the car pretty good in the afternoon, and I'm happy with it now. It's not perfect, but it's a good start for tomorrow."

Castroneves bounced back to run second fastest after turning only a handful of laps in the morning session before being sidelined by back spasms. Ice and treatment between sessions helped, but the Brazilian headed back to the Medical Centre after the afternoon action.

"We didn't know where we would be at after not running in the morning, but the car was good right away," Castroneves said. His team mate Gil de Ferran lost an engine in the afternoon session and was 10th fastest in his back-up car.

Fourth overall was Paul Tracy, followed by his team mate Dario Franchitti, Adrian Fernandez and Bryan Herta.

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