Cristiano da Matta
|BIRTHDATE||September 19, 1973|
|BIRTHPLACE||Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil|
|RESIDENCE||Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil|
Former CART Champ Car World Series Champion and Formula 1 driver Cristiano da Matta made one career race start with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing in 2008, co-driving a special No. 98 Daytona Prototype with Jimmy Vasser at Laguna Seca Raceway. The race marked a comeback to the sport for da Matta less than two years after sustaining critical injuries in an August 2006 testing accident at Road America when his race car struck a deer.
After capturing nearly every open-wheel racing championship in his native Brazil early in his career, da Matta made his North American debut in Indy Lights in 2007 and quickly began a winning ascent to the top levels of the sport. He won the 1998 Indy Lights Championship and moved up to the top-tier Champ Car division the following season, scoring his first victory in 2000.
A record Champ Car season in 2002 saw da Matta win seven races and the series title and paved the way to international Formula 1 competition the next two seasons. He returned to Champ Car in 2005 and won what turned out to be his final race in that series in June of that year. In total, da Matta’s career Champ Car record included 12 wins, 20 top-three podium finishes and seven poles in 101 race starts.
Although da Matta didn’t intend to mount a fulltime return to top-tier sports car or open-wheel racing, his one-off comeback run with GAINSCO in 2008 at Laguna Seca – a race he led – did open the door to additional opportunities. He tested and raced in Brazil’s Formula Truck series in 2009 and 2010, and in 2011 drove a Jaguar XKR GT in American Le Mans Series (ALMS) competition at selected races, competing on the same team as former GAINSCO driver Rocky Moran Jr.