CART Media Conference
July 15, 1997
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. We would like to thank you all for being with us today and we would like to extend a special welcome to our guest this afternoon driver Adrian Fernandez of the Tasman Motorsports Group. Welcome, Adrian, and thanks for taking the time to join us today.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much.
T.E. McHALE: Adrian, driver of the Tecate Beer, Quaker State Lola Honda enters Sunday's Molson Indy on the streets of Toronto Ontario, Canada as defending champion having driven to his first PPG CART World Series victory at Toronto last season. His earned points in 11 of the past 14 road course events in the Series, although his season best finished this year was an 8th on an oval in the inaugural Motorola 300 at Gateway International Raceway on Memorial Day weekend. He enters this weekend's Molson Indy ranked 19th in the PPG Cup Standings with 12 points. The Molson Indy, Round 11, of the PPG CART World Series will be televised by ABC on Sunday July 20 at 3:00 P.M. eastern daylight time. With that, we will open it up for questions.
Q. How do I explain to my readers what your chances are this year, in your words? I have my own understanding of the car not being competitive, but how do I explain this?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, that is a good question. It is very difficult. It has been very frustrating for us this year, especially, you know, everybody knows the situation with the Lola. It is going to be difficult for us to of course defend our victory from last year this year because the car hasn't just been competitive enough. It has been very difficult to set up the car. It basically has no balance. And, it is very difficult to get balance in places like Cleveland where it is very bumpy. That type of places, the problems basically magnifies in a much greater deal. And, that is why we were struggling in that capability in Cleveland. For Toronto, hopefully, smoother tracks suits more the car and it makes us a little bit more competitive. So, it is going to be. I say to be able to get to the podium, I can say it is going to be impossible, not because I don't want to do it, it is just because we don't have the equipment to be able to run up there. It is going to be mixed feelings going to Toronto now, especially after what happened with Jeff Krosnoff and Gary. It is a situation where you have mixed feelings for one side. You have won your first race in IndyCar which is one of, as a driver, one of the greatest achievements that you can have as a professional race car driver. On the other hand, you lost one of your friends and one of our guys that helps us all the time in the racetrack when we needed to have it. So, it is going to be mixed feelings. And, this race goes to all my respects and condolence to all the family of Jeff and Gary's family. And, hopefully with this race we can bring some happiness or some positive thoughts on some positive things to all the people in Toronto and to their families.
Q. That first answer pretty much covered everything that we were looking at. Basically maybe just tell us a little bit more about what you think the key was in your victory last year and maybe why you think a little more specifically your chances are diminished this year besides with the problems with your car?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Last year was a race where basically from practice 1 we were very competitive even though the cars didn't feel right. It is a track where it is difficult to set up the car. At the beginning the grip, as I remember, I think they repave last year the track, so the grip was very -- it was not -- it wasn't very good grip at the beginning. So, it was difficult to find the balance of the car. But, fortunately, for us we have had a balance straightaway. We managed to keep it all weekend. The Tasman Team really performed great on pit stops and we managed to have a very consistent and competitive run through the whole race where I managed to push hard into my teammates and then with the great pit stops and out- and in-laps that I made in each of the two pit stops, we managed to get ahead of Bobby Rahal at the end and managed to pull the victory. It was an important victory for us in the way that the team performed at 100%, in all aspects, setup-wise, pit stops through my guys and through my driving, without making any mistakes, and that put us in a position to win the race. For this year, as I say, in Cleveland we had huge hopes from the Lola car because we had a completely revised rear end of the car. That means all the gearbox was new in the way -- instead of being-- now it is going to be -- it was aluminum instead of -- I forget the name -- it is other material that they were using that it was flexing more. Now it is aluminum and all the parts that apparently that were flexing before and that was making the car being unpredictable. All that was revised and sent into Cleveland to try for the first time. So we have huge hopes, not just me, but Richie Hearn which is the other guy that he is left on the Lola. Basically from practice 1 we couldn't find the balance of the car. The car is very difficult to balance it and it is very unpredictable. And, to be honest, driving-wise it has been have very hard because we have to set up the car very strongly with the springs which the car hardly absorbs any bumps and makes everything even worse. So, for Toronto, there is some revised ergonomic package that we are going to try. Only thing I can tell you is my hopes are very high because at the moment that is the only thing that I can think that we can get in our side, in the ways of help, to be able to be more competitive. There is not a chance for me this year unfortunately to get a Reynard like my teammate did in Cleveland. I think Andre Ribeiro, in a way, proved that all year-round we have been having major problems with the car. And, as soon as he jumped into the Reynard, he was straight-a-way into the 5th spot in the first qualifying. So, that, you know, in a way, it proves to us that it has not been us because Andre and myself we have been pretty matched all year and same as last year. So, it has been -- it is frustrating in a way that I cannot have a Reynard and prove myself this year and defend my race win in Toronto. In the other side, we cannot get another Reynard to be able to finish this season. And if we order a new Reynard, it takes from six to seven weeks which that leaves you to do the last two races, which is a very, very complicated situation because we are basically stuck in that situation. As I was saying to my team owner, he has like been in prison and knowing that you are innocent and you cannot do anything. That is basically how I can describe it. I am in a situation and with all my team in a situation that there is nothing we can do at the moment to cure our problem, but just trust and keep hopes that Lola will come up with something that, you know, is going to bring the car around and we are going to be competitive. So at the moment, that is our only hope.
Q. When you were answering, I think, the first question, I was thinking back to one of the first times that you and I spoke and it was right before your debut in the PPG CART World Series, even though you were filled with reality that it was going to be a road up; you had a lot of optimism. How does it feel going into a race after just saying "I know I have really no chance for the podium?" What does that do for your emotions?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It is tough, to be honest. It has been very, very frustrating and the only thing I can tell you is that I have had -- I am -- I mean, it is not just me. It is all my guys, my engineer Diane Holl, all my mechanics. Even Steve, I think he has mixed feelings. From one side he has a car who he can win and from the other side he has a car that he cannot even put the car on the top 18. It is tough because this is the first time I think in my career that I am going to race without thinking about the possibility of winning. It is very difficult mentally and emotionally because, you know, not just that because I feel bad for my sponsor also because there is nothing I can do now to pay -- to do an effort to bring the result that they deserve from all the support that they have given me, all my sponsors, Quaker State and Tecate which are all Mexican sponsorships. It has been very hard also for them. And, only Mexico, everybody is pretty sad about the situation and unfortunately there is nothing I can do. So, in that respect, it is very, very hard. The only thing I can think of some time just to get that out of this is I know if I would have been in Andre's situation with Reynard, I would be where he is. And, you know, we will be done what we were expecting to do this year and that was -- our plans were in this year was we knew we were competitive, we knew we could win races. The only thing we needed to have was to be more consistent. I think everybody raised there level of -- in every aspect, from the team aspect, from the driver aspect. You know, I got myself -- I got prepared more physical, more mentally to approach this season so I will do less mistakes and approach racing in a better way so we can be more consistent and competitive through the season to fight for the Championship. But, when we got in the situation with the Lola that was like, you know, like a situation that it brought all your dreams down in a hurry. And, now that we are stuck with the situation where we cannot do anything and that our hopes are only Lola, in whatever they can do. If you think about it, I mean, Lola is also in a very tough situation because if they don't prove themselves this year that they can be competitive, I mean, they may be in a very tough situation for the future to sell even one car for IndyCar. In this situation we are in the same ballgame. But, it is, personally, affecting me, of course, with the situation for the future. But I just hope that this will not jeopardize and the people that know Adrian Fernandez will stand behind Adrian Fernandez all the way into the future.
Q. Emotionally is this a situation where a lot of times with people who are just coming into the Series they say optimism sometimes is blinded by reality. Is this a situation where the year of experience that you now have kind of hurt you from being an optimist even though you know you can't do it?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, I am optimist in the way that I have to keep my hopes always high. Like last weekend in Cleveland, I was very optimistic about the whole things that they were changing on the car were going to make a difference. Because, in a way, to me, it makes sense, you know, the car was apparently flexing and it was not making the correct -- it was not reacting the proper way a race car should be. And, you know, all the things that we talked there, it just made sense. When we went to Cleveland, that was a hard hit for me because that was a major change for the first time in the year. Before we were moving little things, maybe the front wing and things like that. But, this was a major change for the first time in the year. When you go into a race and you try those major changes and it doesn't make any difference, really, that hits you hard. And, the experience that I have achieved through the years, the competitive level that I have achieved, unfortunately, you cannot do anything it at the moment. You can speak to people like and Andre Ribeiro that have now a Reynard or even Greg Moore or Scott Pruett or Raul Boesel that they switched to Reynard what difficulties they had when they had this car. So, the only thing I have to do is just keep positive even though the situation is tough because I have, you know, all my guys are going through the same situation, so somebody has to be strong enough to go through the whole year and you never know, I mean, maybe this year makes you even tougher for the future. Hopefully this type of driving and driving this car is going to make me a better driver for the future.
Q. Adrian thanks, best to you?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much.
Q. Adrian, first, you tried a new undertray try there in Cleveland. I was wondering if that gave you anything all that you can feel. Secondly, this one is a little bit harder. Having a tough season like you have had and knowing that Tasman has a lot of guys in the pipeline from their Indy Lights program, how comfortable do you feel about being with the team for next year or are you looking around? Have you even begun to think about that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Your first question about the undertray, yeah, they brought on Saturday -- for Friday, of course, we try all these new things, mechanical things on the car for practice which, unfortunately, didn't work. And, then for Sunday morning, the Lola people in close with Tasman, they went to the shop at night. They drove from Cleveland to the shop in Columbus, Ohio. And, they made a modification to the undertray. Unfortunately, you know, this didn't also make any difference on the car. We tried it and it -- just basically the car didn't have any changes. It was still the same reaction, the same problem. And, so that didn't change anything. Your second question, of course, I know Steve has a lot of support from Marlboro and from his sponsors in that side to support Andre and to support the two Indy Lights teams, but Steve has been very honest with me and I have also been to him, and basically we know that there is a chance for both of us to continue next year. And, the doors are open for both of us. Of course, at the same time, he is looking for an opportunity for the future. I am also looking opportunities in different scenarios because it may be well be that there is -- even though we may want to keep together, we may not have the possibility of keeping together because of a sponsorship situation or other situations that may arise. But, it is one of the good things in the relation that I have with Steve is that we have been very open with each other and we know exactly what we are doing. I would love to continue with the team. Our relationship is good. But, we know that we need to keep our options opened for anything in the future, especially in this type of difficulty that we have through the year because with our sponsors, even though never committed to myself and everything, you never know a season like this can really hurt you a lot. And only thing I can tell you is that I just hope that, you know, Quaker State and the rest of our sponsors understand that this is basically -- I don't think this has ever -- that this happened this bad in racing for a long time - maybe you know better than me - from what I have heard, this hasn't happened for a long time. I think the last time something like this bad happened was with March. I don't know how many years ago was that. But, now, we are in this situation and unfortunately, as I was talking a few minutes ago with one of my sponsors, he said, we cannot do anything to change this situation and they already have given huge amounts of money to compete and it hits really hard to them. Hopefully, they will understand the situation and, you know, they will be able to come back to us and so we can continue racing and prove that we can win races.
Q. If you could just bear with me and explain why the Lola is suddenly so inferior, you know, I mean, what is the difference that has occurred that has made this car just or this chassis just unworkable?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, that is a good question and that is a question that everybody -- we all ask this question. Steve has a lot of experience in racing and, you know, a lot of people went to a few people like the Player's Team and the Brahma Team went to Lola. Steve has always been very loyal to his people and he just -- he always thought that the problem wasn't a major problem that was going to keep all year and, you know, he basically have his thoughts in every problem, which is the owner. He always knew that there was no money taken from IndyCars to Formula I which wasn't the case at the end. So, you know, I think Steve also got a big hit from that, that he in Lola. And all that has changed. And, what happened with the car is basically that -- I don't think nobody knows what is the problem with the car because -- I mean, we know what is the problem. The problem is that it is not -- it is just not handling. It is unpredictable. It has no grip. It has no -- it is just not reacting like a normal race car. The problem is that -- not even Lola has found the real problem of it. I am not saying they are not trying. Everybody at Lola is trying really hard to make this thing work. But, unfortunately, it is just not happening. And, I don't think and I don't know if they really know what is the real problem of the car. It may be that the car was just born wrong and it has no solution. At the moment that has been the case. I hope that with the testing -- they are going to do a lot of wind testing in different places this week, and different things and help from the outside, to see if they can find the bottom line of the problem of the car, which, at the moment, they haven't. So, it is very difficult for me to explain what the problem is because nobody knows what is the problem. The only thing I can tell you just the car doesn't work the normal way. And, a good proof of that is how can just suddenly Andre Ribeiro with a team and his engineer Don Halliday get a car in a week basically with no testing, goes into Cleveland and puts the normal setup that we normally use in a racetrack and qualifies 5th in the first qualifying? That proves to us that, you know, that car wasn't working good. That was, in a way, a good relief to everybody. Better for Andrew, of course. Because he has a Reynard. But, in a way that, you know, the team is not a bad team. Nobody was doing anything wrong. Basically we just had a car that, you know, it was not handling.
Q. The situation that Andre got a Reynard and you didn't; what were the reasons for that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, the reason for that was Andre's people they found a Reynard, they found a situation with Derrick Walker where basically they, I think, convinced Derrick to be able to sell them a car. Derrick Walker has three cars -- he had three cars, so he had one extra car. Normally, everybody has two cars, so, they managed to pull away that deal with them which, in a way, we didn't have any -- no decision in that respect. Steve makes those decisions and at the end we have to respect his decision. Unfortunately, for us, it is not good. But, we just have to concentrate on what we can do. The sad part I was saying is that there is no more Reynard. There is no other team around there that has -- apart from there their two cars, one extra car, so, at this point in the season, that is a very tough situation because we cannot get another Reynard. If Andre have an accident where, you know, he completely damages the car, then he will have to go back to the Lola.
Q. Last year the mixed emotions, we were waiting at the podium, saw your dad just jumping up an down excited for your win. And, then, of course, everything went down and the mixed emotions of that, but really what I want to ask you is a couple of years ago at Vancouver you told me you are doing a lot of work with underprivileged children in Mexico and you do a lot of in-country promotions. Are you still doing all of that?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Oh, yeah, that is a real big part of our problem in Mexico. As I was saying those days, you know, my hope has always been to be example to all of Mexico and to the kids and to the families to try to raise their kids in the best manner and that is with a good education, in sports, in family orientation matters and in all the good things that you can bring to a family to bring -- to raise a good family. We will still do a lot of those things. We go and give a lot of speeches through the whole Republic of Mexico. We visit a lot of primary schools. We go to a lot of poor sections of the city where we get together with some athletes sometimes in Mexico, we race in some events. We try to spend some of our time with these kids, especially with the kids that they are abandoned by their parents or their parents got killed or they were abused or they were left behind. So we have -- that is a project that makes my life complete and that is something that I have to keep doing because I think it is a good thing to do for your country and for the people they need that help.
Q. Are you seeing results with your efforts?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, you know, Mexico City is a huge, huge city. We have 22 millions, I believe, now, in the whole city. So, it is hard to quantify it in numbers. But, what I can see, the progress of the people that we have seen, and, for us, that is, we try to keep eye on the people that we are trying to help and the groups we are trying to help. And, through my office in Mexico, we try to follow-up on them and see how they are doing. And, we see some changes. Every time we go to Mexico - sometimes we have visits the same schools, the same people two, three times and I can see some changes. The problem is there is so much you can do. So, by doing this, I have try to encourage other athletes and actors or people which have some name in Mexico, which can do the same thing and, in conjunction, we can do better things for Mexico.
Q. What first got you involved with working with young children in Mexico?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, you know, for me when I started racing really I didn't have any money or any support to become a race car driver. Everything I have done is done with a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices and determination. And, I have always great dreams and great hopes when I was a kid and a lot of people, they are always -- they always thought -- they took it for granted what I was doing and the way I was acting and now that I have achieved through all these years all what I have done, when I come back and see other people that, you know, they don't have the orientation that I wish I could have when I was a kid, that is when it brings me the will to be able to try to help them. That goes into everything. I do the same with people that comes into racing; try to do it, you know, some people think it is very easy. I tell them it is never easy and the way they have to do it is they have to commit to these -- what they believe is their future, 100%. I think a lot of kids, a lot of young athletes, they don't have this orientation well put to them. I don't say that everything I have done is right. But, the only thing I can tell you is that I think that with the determination and with hope, you will always achieve whatever you want to do. And, this is what -- that is what really gave me the, you know, the need for me to try in any time possible when my time determines it to try to help in any way I can, the young Mexicans and future of our company.
Q. Who has been the biggest influence in your life both from a professional side and also from a personal side?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, at beginning was my two uncles which they race car drivers and they really got me involved in racing. They used to do a lot of club racing. They were my idols when I was a kid. I would say in the respect of racing, they were the two main ones that really got me into this. But then my father -- my father really led me to always what I wanted to do. He never interfered with it. He always supported me with it. I feel very proud of that because I think if he would have tried to take control of my career or tried to interfere with it, I wouldn't be where I am. In that respect, I respect what he has done. And, the rest really has been a lot of people through all my stages of my career which have helped me. I cannot mention one because that would not be the real credit to somebody because it has been maybe 20 people that in different stages of my career have helped me to get where I am.
Q. You had said before that the gearbox, it was changed to aluminum. Was that from magnesium?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: From magnesium, yeah.
Q. Which is heavier also, right?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, aluminum is heavier than magnesium. But in that respect, it doesn't -- we are under weight with the car, so that didn't really make a problem into the car. What they were trying to achieve, which they did, is achieve a 75% more stiffness in the rear of the car from the uprights to the gearbox, everything on the rear of the car.
Q. Did they change more things than the gearbox, they changed all the parts?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, all the gearbox exterior, it is all brand new and some other parts in the suspension just to make sure that nothing was flexing or there was nothing really making anything funny that was making the car flexing. So, they changed a lot of -- revised all the rear suspension just to make sure everything was working fine. Then they achieved like 75% more stiffness on the rear of the car.
Q. By using aluminum?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, then, of course, all the design of the gearbox.
Q. With the undertray, what was the change that they made there? Was that a material change also?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: That was basically just a different way of the open of the wind tunnel, the way they are laid on the bottom of the car, they just basically changed the design a little bit with putting some modification with carbon fiber, therefore, that was a very quick change for the race. Just trying to figure out if that could be something that was affecting the performance also of the car. Just to get some direction for the future races.
Q. Since those changes, did it make a difference in the performance of the car or are they going to stay or are they going to go back to lighter material?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: No, they are going to stay, of course, with what we had in Cleveland. But, now they are into very extensive wind tunnel problems which, hopefully, they can find some of the problems of the car and hopefully that will transfer into a performance for the racetrack.
Q. Do you know if they had changed the track, moved the fence or the tree or whatever from last year in Toronto?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: As far as I know, I don't know yet exactly what has been done. As far as I know, they were going to do a major changes in that respect on 16th. And, one of the reasons I am coming early is to just see exactly what has been done. And, of course, I can promise you that that will be one of the areas that car will make sure is completely safe and that what happened last year will not happen again.
Q. You are doing an inspection of the track?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah, I am going -- well, I am doing inspection for myself. If I have any comments, I will, for sure, transfer it to the Commissioner of CART.
Q. When you tell me your car is not handling, is it a loose condition? Is it pushing? When they watch you on television and they see your rear end going out toward the corner or do they see it going in toward the infield?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Sometimes it is tough to see it on TV 100% because the only way sometimes you can see it on TV is when you really abusing the car. Maybe you can see it more in qualifying than in the race because in the race, even though you may go slower, what you are trying to achieve is not try to kill the tires. If you are sideways all the time, you are going to kill the tires. So what you do is try to reduce the speed to try to go with what you have. And sometimes it is -- that is why sometimes it is hard to see it on TV. But what happens is, especially in Cleveland what we have -- we had a very a push situation into the corner, a massive push with an over-steering situation in the exit. And, one of the worst parts was through the bumps, the car was basically not absorbing the bumps and it was very hard to put the power down. In all, it make a very unbalanced car. That is why we could not manage to get a competitive time. We are talking about, you know, Cleveland we were like three seconds, yeah, something like three seconds off the pace; which, in racing, is a lot.
Q. So we are certainly not talking about the Honda Power Plant? We know that makes enough --
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yeah.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Tires are perfect. Honda and Firestone tires, we cannot complain about that.
T.E. McHALE: We will wrap it up. Thanks, Adrian, for taking the time to join us today. We wish you the best of luck in the Molson Indy this Sunday in Toronto and for the rest of the season. Thank you all again for joining us. Please join us again next week when our guest will be defending U.S. 500 and PPG Cup Champion Jimmy Vasser. Thanks again and good day to everybody.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you, everybody, bye-bye.
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