CART Media Conference
Juan Pablo Montoya
April 27, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us today. Our guest this afternoon is rookie Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing who earned his first career FedEx Championship Series victory at the April 18th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Juan, who succeeds two-time FedEx Championship Series Champion, Alex Zanardi at Target Ganassi drove to a 2.805 second victory over Dario Franchitti in only his third start in the FedEx Championship Series. Juan, congratulations on your first victory and welcome.
JUAN MONTOYA: Thank you very much. I think -- I like the way you are saying, I think it is pretty good we done -- the team has done a great job for me and I think we are working together and I think it is pretty good.
T.E. McHALE: Juan became the first rookie to win a FedEx Championship event since Zanardi's 1996 victory at Laguna Seca, 38 events earlier and he was the fastest to his first career victory since Nigel Mansell won the 1993 season opener at Australia. His victory gave Target/Chip Ganassi Racing its fourth consecutive triumph at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach following by victories by current teammate, Jimmy Vasser in 1996 and Zanardi in 1997 and 1998. Juan heads into this weekend's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota at Nazareth Speedway ranked 7th in the FedEx Championship Series drivers' standings with 23 points. Greg Moore of Player's/Forsythe Racing leads with 39 points, followed by Fernandez of Patrick Racing and de Ferran of Walker Racing with 33 each. The Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix, presented by Toyota, Round 4 of the FedEx Championship Series will be televised live by ESPN this Sunday beginning at 12:30 P.M. eastern time. With that, we will open it up to questions for Juan.
Q. I guess, questions would start by asking if you could maybe kind of give a little bit of comparison to -- in terms of the team atmosphere and just the way the team is run at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing with the Williams Formula 1 team that you tested with so extensively last year?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is very difficult to compare. I think both teams are really good. They work -- I am sure both teams do a really good job; both have been champions more than once or twice, you know. At the moment, when I was with William, I was a test driver. I never went to races with them. I went to watch some races but never raced with them so it is difficult to compare. But what I saw from the outside, I think both teams are great, you know, everyone works together, and everyone in the team wants to win. So that just makes it so much easier because you know they are not just there for a job or to enjoy themselves. They are hungry for winning. When you are hungry for something, you fight for it until you get it. It is unbelievable, like in Target they don't stop. They want to just keep winning and keep beating the rest of the people.
Q. Following up, maybe one pointed towards this weekend's event. Certainly it has been a topic of discussion about the decision to run the low down-force speedway wings at Nazareth for the first time on the Champ Cars. Of course, you, in some sense, have an advantage over the other drivers in that you have never run at Nazareth with the high down-force configuration, so to a degree, do you think that that gives you a little bit of an advantage in the sense that you don't know what you are missing when you are running there?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't think so. With the top drivers, I am sure all the top drivers they will all get used to the cars straight-a-way. They have been testing there, you know, so -- but in my opinion, I am in a good position, of course, we test there and we are pretty quick. So that helps a lot. But I am sure like Dario, Jimmy, you know, all the top drivers there, they are going to pick it up pretty easy.
Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about what racing was like for you in Columbia and a little bit about your background there, what that all was like for you?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, I started in go-karts. I did about 14 years of go-karts. That, I think, gave me a lot of basics of what I know now. I think I learned a lot from my father especially and that was pretty good. Then when we start racing cars in Columbia, it was -- the level of motor sport in Columbia is quite low because financially it is not very good, Columbia, at the moment. So that was pretty tough. But the thing with all the experience we got and all the -- you know, it is a small series, but they had plenty of series so I was racing like three at the same time. So it gave me a lot of experience so when I came to America in 1994, I came to the first race in Miami when they were in the streets and I won the race. That was a big surprise for me - I said Jesus, I couldn't believe it. It was like, "Ooh."
Q. Were the conditions in Columbia significantly worse than they were here and what was it like when you first came to the United States and saw what you could do?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, it was a big surprise because you imagine you are in Columbia, small country and everything and you are coming to America and the motor sports here is huge, you know, they have so much races and so many things and so many drivers that I never expect that we were going to do so well.
Q. Congratulations, Juan, again on the win. A question and a follow-up: Did you have a timetable for yourself this year on winning a race or what was your desire or plan for this year?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, you know, at the beginning I wanted to get to run in the front with the guys in the ovals and get up to speed, but I don't know, I don't like to go to a track and say, okay, we are going to -- you know, going to qualify 20; finish 15, that will be, okay, get to the finish, I don't know, my mentality, I wanted to win, I wanted to run in the front. And, if someone else can do it, you know, we can do it. I think Jimmy has been a big help for me in that way because he has helped me a lot in the ovals. I think if you look at Japan, you can look at the results, we are running up there and we are very quick. If we didn't have problem with the fuel, I think we could have actually won the race.
Q. Following up, you had the second fastest lap at Homestead and the second or third fastest lap at Motegi and fastest lap at Long Beach. Is anyone holding you back or -- (laughs)
JUAN MONTOYA: Not really. I think Morris has done a great job for me, Morris Nunn. He always gave me a really good car. I think Homestead, at the beginning of the race, we struggled a bit. But apart from that, everywhere I have been, we managed to work together and get to a point that the car is very good, you know, to get the speed out, it is easy. That is the secret of the ovals. I think the driver could make a little bit of difference in how much he can approach the limit of the car, but the basics to go quick in the oval, I think, like everyone knows, most of the job is done by the car.
Q. I would like to address the issue of the problem that you had with Michael Andretti in Japan. You know that you are coming into a track that is basically his backyard; probably most of the fans will be aware of the situation. What has been the fallout from that? Have you made your peace with him? Just tell me about it. What do you expect from the fans in this area going back to that?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I think, you know, after the incident I spoke with Michael and everything was settled. I don't see any problems. Of course, I want to go there and beat him like I want to beat him anywhere else and I am sure he wants to beat me the same way and we want to beat, not only with Michael, with everyone else. Everyone wants to win and the only way to win you have to beat the rest of the people. So I don't know, I don't see any weird circumstances in Nazareth. I know Michael is very quick around there. I watched the race last year and if he wouldn't have made that mistake, I think he had the speed to win that race. Hopefully this year it will be different. We went and tested there. I think we tested, we got a really good car, so we got the weekend and we got the same car I am sure we are going to run in front.
Q. The test session that you are going to have on Thursday, will that be the -- you didn't race in too much traffic when you were up there to test. Could things be a lot different on Thursday afternoon?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I don't think so. I got a one problem in the slow session for what happened in the qualifying in Motegi, so -- and I am not with all the quick drivers, so that is going to be -- maybe it is going to be even better because it is going to be so much traffic and it is only 45 minutes, so much traffic and so much red lights that I don't think we are going to run a lot. Still if we got a good car, I still should be able to run quicker like anybody else in my group. That will help because I am going to run with a lot of traffic.
Q. Just a little more about Morris. How long do you think it takes for a driver to feel comfortable with an engineer where he tells you it is going to do something and you believe it? Did it take a couple of tests? Can you talk a little bit about that?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is more of a relationship. It is not just -- you can't look at the engineer as an engineer because you have to become a friend of him to understand the way he works. I think to understand each other, you have to spend some time together; enjoy what you are doing and I think we have done that with Morris. We have done a great job. When I got with him we go for dinner, we spend some time together and we talk about everything. That just makes the things so much easier because I think he believes what I say and I believe what he is going to do in the car. I got 100% trust. I believe in him 100%; that anything he is going to do, he is going to do, you know, to improve the car.
Q. You know that he hates rookies but you may have changed his mind?
JUAN MONTOYA: (laughs) I didn't know that. I don't know, I am sure -- he gets very stressed sometimes because -- I don't know, I come from Europe and in Europe we are very, I think, the way we drive and everything with the way the race has been done is very aggressive racing. So he panics sometimes but it is a lot of fun.
Q. I am sorry I missed the first part of the call so I hope you weren't ask about your relationship with Jimmy and wondering how he has helped you get adjusted this season, but apparently, you didn't need much adjustment last weekend, but your relationship with him and how you two work together?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think is he getting there. He is tough because you know, we want to beat each other, but at the same time, we want to beat the rest. I think we got a good relationship. I have got to say thank you to Jimmy because he has helped me a lot so far. Every time I got near the track, he said, hey, be careful here; these are the key points, you don't want to do -- the car do this, you don't want to go over this, you know, when you get there, you know that you shouldn't do that already, so you can get to speed a lot easier.
Q. Just for your information, we are at the start/finish line at Gateway International where they are running an open test today, but they are shut down for rain. Juan, where in the world did you get all this experience? Could you just briefly tell our listeners a little bit about that?
JUAN MONTOYA: (laughs) I don't know, I have been racing since I was five years old. I did 14 years of karting; then I did one or two years of racing in Columbia, about two years of racing in Columbia. Then I did one Barber-Saab; then I went to Europe, I did Formula Vauxhall; then Formula 3. I did two years of Formula 3000 and I worked with Williams last year. So I drove all kinds of cars. I did outrace -- one race where I race against Dario but we were kind of teammates, so I did a lot of racing with different cars. So I think -- it is funny when -- for the series, I am a rookie, but it is not my first race ever in history.
Q. No, you can tell that wasn't your first race. Got to congratulate you on the win too at Long Beach. But have you been to Gateway yet? You haven't tested here yet; have you?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I haven't.
Q. I think you are due here next week?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yes, I am going next week.
Q. I will be talking to you then next week when you get here.
JUAN MONTOYA: Okay.
Q. You mentioned earlier you have done very well on the ovals to this point. I guess you were expected to do well on the street courses. What do you think has made racing on ovals simpler for you and why have you adapted to it so easily?
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't know, I think part of it is I did quite a lot of testing before the beginning of the season but I did the same testing as everyone else. I could be confident because the car was good. We always play with little changes and I could start feeling the car and get up to speed. I had Jimmy there all the time helping me. I think the first initial test, the first test I did, Alex was there and I think that was a big help. He just said to me, the first thing you are going to do, you don't have to do -- you know, this that, that, that, that, don't do that. Just relax and enjoy the ride. I did that and it worked. And it still works.
Q. Did you have much of a relationship with Alex or did you just meet him in this test?
JUAN MONTOYA: I met him there and then I saw him at Fontana. That was about it. I know is he having some hard times in Europe, but I spoken with Frank and a lot of people and I am sure is he going to do well. I saw him race last year and I know he has what it takes to do it.
Q. You have been running well and you have got a victory. What has been the hardest adaptation, the hardest part of the transition to this season so far, if anything?
JUAN MONTOYA: Maybe racing in the ovals, especially in Homestead. It is not racing because you can go around with all the cars; it is how you can get the advantage; how you can get to overtake the other cars without making a mistake because in an oval, you make a mistake and 80% of the chances you are in the wall.
Q. So if I can follow-up, how does Nazareth play into that because it is obviously a tighter situation?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think I will have to answer you that after the race. It is my first short oval race. I can tell you that one of the things we got so far are a really open mind, get there and learn and I think that helps a lot. Everywhere I have been I want to learn something new and I think that is making a big difference.
Q. You were saying earlier that sometimes Morris Nunn is a little panicky and made me think of watching you at Miami, a lot of the photographers I know were saying: This guy is going to crash; he is just on the edge all the time. What kind of feedback have you got from the team in terms of were they surprised that you went at it as hard as you did, as quickly as you did and did they try to slow you down initially?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, they haven't. They said every time going to go out like on new tires they just take it easy, let it come with the car, the car has to do the job and all that. I think they, you know, they trust me. I got a good relationship with the mechanics, with everyone in the team. It is great. It is like a family.
Q. Did you get a sense they trusted you right from that first test or did it grow -- were there certain points --
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it has been growing and growing and growing. I hope it doesn't stop because it just gets better and better all the time.
Q. How aware were you of CART and the drivers in CART and the teams and that before you got here? I mean, I believe I read once that you had never seen a race, a CART race in person. But did you watch it on television? Did you read? Did you follow the sport in this circuit?
JUAN MONTOYA: I watched some in road courses, especially, never saw an oval race. Like Fontana was my first super speedway and that was unbelievable. But in 1994 when I race here a couple of times with them in road courses and street courses.
Q. You would go to the race or watch it on TV?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, I came here because I was racing here. But last year I used to watch 90% of the races because it is run. It is fun to watch. I think if you ask any of the young drivers in Europe or here and everything, they like to watch this because it is a lot of overtaking; a lot of things going on, a lot of strategy playing and that just makes racing so much fun. Last year I could watch the races and I couldn't believe, this year, we got to spring training and everyone was there. I knew Dario before, you know, but still it is one race, Greg Moore, Jimmy, everything, it is like: Wow.
Q. Following up, you are replacing one of the most successful, most popular drivers in CART. Do you feel, in addition to being a rookie, do you feel any added pressure because you are replacing Alex than if you were replacing perhaps one of the less successful drivers in CART?
JUAN MONTOYA: No. No, I don't think so. I want to have an image of myself. Dario was a big fan of Alex because the things he did with his car was unbelievable, you know, it was something incredible. But -- I don't know, I think everyone -- I think outside everyone thinks it is a lot of pressure because I am replacing Alex, but inside the team, I think Alex is history now.
Q. I would like to know a few things first at the beginning of the season you were telling us that you were hoping to win a race before the end of the season. It happened a lot quicker than I guess that you expected. Have you changed your goals for this year? This is my first question.
JUAN MONTOYA: I don't think -- you know, it is difficult to have like a goal for this season. I would love to win the Championship and the rookie and everything. But you never know what is going to happen. You just have to get through each of the event and get the best out of each, out of each of the races. It was a bit of a surprise how quick we were, you know, but I am happy.
Q. I saw you driving a few times last year on Formula 2000 because I cover also Formula 1 and you impressed me very much. At that time last summer there was a lot of talk in Formula 1 that you would get a job. Could you tell us what happened, how come Mr. Frank Williams didn't offer you one of the two jobs that were open with the Williams Team and did you have serious offer from other teams?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, there were some offers around. But when I saw Chip Ganassi's offer, and all that could happen, it was a long-term deal and everything and, you know, it is the best team, it is the most successful CART team. I had the opportunity to join them. Really, I didn't think it twice. I come here, you have a chance -- a real chance of winning races. You could go to Formula 1 maybe in a medium team and you are going to qualify in 10th - if you do a really good job you will qualify in 7th, but you don't have a real chance of winning races or anything. So I thought that would be better to come here and try to win here.
Q. My last question it is about the race this weekend at Nazareth. The Player's Team, Player's/Forsythe team with Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier has been very successful on oval. Do you see them as your maybe your main competitor next weekend?
JUAN MONTOYA: No, there is a lot of people, you know, I think Greg is going to be very strong there. They are always very strong in qualifying more than in the race. But if they get it right, you know, I am sure they are going to be up there. You cannot say that Greg and Patrick are not going to be the top 8 or 5, or whatever, fighting for the race the same way we expect it to be.
Q. You were mentioning there about Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier, I had one of the drivers I think you are sitting 7th in the Championship race and even though, you know, you had a very impressive win at Long Beach and in only your third start, one of the drivers told me he said he doubts whether you are a threat for the Championship, which seems a little strange coming off your victory in Long Beach. I mean, you said earlier you are going to take each race as it comes and if you get the Rookie-of-the-Year, if you get the Championship, that is all well and good. I mean, do you see yourself now as a threat for the Championship because obviously after three races you are in 7th place and you have won a race, so are you resetting your goals now and do you think you are a legitimate shot to win the title?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is difficult to say if I got a big shot at the Championship or shot. Every time I am going to go to a track it is going to be a new track. I get used to the tracks quite easy, so I don't think I am in a big disadvantage. I know I have got a great car everywhere I am going to go like 80% of the time I know it is really going to be a really good car, so I am pretty confident that we can get some really good points and fight and be up there at the end of the year to fight for the Championship.
Q. You are going to Nazareth for the next race. There is a lot of controversy I guess about these small super-speedway-type-wings that they are going to be putting on the cars even on the short oval tracks. Now some drivers have sort of said this will make the cars more difficult to drive, but by making them more difficult to drive it will actually separate, I guess, the men from the boys, you know, from the really top drivers from the ones that aren't right at the top. Can you even anticipate when you have this device on your car what kind of race it is going to be? Some people have said to me that there won't be a lot of passing, it will be kind of a follow-the-leader type race, qualifying is obviously going to be very, very important. But do you anticipate any type of problems with these little wings on your car on the short ovals?
JUAN MONTOYA: I think it is going to be very important to work -- do a really good job with the engineer because the race car is going to be very important because the -- what you said the level of grip is a lot lower so it is a lot easier to kill the tires, you know, and you can run for the good pace, you have got to do 80 laps on the tires; you can do maybe 40 laps in a good pace, but if you are trying too hard with the tire you are going to kill them. As soon as you kill the tires, then you are going to start going backwards. And I am sure there is going to be a lot of passing.
Q. You mentioned you had raced in North America before. I think you said 1994 that was a couple of --
JUAN MONTOYA: Barber-Saab Championship.
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah.
Q. That was two races here.
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah.
Q. I am wondering when you first arrived at Target/Chip Ganassi's shop -- I remember talking to Alex and he said immediately they made him feel as though he was part of the family. What were your first reactions when you first walked into the shop?
JUAN MONTOYA: I will agree with what Alex said. They don't treat you like the new boy or anything. They try to make you really as that you are a friend to them, you know, you can be a friend; you can trust them and they want the best for you. And they want to win as bad as you want. So it is great. It gives you a lot of confidence.
Q. When you were closing down on the finish line at Long Beach, what was going through your mind?
JUAN MONTOYA: Well, I couldn't believe it. It got to a point I was like, whoa; came into the last corner, start shifting up to the start/finish line, I said Jesus, I won. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it, you know. We did -- I think, that race was really good for me. We used the head and I think we had a really good car and we used it the way it had to be use.
Q. Chip said after the race that when asked to compare you to Alex he said, I don't know, I just think is he better looking than Alex. Do you think you are better looking than Alex?
JUAN MONTOYA: It is difficult to tell.
Q. (laughs) Thank you.
T.E. McHALE: We are going to open it up for a couple general questions for Juan before we call it a day.
Q. I am just wondering if this -- the start you have made to your CART career, if it has any effect on plans you might have to eventually try and get back into Formula 1, could you see this being with you end up, where your career finishes?
JUAN MONTOYA: Don't know. I got -- so far I got three years signed here. I want to concentrate on these three years. After these three years we have to wait and see where are we at that moment. I am sure sometime in the future I would like to go back. I am sure Dario and -- everyone, when they have done what they plan to do here, they want to try something else, you know, but I think that is too far away to think about.
Q. Just a quick follow-up, I wondered if you'd realized the kind of company you were in having won after three races only, Nigel Mansell had won quicker?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, it is surprising. It could have been even quicker if we would have won Japan. But I won in the street course. I was very concerned about the road courses, when I arrived to Long Beach because everything was going too well in the ovals. I think people were expecting a lot in the road courses and hopefully -- it was good that everything went the right way.
Q. I just wanted to ask if you could explain quickly the difference between driving a Formula 1 car and driving the cars you are in now, wondered if you could explain to our readers a little bit what the differences are and how you have adapted to the changes?
JUAN MONTOYA: The cars are quite different. These cars are a bit heavier. The steering is a lot heavier than the Formula 1. The gears, of course, in the Formula I is in the steering; here you got a sequential gearbox. I think you have a bit more power here, but at the same time say it is a bit heavier. So the cars are, you know, they accelerate quite similar. I think these cars have a bit more top speed. But in braking, Formula 1 stops quicker because it is lighter. But I think around the corners, like in the really quick corners no big difference. In the medium corners, Formula 1 is a bit quicker because it react quicker, but there is not that much difference.
Q. A question about your first meeting actually I guess with Chip and Morris Nunn, it actually -- if my understanding is correct, it took place at -- at a Formula 1 test at Barcelona; correct, and can you kind of talk about your initial impressions of Morris and Chip and how that, in one sense, it was kind of an interview for you for your job?
JUAN MONTOYA: Oh, yeah, it was -- I was very, very nervous when I went to meet them because it was kind of -- my future was in play there and I wanted the job, you know, so got there, I met Chip, I met Morris, I met Alex and then we start to run through all the race. I was trying really hard because, you know, I wanted to get the job. The first impression when I met Alex, I was a bit worried because he is like -- he was like a lot more mature than me, I would think because I am just like a kid, I am 23, but I think they took me -- all of them all three took me in a nice way and you know, I am very, very pleased that Chip took me to the job and I am trying to do the best I can because I don't want to let him down.
Q. In talking with Morris at some point at the end of last year, he talked about his initial meetings with you and talking to you about he would go out on the course and watch you driving last year at Barcelona, the Williams car and watch Alex driving it and just his, you know, his comments to you about, you know, about -- you know, that I think at the time he seemed to sense in a way that you were trying if not too hard, certainly trying very hard and just your initial -- that initial kind of -- it wasn't obviously a real debrief but in a way it kind of was, wasn't it?
JUAN MONTOYA: Yeah, you know, I was trying pretty hard. He said that sometimes it looked a bit scary and everything, but I just wanted the job so badly I was doing the best I could.
T.E. McHALE: At this point I am going to take one more question.
Q. Just a quick question here, Juan, you mentioned that you had watched CART quite extensively on television overseas. Now when you got here you have had three races now under your belt. Is there any driver that has really impressed you; maybe someone you hadn't really considered, but now having raced against this field for three races is there a driver or drivers that have impressed you with their ability?
JUAN MONTOYA: A name like, I don't know, there is not like a simple name because I think the general level of the drivers is a lot higher than what the people think it is. In Europe they think, you know, they have good drivers, but they are not that good. But when you get to race against them, they are all good racers.
T.E. McHALE: Thank you. With that we are going to wrap it up for the afternoon. I want to thank Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing for joining us this afternoon. Juan, thanks for being with us. Best of luck in the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix presented by Toyota this week and in the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.
JUAN MONTOYA: Thank you very much.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you who took the time to join us this afternoon and we will talk to you next week.
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