CART Media Conference
August 24, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Thanks for joining us for the CART media teleconference. We appreciate you making the time to be with us today. Our guest today is driver Max Papis of Team Rahal who earned his first career FedEx Championship Series pole positions matched a career best with a fourth place finish at Sunday's inaugural Target Grand Prix presented by Shell at the Chicago Motor Speedway. Max, congratulations on a great weekend. Welcome. Thank you for being with us today.
MAX PAPIS: Thanks, everyone.
T.E. McHALE: Max is in his fourth year in the FedEx Championship Series and in his first year driving the Miller Lite Ford Reynard for Team Rahal. Sunday's fourth place finished matched his performance at Rio de Janeiro and was his seventh Top-5 finish of the season. During a very consistent year, Max now ranks second in the FedEx Championship Series in laps completed with 2,113 of a possible 2,197. And miles completed with 2,207.398 of a possible 3,494.175. Both those totals rank him second only to series leader Juan Montoya in those categories. Heading into the September 5th Molson Indy Vancouver, Max stands a career best 9th in the FedEx Championship Series driver standings with 91 points. At this point we are going to turn it over to questions for Max beginning with.
Q. Things really seem to be coming together this year and this part of the season. I wonder what is different or what you attribute that to?
MAX PAPIS: What do you mean --
Q. Well, you are driving a lot more consistent this year. Is it just being with Rahal, or is it a maturity thing with your driving?
MAX PAPIS: You know, you have to look back at what we were doing in the past, like in the last three years I have been developing the Toyota engine so we were on a completely different program. We were developing and we were very consistent there, too, like we were all the time finishing when we could, and here this year is a different deal. This year the reason is that mainly we have a winning equipment. We have Ford that is backing us in a tremendous way. We have a very consistent car and we are getting the right chemistry together. We are knocking on the door all the time for a podium finish and consistency comes out of making better and better every race we can.
Q. What are your feelings about the Vancouver track?
MAX PAPIS: Last year it was not a great layout. It was kind of so-and-so, but this year they changed it a lot. It is going to be a lot better. I think the most important thing, what I love about Vancouver is the crowd, the passion of the people and just having all these race fans out there and these knowledgeable people because it is a great event for the city and I think it now, with the improvement they have done at the track, it is going to be even a better show and more enjoyable for the drivers.
Q. Can I ask you about your friend Greg Moore? Have you noticed anything different about his driving this year. He just doesn't seem to be a factor this year.
MAX PAPIS: For sure Greg is a very, very talented driver. He has been definitely very busy negotiating the new deal and I am sure even if this -- it seems it doesn't affect you, sometimes it does. Greg is always a factor. The difference last year - maybe you saw him a little bit more up there - this year he is not so consistent up there. He won a race. I think he finished a couple of times on the podium. So I think the difference is just that maybe recently he hasn't been that fast, that consistent. But you can never count him out.
Q. Can I just get a quote about watching Juan Montoya out there, about his driving style?
MAX PAPIS: I think he drives -- I agree with what he does. He is a very aggressive driver. He is a very determined one. And there is nothing wrong with what he does. That is what you are supposed to do. When you are out there, you get paid to beat everybody else, no mercy. That is what he has, no mercy. For sure he is winning and he is winning a lot. For sure someone is not so happy about it. What I think, if I would be in his position, I would do nothing else than what he does. Maybe I would do it with a little bit more of smile on my face.
Q. When you made the switch over to Rahal, obviously the expectations were a great deal higher than what they had been in the past. My question at this stage is now that you are just knocking on that success, is it frustrating to see how close you have gotten or is it still very encouraging to you?
MAX PAPIS: Me, I see in the opposite of frustration. I see everything in the positive side. I mean, we are building for success. As you see recently, our performance has been boosted up quite a lot and what I see is that definitely like when you know that you have a winning material in your hands, the Ford, Reynard, Firestone tires, you know you can win every race. You have the opportunity. You have the potential, let's say, to win every race. How I see that we are developing for future success. Team Rahal was, I don't know, I think it was since 1991, I think 1992 they didn't do a pole position on a oval. We are making a lot of steps forward considering what the team has been doing in the past as well. And as I said, I am working on the chemistry to be a real top contender for the Championship for next year.
Q. I have two questions. One of them is, first of all, Dario Franchitti and Jimmy Vasser have been really upset about the lap traffic. Dario was really upset about PJ Jones not pulling over and I think Jimmy Vasser was saying the same thing about Robby Gordon, that Gordon had been blue-flagged, he is not coming over. Do you think this is a new trend? My second question is: I actually was watching a rerun of Letterman last night and it was a rerun, but it was right after Michigan, he is talking about you running out of -- you know, setting it up that here is this young man, he is that close to his victory. I thought: Oh, no, he is going to make a joke. But he was right there for you. How is it having that type of support from someone after being so close to victory?
MAX PAPIS: Definitely, as you just said, David, he is not only partner on our team, but he is a great motor supporter. To be able to make people laugh, you need to be able to make people think as well and that is what David does. Of course, he makes a lot of people happy in some situations, but when you were there, for me having him and congratulate myself and the team for my behavior and both on the track and off of the track, it is an honor. Because David is someone who has no problem to speak the truth and say exactly what he is thinking about people in good and bad situations. Having his support on national television is important, but besides having it on TV, we know we have his support every weekend. It is great that such a person who has such a passion for motor racing is behind us 110 percent. That is basically how it is all our team. It is not only Dave. Our team is built on human relation. We have great people in the Miller team; that we trust one another. That is why we are building on to the consistency and we are getting closer and closer to one of our future success.
Q. About lap traffic again --
MAX PAPIS: You know, definitely there are some drivers that are stupid. Yeah, definitely -- that is the difference of the winner and the loser - the winner doesn't need to be stupid. They use their own gains, when you are not so fast you let the other people go. When you are fast, you take your day (sic). I am very, very disappointed and upset as well, that is what you said, on PJ and Robby for their behavior in the race on Sunday. And it seems it is always the same people. It is not -- if it is always the same people, it means that it is not related to the way of racing. It is related to the way that these people think about racing. Sometimes it is sad to see that, you know, people don't accept their own limitation.
Q. Are you in Italy as we speak?
MAX PAPIS: No, I am in Miami.
Q. Max, you debuted your web site a couple weeks ago. We talked about it before it came up and I was looking at it. It really, in my opinion, reflects your personality. Is that what you are trying to convey, a warmness to the fans?
MAX PAPIS: The reason of our web site mainly is to let people know who I am; why I am here; why I have the passion for motor racing and give the opportunity to all you guys, journalists to pick up the latest news and get the latest things for inside for my life and what is happening, so that basically is to help you out on your job; help you out on your job and give an opportunity to all my race fans to be updated and knowing what is happening in my motor racing life.
Q. Talk about your relationship with Bobby and how that has come together. Has that not only been something for you in a positive way personally, but also in the way that you race?
MAX PAPIS: You know, Bobby, you don't need to explain who he is. Like he is such a great gentleman and he is someone that has done tremendous for our sport. Having him on my side, you know, he is my friend; he is my supporter. He is there with me in the good and in the bad moment. That is what counts the most, especially the bad moment. I know that he has 110 percent belief that I can win every race and I can sit on every pole. So what it means that the most important things for me is building the chemistry of my team around people that have belief in my abilities. Bobby, definitely, he is my greatest support on the team.
Q. In recent weeks as the chemistries you talked about has grown and your results have grown as well, what has been the response back in Italy?
MAX PAPIS: As you know, like in Europe, in Italy we have a tremendous amount of passionate people that are following me every weekend. Many people cried on Sunday when we ran out of fuel in Michigan, but I know that all these people, they were there, they are going to be there when I am going to win my first race. There is a lot of attention over there; especially because of the passion and all the effort that I am putting into the business. I am very, very proud of representing all the Italians, not only my country but even here in the United States, and a win for me would mean a lot to wave my Italian flag up there on the podium.
Q. Max, talk a little bit about being a little bit more fun being a contending driver than a development driver?
MAX PAPIS: For me the fun is the same. Enjoying it tremendously in the previous years as well. The only difference is that me, I have fun -- I enjoy driving my car. I enjoy every lap, every single moment I can be part of motor racing sport. The only difference this year, all you guys can see the quality of the effort that we are putting into the business and you can quantify that with some proper results. For sure, being able to fight for the lead, it is a greatest satisfaction being able to fight for seven or eighth place. But the level of enjoyment is very, very similar; definitely the level of satisfaction is different.
Q. I remember seeing you in the sports cars, there is absolutely no question about your willingness to win and desire to do well behind the wheel of a car. Talk to me a little bit about some of the things they are making at Vancouver and do you think -- we know that you like the changes there, but what exactly do you think is going to suit your driving style up there, what changes --
MAX PAPIS: Vancouver last year was a good track in itself, the problem was, you know, there were some strange corners - like very, very slow corner and like a couple of Chicanes where -- like really didn't make a lot of sense and it was a really fast car in front of the pit that was kind of dangerous and I think all these things were taken care because CART is working for our future, is working for making the series safer and a better show. And I feel that is going to be the major reason. Most of all, what I am glad about Vancouver is that we are going to have a tremendous support from all the race fans and this is going to be -- this is going to be what is going to make me push a little bit harder.
Q. You have been through Formula 1, sports cars, and now different levels of Champ Cars. For you, what is the ultimate in motor racing? Would it be race racing a good race in 24 hours or making it to Formula 1 or winning here in CART?
MAX PAPIS: There is no ultimate. I enjoy driving Ferrari; I enjoy driving sports car. I enjoy driving when I drove for Toyota and here. The ultimate thing is my goal - what I want to do, you know -- I want to win races in Champ Car. That is one of my greatest goals I have at the moment. And in the same time, you know, the two greatest things I really want to achieve in my life is the 24 hour of LeMans and the 24 hours of Daytona. These are the two races that really, really care a lot. So I am working very hard to achieve these three dreams - the three goals more than dreams. We are not so far from them. We have been knocking on the door all the time, so I think that is what counts. We are a contender all the time. We are racing in one of these races, so that is what counts.
Q. With the addition of the Hawaiian Super Prix at the end of the year where it has not been confirmed one way or the other that there could be drivers from other series competing. Do you like the idea of everyone comes and you all take the same car and you go off --
MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. I think that is, you know, that -- if you think you are the best driver, you are the best driver. You don't have to be afraid of facing anybody. I think that is the key for -- that is why I really feel that Jacques Villeneuve or Alex Zanardi or Michael Schumacher whoever wants to come over to the Hawaiian Grand Prix should come over, actually they should, because it is just -- this is a sport and it is very, very nice to see different competitors, you know, showing their different abilities. Actually it would be cool to see even Jeff Gordon out there.
Q. They have the International Race of Champions and would you like to see something like the Hawaiian Super Prix where everyone drives three races during the year in different types of cars, would you enjoy something like that?
MAX PAPIS: I don't know if I would like to see that. I am really glad that already the Hawaiian Grand Prix would be enough, you know, for everyone to show their abilities on Champ Cars. Maybe it would be cool to see one race with all the drivers driving a NASCAR as well. So could be a little bit more fair for everybody.
Q. Last year about this time we had a long conversation when I was doing that photo shoot with you. We were talking about this coming year and what your expectations were and what you thought this year was going to go like working with Bobby. Obviously it must have lived up to what your expectations are, but can you talk a little further on that? Was there anyone --
MAX PAPIS: I don't have a lot of expectation every time I go to a season. I have goals I want to achieve. This year the goal was consistency. That is what we are achieving and podium finishing. We almost made it with a race win, like almost one month ago. We had a pole position; we won the race; that is what counts for me. For me, I won the Michigan race. And we -- going on the podium another couple of times before the end of the season, that would be the greatest finishing that we can expect and maybe finishing Top-5 of the Championship would be very, very good goal for being the first year in team Rahal.
Q. I know you have been asked about the Vancouver track, from what up seen so far, they have taken that Chicane out on the Quebec street straight and widened the drivers left at Turn 6. Is there any areas that you might think more opportune for passing?
MAX PAPIS: This is a difficult question to answer, you never really know how it is until you drive on it. Definitely they put a lot of effort in improving it. So we have to go there and see exactly how it is. For sure, they have been studying different -- overtaking opportunities, but as you know, street course is always very difficult to overtake, so you don't know.
Q. I know you guys have run with TransAm cars before. Will the rubber buildup from those cars be any kind of a factor this coming weekend?
MAX PAPIS: No, I think there is no problems TransAm because they run pretty hard tires. It was way more difficult when you run on an oval with the truck series, but on street course, I don't think it would make any difference. Actually it is going to add some interest to the race fans. They can come over and see other races as well.
Q. Will you be coming to Laguna Seca with Blattler and Bobby this weekend?
MAX PAPIS: No.
Q. I thought with those foreign cars you might be tempted.
MAX PAPIS: No, I go around in my life that I want to stay in my house one weekend. I really thank you.
T.E. McHALE: We will wrap it up for the day. Max, I got you in under your half hour time limit. Thank you, guys. Thank you for being with us, Max. Best of luck in the Molson Indy Vancouver and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.
MAX PAPIS: Thanks everyone for being on line and see you in Vancouver.
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