CART Media Conference
August 25, 1998
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for joining us today, and a special welcome to this afternoon's guest, Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group. Welcome, Mauricio, and thanks for taking the time to join us this afternoon.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: It is a pleasure.
T.E. McHALE: Mauricio Gugelmin, driver of the No. 17 Hollywood PacWest Mercedes is the defending Champion of the Molson Indy Vancouver coming up on Sunday, September, 6th at Concord Pacific Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. He recorded his first FedEx Championship career victory there last year during a break-through season which saw him post ten-top-6 finishes and 3 pole positions enroute to a fourth place finish in the Championship. Mauricio Gugelmin capped off the year by recording the fastest official lap in auto racing history, 240.942 miles per hour during qualifying for the season-ending Marlboro 500 presented by Toyota at California Speedway. Nearly a year later, his record still stands. This season Mauricio has scored PPG Cup points in 6 of 14 events topped by a 4th place finish at Mid-Ohio earlier in month. He heads to Vancouver ranked 17th in the Driver's Championship with 30 points. The Molson Indy Vancouver, Round 15 of the FedEx Championship Series, will be televised on a brief, tape-delay basis by ESPN on Sunday September 6th beginning at 5:00 P.M. eastern time. At this point, we will open the floor for questions.
Q. Congratulations on the record there, Mauricio Gugelmin. Let me ask you if that, as T. E. mentions, stands a year later does that really mean -- how much mileage are you really getting out of that? We are looking at efforts now to slow the cars down, so maybe going faster than anybody else might not mean more in the future. Can you talk a little bit about that, the record, and then the efforts to slow cars?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, I think basically that has been a concern all the time because every year that we go into a new season the engineers, the tire companies, the manufacturers of the cars, the motor companies that give us the engines, they all make tremendous progress, and I think a few years past the 200-mile-an-hour barrier was something to break; then the 210, 220, 230. Last year I broke the 240. And, of course, it gets too fast; everybody gets concerned, and you are constantly doing changes on the roads to keep things under the control. At the same time, the engineers and the drivers, we are paid to go fast and to beat all those changes. So it is a balance, and I think it is a tremendous record that stands there and the way that we made some changes this year may stand for quite some time, which I am enjoying that for sure. But, if we -- When we get close to this, which I am sure we will eventually, I will be there again to try to break it because that is what we are paid for, to go fast.
Q. On engine performance, if top speed is limited, the only thing left is getting into and out of corners. Can you talk about the teams' efforts in that area, possibly to improve braking technology or even a point shoot out of the corners and acceleration?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Ever since I start my professional career, which is a long time ago, in this kind of level in racing, the biggest difference from the past is that the corner speed is just going up, and the top speed is really not going that up. The only reason top speed is up is because you are getting out of the corners so fast. But basically, what is really helping the cars mechanically, the cars are getting better and better. Your geometry, your shocks are top, everything is just working better and better and relate to road cars too because the guys are learning and that goes to the streets. The tires are the biggest, probably, jump that we had since Firestone came in, because we had competition again and those two companies are working really hard to get better all the time. So I think the cornering speed is definitely coming up. The braking, because you have more grip on the car, that goes up too as long as you have brakes that don't overheat and that Reynard takes care of that easily. So those are the areas we are making tremendous progress in because when you get the speeds above 200-miles-an-hour, the drag factor, the terminal speed is very close, so the time to make around a lap is really around the corners.
Q. Let's chat a little bit, if you would, please, about the venue coming up in Vancouver. Obviously, first visit to victory lane there. The secrets to getting around that place besides having, you know, good Firestone tires and the right setup? In a short sentence, what would you say that would be?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: As we all know, it is a completely new circuit for this year, and I had have the pleasure to preview that circuit last week. I was there on Thursday, and I went around the track a couple of times. They have done a great job. I think it is going to be one of those places that is similar to Toronto; brakes are going to be very important. You are going to need good brakes, a little bit more than you had on the old track because there are more braking areas which will generate more passing, which is always good for a street course because it is a tough place normally to pass. You are going to need a car with a very good front end that you can point the car exactly where you want and good traction because there will be a lot of second-gear corners in that place and heavy second-gear corners. Of course, we have a lot of power on those low gears and so traction will be important to get the rubber down properly and go to the next one. But, I must say that it is a major improvement from what we had last year.
Q. As you got into the season, obviously, things did not get off to the kind of start that you would maybe like to see with you and Mark, but the last couple of races both of you have really started to come on. Have you kind of found some momentum again that you can take with this last part of the season?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: We definitely did. It has been a tough start, as you said, and not only the start, we have been carrying that for a long time. But, we identified the problem that we had in our car which was mainly shocks and we made a change on that area and now we just finding the right combination of shocks, springs, and what goes well in different places. And the problem we are facing now, because majority of the testing is done early in the season which we have done with different competence in the car. We basically having to find those ideal setups everywhere that we go because not everything that we had last year relates to this year and it has been tough on that. But Mid-Ohio we had a good run. Elkhart Lake, despite the problems we had in qualifying that, we had a car that was running on the pace at the race. But I can see that from now on we could see a very competitive end of the season and hopefully we are going to carry that for 1999.
Q. Was it something that was different with this year's chassis or what was it?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: No. We used to produce our own shocks which we still have that capability in-house, but we just went a little bit off the correct route on those so we decided to just we decided to Olin shocks and use those.
Q. I am wondering, you were talking about going around the racetrack, taking a little look at the new setup there at Vancouver. If you were a fan buying a ticket, what is going to be the most exciting part of the racetrack?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, definitely turn 8 is a good passing area and if you look at turn 8, 9, 10 and 11, it is almost like an oval. You have like a stadium-type of setup there. You are going to see a lot of action in that area. Turn 11, which is -- as you leave that area, it is a pretty fast corner with not much of run-off because it is when you go back into the back straight the other way, so, it is a fast corner with drivers who have to be very precise and then when you get down there, you have a tight chicane after 11, that area will be the nicest area. If I were watching the race, I would take those.
Q. I remember last year when you and the PacWest Team left Vancouver there was just so much jubilation. As a matter of fact, you guys had a party, didn't you, right afterwards? I am thinking about the frustration of this season. Can you compare the two?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, I can for sure. Every year after Vancouver we traditionally have a party, our owner Bruce McCaw puts a great party on one of his properties up there in Seattle, and this year has been tough, but I was thinking the other day, that is -- a lot of this is racing. Can you imagine if every weekend you went out and you thought: Oh, I am just going to win and it is going to be easy. You do for a while, but then it just gets boring. That is the challenge. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. Because we are constant changing things and the cars get better and the level of our series gets -- is getting so tough that there is literally 15, 20 guys out there that are capable of winning, so it puts a lot of pressure on every single member of the team to get everything right.
Q. So the party will be bigger this year?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: For sure it will be bigger. It is always bigger. Hopefully we are going to have another good reason to celebrate even more.
Q. After this race this Vancouver, are you heading down to Laguna to do testing and if so, what are you looking for when you get there?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, basically Vancouver we -- as we were talking, we are just going to have our party on Monday and Tuesday. We go to Laguna and the first time we run is Friday before the event because it is a back-to-back event. In actual fact, this Saturday, coming this week, I will be at Laguna testing for that event. We are going to take two cars out there and we have some different setups to try. So I will be able to test at Laguna before I go to the actual race over there.
Q.I had my dates mixed up, sorry. This is also coming into whatever they call: Silly season. Are you happy where you are? Do you plan on staying next year?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Yeah, I am definitely going to stay put. I had two-year contract and I really believe in my team. We came a long way from the beginning of the team. I wasn't there in 1993, but I joined them in 1995 and it has been a lot of progress that we made together. And I really believe in our strategy and how we are going to be in the future. So there is no reason to make any changes on that.
Q. I was there at the California Speedway last year when you set that record. I know recently you qualified fourth at Lexington and finished fourth. You have been the pole-setter and runnerup last year at Road America. Which do you prefer, the road courses or the ovals?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: That is a good question. Normally I prefer either one of those when my car is really working well. When the car is not so well, I favor the road courses because you can drive around problems a little bit more. And don't forget, I was brought up in Europe, racing in Europe, and there we don't have any ovals. I do enjoy the oval racing something that I learned over here in America and it is great, great type of racing. It just -- it takes a little bit of time to get used to it. But I would say by now I know what it takes to run well on the ovals too.
Q. Because you started with Simon in 1993?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: That is right.
Q. Now you have driven with the Hanford device on the car. When you get to the California Speedway where they will be using it again, how much do you anticipate it will slow the cars from what you ran last year as a qualifying speed and also do you feel safer with it on the car?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I feel we probably going to slow down between four to five miles an hour, similar to what we had at Michigan this year. I feel that at those speeds, nobody is super safe because you pretty much depends on your equipment and everything.
Q. You said it was too fast at California.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Yeah, you know what is going on around you. With the different wing, it is definitely safer to hit the wall a little bit slower than going five or six miles an hour faster. But I feel the wing has been a good Band-Aid to make good racing and to be interest for people that are watching. I particularly felt it took a little bit out of the technique of getting a car really working well on the oval. I am still not entirely happy with this change.
Q. I know the passion that Brazilian fans have for all their drivers. I wonder now you have obviously had a chance to do a lot of media things in Brazil. What is the advice that you offer to youngsters there who are sort of looking up to drivers like yourself and wanting to get into driving, what sort of advice would you offer for their career path?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: What I have to offer for them you mean?
Q. I guess in terms of advice for young children who want to get into racing.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Basically the biggest thing, that is why we have so many Brazilians over here even in Indy Lights or Formula 1 is we start early on go-carts. Brazil has always been a country that supports so much go-cart racing and if you start young and you develop yourself on that, not only your driving skills but also your mechanical skills because go-carts, you start doing engine changes and tire changes yourself so you learn a lot of that too, and that will be the best advice start early and practice that and then move on.
Q. Talk about Bruce McCaw for a minute. If you look at history, in business his leadership skills seem to -- have been what has led him to most of his success. I am wondering through the first part of the season when the team was struggling, talk a moment about Bruce McCall's leadership skills in that area.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, Bruce is certainly the best team owner that I have work for because he has that capability of not only have a vision long-term and kind of reads everything way beyond you think it is possible to read. At the same time, he is not a person that panics. Of course, we went in this season with very high hopes. We knew we had a completely new engine, completely new motor from Mercedes-Benz which is something very, very revolutionary, very small, and there was sometime that that need to be developed and all that. But, he definitely put a package that is really, really good. It just didn't perform so well in the early part of the season but he already has more things on his mind, how to fix those little problems that we have at the moment. And I can assure you that the very near future we are going to be competitive again because he is a guy that if you guys could be involved what we go through every week with us, you would be amazed how much knowledge he has and -- in business itself because racing is just business and he implements that too over here.
Q. Is he the morale booster on the team or is there someone else that you, the drivers, you and Mark turn to -- or everybody on the team to kind of keep everybody pumped and on the right course?
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, the biggest secret about our business how to get the best out of everybody, could be the guy cleaning the floor or the guys driving the cars. And we have a good bunch of people like this, John Anderson, our team manager, he is from Australia. He is a really good character keeping people motivated and this is part of the game too - especially when you are having a tough season how you can keep your people focused and believing in them that the next win is just around the corner despite the things -- everything doesn't look so good at the time that you are having problems.
T.E. McHALE: We will wrap it up for today. I want to thank Mauricio Gugelmin for joining us this afternoon. Mo, thanks again, best of luck defending your Championship at the Molson Indy Vancouver and over the remainder of the FedEx Championship Series season.
MAURICIO GUGELMIN: You're welcome. Thank you.
T.E. McHALE: Thank you, everyone, for being with us this afternoon and we will talk to you next week.
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