Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing, Rolex Sports Car Series
September 26, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we have the pleasure of being joined by two of the contenders for the 2012 Daytona Prototype Championship. First, we welcome the challenger, driver of the No. 8 Starworks Ford Riley, I would like to welcome Ryan Dalziel.
It's been a pretty amazing season, second in the Rolex 24, winning at Le Mans, Sebring, Watkins Glen. Your team, Starworks, winning the inaugural race in Indianapolis in the North American Endurance Championship, and all we need now is a Cinderella finish. What are your thoughts entering Saturday's finale at Lime Rock?
RYAN DALZIEL: Like you said it's been an incredible season and a lot of hard work in the past couple of years from the guys at Starworks to get us into contention at this point.
I don't know what it's going to take. Obviously we are a long shot here to win this, and Ganassi have obviously done a great job and that's why they are leading the points. You know, we are going to focus on our program and we have to win the race and that's what we are going to do. We are going to go out‑‑ we are going to go out in a ball of glory, I can tell you that.
We are going to keep pushing till the end. Much like we did at Laguna, we have gone straight on doing the best job that we can do and we felt that we exceeded even our expectations at Laguna and we took points off the 01 car again, but it's going to take a little bit of a miracle I think for us to win it, but we are up to the challenge.
THE MODERATOR: And now our defending champion, driver of the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley, I would like to welcome Memo Rojas who needs to finish at least ninth to capture his third consecutive DP title with co‑driver, Scott Pruett. It will be his fourth in five years for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
You entered the finale with a solid lead, but Lime Rock has not been the most friendly track for you and Ganassi Racing. What are your thoughts returning to Lime Rock to the finale, Memo?
MEMO ROJAS: Good afternoon, everybody. We are excited to get back to Lime Rock. You know, it's been a tough track for us in the past and not just solely because of performance butbecause the race didn't go the way we wanted.
You know, it's been a really tough season for most of the teams‑‑ inaudible‑‑ with Ganassi changes and especially on the Corvette side, we are all trying to find the downforce that we believe they have.
And you know, fortunately it's been a season where even though we don't believe we have had the fastest cars in most of the races, we've been able to succeed thanks to good work in the team, consistency and good work by Scott Pruett and myself.
Q. Memo, this question is about you and Ryan, who had talked to me last night; you just spoke of the Corvette, having the downforce, and yet the guys who are in the top points, No.1 and No. 2, are driving Rileys. I would like to have your respective thoughts on that, please.
MEMO ROJAS: You know, this year has been a championship that's been marked by consistency. I believe the fastest cars who consistently, I would say, have been the Corvettes, are not in the top of the points standings like you would say. And I think the reason is that for whatever reason, the Corvette team have not had the consistency that we have had.
Sometimes with mistakes from the driver, sometimes with reliability, and luckily for us, we've been able to do the opposite and we have managed to finish in the Top‑15. So when we have had a podium‑finishing car, we've been able to get on the podium; and when we have got a fast car, we just got fifth place points; and when we have been able to win, we have done everything we can and go for it.
But that's what the challenge is, not only being fast, but in consistency.
RYAN DALZIEL: Yeah, obviously I echo what Memo says. It sounds almost like a broken record, that the Riley time has continued to complain about the Corvette teams.
And questions like you raise, which is top two and top three in the championship for a long time were Riley cars. You know, we weren't the fastest cars and we have not been the fastest cars all year; regardless of what power plans the Rileys have in them, the Corvettes are consistently quicker.
It's good that we kind of extended our advantage, both myself and the 01 car, because we knew that coming into the last two races like we saw in Laguna, we kind of get handed to us on those tracks. And at any one time this year, the 6 99 or the 90 car have been able to put down laps, especially on old tires, that are just out of reach for us, even on new tires.
It's been a year where the teams knew they didn't have the speed to go deeper, and we made reliable cars and we made good decisions as teams and drivers. I think that's why the championship sits the way it is, and it's definitely nothing to do with speed on the track.
Q. How many races have you won this year, Ryan?
RYAN DALZIEL: I'm not sure. I think it's 11 podiums‑‑11 podiums for Starworks this year. I think four or five races including WEC and ALMS.
Q. On the GRAND‑AM side, you're second in points without having won any?
RYAN DALZIEL: No, we won Watkins Glen.
Q. Okay. So outside of that win there, what would you attribute your success to being second in the points?
RYAN DALZIEL: I think when you look at my previous seasons, I've never had a consistent lineup, and this year on one hand is not much different.
I can't remember the last season I did the full season with the same teammate, and you know, one thing I did have the same this year was the same crew, and the only change we made on the 8 car from last year to this year is our engineer. We brought back our engineer from 2007‑2008, Steve Challis. That was a big step forward for us.
I think just having the resources in place early this year was the key to us coming out at Daytona with a strong package. I believe if I'm correct in saying the 8 car is the only car in the whole field that has not had a mechanical issue this year. And that's a huge part of it.
So this is definitely a team championship and my job has been made somewhat easier this year by having good cars every week.
Q. You find yourself in a pretty unique position; what Ganassi needs and Memo, what you need, is the reliability to finish ninth or better. On the flip side of that coin, and Ryan what you guys need is extra speed to go out and obviously win the race. It's our belief that the drivers are always at 100 percent. But if you consider those two things that maybe are extra than 100 percent, what will you do differently this weekend? And memo, you can jump in first; anything extra to get extra reliability?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I believe every race the team does 100 percent of the work, so I wouldn't say that there's anything extra they can do to make the car more reliable. They do that every weekend, and I think every team in the past has done the same.
In the end, it's all about numbers and like Ryan was saying, we have a lead where we can‑‑ a lot of things would need to happen for us not to make it, but in racing, anything can happen. It would be really dumb for us to take anything for granted, and we are going to do the best we can to win this championship.
It's going to be a tough race, I can anticipate for Ryan, as well, because we anticipate on high downforce tracks like Lime Rock, and Laguna, that the Corvettes are going to be pretty quick.
We are going to expect a race where we'll be battling out with a few teams out there and to do the best we can.
Q. Are you going to attempt anything different than you've done all season in this last race?
RYAN DALZIEL: I think memo touched on something important there, which was definitely for our point of view, this is one of the tougher tracks for us to go to and win, just down to the downforce package.
So we have kind of a double‑edged sword a little bit. We have to win but we are up against it on a track where we know the Corvettes like at Laguna are going to be strong.
Have we done anything different? I wouldn't say so. We prepare the same every race. We considered missiles and rockets in the front of the car, just to eliminate them at the start. But we are going to fight hard. And it's going to be‑‑ you know, I don't know if there's anything in it, but you know, it's not been a good track for Ganassi and it's been a very good track for us, and it's always in the past couple of years, it's kind of been that way.
We are definitely going to make the most of that and we definitely feel like we are going in there as offensive as we can.
You know, for us, it's a little bit like Memo, once the 30‑minute mark comes around, if there's only nine cars entered, it's a little bit like game over and gloves off at the same time. We both know and both cars are I think realistic about what needs to be achieved. We have always‑‑ in all the years of racing GRAND‑AM, one thing that's for sure is that there's never been any bad blood between the 8 car and the 01 car.
We were thinking about hiring Montoya, actually, in the second car, just to wipe out the 01 and see if he would do that.
Q. How quickly do you circuit that lap up at Lime Rock?
RYAN DALZIEL: Oh, I have no idea. I'm not very good with numbers.
Q. Well, then it's safe to say, it's pretty quick, right?
RYAN DALZIEL: Yeah, it's obviously one of the shorter tracks for me, and one of the fastest at the same time.
Q. It's got I think one left‑hand turn; is that correct?
RYAN DALZIEL: Correct.
Q. That gives you basically an oval. So then you're going around‑‑ do you kind of walk odd once you get out of that car with your head leaning or not leaning?
RYAN DALZIEL: Well, I remember my first‑ever oval test in Atlantics, I did on a 3/8th mile and I got out, I fell over the black wheel and I puked. So I don't think it's ever going to be as bad as that.
But I would say there is some little changes you make for that race as far as setup goes. But I'm sure that it's going to be like the majority of the races this year where we are going to have to conserve tires and we are going to have to make cars more balanced so that we don't kill tires.
You know, it's always a difficult place to get a really good car there, and the problem is, if the car is not 100 percent, if it's 95 percent, you can be far, far, way off on the lap times. So everybody has to go there and do their jobs.
Q. Is winning championships getting to be rather boring?
MEMO ROJAS: You know, I've been fortunate enough to be consistent to win three championships already with Chip Ganassi Racing, and I can tell you, it's a great feeling and it's a great reward for all of the work, for not only that the team puts every day at the track, but for all of the work I put into my career and I don't think it will ever be boring.
Q. Five or six years ago when you were out of a job, virtually out of racing, could you even imagine that you would be where you are today with respect to having all those championships?
MEMO ROJAS: You know, life gives you a lot of lessons with experience, and you know a few weeks ago, I was trying to, you know, buy up the Lariats (ph), trying to get intoIndyCars. Eventually our sponsors took us to Europe to try to get Formula 1 Lariat. It's lessons that we learned ‑‑ it's really a tough path where obviously talent plays a lot into it, and also opportunities.
I'm really fortunate that even though I have tostep down from open‑wheel racing, which was my child's dream, I was able to have an amazing career in sports car racing. And I can tell you, I don't miss open‑wheel racing at all. I'm really happy with sports car racing and prototypes and GRAND‑AM.
And answering your question, no, you know, you never know where it's going to go. So I wasn't sure about that. And I can tell you that many expectations have been made since I've been able to‑‑ in GRAND‑AM.
Q. Who will be your third driver at Lime Rock.
RYAN DALZIEL: We are going to be announcing the driver lineups, I believe tomorrow.
Q. Okay. And then one last question. Give me your description of Peter Baron, your team boss, owner.
RYAN DALZIEL: Oh, that's a tough one. He's interesting for sure; funny, serious when he has to be class clown when he wants to be, and I've seen way too much of his body that I never want to see again.
THE MODERATOR: We mentioned Memo needs to finish ninth; well, Peter Baron is doing his best to get a three‑car lineup for the race. As Ryan mentioned just a couple minutes ago, they are going to announce that lineup tomorrow.
Q. If there are only nine cars that show up, will you enter extra cars to force the 01 car to race?
RYAN DALZIEL: In a perfect world, if Peter Baron had deep pockets, that would be much like what Ganassi did for Indy, doubling up the possibilities of winning the North American championship.
We wish that we could do that. We are certainly trying. We know that the odds are against us and there will definitely be a minimum of two Starworks cars, potentially three. But it really all just comes down to finances at this point.
You know, with the 8 car, kind of switching to kind of me supporting it by myself and having Peter and people trying to help us get through these last couple of races here, it's definitely got tighter for us. We lost a couple of crew on the 8 car. We are not in the best position to throw another car in, but we are working hard on it.
Q. I read a release that Alex Papas would be driving with you; is that the case?
RYAN DALZIEL: That's not confirmed. It's one of our options but really it all depends on if we end up with a two or three car lineup.
Q. So we'll know tomorrow if there will be three cars from Starworks; that what you're saying?
RYAN DALZIEL: Yes, absolutely. Right now it's probably 90 percent that it's two cars; outside chance that there's a three‑car effort.
Q. Is Lucas going to be one of those drivers?
RYAN DALZIEL: Not that I believe.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Memo and Ryan, for joining us.
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