Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
May 4, 2006
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, today to our Champ Car media teleconference where I have the honor of bringing you a couple of the rookies in the Champ Car World Series as we get ready for the Grand Prix of Houston, Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Today we are joined by Katherine Legge, driver of the #20 Bell Micro/Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for PKV Racing. Katherine just coming off of her first oval track test yesterday, she ran up at the Milwaukee Mile.
We are also joined by a young man who will be making his debut in the Champ Car World Series when we get to Houston. He will be driving the #8 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing, Nicky Pastorelli. Thank you for joining us today.
Nicky, let's start with you. This will be your debut race in the Champ Car World Series, but you've definitely had a good bit of seat time. You tested at Portland, Sebring. You ran at Milwaukee not long ago, even as far back as a year and a half ago when you tested with Walker in the Champ Car. Seems like you have some idea of what you're about to get into. Tell us a little about what you're expecting in Houston.
NICKY PASTORELLI: Yeah, that's absolutely true. The only thing, I didn't test in Sebring. That was only with Walker one and a half year ago. Anyway, I did quite some testing, yes, in Portland and in Milwaukee.
I know pretty well what I can expect in Houston. It will be difficult. You know, the good thing is that the track is new for everybody. I think that can be a small advantage for me.
ERIC MAUK: Nicky comes to Champ Car after an open-wheel career in Europe that saw him progress through the Dutch karting system, up to Formula Renault 2000, through the Euro F-3000 Series. Ended up with Nicky being a test driver for Eddie Jordan's Formula One squad in 2005.
Nicky, with you having done some test driving duties in the Formula One car, you will obviously get asked the inevitable comparison questions. Tell us about your impressions of the Champ Car, a little bit about how they compare to an F1 car.
NICKY PASTORELLI: The Champ Car is a great car to drive. The biggest difference with the F1 car and the Champ Car is you really have to work very hard while you're driving. The Formula One car, you have a little bit more power and downforce, but you have all these electronics which helps a lot, which you have not in the Champ Car of course. So that's why the Champ Car, personally it's more fun to drive. It's more a driver's car.
ERIC MAUK: Katherine, as we alluded to before, you had the test at Milwaukee yesterday. By all accounts it went very well. Talked to Jimmy Vasser a little bit. He was very pleased with how it went for you. Give us a little bit about your impressions on how things went.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, I think it went as well as could be expected. We achieved everything we set out to achieve. Very unusual, normally something gets in the way. Obviously, Oriol was down testing at Sebring. The team was split. Jimmy was at Milwaukee helping me. The team have a very good car for Milwaukee anyway. Jimmy put it on pole there last year. He's like the Milwaukee master as far as we're concerned (laughter). It was great to have him there and helping me.
The team was fantastic. They dialed in a bit of understeer for me to start with so I felt comfortable. I went out there and was running around by myself so I felt comfortable. We just got up to speed it was actually relatively quickly. They were telling me to slow down for a while because they were a bit worried. But it went well. It was a bit windy. The weather started closing in on us, which was a bit of a shame. We did a long run at the end of the day. We did a 60 odd lap run.
No, we had a good day. I think we were faster than the guys who were there last week, which is always the aim. It's always nice. Similar conditions, I think, as well. It was a success as far as we're concerned. The team was very happy.
ERIC MAUK: You've obviously run on a number of the great road courses of the world. You did very well in your opener on the street course at Long Beach, finishing eighth there three weeks ago. How different is the mindset, how different is driving a Champ Car on an oval?
KATHERINE LEGGE: It's completely different. For me, it was not really even similar. I mean, Paul Tracy said something before I tested there that I thought was really clever. He said, Why are you worried about Milwaukee? Why aren't you more worried about Road America or something like that? I said, I've driven Road America, it's what I grew up racing on, proper racing circuit. I'm not that worried about Road America. He said, Yeah, but Milwaukee only has two corners and Road America has 16 or something. I thought, okay, that's a good way of looking at it. That made me feel more comfortable.
To me it's nothing similar. To me it's not even like driving two fast corners. It's a completely different discipline. I think that it's great. That's what's really good about Champ Car, we get to do street courses, we get to do road courses, we get to do ovals. Our skill as drivers is tested in every way possible. So I think that's fantastic.
And I really enjoyed it. I was excited about going there. We were very well-prepared. It was unfortunate that we had to delay it a week because I was back in Europe driving the powerboat. That was good fun. It was nice to be home for a few days.
So it's bizarre to me. I started going out there. I know I was by myself, it's somewhat different. But it's almost like you're in a tunnel. It's like everything goes really quiet and you're just in this tunnel and you're in a kind of trance. It's a very strange feeling, but a good one.
ERIC MAUK: It's going to be a lot less quiet when we get up there in June, 17 people trying to get around you. We look forward to seeing you in Houston.
We'll start with questions from the media.
Q. Katherine, did you have any sensations after the first run or two on an oval, like it was kind of a video game? You sound like it went swimmingly well as far as the adaptation on your part.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, I think so. I enjoyed it. I think it was a good thing. It's obviously pretty nerve-wracking when you first get in and you're driving at those sorts of speeds and you don't really know what you're doing, which is why we took it easy and got up to speed safely. I got out of the car. Yeah, I felt a little dizzy after my long run. I jumped out, said, Whew. Apparently that goes away after a couple of times, so Jimmy tells me.
But, no, I loved it. I think it was a good experience. I think that it's nice to have some ovals. I wouldn't want to be racing on all ovals or anything like that. I still love road courses and street courses, but it's another element and I really enjoyed it.
Q. Did you convince them to take a little push as the day went on? Did they leave a lot of push in the car?
KATHERINE LEGGE: No, we took some push out the more the day went on. It was getting a bit dodgey because of the wind. You get to turn one where the wind comes through the gap, it kind of made it a bit uneasy. Midway through, the wind would catch it. We didn't want to do anything dangerous. We took a little bit out by losing a bit of rear wing and adding a bit of front. That was all we did really.
Q. Nicky, we hear these horror stories, it costs $3 million to be a Formula One test driver. The financial reality of your career, was Champ Car so much more viable financially, or you got tired of being a test driver and you wanted to race again?
NICKY PASTORELLI: My choice to go to Champ Car has absolutely nothing to do with finances. First of all, I don't even know all about that because my job is to drive and not to get sponsorship together. Obviously, I wanted to get back to race. I mean, a driver always wants to race. Testing, it's very nice. It's a good experience. It could help in your career, as a step in your career. But the main goal of course is racing always. I think Champ Car was a good choice for me because the championship is very professional, it's very nice. That's the main reason.
Q. You'll be in the car the whole season?
NICKY PASTORELLI: Yes, I will.
Q. Katherine, you spent some time at home.
KATHERINE LEGGE: I did. Well, limited time. Four days.
Q. What did you do? Who did you see?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Actually, as soon as I got there, I got picked up at the airport by my dad, which was kind of unexpected. Thinking I was going to hire a car and drive home. We actually all went down to see my sister in the west of England.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Victoria. She was moving house. It was her son, my nephew Josh's, his birthday. We stopped, got a bit of toys, presents, little Puma race boots for a three-year-old, which were really cute. I went down to see her for a couple of days and help her move house. Then I went to Donnington Park on Monday. My boyfriend was racing in a very old Alfa Romeo. Then again I went to the airport and I flew home. I saw my friend Melanie, that was it. That was the sum of my four days.
Q. Some of the comments drivers made after their test in Milwaukee, Charles Zwolsman said running an oval isn't as easy as it looks. I think for the uninitiated, they may take a look at an oval race and say, What is the big deal, you just drive around all day long. I know both of you drivers have extensive road racing experience. What is the tough thing about racing on an oval?
NICKY PASTORELLI: First of all, the very difficult thing on the oval is finding the right line. Except for that it is difficult, especially in the beginning when you're not used to it, it is very, very important. There are only two corners, that is absolutely true, but the corners are very long. It is very important how you enter the corner to have the car also handle in the right way through the rest of the corner.
Then the second thing which is very difficult, and I think it will get better when you get a little bit more used to the oval racing, is finding the limit. On a normal road course, you can try to find the limit, you can even go a little bit over the limit, maybe you spin or you go just off a little bit. The problem on the oval is that as soon as you go over the limit, you have a problem because that means that you will go to the wall. So that is very difficult again.
KATHERINE LEGGE: For a start, I never thought it looked easy. I thought it looked pretty difficult.
I think the element to me that will come as most difficult, at the end of the day we're race car drivers, we know about lines, we know about taking corners, that's not the issue. It's when you put all the other cars out there on the oval that I think it will be interesting. That's the only way I can describe it, I think. It's very tactical. It's very easy to lose a lot of time on in-laps and out-laps. I think it's mostly about the car.
I honestly believe that ovals are a lot to do with how the car is set up because you can't drive a car at 180 miles an hour that is not set up well. It accentuates problems. You can almost drive around slight problems on a road course or a street course. When it comes to an oval, you really don't want to be having even a slight oversteer or anything like that. To me, I think it's mostly finding the right balance with the car. It's going to be interesting to see how I (indiscernible) with it.
Q. Both of you, how are you thinking about the Toronto street track? Katherine, can you answer how it will be different for you from an Atlantic Series car to the Champ Car this year?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I was surprised how different it was driving at Long Beach from the Atlantic car to the Champ Car. Obviously, you have a lot more horsepower. You have 750 horsepower in a Champ Car as compared to 240 last year in the Atlantic car. It's a lot heavier. You have 'push to pass'. You have different pit strategies, saving fuel. You have twice the length of the races. You have pit stops. How can I forget pit stops? It's just a whole new element. It's not really similar in any kind of way apart from they're both race cars. I think it's just a lot heavier. It's a lot more strategic.
The team that I'm with, PKV Racing, they've been fantastic in helping me a lot. I think it's not going to be so much of a big step for me in Toronto because now I've done it in Long Beach and we will have raced Houston, et cetera, et cetera. I think I'll be more acclimatized and settled in.
What was the second part of the question?
Q. How did you feel about the street track in Toronto?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I love it. I love street courses. I love the atmosphere. I love the fans. Especially when we go up to Canada, the fans are awesome. They're so supportive and so knowledgeable. We have great fun. I love the City of Toronto. Obviously, I made friends with the Face of Champ Car as well on the Turbo Tour. (Indiscernible) is from Toronto. We'll be looking forward to going up there as well.
I think it's a great place. It's a great city to go and visit. We enjoy massive support there. That's what makes it fun there. As drivers, it's all about the fans. We would not be there racing if it wasn't for them. I think the more supportive they are, the more enthusiastic and everything, the more we have fun. The more we have fun, the better we drive, the more they have fun. It's kind of a continuing circle. It's one of the ones on the calendar I love.
Q. Do you find any specific challenges being a woman in the Champ Car or being a professional driver?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, for sure there have been challenges being female. I keep banging on about the fact I just want to be taken seriously as a race car driver. That's all I'm trying to do. I'm like any other rookie. I'm just trying to do my very best, try to do the job they do. Try to act like they do, try to work just as hard as they do, et cetera, et cetera. At the end of the day, I'm just trying to be a race car driver.
Being female has been a challenge. It's been a benefit. I think it all evens itself out in the end. I don't think I'd be here right now if it wasn't for the fact that I was female. I didn't get the opportunities early on in my career maybe I would have got if I was male. Like I say, there are advantages and disadvantages.
I think in order to be taken seriously as a driver, you don't play the gender card. I think you just try, like I say, to be a driver and be serious, then you're not going to have it used against you.
Q. How do you feel about it, Nicky?
NICKY PASTORELLI: About the Toronto track?
NICKY PASTORELLI: Of course, I don't know really much about it because I've never been there. I have a tape from an onboard camera that I have from the team of the Toronto track. The track looks really nice, really challenging. I heard from everyone who speaks about the race that it is a really great event, that the atmosphere is really nice, the city is really great. You know, I can't wait to get there so I can see it for myself.
ERIC MAUK: Nicky, tell us how you came to be interested in Champ Car, how this opportunity came about.
NICKY PASTORELLI: How I came into Champ Car? I've always been interested in Champ Car because Champ Car is very, very big, very important also in Europe. I mean, yeah, of course there is Formula One which is very important. Just under Formula One or maybe even the same level as Formula One there is Champ Car. So I've always looked at the possibility to do Champ Car.
You know, the opportunity to get into Champ Car, it just came all together at the right moment this year because it is not something that you always (indiscernible). Opportunities come and go. You just take the opportunity as soon as it is there, and there is a possibility. So this year I had this opportunity, I took it, I'm really happy with it.
ERIC MAUK: We will bring a close to our Champ Car media teleconference today. Again, thank you very much to Nicky Pastorelli and Katherine Legge for joining us. We look forward to seeing you in the Grand Prix of Houston May 11th through the 13th.
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