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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Mark Blundell
Mauricio Gugelmin
Bruce McCaw
June 10, 1997

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. We're pleased you all could take the time to join us today. We'd like to extend a special welcome to our guests this afternoon. Driver Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group is currently doing a seat fitting and we're attempting to outfit him with a Motorola cellular phone so he can join us. Hopefully he'll be with us in a minute. At the moment driver Mark Blundell is with us, as is his owner Bruce McCaw, president of the PacWest Racing Group. Gentlemen, welcome and thank you for joining us today. Mark, who is driver of the Motorola PacWest Mercedes has three points-paying finishes this season with highs of eighth place, both at the Sunbelt Indy Carnival, Australia, and the Hollywood Rio 400. He has qualified in the Top 10 three times with season bests of fifth at both the Marlboro Grand Prix at Miami, presented by Toyota, and the Sunbelt Indy Carnival, Australia. He's currently 17th in the PPG CART standings with 11 points. Of course, most of you are aware that both Mauricio and Mark had their first PPG CART World Series career victories well within reach at last Sunday's ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix. However, both unfortunately ran out of fuel on the final lap, making Greg Moore the beneficiary of his second consecutive CART PPG World Series victory. Even so, it was an outstanding for PacWest and both Mauricio and Mark look to continue the success they began last weekend as they prepare for the Budweiser, GI Joe 200, presented by Texaco Havoline, which is coming up June 22nd at Portland International Raceway. With that, we're going to open it up for questions.

Q. I have a question that I would like both to address. Preface it by saying, obviously by profession I know you are gamblers and risk-takers. Mark and Bruce, was there ever any chat afterwards about perhaps bringing one driver in to refuel and leaving one out there? Especially for you, Bruce, if you had to make a decision like that, how would you make it?

BRUCE McCAW: Well, I guess, probably two answers there. One, certainly we considered the possibility at one point, but we really went out with one-stop strategy for both cars. To have pulled in one car really wouldn't have accomplished anything, particularly late in the race. We just would have been pretty well back in the pack. It wouldn't have protected anything. We felt that we had -- I think it was obviously a calculated risk, but one we thought the odds were very much in our favor. Unfortunately, history didn't repeat itself, and didn't come our way. We knew we were very close. Obviously we were extremely close. But we didn't see that that was going to be a sensible thing. We thought that we had really, you know, a pair of top-six finishes pretty comfortably in hand, that this was a gamble worth taking. We decided to go all the way for it.

T.E. McHALE: Mark, would you like to add to that at all?

MARK BLUNDELL: Back up Bruce's comments there. From a driving standpoint, I felt very confident that we had everything around us to get the job done and complete the race. You know, things are just simply amazing, for the largest portion of the race, there were no yellows. That is something most teams gamble on and certainly would have been in our favor if that would have happened. Unfortunately, it didn't. I'm sure it's not going to be like that historically for the future. Historically, definitely in the past, it's never been like that either.

Q. Mark, talk just a little bit, if you will, about Portland and that course. What the biggest challenge there is?

MARK BLUNDELL: Well, Portland is a very good racecourse. It's a road course, permanent track there. I had my first outing there last year, unfortunately in poor conditions at some stages of the race. Hopefully the weather is going to be a little bit kinder to us. It's a great race circuit. I think as the series is moving on, especially this year, you can see it's a lot more competitive and the element of fuel conservation is coming into racing more and more. Tactically and strategically from the team's point of view, that's going to be a big area for Portland as well. It's a very power circuit, power in circumstance of engine. You know, it's one of those circuits which definitely involves the driver to be very smooth and following. It's going to be interesting.

Q. This is a question for Mark. Mark, what about that circuit there makes it a power circuit? I'm not the most smart guy in the world, you can guys can explain it better than I can.

MARK BLUNDELL: Basically because it is pretty much a flowing circuit, and there's not that many slow turns in it. You know, you have the infield section there which is like third and fourth gearing sections. Predominantly, you have the pit straight and the back straight as well. They're very long sections of the circuit. No substitute for horsepower when you're on long straights. As much as you can get, it's going to be a big benefit. As always, most race circuits are compromising in terms of you need grip and down force levels to be good for the slower parts, but you need less drag and good horsepower for the faster parts of the track. Portland will be no different in that respect.

Q. I'd like to talk to both of you and have both of you address the issue of the IRL CART rivalry. Last weekend they had the problem with AJ Foyt, and that was more bad publicity for the Indy Racing League. How do you guys at CART foresee the future with IRL? Is there something there in the works? Would you care to comment on that?

BRUCE McCAW: I'd say, I guess from my perspective, anybody that has known and loved AJ throughout his career probably wasn't surprised as to what happened. But more seriously, I mean, fundamentally they're running different cars than we're running. We're very committed to the chassis and engines that we currently have. I don't see that changing anytime in the near term. I think, frankly, CART is focussed on building its business and I think we all just want to do a great job at what we're doing. I think for the most part, you know, it's hard to pay too much attention to what they're doing. They have a different strategy. I think they're after a different market. They have some different things that are important to them. I think for us, we think we've got the best drivers, best cars, and greatest open wheels series in the world, and we just want to keep making it better.

Q. You were talking about the need for power at Portland. I don't know the length of that circuit. Is that a place that you might try a similar strategy? And can you also talk about what the need for fuel conservation is doing in general, and the Mercedes, how it fits in there? This can be for Mark or Bruce or both.

MARK BLUNDELL: Bruce is probably best to reflect on the strategy side.

BRUCE McCAW: I think there's a couple of interesting points. I think, one, I would say the race in Detroit was anything but -- well, we tried to stretch our fuel. We were still stretching, both Mark and Mauricio were running some good, strong laps, obviously trying to keep a strong pace throughout the race. I think what we have is a situation of this is a business of resource management, and the resources include time, which is very much an element throughout the race weekend, and fuel which is a finite resource. What you try and do is use all those things in the most intelligent way under the circumstances that prevail to try and pull home the result at the end. In spite of the fact that we did try and stretch our fuel, and I think we were extremely pleased with what we saw from the Mercedes engine, how well we have been able to really open up the second half of the race because of fuel conservation, still the number one element is trying to get there quickly. Mercedes is a fuel-efficient engine. If you use it well, can you get a lot from it. Mark, comments on that?

MARK BLUNDELL: I guess just to say that all circuits we go to, you know, the understanding from our point of view as a team is that we will assess lap times we can run, and that lap time will then be assessed on how much fuel we're using and also the time. Those points then lead us towards what strategy and tactics we will take for the race. Obviously we want to get there as quickly as we can, but we want to do it in the most efficient way, like Bruce is saying. And that counts on fuel conservation, also counts on tire life, and lap time to make sure we're competitive. Some tracks in particular, Detroit an example, we know it's very difficult to overtake. So we also know if we run a particularly lean car in fuel efficiency and we run something in a sensible pace, tire life is good, it's going to be mighty tough for people to overtake. Portland will be a different racetrack again, and that will have a different reflection in strategy, I'm sure.

Q. Is it easier to pass at Portland?

MARK BLUNDELL: It is a little bit easier to pass, a much quicker circuit in general, much more different lines. I think there's going to be a lot more flexibility on passing. You know, we have to wait and see again. When we get there that weekend, we'll be assessing all weekend until the race to see what strategy we will take, as will every other team.

Q. Does the Mercedes have a fuel economy advantage over the Honda and Ford, do you know?

MARK BLUNDELL: Difficult question to answer, that one. All we can say is we know Mercedes has been winning races in the past four or five events, and definitely everybody has been using their engines very efficiently. But I don't think that there's going to be too much time before the other guys may try and catch up. At this point, I'm very happy to have a Mercedes Benz engine behind me, that's for sure.

Q. First we'll start with Bruce and a follow-up with Mark. Bruce, as a leader, do you turn this race into a situation of trying to continue to fight the frustration of getting so close to a win, but not getting it into something of confidence that "We can run up front"?

BRUCE McCAW: I absolutely believe this is a team that is capable and has demonstrated, that it can run at the front. While we haven't won a race, I'm absolutely confident we can win races and we can win them properly. The series is great because it's so extremely competitive; doesn't matter what you do. Our competitors are great, talented teams. It's fun to compete at that level. It's a challenge, but it's also -- it's great fun to be part of all this. We expect to keep running at the front. You know, our time will come. When we win the first one, I'm sure the next one will be right behind it. I'm really proud of our team and I think last weekend showed, I think in a lot of respects, both between the drivers and both teams and the whole CART organization, how well everybody is pulling together and working as a cohesive unit. It's just great teamwork. I'm really proud of our drivers and the entire PacWest organization, the job they're doing.

Q. Mark, what kind of emotions do you walk away from, considering the last thing you saw of the race was as the car was rolling to a stop? I mean, you're close enough to see the checkered flag spinning in front of you.

MARK BLUNDELL: Yeah. I could tell you I was close enough to see it (laughter). I don't know. I mean, my disappointment was very high from a personal point of view because, you know, I've so long wanted to get up the front of the CART grid and to be there in contention to win a race. I know I've got the ability to do that. Most of all, I know I have the strong team and package around me to do that. From the other side of things, my disappointment level was very high because I truly want to bring back a great result for my team of guys, Bruce and all the management, because they had a lot of faith in me last year and this year. The great thing, as you were just saying, we all know that we can do it and, as I said over the weekend, I don't think it's a case of how, I just would say it's a case of when. What you have to take on board is that PacWest is a very young team. I mean, Bruce has put the team together in only the space of three years. When you compare that to the results of the Penske and the Newman/Haas and see where we are in a very short period of time, I think you have to take your hat off to Bruce and all the management of the team because they're doing a fantastic job.

Q. Now we're days away from that disappointment. Has that disappointment eased and now do you just start looking ahead with confidence?

MARK BLUNDELL: You know, it's difficult for it to ease in a short period of time. 24 hours has gone by. I'm now testing in Mid Ohio and the job goes on. My future now lies with Portland and we're focussed on that. I take away the great things out of that race and put the bad things away, maybe finishing 100 yards short of the line, into the back of my mind. Come away from Detroit with positive, that's what we're going to take into Portland as a team. We're going to go forward and I'm sure you're going to see us go from strap to strap.

Q. Difficult managing a CART team, a touring team and your own racing effort all in one weekend?

BRUCE McCAW: Is that a question or a statement?

Q. That's a question. Then also, is there much working together between the two teams since your touring car team had not been to Detroit before?

BRUCE McCAW: The touring car team did run at Detroit last year. They won the Dodge Challenge Cup last year and successfully defended it this year. The touring car team runs as a fairly autonomous organization from the CART program, although they're in the same town, work closely together when they can. Obviously the whole organization tries to support itself. But it's a different form of racing. We've got a great bunch of guys in the touring car program. They're doing a great job running that. Frankly, I mean, we've had good people throughout PacWest so it makes my job a little easier, once in a while allows me to go out and play with the car as well.

MARK BLUNDELL: Which he does very well.

Q. There's been some talk in the past about fuel pickups in some of the Reynards, two different types. I don't know if it's factual or not. Was there any fuel left in the tank at all? Did the pickup get it all? I guess that's either for Mark or Bruce.

BRUCE McCAW: I don't actually know. Do you know, Mark? My sense is from all the calculations, there probably wasn't a drop of fuel left in either tank.

MARK BLUNDELL: From my understanding at this point, there was the smallest amount of fuel you could imagine in there, which just wasn't able to be picked up from the tank. Bearing in mind, all we needed was a cupful of fuel to get us across the line, you could imagine the amount that was. In terms of the pickup being pretty good, I don't think you can argue with that fact.

BRUCE McCAW: The team is focussed on pickups and the different needs of different tracks. Something we try to be on top of.

Q. Great run for you guys, anyway.

T.E. McHALE: Mr. Gugelmin is on the line. In that case, let me do an intro for him and we'll open it to another round of questions for Mauricio. Driver of the Hollywood PacWest Mercedes, Mauricio has scored PPG Cup points in five of eight events this season, with a season best finish of second at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He has enjoyed an outstanding qualifying run as well, starting 11 consecutive events in the Top 10, four of the past six in the Top 5, and winning his first career PPG CART World Series pole position at the Hollywood Rio 400. He is eighth in the PPG Cup standings with 47 points. Under the circumstances, since Mauricio is joining us late, we'll open it up for another round of questions.

Q. In your own inevitable words, what do you feel is most responsible for the improved performance of the team this season?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Basically, hard work will be the responsible thing for our performance this year. Nevertheless, I also feel that decisions that the team took last year changing to Mercedes Benz and Firestone tires and adding a lot more weight from our engineer package made myself and of course my teammates as well perform a lot better this year.

Q. Bruce, could you expand on that any?

BRUCE McCAW: Well, I just think, as Mauricio said, it's been a lot of hard work. I think this is a business where you have to work hard, you have to work smart. I think we've got some people who are trying to do both in the organization. We're certainly happy with the package we have this year. I think with all respect to both Ford and Goodyear, great respect to them as partners in our organization, we certainly struggled with this package we had last year. I think the team was better as an organization than our results might have shown. All in all, I think they're a great bunch of people, working well together. That's what it takes to succeed in this business.

Q. Mauricio, if you could, explain to us in those laps just prior to the tank going dry what was going on inside? I'm sure you're trying to fight fuel management with your gear selection, and also with your boost, but trying to stay ahead of the field with the teammate behind you.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I was making a lot of calculations at that time. To be totally honest, 13 laps from the end, it was going to be virtually impossible if I didn't get a yellow. I was lucky to have my teammate behind me because Mark did a great job as a cushion at keeping those guys that were very hungry at that time to get ahead. But one thing that did help, I felt that some of those guys had settle already for the position. At Detroit, nobody could pass. Then was just a matter of running the most efficient way. For me (inaudible) and at the same time conserve that amount of fuel. I found it quite difficult. I kept in touch and they gave me the strategy on fuel map, then I start backing off way before the corners, just coast through the corners, not use the brakes, not use the throttle, try to be as quick as you can, which is probably difficult to do. We got some great fuel mileage. We almost did it. But it's one of those things (inaudible), definitely did the correct decision, definitely made the strategy we should have done. The history of that race normally brings a yellow close to the end, too. It wasn't our day, but I was very happy with our result.

Q. In the times that I have spoken with you since you came onto the Indy Car World Series scene, from the very first, you said (inaudible) whether it's in testing or (inaudible). What did you learn from Detroit that you think will help you down the road? Is there any one thing that stands out?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, what I learned is that when you investigate something different like this and you really push to the extreme, we get so close of doing that, I just expect to be as a team even more aggressive in the future. I'm saying that we could well be testing something like this for the future. And I feel that as a whole group, we just a whole lot mature than we were before Detroit after something that we try like this, and we didn't quite succeed, but we certainly open a lot of people's eyes.

Q. Your teammate Mark explained that Portland was kind of like a power circuit. How do you see that place coming up?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, I can't wait. We both like road courses and street courses more than we do the ovals. We been very competitive everywhere this year. It was a pleasure to be at Detroit, a street course. Portland is such a great course. Long corners, sequence of corners pretty much like we used to in Europe. For us it's almost like another home Grand Prix because of our linkage with Seattle and the Washington part of this country. It's just great to be there. And with the Mercedes power, I think we're not going to be short on power over there.

Q. Bruce, in the local paper here I read that there was a reporter in your pit who ended up saying there was some problem with the computers that you were using to keep track of the drivers and the fuel consumption. Can you tell us what happened there and would that have affected you at all, if you already chose one stop, you chose one stop.

BRUCE McCAW: I think what he may have been referring to, I think we lost the data telemetry from Mark's car about the middle of the race. I think it was subsequent to our pit stop, so we didn't know exactly. We didn't have that exact data, but we still had I think the information, both what Mark could relay from the car, as well as the calculations based on the data that we had previously. I suspect that's what he was referring to. I'm not aware of any other failures. Are you, Mark, or Mauricio?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I feel it's exactly what you said. They lost during some period of the race the telemetry on Mark's car, but then when they got it back, the numbers are pretty much where they thought it was going to be. They had the telemetry full-time on my car, which they could compare.

Q. That would not have affected the outcome or your strategy?

BRUCE McCAW: I got to tell you, it makes you real nervous because you're sitting there guessing and you wish you had that link. Again, I think our people are pretty well on top of it.

Q. Will there be anything you can do or will be trying to do at Mid Ohio testing-wise that would help you pick up that extra cup of gas?

BRUCE McCAW: I think the answer is yes. Always looking for that (laughter).

Q. I mean, do you think there is something that technically can be done? Can you try shaking the car back and forth, flipping the gas around? Would that help?

MARK BLUNDELL: I tried that at the end of the race. I'm sure Mauricio did. When we're talking about so minute an amount, less than a cupful of fuel, trying to shake the car and get it to pickup in the filter is pretty difficult. It's certainly something we're going to look at, but put it this way: if there's a will, there's a way. If it can be done, our engineers can do it.

BRUCE McCAW: I don't think there was much fuel left to be picked up. That was the essential issue.

Q. Do you think the Mercedes has an advantage over the other engines on the fuel consumption?

T.E. McHALE: Is that question for anybody specific?

Q. The team.

BRUCE McCAW: I guess the first answer would be I wish we knew exactly what their consumption was. That would help. I think based on performance, it looks like the Mercedes is doing a very good job in that area, but it's always hard to tell where everybody else is, too. I think we can only look at the results. The Mercedes has been performing well in that regard. We'd love to have everybody else's data to be sure.

T.E. McHALE: With that, we will again to open it up for a couple more general questions.

Q. Bruce, can you compare the exhilaration and the anxiousness sitting up on that timing shed and watching the cars come in to maybe some of the business deals that you've been involved in that were very crucial at a crucial moment?

BRUCE McCAW: I don't think there's anything that gives you quite the highs and the lows that racing can do in a very short order. We've been fortunate with a lot of exciting times business-wise as well. It's pretty hard to compare. You know, I think in anything that I've done in life, when things are great, you're always thinking about "What's the next thing we should be doing to do something better?" When things are tough, then you got to just think, "What do we have to do to make it work in the future?" I always tend to look ahead. I don't probably get the yo-yo of emotions perhaps that some people get when you have moments like that. I know I didn't breathe the last lap. I knew it was too early to celebrate. It's pretty draining. That last lap seemed like it took half an hour.

Q. Even from a reporter's standpoint, we're objective, for us, too.

BRUCE McCAW: Thank you.

Q. For Mark, when exactly did you move to Scottsdale or Paradise Valley? Will you be there long? Is it Bruce's house you're living in right now?

MARK BLUNDELL: I'm living in Paradise Valley. Bruce is very kind to loan me his house. Actually I'm just in the throes of buying a house and I haven't told Bruce yet.

Q. You'll be living in Arizona for a while then?

MARK BLUNDELL: Just in the process of buying a house in Scottsdale. Probably actually about a few hundred yards away from Arie Luyendyk, a couple drivers on one unit in Scottsdale.

Q. Why Arizona, Mark? What led you here?

MARK BLUNDELL: I was there in 1991 when we did the last Grand Prix, Formula One. Struck me as a great place. I tried Florida last year, a little bit too humid for me. There's a great deal of stuff to do down there. Bruce had his house down there, very kindly let me have the use of it. I think it's a fantastic place. Certainly as a hub, it seems to be improving a great deal for connections to get across the US. I'm enjoying it.

Q. When did you move there?

MARK BLUNDELL: Been there maybe four months or so.

Q. Bruce, how long have you lived in Paradise Valley?

BRUCE McCAW: We've had a home there for about three or four years. We're only there part-time. We enjoy it down there, it's a great place. We just wish we had more time to spend there, frankly.

T.E. McHALE: With that then, I guess we'll sign off. Again, we want to say thanks, very much, to our guests for joining us today, drivers Mauricio Gugelmin and Mark Blundell, PacWest president Bruce McCaw, we wish you success and that elusive first win soon, maybe at the GI Joe's, Budweiser Grand Prix.

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