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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Mauricio Gugelmin
September 2, 1997


T.E. McHALE: Thank you, good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. I want to thank all of you for joining us this afternoon. We want to wish a special welcome to our guest Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: It's a pleasure to be here, especially after a day like we had at Vancouver. And I'm just ready for you guys, because we have another race coming.

T.E. McHALE: All right. Great. Mauricio, the driver of the No. 17 Hollywood PacWest Mercedes, earned his first career PPG CART World Series triumph at Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver driving to 2.872 victory over Jimmy Vasser. It was the third victory of the season for the PacWest Racing Group, following teammate Mark Blundell's earlier wins at Portland and Toronto. With Sunday's victory, Mauricio has now scored PPG Cup points in five consecutive events, marking the first time in his PPG CART World Series career, which now spans 67 starts, that he has scored in five straight. He leads the series in miles completed, with 3096.555 of a possible 3255.183, and he is qualified in the top ten for 18 consecutive events with 11 of those 18 starts being top five qualifying efforts. Sunday's victory gave Mauricio the first 100 point season of his PPG CART World Series career. Heading into Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey, featuring the Texaco/Havoline 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. He stands 4th in the PPG Cup championship with 115 points. The Texaco/Havoline 300, round 16 of the PPG CART World Series and the featured event of the Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey, will be televised live by ESPN this Sunday beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Q. Mo, it's great for you, and congratulations. How much of a sense of urgency did you feel to get that one win behind you before this season was over, and how much a feeling of relief is there now.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, Gary, the feeling of relief is just unbelievable. I feel a lot lighter than I felt before, despite the fact I knew I had the equipment, I knew the way we've been qualifying, and the races through this whole year was a matter of time to get everything together. And then being so close at Detroit when we ran out of fuel, and other races that I led for so many laps, and then after I keep going to '95 when my first ever race for PacWest, which I almost won in Miami, as you may recall, then took that long for me to get that first win. But that just made up for every disappointment I had in the past. And this team is just going so well and is such a momentum now after my teammates win, as well. The whole thing is just so strong. The real reason for that is the Mercedes engines have been great in all areas, and Firestone just made the car really a lot better than what we had in the past. And that just, together with the team being more focused and more mature, I would say, is giving us the results. So it's just great to get that one off my back and now just carry on for the next year.

Q. I'm curious, Mauricio, when you first went to the team, were there signs immediately? Obviously doing well in the first race was a good sign, but even before that, what kind of things told you that PacWest was the team that was going some place? As I remember right you'd come from Chip Ganassi's place?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: The way I really start to know about PacWest was a lot of the team members, especially my engineer, Andy Brown, used to work with me on my Formula One days, even my 3000 days. So I got to know from Andy how this team was thinking about the future, how serious they were going to be in the long-term. And then I got to know Bruce McCaw, himself, and know him as a real racer and also somebody that really has a good mind, how they should be put together and how to manage people. The business we are, you have to be really good in managing people to get the best out of them. I had no doubts that was the correct move for myself. And matter of fact we just announced both drivers we signed for the next two years to be with PacWest.

Q. Congratulations, Mo.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your contract and having the win, and just the whole weekend working for you. Obviously can you talk about the emotions of not just the win, but also having the contract and things really falling in place for you?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, the contract was great. When I resigned for PacWest at the end of '95 we had a plan, a long-term plan, which was for the next four years. So it was just a matter of readjusting a few things with Bruce, which has been always a pleasure to work for. And then we knew it was going to happen, but at the same time I focused to get my first win and to get it last weekend was just a relief, not only for myself, but believe it or not it's been ten years since the last time I won a race, which for me felt like 30 years. And it's just very close. That was in '87, a Formula 3000. And then after that I've been Formula One -- when I came to Indy cars I was expecting for that to happen early, but CART has been so competitive that these days, to actually have everything a hundred percent going behind you, it's very hard to get a win.

Q. That was another thing I wanted to touch on, if I could ask a follow-up. Alex Zanardi said it's almost a double-edged sword to do well here in CART after struggling in Formula One, because it sends a message over to F-1 that maybe CART is easy to win. Can you talk about that, because obviously you've realized how hard it is to win in this series?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I tell you, it's not easy at all. The biggest difference here is the championship is a lot more level, so the cars are more equal, which puts a lot more pressure on the drivers and also on the teams, on the day; make the right calls, good pit stops. And we're racing all the time, from lap one until the very last lap. And that makes life very difficult.

Q. First of all, congratulations are in order for Mauricio.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you, I really appreciate it.

Q. You and I met back at the Indianapolis, when you were going through your rookie test there, and we talked about your old traveling friend, Ayrton Senna. I've seen a lot of drivers come up and I'm really happy for you. When you were here in St. Louis, we were traveling in different directions, and you still managed to say hello. That's a great thing for a driver, and lots of time you have things on your mind. I see your hat size hasn't changed, and I wish you the best.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: It's great having you supporting us, and having the race in St. Louis was a great addition this year. I'm looking forward to getting back there next year, and hoping running even stronger than we did.

Q. Mauricio, I'll join with everyone in saying congratulations to you. I'm sure you don't get tired hearing that.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you.

Q. I'm wondering, when looking at the race as an observer, as I am, I said, you know, everyone is going nuts out here in the Vancouver, yet Mauricio just stays patient, stays deliberate. Is that one reason why you're leading in miles completed?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, it's probably one of the reasons. You were right about being patient. And it's something so hard to do for a race car driver. We're like a wild animal, you put us in the car and you let us go, and you tend to forget the basic principles about racing, and that's that you have to finish to win. And over there, that Sunday, I was really conservative in the beginning, and my whole goal was to get by Mike at the start, because I knew he was going to be a tough customer, and then after that was save fuel, which Mercedes really helped us on that tremendously, and then to really race, to start after the last pit stop. But the fact that I'm leading miles and down to the raw ability of my package, the way that my team has given me the car this year. But I'm pleased by doing that, and that just gives more chance next year. I feel seriously we're going to be the team to beat.

Q. Talk about Laguna Seca, I took a ride in a passenger car down to the corkscrew. It took any stomach away. What in the world is it like in an Indy car and what type of race plan do you go with there?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, as far as race plan, I'm feeling in a very comfortable position right now, because mathematically I cannot win the championship. For sure Alex and Gil are going to have to take -- at least Alex, a bit more conservative approach. We were looking stronger than last year, and this year we tested well, and we ran just behind Alex in terms of lap time. So we can realistically drive together our second win at Laguna and then Fontana would be great, because at Michigan we always race fast. As far as a racetrack goes, Laguna is one of the best. The corkscrew is one of the unique corners that I ever drove. It is a low corner, but you arrive very fast, and the road just drops away from you, so you have the chance of being in the air a little bit and making sure that you land right on the four wheels so you get good grip and make the corner, but it's all about anticipation and keeping the flow. But that circuit is definitely a nice racetrack.

Q. What went through your mind the first time you did that?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Basically how I'm going to get consistent and just precise at this corner, because it was very difficult to pinpoint where the turning point, where the apex was and it takes a few laps for you to do that. And to be fast there you really have to anticipate a lot. You spend a little bit of time in the air and you have to just throw your car in and hope that you're going to land pretty soon and get everything back again.

Q. Mauricio, thanks, and congratulations again.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you.

Q. I have two questions. I'm not clear about the contract. Have you signed another contract or when does the current one run out?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, we had a four-year contract with an option in the middle and we just -- I just had the option, so it just extended for another two years.

Q. Have you found Alex in any of the moments when he is having trouble finding breaks around corners or next to other drivers, has he given you any scares?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: No, the team kept me informed about the situation, and I knew he was coming from behind, and one time he did pass me, and I got him back, and then after that he made another mistake, which gave me some space between myself and him, and then the only time he came behind me he was already a lap down, and I knew he was very anxious to get that lap back. Bryan Herta at the time, I think, was leading the race, but he had still to do one pit stop. And I basically let him by and after that he just had his moment with Bryan, which for me was just easier then, Alex came around the back of the field, and I had a clear road again with not many left to go. So Alex did actually help me during the race, rather than gave me a problem.

Q. Compare, if you would, the emotions, 1989, Formula One, you had your third place finish in your home country of Brazil. Compare the emotion of that, how proud you were to be up there in front of your countrymen to the win this last Sunday for Bruce McCaw, it's very evident you have a great deal of respect for?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, Brazil was great in terms of being in front of my people and coming in third. But nothing will ever compare to the win last Sunday, because I felt we had to work for it. It came at the right time. We've been waiting for a long time and to win is always different than coming third or second. It means a lot to me. I think it would be great to win in Brazil, but we still have plenty of years left in racing, and maybe one day it's going to happen. But I would say last Sunday was the most important moment in my career.

Q. I'm going to switch gears completely here. I want to know a little bit more about your role in the poultry commercials back in Brazil.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: That was during the Formula One days. The company was involved in poultry and some other products. And they had a very smart agency that did come up with some crazy ideas about commercials relating that to Formula One, especially when you think of poultry and Formula One, how can you get that working together. But I was very successful as an actor, they said. And I remember -- I can't remember the numbers, but after that commercial that I did they just doubled their sales in the following month. So we actually won an award because of the commercial, it was pretty good. But I haven't been doing much lately.

Q. Not many poultry commercials in the U.S.?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: No, not really.

Q. Thanks again, congratulations.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you.

Q. A huge congratulations, that was a hell of a race you drove. I was shooting down at the accident, Turn 8 where it comes out of the second chicane and drops down in elevation a little bit. It almost looks like there's an almost two distinct exit lines out of there.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Yeah.

Q. Were you able to do any passing through there?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: If I was able to do -- I didn't get the question?

Q. Getting to Laguna, what do you think your chances are for the podium there?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, I think it's very high, considering the way we test over there early in the year, and also the last two years, I think I finished third in '95 and 6th or a 5th last year. So you're always being competitive to there. And as I said before, I don't have any pressure of winning the championship this year, because I can't anymore. So I'll be going for the win.

Q. It was a pleasure seeing you in Vancouver.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Thank you.

Q. I was wondering, you're associated with a team that also has some other projects in the fire. Will you ever be doing any racing with the touring car team?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, we never discussed it yet, but certainly if Bruce feels it's necessary for me to get driving one of those cars -- I'm a professional racing driver, and anything that moves and burns fuel I'd love to drive, which would be a pleasure to do that, but no immediate plans on that.

Q. Mauricio, I want to pick up on something my partner Billy Edwards brought up, and that is the relationship with Bruce McCaw, because anytime I talk with you or anytime I talk with your teammate, Mark Blundell, it's almost as though they're talking about a brother or a father, not a car owner. What is it that Bruce McCaw has that brings you guys so close to his team?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Probably the single word would be just vision. I've been around so many different teams in different parts of the planet, and I came across some tough times with different owners in the past. And Bruce, he just -- the way he puts everything together and the way he makes everybody so comfortable to do their work. Don't get me wrong, he definitely puts pressure on everybody, it's just the way he handles that, the way he manages people, he just gets the best out of them. And therefore we just feel -- it's a pleasure to work for the guy. It's hard to describe. If you have a problem you can tell him and you work it out. It's not one of those jobs that you feel, oh, I have to go another day. You can't wait to get to the next day. And it's just hard to describe. He's somebody that you get along really well. And I literally feel like a friend and a brother, just like you described. He's just great. There is nothing else to say.

Q. From all that you said I must conclude that as emotionally satisfying as this victory was for you and for Mark when he got his, it had to be also emotionally satisfying for Bruce because of what it means for him?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Oh, yeah. Bruce had a few goals that he told us about as far as this year that he wanted to do. And one of those was to get both cars winning. And I'm sure -- I'm pretty sure we're the only team that got both drivers first places this year. And so again he's just done something that he planned to do and this team is just moving places. So that was just great. And I'm so happy that I'm involved with him.

Q. Mo, were there any special things in celebration afterwards or maybe some expressions of congratulations that might have come from unexpected sources? What was it like the immediate aftermath and maybe even that night if you guys had a celebration party?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, just luckily every year traditionally Bruce throws a party after Vancouver. He has a place, where I am right now, which is a nice house with boat and go-cart track, for the drivers to have a relaxed time, we've been here celebrating for the last two days, I can't believe that I can still walk. It's been great, it's perfect timing. And when I called -- changing the subject a little bit -- when I called my father in Brazil, which was about 6:30 Vancouver time, he had had 30 phone calls at that time from different friends and people in Brazil and all over the world. And I spoke with my wife this morning, she said she ran out of fax paper at home, just from people sending notes. So by the time I get back from Laguna I'll probably have to see quite a few messages for me.

Q. The wife and children were back home, then?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Yes, they were, because the day my son, Bernardo, was the first time for him -- the first day in school. Poor guy doesn't know he's probably going to be stuck with that the next 20 years, but nevertheless he was very happy to go.

Q. When did you get a chance to call home?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Right after the race, and I've been doing every day since.

Q. I'd like to continue a vein that my partner, Ron Martin, started. You talk about Bruce McCaw and what a great team. Part of that team is Mark Blundell, and some drivers have nightmare teammates and they just -- it just doesn't work. What is it about Mark that makes the team work, and also has he helped you this season?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Well, you're right about that. You can have a tough time with a teammate. But with Mark and myself there is great respect among ourselves. We probably have slightly different styles as far as traffic setup goes some of his styles works better than mine, and vice-versa. You always get help from one driver to another. And we are both very aware that the straight competition you get is from your teammate, because everybody assumes both cars are equal. So let's see how those guys are going to do against each other. But in the event that we race it is just so important that having two brains out there thinking all the time and working as a team, this is bound to give you more advantage than if you really are selfish and just keep everything for you. So I think to make this team successful that's very important. And we get to a time that maybe we're going to be fighting for the championship together, and believe it or not sometimes we already discussed it, we may have to come up with some rules and see how we're going to handle that, because I can see when you have two competitive guys, you can have a little bit of friction. But as long as you keep it healthy and everybody knows how far you can go it's good to have competition like this.

Q. Is there any exchange of information actually during the race or does it all occur before the race, during practice, qualifying, and during any test sessions you have?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Most of the time is before. But sometimes when you have a problem during the race in terms of tire wear, whatever, which is difficult to have with Firestone, but you always use the other car in case the guy gets a lap early to see how things are looking his side and then the engineers talk and they can relate it to you in the car.

Q. You better stop the partying, because you've got to drive this weekend.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I know, Bruce told me you better get on the fitness program again, because we have to win another one.

Q. This is just a passing thought, but what's the situation with Hollywood? I know the whole tobacco thing is in a state of flux, are they on board the next two years ostensibly?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Definitely the next year, we're working to extend that for two years, and beyond that, they're very happy the way things are going. And of course they're aware of the problems, it's just that it's something we're going to have to deal with in the future. I personally don't know if it's going to be any different for them that they don't sell the product over here, but it's something that I have my concerns, but I don't know much about it.

T.E. McHALE: We'll wrap it up for today. Mauricio, let me add my congratulations to the long list you've received today for your first career victory on Sunday. And we wish you the best of luck at the Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey this weekend coming up at Laguna Seca. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

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