CART Media Conference
September 15, 1998
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for joining us today and a special welcome to this afternoon's guest, two-time and reigning FedEx Championship Series Champion and new father, Alex Zanardi of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. Welcome, Alex. Congratulations on the successful defense of your Championship as well as on the birth last week of your son Nicolo.
ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much and good afternoon to everyone listening.
T.E. McHALE: A couple of things before we begin taking questions, we have scheduled today's teleconference to give callers an opportunity to speak with Alex in the aftermath of his clinching his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title which occurred September 6th at the Molson Indy Vancouver. Many of you may be aware that we have attempted to schedule Alex on this call on several occasions this season, but family related considerations have kept him from joining us until today, so we are very pleased to have him with us. Just so no one feels misled, we want to be clear up front that Alex is not planning any announcement regarding his future this afternoon. A general reminder that we have a large number of callers on the line today, so if you could limit yourselves to one question and a brief follow-up, the other callers and your moderator would be most appreciative. And, so to the formal introduction: Alex clinched his second consecutive PPG Cup with a fourth place finish at Vancouver. By securing the Championship with four races remaining, he did so earlier than any driver in CART history. Rick Mears had previously held that distinction when he clinched the 1981 Championship over Bill Alsup with three races remaining. Alex also became the first back-to-back PPG Cup winner since Bobby Rahal in 1986/87 and the fifth multiple Champion in FedEx Championship Series history joining Mears in 1979, 1981, 1982; Rahal in 1986 and 1987 and 1992, and Al Unser, Sr. in 1983, 1985 and Jr. in 1990 and 1994. Alex has won a series-high six events this season at Long Beach, St. Louis, Detroit, Portland, Cleveland, and Toronto. The latter four victories tied a series record for consecutive wins set by Al Unser, Jr. in 1990. With 14 victories in 48 career starts Alex owns a winning percentage of 29.2, the best in FedEx Championship Series history. With a runnerup finish in last weekend's Texaco/Havoline 300, feature event of the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, Alex added two more records to his Champ Car resume. His 12th podium finish of the campaign broke a single season record previously shared by Michael Andretti, Bobby Rahal both in 1991 and Al Unser Jr. in 1994. In his 234 PPG Cup points through 16 events broke the series record of 225 set by Unser Jr. also in 1994. By finishing 12th or better, winning the pole, or leading the most laps at the inaugural Texaco Grand Prix of Houston October 4th in Downtown, Houston, Texas, Alex would also establish a new series record for points through 17 events. Michael Andretti currently holds that mark at 234 points set in 1991. Thanks for bearing with me through the lengthy introduction. At this point we are going to open the floor for questions.
Q. Let me offer my congratulations for all the good fortune and ask the obvious question right off the bat: In terms of what your future is, what is your timetable for determining that future as much as you can enlighten us as to where things stand right now?
ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much, first of all. And, it is very disappointing and I wish to apologize once again to everyone listening, I obviously like to be more clear on that, but I have to respect the time and the strategy of all the people involved, including the sponsors besides to my team owner and whoever I would be working in the future which requires a little bit more time to put things right. Personally I think I am more or less came to a conclusion, but it will be announced probably in about two week's time, something like that, I would imagine.
Q. My question is: Were you surprised - and I know you won't talk about this probably on the record, but I have got to ask you - were you surprised at what lengths Target and Honda and even the reknowned tight-wad Chip Ganassi would go through to try and keep you here financially?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, first of all, let me say that, quite frankly, I am real happy that Target - especially Target which is involved with Chip directly is help into the negotiation and certainly that Honda did -- such an important company, that gave us a great contribution in the past three years to win three Championship; one with Jimmy and two with me. Plus -- But, really, my relationship, it has always been with Chip, with Mr. Ganassi, and it will always be with him. And if one day it will not be a professional relationship, it will always remain a great friendship relationship. My negotiations, so far I have always been with him and -- I am not really aware of all this help that obviously Target had offered them, but I am not aware of all this help that Honda has offered them. So if this is a true story like I heard from many, many sides, you would have to ask Chip about that.
Q. I'd like to ask you about Chip. If the past took you away from Chip, how would you remember him as a guy? He is a guy that is very difficult to get to know for someone like me, but you spoke of him as a friend. How can you describe Chip to me?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, certainly Chip is a very ambitious person and ambition -- and he has got a lot of ambition. He had those ambitions three years ago when I met him. I think he had the team, he had the people already working for him which were capable of doing the job, but things haven't happened yet when I join the team, fortunately for me, because probably looked like I made -- I have made happen a lot of stuff. That was certainly a very good publicity for me. I have to say, quite frankly that when I joined the team, at that point a lot of things really came together. Chip decided to switch to the Honda engines which were certainly very, very competitive. Chip decided to switch to Firestone tires which at the time were the tire to have. And, Chip decided to hire a new driver that had -- not the experience, but certainly the possibilities to bring some fresh ideas, to bring a fresh mind, that certainly did help a lot. So a lot of the credit ended up coming on me and I am certainly happy for that. I will always -- I am sorry, but my baby is crying, as you can probably hear. I will try to find a place where I can speak. In this amount of time we became friends, but it is also fair to say that I am one of the few that really had the possibility to spend a lot of time with Chip. Again, I was talking earlier on about ambition and certainly Chip is a person that had the ambition to do well; had the ambition to get to the top with his team and he did indeed get to whatever he wanted to get and I am sure even if one day I would leave this team, he has now gotten the organization to keep doing the jobs, so, I will remember him like one of the people, probably the person that has really changed my life around, not just my career.
Q. Did you two hang out together, though, at all? Was it ever like that?
ALEX ZANARDI: As a matter of fact we just had dinner, when was it, Friday night. I think Davis was there as well. We had a great time. I mean, yes, we had also great time when we went to ski last winter and Jimmy was there as well. We went around with snowmobiles, went to ski together and it is kind of tough to have a good and straightforward relationship with your team owner because you always want to keep a little bit of pressure on him, you know, I guess it is normal. The driver needs to keep putting pressure on the team owner because you want him to put the money into the program and not into his pockets and so you always want to know -- you always want to paint the situation much more worth than what in fact it is because you want to get the best results. And he always wants to keep you like on the edge because he wants to get your services, the best services possible, the cheapest way possible. So it is difficult to get a very good friendly relationship. Somehow I managed to do that with Chip. Actually, I managed to do that right away. I remember Laguna Seca 1995 when we first met, Chip with - I don't know, a lot of people would say with his difficult attitude, but, in any case he said: Okay, come up, I will give you five minutes. And then one hour and 45 minutes later I was still there talking to him so I guess we got along very well right away very well.
Q. I feel unfortunate that from what you are talking that I won't be able to see you defend your championship again here in St. Louis. What was the most difficult race of the season for you here?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, tough to say because I mean, I got 12 poles in finish, so they were all good races. The only two times where I didn't finish in the points, it was just due to brain failed of the driver, of myself. I guess probably Japan because it was such a shame that we were not able to perform as well as we wanted because the car was not -- we didn't get the right setup, not for any other reason, quite frankly. We knew that Honda really did care very, very much about that situation. They were trying so desperately to have at least one of the six cars they provide engines to to win that event. We desperately wanted to be that one but it didn't happen. So it was difficult because Honda has done so much for not just Zanardi, but also Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, providing us fantastic engines and sometime give -- including us in a situation of clear advantage on the opposition. So that was probably the toughest event. It just came as a second race and it was a little difficult. It probably put a lot of the question mark in a lot of peoples' mind saying: Is Target/Chip Ganassi Racing still on touch of the game, they can still do it or what? We had to go out and prove that the answer was yes. Fortunately it happened right away with a quite exciting race in Long Beach the following week.
Q. If you look back at the season, you did not have -- you have had so many decisive victories, but never had, what anybody would say, was a real easy victory. Looking at the quality of the drivers that are in CART today what makes you, in your mind, so much better than the rest of the drivers, if you look at the results that you have had? I mean, you can't help but be impressed. There has got to be something different about Alex than the other drivers. Is it luck? Is it talent? Do you just work harder? How do you assess yourself compared to the rest of the people that are in the field?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, I guess it is three things. First of all, we, once again, I am sorry if I repeat, myself, but the team obviously, it is so important. In our business you cannot put the car on your shoulder and run fast. I mean, the car needs to go fast and the team is certainly very important. Target gives us everything it takes to do the job correctly and we have the people to do it. Second, I guess, I have a group of mechanics that really made a difference throughout this past three years. I mean, just the little thing for you to understand what I am talking about - my car in three years never let me down once because of a problem, generated from bad preparation or stuff like that. The car always kept running. In three years - it is incredible because not even in a test, I never had a problem like a bolt was loose or something that somehow stopped the car and I would not -- and therefore, I was forced to go back into the pit. So this is pretty remarkable and very important. Third, I guess, it was certainly the confidence and -- that I have that grew up inside me in these three years; the fact that I knew I could do the results and I could win races, so most of the time I wasn't rushing to get the result. I mean, take a race like Portland, for instance, I didn't think I was going to win that race, but everybody lost it for me and I just found myself in first place. I said: Thank you very much and I went home. So sometime you don't need to be super fast. You just need to be as fast as other people and just be consistent throughout the race. There is no point in running second a lap faster than everybody else, just few laps then if you cannot finish the race. Yes, you win an Omega watch, but you don't win anything else than that. The important thing is to be consistent. To do that, it takes confidence. It takes good preparation of the car. It takes physical condition. And, basically, I think that was the reason why I was able to perform so well in all the races. And, sometime, yes, I was lucky. But I was also there to take advantage of other people weakness.
Q. The next race up is in Houston, new market, street race. Is this a challenge you like going to a brand new facility; kind of puts everybody on a level playing field, maybe so many things that can knock you off there.
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, it is certainly interesting whenever you go to a new course. And, it just adds a lot of desire; the fact that all the sponsors really care about that race because it is a very important market; it is a place where since I was involved, have never been and I don't know if CART has ever been in that area, but in any case, it is certainly nice to go there. Personally I just normally look the thing from the technical point of view and it is -- basically it is a new circuit. Everybody will start from the stretch. And we have always been really good, both myself and the team, to learn new situations, new circuits very, very fast. In 1996 when everything was new for me, actually I got so many poles, that this year I am just dreaming. I guess that will not stop us to do a good job. And, I hope sincerely that it will stop somebody else to do a good job and will at least get some of my normal toughest challenge a little disoriented. I really hope. It would be easier.
Q. I have question, it is a bit unfair, I guess because I know you are still in the midst of this season, but I wonder, myself and everybody else in the world, bugging you so much about whether or not you will be going back to Formula 1. All this year and then last year when it was your first time to actually achieve the Championship, I wonder if you could look at both seasons and if one or the other in particular was more difficult for you, was it harder to actually hit the mountain and climb it to begin with, or has it been tougher now with all this other stuff swirling about whether or not you are going to go back to Europe?
ALEX ZANARDI: I understand the question. Obviously it is difficult to answer without saying good things about me because I have to talk about me and otherwise at least give this impression and I am not just trying to say how good I am to keep it cool or just to do my job and forget about other things. This is just the way I am. I never lost a minute of sleep in my whole life due to an important event coming the following day. And I normally don't even worry, I don't even think about the future. I just try and concentrate to do the best job possible, you know, not even day-by-day, but minute-by-minute. And, in this contest I knew that I had a commitment with the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and I had to do a good job for them. Certainly Target does not pay us the big bucks just to talk good about them, but also to perform well on the circuit. But, really, it is my desire; it is my passion; it is the love for this sport that I have -- that force me to take advantage of an extraordinary situation that I have and which is, you know, I am driving for a team that had give me the possibility to win races which is all the race car drivers dream to do. And, I think I would be a fool if I wouldn't take advantage of this situation. Once that maybe and if I turn page and I go to Formula 1, then fine, then I will try to do the best thing I can over there. But really, once again, I would be a fool if I would let that interfere with the -- with what I am doing right now which is trying to win races. For instance, yes, I won the Championship, but two days ago in Laguna Seca came very, very close to win another race, and I am going to try to do the same possibly better in three week's time in Houston. So then if I analyze the two seasons, probably this one has been more difficult, I believe, because last year we still had an advantage with our technical package because Honda, I think, gave us a better engine than what Mercedes and Ford were able to put on track. And we were still one of the teams on Firestone whether right now I would say 95 percent of the teams are equipped with Firestone, and so it is not an advantage anymore. So for this reasons I think this year has been a little bit more difficult.
Q. I guess one other sightly unfair follow-up: I just noticed a couple of times, particularly when it got to where you hadn't clinched yet and you and Jimmy were kind of fighting it out, a couple of times -- this is really a little dumb thing - but I heard him refer to you as: Oh, Zanardi, we have got to do this to catch Zanardi. It wasn't like "Alex" or "my friend Alex." You guys have always been such a team that seemed to get along so well and work with each other so well and I wonder was the pressure of people bugging him, whether he was going to go to Formula 1 or bugging you about it; plus trying to compete for the Championship, has there been any deterioration between you two or the team in terms of the relationship between each other?
ALEX ZANARDI: No, and I think the journalists, the American journalists that follow the series race by race that have the opportunity and the luck, I guess to know Jimmy Vasser in person are probably laughing right now because they know him and Jimmy is just a such a wonderful person. When he says "Zanardi is" -- is his way of teasing me and when he called me "Alex" is when we are in private and we talk about normal stuff like two good friends. This is what we truly really are and Jimmy obviously gave everything he had to try to stop me to win the Championship because he wanted the Cup for himself. But I would have been surprised if he would have done something different. So, no, there was no pressure. There was a very, very nice and honest battle even inside the team, but even when we could have done, we never stopped sharing all the technical information and helping each other because that is smart. We need to beat everybody else first and then we will try -- once that we get on the circuit, we will try to prove that we are better drivers, one than the other, you know, because -- actually this is probably the only side of our sport -- of our business that you can call sport.
Q. I'd like to ask you if you would give me an assessment at the moment of what you think Dario Franchitti can do next season?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well Dario Franchitti will certainly be a star, actually a very bright star. He is already a star, but he will be even brighter next year I am sure. He just has to learn how to deal with the ovals better, especially the short ones and he has got a team that will certainly help him do that. Probably having him do a lot of tests over the winter and maybe just needs to be a little bit more aggressive in -- when you get some close racing, side-by-side or stuff like that. But I guess, you know, he proved this year that he is capable of winning and he is capable of winning again. So, I am sure next year he will win more races and he will be a very, very serious contender for the Championship.
Q. How will you remember the year that you spent in CART?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, first of all, Lino, it is my experience, in the states isn't finished yet and maybe it is not finished -- not even at the end of the year it won't be finished, you know, I can't say that yet. But, in any case, those three years, these three years that I just spent with the Target/Chip Ganassi have been incredible. I had so many things happening one day after the other and so many beautiful things there, is really, really very little to regret for what I did; I think a lot of the things that I did were right. But especially a lot of the things that basically all the things that the people that were surrounding me did for me were just purely incredible. Together with the team I collect probably the best satisfactions of my entire racing career and achieved -- I achieved results that I didn't think were possible even in my deepest dreams. So it is very difficult to put that into words, but I am sure one day when I will be old and hold Nicolo's son on my legs in front of the fireplace, you know, I will have something to tell without exaggerating.
Q. What was the most exciting, the most memorable moment of your career in the United States?
ALEX ZANARDI: It is very difficult. I guess probably Laguna Seca 1996 because, I don't know, when you are a kid and you close your eyes and I closed my eyes many times when I was a kid and I was racing go-cart, I always trying to win an important race, the top really, the top of the level, just on the last lap when everybody thought that was it, that was the results, finish, over and then pull out the move that will make everybody jump on their feet and scream and be able to win the race. That was probably the one and probably is the thing that I remember the most. Cleveland 1997 and Long Beach this year were also incredible victories, but Laguna Seca came first. So that is probably the one.
Q. The big "If." If you go to Formula 1, will you take with you Mo Nunn that he decide to become a writer and retire?
ALEX ZANARDI: I don't know. Mo Nunn is living in Florida. He is 60 years old and he looks like a kid. He plays tennis; plays golf; does so much good stuff, probably because the weather is very good. I don't know if he would be able to do all that things if he goes to wet England, so I don't think -- no, but in any case, I am just kidding. I think Mo is like a father for me. He is like a father, but he is like a friend, he is like a brother and he is like probably the best engineer I have worked with in my career. But I don't think he would want to do something like that.
Q. Do you have approximately any date when you announce your decision?
ALEX ZANARDI: I think it is going definitely happen before the end of the month.
Q. As you said, there is this process of deciding, announcing the decision has been ongoing. I get the impression from what you are saying that this deal isn't done yet; I mean, it is not just a case of making the announcement; that there is still a decision to actually being made, is that true?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, Jim, obviously a lot of people thought there were rumors going around that the deal was done and signed even the end of July, I guess, the first rumors start to go around that it was a done deal and so on. There is obviously a great interest from my said in Williams; not in Formula 1, and that is the thing I want to make clear because Williams is a team that technically speaking has always been very strong and that would definitely be a good opportunity. I had other talk, other offer, but I didn't think were even comparable with the other one I had in mind which was Target/Chip Ganassi Racing. But I have been obviously talking, but unfortunately, for me, I couldn't go much deep into the negotiations or let us better say, use a more -- a better word, go more in talking in the conversation with those people because I was busy doing a job. I didn't want to give or take any time away from the job I was doing so I never had any time to go to Europe. I never had any time to go deep in the negotiations and so on. On words there is things that you can agree, there are things that you can do. Well, then maybe finally one day once that you have everything in your end, you come to a conclusion and to a decision. I think, as I said, it will be up to my employer to then decide the strategy and the timing for the official announcement. I wish I could say more and I know it looks like I am trying to hide behind something, but I am just respecting the desire of people that employ me.
Q. I know you enjoy winning races and being a member of the Ganassi team and I know you certainly enjoy the U.S. fans. But can you tell me what else that you enjoy about racing in the U.S.?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, if you just talk about the pure racing point of view, certainly the variety, the fact that in our cities, ones that you win on the street course, on the road course, on the short oval, on an oval like St. Louis or Homestead or -- and also on a super speedway then what else can you ask to a race car driver to do? I always compared this with World Cup Ski. It is like winning the World Cup, winning slaloms, giant slalom and downhill. Just very few people that did it. Once again, for a race car driver to be able to do all that in a series where the only difference that you can pull up to beat the opposition is a car setup and from the owner's point of view, have a better driver in the car playing with the pedals and the steering wheel. So it certainly very, very rewarding to compete in this series and to be able to win everywhere.
Q. Following up, could you talk a little bit about just the atmosphere of racing in CART in the paddock? Obviously you have a good relationship with Jimmy Vasser, but just your point of view of the experience in the paddock in CART Racing.
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, I will tell you, when I first came to America in 1995 to watch one race and to try to talk to some people, I was definitely impressed by the choreography. I raced in Formula 1 previously and everything seems to be very formal; sometime too formal. The racing paddock, it is -- I think to go and watch a race, it is better to wear a pair of blue jeans rather than a tuxedo. And, you know, I think, besides that, there is other things you can do to entertain the fans like in CART they do. Again, the choreography is just fabulous. The fans are great and you really feel them because in CART they can come into the paddock. Sometimes it is actually too much, too free because it is very difficult to fulfill all the requests for a driver. But it is certainly a unique experience and this is probably something that in Europe they don't do much. The atmosphere is different. It is different. It is still racing. It is still what you love to do when you drop the shield is two things very similar, but the preparation is definitely completely different.
Q. You have been able to accomplish something - and I hope this doesn't sound like a silly question - but we reporters and the fans can watch you win a race, but never feel the exhilaration that Alex Zanardi feels when he wins a race. Try to explain what that is to us.
ALEX ZANARDI: Because I am happy. I am happy because -- well, I hope Chip Ganassi is not listening but I would also do this job for free. I love what I am doing and I like it so much and I have been racing for such a great team and when I cross the start finish line first, I know there are a lot of people in the stands that are happy. There are a lot of others that are not happy because they would like to maybe see Michael Andretti or Al Unser, Jr. or Jimmy Vasser one of the compatriots, but they understand that I did the job so they cheer anyway and there is all the guys the mechanics, the sponsors, the people involved with our team that are very, very happy. Let me tell you something: From Day 1 of work, back in 1996 and from the first time I walk into the shop, I always felt, not just welcomed, I always felt like, especially from my boys, my mechanic, like even if they would have a million of options between a million of drivers, I would still be their pick. I always felt the confidence, the enthusiasm behind me and I just try to do everything I can to fulfill their expectation and me. And when I obviously do that, it is such a great emotion. It is difficult to put it down into words, but I guess it is understandable that the driver, he is the one that takes around on Sunday afternoon, everybody's work and if he failed to do his job, well everybody's work is pretty much worthless. So once that you do it right, then you can see how well other people have been working before. Sometime it is mixed emotion between great satisfaction and relief for just doing what everybody else was expecting from you.
Q. With your fellow countryman, Max Papis joining the Bobby Rahal effort for 1999, is he the next Italian to hold up the Championship flag?
ALEX ZANARDI: I am sure -- well, I don't like to make prediction because as I don't like to bet, I always lose, I don't like to bring some or throw some bad luck on Max's shoulders. But I guess Max is talented enough to be tougher than luck or bad luck and with the Rahal team, he will have all the equipment. He will have everything it takes to show his capability and to win races. So if he does that from the beginning, I am sure he is for sure going to be one of the main contenders for the title. It is just a shame that this year was not running on a very competitive car due to the lack of competitiveness of the Toyota engine because otherwise we could have really had a shot to the Nation's Cup as I am very close to the United States and I have been just scoring points just by myself.
Q. Alex, you have won incredibly by earning more points in 15 races than anybody else. Earlier you were asked with what kind of a driver are you. You credited a lot of it to the team. But I have seen you make some opportunities for yourself on the track. Are you better at reading those opportunities than other drivers? Are you more of a thinking driver? More of an aggressive driver? How would you describe yourself?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, again, you just put me on the spot because whatever I say looks like I want to say I want to advertise myself. I guess whatever there is because I have a good team behind me, whatever, because I was confident because I am almost all right to probably the best age for a race car driver because now I have the experience, but also been able to mature as a person, I guess -- I have got to say, I have been able to use and become a very aggressive driver whenever it was required to be, be a very conservative driver whenever it was required to be, and take advantage of other people mistakes whenever that is the situation. So maybe it is -- I am not a one-way driver. I mean, I can go very, very fast in one direction but I am also capable of making a U-turn and going the opposite direction if it is required to do it. So I am capable of being very aggressive but then if I realize I have already arrived to my best in that particular event and if I try a little bit more, I go over the line, I probably spin or hit the fence or crash with somebody. I just realize whatever my limit is. This, I think, is very important in all the sports-maybe also in life-just try to do your best what your limits allowed you to do, and so never be happy enough; if you know you can get another position, just go for it. I mean, it doesn't matter whether people would be -- people surrounding you would be already happy with the results that you have got up to that point. You have got to go for whatever you can get. But, then again, if that is the best you can do, it doesn't matter if people are disappointed when you stop. If you know that is the best, you have to stop there. So just recognizing my own limit, I think, has been my strength.
Q. How much support has co-owner Joe Montana been to you?
ALEX ZANARDI: I don't has been -- actually, you know, it looks like I want to give him a little share of credit, but it is not just that. Joe is a great, great person. He couldn't be otherwise, or he wouldn't have got what he got out of his life, but for me he has been quite important and my second race ever in 1996 in Long Beach I was -- actually my third, excuse me, Long Beach, I was leading the race and I got together with Bobby Rahal which at the time was a lapped car. And I was a little down; especially because I felt like people were looking at me like pointing the finger after the race and he came to me and he was -- he gave me a speech very aggressive in a way about basically what he said was: Hey, man, you are the one that they have been choose to do the job, otherwise, you know, people that criticize are normally people that would love to do what you do, but are not capable of. You know, when coach were giving me hard time, I always thought, yes, they are right. I have got listen to them because I can learn something but on the same time, if they would have been the players, maybe they wouldn't be forced to become coach and they would play themselves. So, it was something that really helped me. Then afterwards -- that is the thing that I remember the most. But on many occasions, Joe was able to come up with the right words to give a little boost, not just to me but to the whole team.
Q. Young drivers have an indestructible sense. They get married. That changes a little bit. Now, the family. Are we going to see any change in the moxy with which you drive in the future?
ALEX ZANARDI: I hope not. That is not the plan. No, I don't think so. Actually this gives me even more adrenaline to go and even more determination to do what I do. I think - once again it is not up to me to talk about my qualities, but if there is one that I can be proud of is that I am always been capable of keeping the right balance in my life and the right optimism. I am very, very happy with what I have. I feel like I have been blessed from God for everything I get and sometime I feel like it is too much; there is so many kids dying because they don't have food and I have got so much out of this life that, you know, I am too fortunate. But, in any case, you know, probably the best quality that I have is that I am able to share my emotion differently to whatever I do. Once I jump in the car, that is what I think. I am a man on a mission and all I want to do is win a race and I have enough time when I get out of the car to kiss my son and my wife.
Q. The Fed Ex Championship series has two kinds of ovals, road courses and temporary street circuits. Across the pond, nothing but road, and then over here nothing but ovals. Do you think that versatility in the courses forces -- makes the Champion rather the best overall driver of any Championship series?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, if I say so, I am obviously saying Zanardi is very good. But I do think -- I am not saying all the best drivers in the world are competing in our series. But if you would want to find the best driver in the world you would have to -- probably our series would be the best way to find that out having the best drivers competing in our series.
Q. My question is all through the conference you have been able to recall races and situations during races. You seem to have a pretty instant recall of details during races. Does that help you immensely when you go talk to Mo Nunn about something that is going on with the race car, that recall of so much detail?
ALEX ZANARDI: Oh, absolutely. Something that helps a lot, I have to say that, is that Morris has been a driver himself. So most of the time when I talk to him he understands what I am talking about because I am able to refer to him even with feelings and I tell him, you know, when the car is doing this and this and that and he understands really what I am talking about. He just not read things on the computer and so on. But, oh, many times when I am trying to describe a particular problem, I refer to a previous race and I say to him: Do you remember when we did that change and the car reacted in that way and sometimes I actually surprise him because I remember, you know, like 200 pound springs change that probably we did in 1996 and the car reacted in a particular way. He goes to me, come on, you cannot remember that. Then he brings the book out of the locker and that is what he did. Sometime I surprise him for that. But most of the time when we do a change that is really saw the effort that we were hoping for; it is something that you always want to keep as an example to tell your engineer what you need out of the car.
Q. I noticed in the race at Laguna that on the last couple of laps there, any ground that you made up on Brian was -- it looked to me like it was under braking is when you made up the most ground. That, frankly, I have noticed that through most of your CART career, you make up a lot of ground on people on breaking; you don't lock up tires; you have got that proportioning valve just set perfectly. Is that a conscious weapon for you or is that just: Oh, I just happen to be good at that?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, it is actually, you know, very, very interesting question because in 1993 I was driving - and I had a teammate called Johnny Herbert which probably a lot of you know - he was very good at that. He was using a particular system. I was using completely another one. I just realize through his driving style what really you had to do to enter into the corner with the maximum speed and still have the maximum deceleration in order to brake as late as you can. I just made some thinking and I realize what would have been then the best driving style possible which was not what I was doing; it was not what Johnny was doing but it was something that I decide that day that I was going to force myself into doing until it would become instinct. So my driving style, it is something that I have built over the years, just because I believe that is the way theoretically you have got to drive the car and I have been able to make that become instinct now. Now I just go out and I drive like that. It wasn't easy, but I think - and I still believe now - that that is the way you have got to drive the car. That is why I drive like that. Thank you very much for what you are saying because that was a nice compliment.
Q. Let's face it, most of the passing occurs under braking anyway on road courses in particular, so, getting the braking right is ultra important.
ALEX ZANARDI: Very important.
T.E. McHALE: We will take one more question for Alex Zanardi before we let him go for the day.
Q. Now you have got your first son. Just curious if one day he decides he wants to get into racing too, what advice would you offer him?
ALEX ZANARDI: Well, first of all, I would try to spend a small time with him as I can although he would probably one day end up saying: Dad, I had enough, leave me alone. But I would try not to give him too much advice because I have you have got to learn things yourself. My dad always told me don't be crazy when you drive on the road. When I was 18 years old just because I thought I was a race car driver and I had to prove that to my friends, I still was driving at 110 miles an hour on the highway in the fog and you couldn't see ten feet ahead. So used to do stupid things like that just because I wasn't there yet with my head. So I guess he will have to learn his own things. Obviously I want to try to give him a direction, but then the best thing I can do is just try to be as my dad was with me, always very, very critical, it is tough because when you love someone, you would just want to hug him and tell him he is the best. I know to be a father is a very difficult profession. But my father was always right and always did the right things with me. Even when I was winning a race, he would always never in public, always in private, but then in private he would come to me and he will say: At that particular lap, at that particular corner, you did that mistake, and you are not very smart and I am not very proud because you could have lost the race there. I would say: Come on, dad, I just won the race, give me a break. No, no, no. And, sometime we won't would end up having arguments, but thanks to his critical approach I really learned and I have really learned to try to move myself as close as I could to perfection because whenever somebody hits you, if somebody starts to get all the attitude of: Oh, poor you, poor you, just because they like you and they don't want to say you did a mistake, then you end up thinking you are the victim and maybe there was a way of avoiding that trouble. And, so the next race, if you think there was a way you go on and you try to correct and learn from your mistakes. If you don't think it was your fault, just because everybody told you it wasn't your fault, it was just that guy messing up with you, then you go on and you do the same thing and you may repeat exactly the same mistake so you don't learn from it. So that is what I will try to do with him.
T.E. McHALE: At this point we are going to wrap it up for today. We will let Alex get back to the family life. Alex, thank you for joining us. Thank you for all your graciousness with the time you gave us today. Best of luck with the family and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.
ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you very much. I would like to extend my big, big thank you to all the people that were listening and especially to the journalists that were listening from overseas from, this side of the ocean with me, especially knowing that there were no Italian except from Lino listening.
T.E. McHALE: I am sure Lino was happy to join us today. Thanks again for being with us, Alex, and all of the rest of you, we will talk to you next week. Good afternoon.
ALEX ZANARDI: Thank you.
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