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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Memo Gidley
May 25, 1999

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference and thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon. Our guest today is rookie driver Memo Gidley of Walker Racing who will make his first FedEx Championship Series start in the June 20th Budweiser G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. Memo will fill in for rookie Naoki Hattori at FedEx Championship Series Road and Street Course events while Naoki recuperates from a broken leg sustained in the season opening Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami presented by Toyota at Homestead Florida on March 21st. Welcome, Memo. Thank you for being with us this afternoon.

MEMO GIDLEY: Thanks for having me.

T.E. McHALE: The 29 year old Memo is a veteran of a variety of different types of racing most recently the KOOL/Toyota Atlantic Championship. He won three events en route to a third place finish in the 1998 Atlantic Championship and won two events in 1997 while finishing second overall in the series. He was tabbed to drive the Alpine Walker Racing Honda Reynard after successful tests at Putnam Park outside Indianapolis and at Portland International Raceway. While Memo will join the FedEx Championship Series for Round 8 at Portland, Round 6, the Motorola 300, will be contested this weekend at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis. The race will air live on ABC TV this Saturday beginning at 3 P.M. Eastern time. Please note that this air time is a change from the 1:00 P.M. air time originally published on the 1999 FedEx Championship Series schedule. With that, we will open it up to questions for memo.

Q. Memo, how are you?

MEMO GIDLEY: I am great. How are you?

Q. Doing wonderful I guess everything you have done with Lynx Racing as prepared you for this moment. Talk about the stair-step process with Lynx Racing that really gets you ready to go?

MEMO GIDLEY: Well, they are an unbelievable team. It was the first time I basically was able to join a team where I knew I would be making every race in the year and I wasn't out there trying to race sponsors and so it really allowed me to focus on learning as much about racing a car and setting up a car as possible. And the people that work for Lynx are -- they are so good, they are definitely Champ-Car-quality-people and you learn so much. I learned so much about setting up the car; about race strategy; about racing, just actually driving and getting the most out of the car. It just made the steps so natural. I mean, when I moved up it was, you know, instantly not a problem to figure out what the car was doing and although I have got a lot to learn, it just feels really good.

Q. In essence, while Lynx is a competitive race team, from what I have been able to figure out over the last couple of years, it is almost like the university of racing as well.

MEMO GIDLEY: Yeah. No kidding, Lynx, they have had a lot of success getting drivers into Champ Cars after running with them for a year or two. And they just prepare you so well, I mean, their whole -- the way that they work; the procedure that they go about things, it is basically -- you know, it would run -- they can run a Champ Car. It is virtually the same. Obviously when you move up you have a lot more people, there are lot more people that you deal with, motor manufacturing people and tire people, but it is just -- it is much the same; it is just a little bit more.

Q. Any pressure on this first start? Are you glad that you have some time to prepare for it?

MEMO GIDLEY: Yeah, seems like a month is not too long away though. It is definitely -- There is always pressure. I mean, I put pressure on myself just to succeed, but, you know, I think really, I am very anxious just to get out there and get running because there is all sorts of -- when you get into a series like this, when you are running pit stops and have long races, there are all sorts of things that maybe you haven't quite thought about; you just sort of have to experience. So, for me, that is the anxious part is just getting out there; getting the first race, learning about everything and building on that.

Q. I was just wondering memo if you any other contact with some of the recent Atlantic graduates such as Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier who have made the leap straight from Atlantic to CART Racing, I wonder if they had any advice for you; if you actually had any words with them?

MEMO GIDLEY: I haven't spoken with either of them. I talked with Patrick a little bit before my test out at Putnam. I was trying to get some advice actually. We never quite hooked up. And Alex, I haven't spoken with, but I will be down at St. Louis this weekend. I look forward to seeing them down there this weekend.

Q. Congratulations.

MEMO GIDLEY: Thank you.

Q. You were testing this last weekend at Portland?

MEMO GIDLEY: That is right.

Q. How did that go?

MEMO GIDLEY: The testing at Portland went really well. The first day actually rained out a little bit. I got about 20 laps on the car. Second day I ran the whole day and it went great. Just driving the car for me is just unbelievable thrill. It is better than anything I have ever driven, for sure, by a long shot. Just the amount of grip; the horsepower; the acceleration; the breaking, everything is just, you know, it is more than I could have ever wanted and then some. So it was great. It is just working my way down times-wise; getting more comfortable in the car; getting everything adjusted like the pedals and the seat and getting that all set is kind of what I was doing at Portland.

Q. Talk about, you know, when you were driving Atlantic you and I talked last year quite a bit at Toronto and whatnot. Is Champ Car your perception of what you thought it was?

MEMO GIDLEY: You might have to ask me in a couple of months. (laughs) I think it is. It is definitely, you know, I haven't been out there. My perception of the Champ Cars is it is a very competitive series where tenths of a second counts for everything in the world. And that still seems to be you know -- I still imagine it being that way, although I am not out there yet. But it is just -- I really like the -- I really like close racing. I think the only kind of racing I want to be in is where it's very competitive because that is what pushes to you be the best. That is what it seems like. I am looking forward to getting out and racing all these guys that I just -- for me, it is just a dream just to get to this spot. It is kind of like I pinch myself at least 200 times a day right now. So it is like, you know, I look forward to getting down there and racing these guys.

Q. We wish you well.


Q. St. Louis and Gateway Raceway certainly not going to be foreign to you because you did manage to dodge the weather and get some laps in there last year. What is your perception going in there for tracks like that and other tracks hither on down the road?

MEMO GIDLEY: Gateway from last year, I mean we had a good race there. It was probably the most exciting Atlantic race we had, although it was only 10 laps and that was it. I think the differences in a Champ Car, the turns, you know, you have to slow down a little bit more because you are going down the straight-a-way a lot faster and in the Atlantic, only Turn 1 and 2 did we just have to breathe off the gas just a little. So I think the ovals is the biggest difference although I am not going to be racing in the oval schedule this year. The ovals are just going to be -- the speeds are tremendous and I think watching the Champ Cars running around there this weekend I will get to see how fast they really go.

Q. When you do race something such as a Formula Atlantic without a turbocharger; very quick small kind of darty-type car with very good brakes compared to a Champ Car which has a turbocharger and the power comes in very quickly; is that something that has been difficult to learn or has it been pretty smooth?

MEMO GIDLEY: That has been pretty smooth. Definitely there is differences horsepower-wise between Champ Car and Atlantic; probably 700 horsepower difference. So it is quite a lot. It is pretty substantial. But throughout my -- you know, to get to this point where I am right now, I have driven all sorts of different types of cars from Winston -- from vintage Winston Cup cars to, you know, Shelby Can-Am cars to Formula 2000, to carts, shifter karts, 100 c.c. karts, so it is just an adaptation process. The power -- the cars make -- generate quite a bit of grip. The tires are fairly soft and real good; you can lean on them really hard in the turn and so once the tires are warm, actually the wheel-spin factor is not as big as I had imagined coming into the test for the first test at Putnam or the one at Portland. Definitely on cold tires or when the track is a little bit slick or a little green, if you get just a little bit of wheel spin or you are just a little off line or you hit a bump, just a little wrong, instantly the car will rev to, you know, however high it revs, 15,000 RPMs. So you kind of have to be on top of it when there -- on a low-kind-of-traction, low-grip situation.

Q. It is great to see you in CART. I want to wish you the best of luck.


Q. Memo, you will be at Gateway this weekend in the Atlantic car or have you --

MEMO GIDLEY: No, I haven't -- my last year in Atlantic was last year, so I won't be down there racing. I am just going to down there to observe the pit stops and such for the Champ Car.

Q. At Portland I know you are looking forward to it, are you looking forward to that first Chicane when everybody tries to go through it at once?

MEMO GIDLEY: I think you can go left, can't you?

Q. You can go straight, at least.

MEMO GIDLEY: Okay. (laughs).

Q. Good luck. Thank you.

MEMO GIDLEY: Thank you.

Q. Could you list which races you will be doing and then second part of it, take us through the procedure for a test for somebody like you. You obviously don't just jump in the car and try to go fast. They probably throw some situations at you and could you explain that; what it is like?

MEMO GIDLEY: Sure. As far as the schedule mark, the races that I am going to be doing or scheduled to -- I am not sure if this is the correct order. I am not sure of the exact dates on the later ones, but it is Portland, Cleveland, Road America, Toronto, Mid-Ohio and I think Detroit, street course? As far as you know, how they go about sticking you in for a test or what they do for you when you are out there, when I came out to do the driver test at Putnam, that was first time I had been in the car and basically they take you through the whole process. Honda sits you down and says, okay, this is what you need to do on the shift; this what you need to do with the motor, so you don't damage any of the motor and these are all the functions that you can do, like boost up and things you need to watch for. So everybody kind of takes you through and tells you things you need to be doing; things you need to be watching for, but basically they just say, you know, go out, get up to speed, just do what you do and you know, every session we will come on in and we will talk about what is going on; we will make adjustments to the car, get you comfortable, and we will just -- you just go about it like you are trained to do. I think I would have been surprised if I would have come out and they would have said, well, we don't want you to go flying off the track here because -- you hear about that at the lower levels, I think, when you have more inexperienced. But at this level, you need to be prepared. You are strapping yourself into a very expensive car and you are dealing with a lot of high-profiled sponsors and you should -- I felt like I was very trained for this step. So everything was just very smooth.

Q. Did they make changes on the car, not tell you what was happening and ask you to figure out what they had done?

MEMO GIDLEY: No. We -- after about I think 8 or 10 laps I came in, that was the first session and came in and I told them what the car was doing; how it felt; how it was rolling as far as in the turns or what the grip level was like or how it was over the bumps and just, you know, kind of told them based on the limited experience I had, what direction maybe I thought the car -- we needed to do to change the car. They didn't throw any -- there wasn't any second guessing or you know -- well, we might have done something or we maybe we didn't and let us know, you know? (laughs). It is tough enough for a rookie to get in there and just, you know, to try and build up your confidence, you can tell them or get an idea of what the car is doing. I think it would have been -- I don't think it is probably a good idea for them to try and trick you, you know, (laughs), it is -- like it is hard enough when you go out there just to actually look down at the gauge just to see how hot the motor is running because everything is happening so fast. It is like, you know, it is like going Mach 9 in Star Wars or something. It is just amazing.

Q. Were you satisfied with your times at Portland?

MEMO GIDLEY: Yeah, Portland I was. Just, you know, I think it is hard to know where you stand without everybody out there. But with Gil out there then you kind of get a benchmark. For me, I felt pretty comfortable in the car. I know where there is time to be gained and it is really -- it is more in like the high speed stuff than anything else. But high speed corners are really something that I love a lot. It is just learning where the limits are; how hard you can push it. And so it was -- I was very pleased with what happened at Portland.

Q. Did you get a fair amount of coaching from Gil?

MEMO GIDLEY: Yeah, actually Gil helped me out quite a bit, took me around the track; gave me some pointers, and we went over some data together, we could overlay our laps. But he is also very busy. He is working with Goodyear and they have got a lot of stuff going on out there and so he has got his own program also. But he definitely seems very nice - although I have only been around him one day or two days - he seems very nice, very helpful and I look forward to working with him.

Q. You came out of CART as a lot of people have like Richie Hearn and Bryan Herta, things like that and go-karting is -- the chassis is a matter of getting weight transfer back and forth on the go-kart which, of course, in a Champ Car that is not something you want. Have you found that kind of a different feeling comparing one to the other, say, a Formula A CART or shifter kart compared to a Champ Car?

MEMO GIDLEY: It is amazing because the 125 shifter kart that I run and the Champ Car feel closer as far as how you drive them than anything I have driven in the past. I think the reason that it does is the amount of grip that the shifter kart generates this softness of the tires, there is really nothing except the Champ Car that goes around the corner like a 125 shifter kart. The way everything happens so quickly, they are very similar, very similar. I think that a lot -- all the setup stuff that I learned in the carts being that I have raced for Track Magic and had been a test driver with them recently and raced with them for so long and worked on chassis and setups, it is all very similar. The only big difference is that you are not dealing with any sort of shocks which are not really allowed on the CART, and also the weight difference. I mean, a kart is very light and it is probably the most forgiving thing when you do start to push it or get sideways. And a Champ Car, because it is heavier, you have to -- you can't quite recover from things, you know, getting sideways or getting wheel spin as quickly. You have to kind of be a little bit more patient with it. But otherwise they are very similar, very similar.

Q. I will be looking you up for some solid advice here in Marshalltown then.

MEMO GIDLEY: Actually, I have got my kart. I drove out here in my pick-up with pretty much the only thing I own which is a couple of boxes and about five sets of tires on my kart so I will be at the track, I think, as soon as possible.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks to everyone for being with us this afternoon. We will wrap it up today at this point. Thanks, Memo, for being our guest. Thanks again; best of luck in your debut in the Budweiser G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway next month and in the rest of the FedEx Championship Series.

MEMO GIDLEY: Thank you, T.E..

T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you for being with us. We will talk to you next week.

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