CART Media Conference
September 21, 1999
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. We want to thank you all for taking the time to be with us today. Our guests today have shared driving duties in the No. 11 Big Kmart Ford Swift CART during the 1999 FedEx Championship Series. We are pleased to welcome Roberto Moreno who has done an outstanding job filling in for the injured Christian Fittipaldi for the past five events. We will be joined shortly by Christian who has been cleared to return to competition at this weekend's Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. First welcome, Roberto, thanks for being with us today.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thank you very much. My pleasure.
T.E. McHALE: Roberto joins us off a FedEx Championship Series career best runnerup finish in the September 12th Shell 300 at Laguna Seca Raceway. The effort exceeded Roberto's previous career best of third in the inaugural U.S. 500 at Michigan Speedway in 1996. He also finished 9th in last month's inaugural Target Grand Prix at Chicago Motor Speedway and qualified among the Top-10 for 3 of his 5 starts with the Newman/Haas team. Prior to his 5-race stint with Newman/Haas Roberto made eight starts for the PacWest Racing Group while filling in for the injured Mark Blundell. He scored PPG Cup points in 6 of those 8 appearances including finishes of 4th at both Gateway International Raceway and Toronto. Despite having missed the first four events of the season, Roberto currently stands 14th in the FedEx Championship Series Driver Standings with 58 points. With that, we will open it up to questions for Roberto.
Q. Where do you stand at this point? Do you have other teams that you have talked to about getting another ride? What is your status right now?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, at this point it is too late to get a drive for the weekend. There is a possibility for the next couple of races after that. I don't want to mention too much at this point yet. We just need play it by ear really. I am just -- what I can say is I am available and ready to drive anything that is out there.
Q. How difficult is it to go from car to car like you have done this year and be successful? It seems like -- I know there are a lot of variations between teams and between cars and yet you have been able to do that pretty successfully.
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, it is extremely difficult and very challenging because you always have to fit into a situation that is out there. It might not be the ideal for you and might not be the ideal for the team sometimes. You just have to make it work. So you come in with the attitude to make it work and you get to know the engineers the best as you can; try to assimilate their needs and that is the way you fit in best is when you understand the needs of the team and apply your knowledge to their needs. That is what I have been able to do. I must say the two teams that I have substituted this year, PacWest and Newman/Haas, they made my life very easy because they were ready for me; especially Newman/Haas because I raced with them in the past. I know all the engineers there. I should say I knew them from the past.
Q. Roberto, you were talking about just a moment ago about the situation that would be best or most advantageous for you. Can you describe a little bit of what that would be? Is it a one-car team, two-car team or your No. 1 driver, et cetera, et cetera?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, what I am referring to is starting the season working on testing and preparing yourself with a package, whether there is a one-car team or two-car team, I should say two-driver team or one-driver team, and so you prepare yourself and you develop the setup of the car early enough before the season starts so you have a good baseline of the car, engine package, and tire package that you have and your relationship with the engineers. So it is very important, it works both ways, the engineer to know how the driver works and for the driver to know how the engineer works. That relationship needs to meld into place so you get good results. This is what I am referring to and it is very important to do the offseason testing and develop yourself so when you go to the races if something is wrong on that day you already know how to go back and what to change to achieve the best result. That is what has been missing on me on being a substitute. But I didn't have any other choice. I didn't plan to be a substitute ever. I always been chasing a position in this country to establish myself as a quick driver and what this has done for me this year is to achieve that actually.
Q. Obviously you have done better or posted better results with Newman/Haas than you had with PacWest. What do you attribute that to?
ROBERTO MORENO: I think a couple of things. Myself developing on the process because why the other drivers have developed themselves through the test -- offseason testing and the tests before the races, I have to do that during the races. Each time you drive, it is like an airplane, you become better and so half I attribute to develop myself and half for -- I jumped into a team that was already winning races this year and it was just sort of fitting into a very competitive situation.
Q. I don't know but something in my head, I keep seeing this mental picture of you standing at pit lane in Houston holding up a sign that says "Will race for food."
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, I actually get sad when I hear something like that because it is not my intention. I think this year I have achieved a level and I hope that will generate myself a full-time drive. I don't have to hold any signs like that and it is something that I will be in Houston because as a backup situation just in case. But if the time -- if I had more time before this decision I would probably be driving for another team.
Q. Has driving for the different teams this year and being pushed into situations or invited into situations, let us use that word, has that made you a better driver in the fact that you are seeing so many different teams do so many different things?
ROBERTO MORENO: I would say it was more challenging. It hasn't made me a better driver, no, because Roberto always -- has had a certain level, but he was never being able to develop that level to show what could be done. It is always difficult, you know, I have changed teams twice this year, but I must say I have been very, very fortunate to be the one choosing -- seeing somebody had to replace (inaudible) I just hope now I can continue that because a driver needs a stable situation to develop to his 100% performance level. A catching-up situation every race weekend doesn't get the best out of a driver ever.
Q. The pressures that you had being a substitute, weren't they -- did you also feel that really you didn't have a whole lot to lose or you could drive with a little more freedom then you might with a team where you have got a week-in, week-out pressure of trying to develop a car?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, imagine yourself-I have got to put it in a way that you try -- you need to put yourself into my situation a little bit to understand that. Imagine somebody that came to the U.S.A. in 1996 and was able to do a full season to learn the race tracks, but not with a very competitive team. And has been chasing a full-time drive with a competitive team since then. When you get the opportunity you don't realize, you try to make the most of it every time because you know it is going to be for a very short time and you have got to perform in that time. But the challenge of it is because you -- everything is against you. And a driver, when he goes racing, he wants to win every race, at least I do anyhow. You try to make the best out of the situation to achieve that. Sometimes I might not show it from the outside because everybody thinks I am a smiling person here and there, but inside, I always perform to my best. I always had a handicap against me facing situations that other drivers have -- had more testing and more knowledge before they got there. A clear example of that is how I performed so well at Chicago when nobody else tested there straight out of the box. In other places I didn't have that situation and I had a bigger handicap. So to answer your question, I always try my best and I always will. I have an energy that motivates me inside because I don't do anything else in life and I am still looking for the break to succeed in this country.
Q. So if you get a full-time ride next year we can expect you to be up front every week?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, I am going to certainly work in every way I can in every way to achieve that. I also work very hard to try to understand the engineering side of things so I can share with the engineer his thoughts and my thoughts and we work like, where I am not driving a little bit, of a help in a way of developing.
Q. You certainly have encouragement to all of those of us who are a little bit older who see all the young bucks coming up, nice to see you doing so well.
ROBERTO MORENO: You see "Old" is not in my dictionary. And it is just -- I look at life you know, the next step, what do I have to do. The best thing in my life is my wife takes care of my two daughters very well. I don't have to worry about them when I leave the house, and I just forget about them and I just get on with the racing.
Q. You have driven in the IRL and now you have driven in the CART Series, of course. Can you talk about how drastically different these two machines are as we continue to hear talks about reunification and so forth, just how drastically different are these machines?
ROBERTO MORENO: One machine, this year, anyhow, could only drive in oval courses to start because the gearbox wasn't really ready to do any road courses on the IRL. That will change next year, I believe. But that was one thing that was a big difference. Also if you are talking about just both oval racing, IRL, you just keep your momentum going in the lap. The power range is much different and lower than the CART cars and it hasn't got the turbo that kicks in. The power range and how it kicks in, it is very different. The gearbox is very different because, one, you have to select each gear - I don't know how to say - the other one is a sequential gearbox. What else? On the CART car you always -- you are always trying to use the power to the best of your ability. I mean, you set up the car thinking about how much power you can put onto the ground. On the IRL you try to build momentum to go fast. That is the two biggest differences.
Q. Let me ask you since you have had a chance to drive different chassis in the CART series, a lot of people, other than Newman/Haas, had a lot of problems setting up the Swift chassis. Tell us a little bit about the Swift chassis and your experiences with it as opposed to what you were running with PacWest?
ROBERTO MORENO: All they have to do is hire me now. (laughs). You are talking about the chassis or the team?
Q. The Swift chassis, specifically?
ROBERTO MORENO: They are different. One sets up -- I can't go into details too much, but one sets up more easier than the other, but they both can perform the same level in my opinion. That is basically it. One you have to worry a little bit more about the aero package. The other one the mechanical package is very important. So it is a tradeoff and once you discover each of them, you go fast. You take, for example, some teams that have Reynard chassis that until they find the trick that makes the car go fast, they are in the back of the grid. Then same thing happens with Swift guys and the guys that found the trick were up front. It is just a matter of finding the key for each chassis. But I do say one is easier to find than the other one.
T.E. McHALE: We just received word that Christian has joined us. What I am going to do at this point is ask if there is one final question for Roberto Moreno before we let Roberto get back to his lunch.
Q. You mentioned the change in the IRL gear box for next year.
ROBERTO MORENO: Yeah.
Q. Are we expecting something that we don't know about yet?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, I understand next year will be sequential gearbox like the CART cars are. That is what I understood. That is basically -- you can probably use that in the road course if you want to.
Q. That is what I was wondering. Thank you.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thanks.
T.E. McHALE: Thank you. At this point we are going to thank Roberto Moreno for spending some time with us this afternoon. Thanks a lot, Roberto. It occurs to me that the last time we did you on a call we thought you were finished for a while just prior to the Road America event when we thought Mark Blundell would be back, but as it turns out you have not missed a race and hopefully you won't miss another one the rest of the season. We enjoy having you in the series and we hope you will stick around.
ROBERTO MORENO: I hope God listens to you and I get another chance somehow; not to the expense of somebody getting injured, but I really hope I can continue. If not, I have got to thank you very, very much, both teams I drove for in the CART Series, because it has been a tremendous opportunity for me and has developed my career further. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you, Christian, and wish him all the best for the next races and if he ever needs me for anything, I will be there for him; not for driving, but even to help him, you know, continue his performance in the team.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Roberto. I am sure he appreciates that. Best of luck the rest of the season. We hope you will stick around.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thank you. All the best for all of you.
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