CART Media Conference
June 19, 2001
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon, welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks to all of you for being with us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Roberto Moreno of the Patrick Racing Team who joins us following his first podium finish of the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season, a third place performance in last Sunday's Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit at the raceway on Belle Isle. Good afternoon, Roberto, always a pleasure to have you join us.
ROBERTO MORENO: Good afternoon. My pleasure to be here.
T.E. McHALE: With his third place showing on Sunday, Roberto, the driver of the No. 20 Visteon Toyota Reynard, extended a run that has seen him score championship points in four of his past five FedEx Championship Series starts. Also included are finishes of 11th at Long Beach, 12th at Nazareth, and 10th at Japan. Heading into this Sunday's Freightliner GI Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway, Roberto stands 13th in the FedEx Championship Series championship with 20 points. Roberto is in his second year with the Patrick Racing Team after driving to a third place finish in the championship for them last season and recording the first pole position and victory of his career, both at Cleveland. One week before that victory, he finished second at Portland International Raceway, a performance that allowed him to take the FedEx Championship Series points lead for the first time in this is career. The Freightliner GI Joe's 200 presented by Texaco, round eight of the FedEx Championship Series, will be televised live by ESPN this Sunday, June 24th, beginning at 4 p.m. eastern time. We'll open it up to questions with Roberto.
Q. Good result in Detroit.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thanks, very much.
Q. I hope it's a sign of things to come.
ROBERTO MORENO: You know, we working well together now, so we'll try to keep the momentum going.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the canceled Brazil race, speculation as to whether that race will ever come back again. There's some talk about maybe Salvador, Brazil, being one of the locations where the race may be moved to possibly. I was wondering what your thoughts were on that location? Have you been to Salvador? Do you feel that would be a good place?
ROBERTO MORENO: I have no doubt it would be a good place. Salvador has spent a lot of money in developing the city. It's one of the first cities in Brazil. It's where all the people that discover Brazil, the Portuguese, where they came into Brazil. It has so much culture there, beautiful churches. It's just a beautiful place for vacation, as well. What happens in Brazil, we rely on the city mayors wanting an event there to help us be able to pay all the bills in a way. When I say "us," I mean us Brazilians. Seems like the mayor from Salvador was very, very interested to help us put the event together and make a street course out there.
Q. I had gotten some e-mails from people who were concerned about the security, the crime rate in that city. Is that true? Is there any problem there at all?
ROBERTO MORENO: Do you have any problems to go to Detroit?
Q. No (laughter).
ROBERTO MORENO: It's the same thing.
Q. Not much of a concern is what you're saying?
ROBERTO MORENO: The same thing. In any big cities in the world, there are crimes. Salvador is a very, very nice city at the moment. As I say, they spend a lot of money developing the city. One of the most powerful senators in Brazil is the one comes from that town. He's helped that town to go a lot. He's going to become a mayor very soon. I expect it to be no problems at all.
Q. Would you say right now that would be the top running city to get the race?
ROBERTO MORENO: That's what I hear with the people working with Emerson on that project. It's the most favorable one at the moment. Brazilians do miss a race there in Brazil. Since we're doing so well in the championship, I'm sure it will be a lot of people keen to sponsor the event down there. I'm sure one way or another we'll have the event. The only reason we didn't have it the last time in Rio, the mayor of Rio pull the plug at the last minute and left everyone with no other choice to replace it because it was so late.
Q. I hope to see a race in Brazil.
ROBERTO MORENO: I think our hopes just might happen.
Q. Just briefly go through some of the characteristics of Portland, this particular road course that you enjoy, find challenging. I also want your take on the mandate on the HANS device. What is some of the feedback you're getting from other drivers on this, testing? Do you think the mandate should be carried out?
ROBERTO MORENO: In Portland, it's one of those circuits that there's a lot of momentum the way we drive through, meaning speed for one corner, it's important to carry on to the next one. It's one of those places that you flow through and there's a chicane on the front straight, which everyone has to be very careful. You've seen many incidents there. It's a tough chicane. Then you have a very fast corner that you have to have a car with good down force to go through. Then there's a sequence of corners much slower that you flow through, meaning one leads into the other. You need to carry momentum from one to the other to do a fast lap. In the back straight, you don't see going into the back straight a little bit. But an extremely quick chicane at the end of the back straight with a hard-breaking sharp turn before the pit straight again. So it's one of those places that I really enjoy driving. You must get every corner right in order to be fast. If you slowing one corner, your lap time drops a lot. That's how I can probably describe. Is this what you wanted?
ROBERTO MORENO: As far as the HANS device, I try to use -- I can use mine in the ovals. I've tried to use testing in Long Beach. I had to take it off because my arm was locking itself. Basically I'm too skinny for the size of it, for the size of the one I'm using. It needs to have some work done to it. Plus the muscle that goes to the neck was getting squeezed on it while I was moving my shoulders, turning right and left. I had to stop and take it off on the road courses. I do hope we don't have to use it yet - not because of security, but because I have not yet made one that fit me perfect for the road courses.
Q. A follow-up on Detroit. That last little section there where you went around Patrick, that had to have your heart in your throat a little bit.
ROBERTO MORENO: It's one of those moves that you see the opportunity, you do automatically, you know. It's one of those things that when I saw coming -- in two previous race starts, I saw Patrick having a hard time to hold Dario behind him because he was sort of slow on the first two laps. Again, I say, "Dario is going to give him a go." He did. When he came out of what I call the right and left turn past the pits, he was right underneath of Patrick. So what I did is I cut onto the stream. Patrick kept coming to the right side of the road, putting both of them on the dust part of the circuit. So I made sure my tires were clean on the left side, where we normally go, then when they sort of squeeze each other, Dario tried to squeeze in to pass Patrick successfully, in the process, they slow each other down. I got a very good run use my braking point in the clean part of the circuit, got a good momentum, too. I was actually thinking I was going to pass both of them before the next corner. Then when Patrick moved to the right trying to block me, I had to come off the throttle from hitting him, and I lost the momentum to give a go on Dario. But it's one of those things that you don't think when you doing. You just see the opportunity, you go for it.
Q. Have you seen a replay on that move?
ROBERTO MORENO: Yeah.
Q. Looked like you were just about ready to fly there.
ROBERTO MORENO: It felt like I flew much higher than what I seen there. I think if the camera was lower on the ground, you would have seen a big gap underneath of the car on four wheels.
Q. Looking ahead to Portland, I've driven the track a couple of times - obviously it was way slower than you do. Where do you see your best passing opportunities are going to be?
ROBERTO MORENO: As always, passing opportunities, it all depends if a fellow makes a mistake. If the cars are on the same conditions, it's very difficult to overtake anywhere you go because now the tires don't go off anymore. If they do, they go off at the same time to everybody. You don't have like different in the factories, like different tires go down and you get different passing opportunities. The group of drivers are driving very close together. If there is any chance, it will be at the end of the front straight before that chicane and on the back straight before the quick chicane, but it's more difficult there, or anywhere somebody makes a little error and you take advantage of it. Sometimes people do that slow chicane past the pits, they make a little mistake on the way out. You can actually dive in on the right side and pass before the next corner.
Q. We look forward to seeing you this weekend on-site.
ROBERTO MORENO: I'll be there tomorrow.
Q. You ran consistently all year, but you were in the second five of the top serial. Now you have a third place. Do you think you can stay up in the Top 5 from here on out and challenge again for the championship?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, this year we have change a couple of things in our package: the engine and my engineer. Two things have been happening. I had to adapt to a different way of saving fuel while I'm racing, which I eventually have learned and did quite well in this race, which is very different than what I was used to last year. I'm starting to work really well with my new engineer Dave. We are very hopeful that things will just go for now.
Q. Certainly looks promising. How much, if at all, did the three-quarter inch plate on the pop-off valve affect you and the Toyota?
ROBERTO MORENO: I didn't actually feel anything. No problem whatsoever for us.
Q. Most of the lap times were down this year slightly from last year at Detroit. What accounts for that?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, they should be because it's 37 inches this year rather than 40 inches.
Q. Y'all didn't get a gain back in performance at this track, where some other tracks performance has been similar?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, it's difficult to judge. As a matter of fact, I would have to go into details with my engineer, I wouldn't be able to answer you correctly. In theory, if you have the same down force, same tires, you should go a little slower, or you should go more or less the same lap time because they always make some improvements on down force in development of the car. The other thing I just remember, this year Firestone brought a tire a little bit harder than last year for this racecourse, which was the ideal for this racecourse. The car was consistent throughout the race. All tires were just fantastic throughout, where last year we had to change the tires a little earlier than this year. If you took notice, most of us went for long stint, I think 37 laps maybe, with the same set of tires. So we just did a refuel and we kept the same tires at one point. We did a short refuel, I should say. So that would account for some of that speed difference also.
Q. Hope to see you on the podium again.
ROBERTO MORENO: I'll certainly give it a go. I just hope I'm out of this slow session because you always have a bit of a handicap when you're in the slow session.
Q. You mentioned momentum earlier. Last year you finished second at Portland, went on to have a great race weekend in Cleveland. Third in Detroit was great, but how do you keep the momentum going for the next few races?
ROBERTO MORENO: You just focus yourself basically. When I'm out here, I just came out for my training the whole morning, it's extremely hot here in Florida. It's the same conditions that we race in. That's one side of things. The other thing, when you get there, you try to get there early, you go around the racetrack, you try to see if there's any changes in any corners, any holes that have been covered, any bumps that were not there last year or some bumps that been removed. You try to focus on every single bit of the racetrack first. You sit down with your engineers and you go through every pit that you done last year and you try to use as much as possible from what was good last year to this year's new configuration. You make some plans for some changes, and you hope you're not going to have any problems that will stop you running as much as possible. You just focusing, working with your engineers is the way to make a fast race car. Once you do every bit right, the end result will be speed which will put you up front.
Q. Back to the tire thing. I did know that Firestone had produced a little harder compound. The harder compound for a race situation doesn't seem to really throw the speed off a whole lot, or does it?
ROBERTO MORENO: Any harder compound does a little bit. Sometimes you only gain consistency. Sometimes you lose some speed with it. It's tough for me to answer precisely what it was, okay? But what I'm saying is this is one of the things that do many times give speed away. People do take some steps over the winter to slow the cars down, expecting development on engine and the tires. But being a one-tire category at the moment, Firestone can concentrate in giving the drivers the best combination for that circuit, which they did really well this time. I would assume that you lose a little bit of speed, maybe not a lot. Because so many things do change over the winter on development of the race car, it's difficult to pinpoint what does make it go slower or faster?
Q. I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, but what would your thoughts be if the tire compounds got even harder as part of the equation to slow the cars down? How do you feel about that?
ROBERTO MORENO: There's one positive side to it, which is the circuits, you get less of those little pieces of rubbers on the outside of the racetrack, outside of the line, which if you touch that you go almost off road. Sometimes you hit a wall with it. Now, you can make a tire harder and still give the driver the confidence of driving fast, and that's the key thing. That's what I think Firestone did at this time. They did it really well. If you take a bigger step in order to slow cars down on tires, I think you have to evaluate very carefully because it's so different between high speedways and street courses and normal road courses. So it's very difficult to say, "Okay, this is the tire you're going to use everywhere." The tires are different between speedways and street courses.
Q. What are your thoughts about not having in-season testing?
ROBERTO MORENO: See, it's the name of the game in a way because it makes the category less expensive, which is quite important. You can spend the money on other areas, safety and other things. On the other hand, it makes it extremely challenging for the race teams and engineers because they have to rely on old data to make the right moves. So teams will be looking more and more for experience, drivers and engineers, that can put the package together without testing.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the Detroit track itself. Right now it's not going to be on the schedule next year unless something happens. As a driver, do you find that track to be a good track to race on or do you think it needs some improvements to be one of the better shows, so to speak, if the series were to go back there?
ROBERTO MORENO: I don't know. I thought we put up a very good show this weekend. I thought the race was quite exciting all the way to the end. I love driving on that racetrack. It's very challenging for me. Personally, I like it. Things that can make it better there? We can have a concrete paddock area, for sure, a place that if it rains, you know, it doesn't get all soggy and you step on the mud and things like that. That's the only downside I see over there. The other thing I see, a difficult place to overtake, but so are most of the street courses we drive. So a couple things can be done maybe towards that, but it's very, very difficult to achieve a good result making better pass areas more than what they already done. They've done a great job so far over there that. Racetrack has come a long way from the first time I driven there.
Q. Talking about tracks that might not go away, the rumor was rampant in Detroit that Michigan may go away as a high-speed oval.
ROBERTO MORENO: Really?
Q. We don't know if that's true. What do you think about Michigan, the oval? Do you like that track?
ROBERTO MORENO: Michigan was the first place I had a good result in CART racing. I kind of like that place myself. I don't know. I think what CART is looking, should always be looking, is we have lots of races, okay, our championship season, 20 or 22, lots of races in my opinion. We cannot just add places to go to. We should be, in my opinion - I believe this is already happening slowly - try to find always the places that we get the most number of fans, where we are popular to go racing. The more we follow that, the better CART will be followed. As you see in Mexico this year, as you see in one test session last year where Bryan Herta went to Germany, and I believe 60,000 people showed up to see one car going around. So we need to chase those places where we have lots of fans and start dropping the places where we have less and less fans because there are lots of fans out there in different parts of the country, different parts of the world that love to see CART races. We should be directing ourselves towards that. I believe that's what's happening slowly.
T.E. McHALE: Roberto, we want to thank you for joining us this afternoon. We wish you the best of luck in this weekend Freightliner GI Joe's 200 presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thank you.
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