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CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Molson Indy Montreal

CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

Cristiano da Matta
Dario Franchitti
Bruno Junqueira
August 24, 2002


MONTREAL, QUEBEC

MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We'll start it out with Bruno Junqueira this afternoon in final qualifying for tomorrow's Molson Indy in Montreal. Bruno Junqueira joins us, driver of the No. 4 Target Toyota/Lola Bridgestone. He takes the third qualifying spot this afternoon, and a best lap of 1:19:347 at the speed of 122.908 miles per hour, marking the ninth time this season he has qualified in the top five. It also marks that Target Chip Ganassi Racing has top five in all but two races, with Bruno representing very well for the team. Bruno, talk about your qualifying effort this afternoon. It was an interesting session with the long red flag; was it tough to get back up the speed after a long down time?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It was a little bit -- why are we stopped now? I was on the pole -- when I first got out on the first set, I got a really good run. And I've been having problems with the brakes, and all the weekend, but this morning -- after this morning's practice, find a problem. I think everybody is having problems braking, braking very difficult on this track, but I was having a little bit more than usual. Because with the all of those brake marks, I try to carry into the corner and it changes a lot of things on the brake system for qualifying. It was a big gamble; you don't know if it's going to work or not. Luckily, the car works much better, and now on the first set, I got a good lap. On the second set of tires, I was behind da Matta and I have a very good lap -- I'm not going to make excuse, but a very funny thing happened. I squealed and I kind of lose a little bit of concentration -- and not just concentration, I was fixing to keep -- that was a very fast lap. The shame was maybe -- I don't know I damage the car, but I lost da Matta, too. And then on the next lap, I did my best lap, but by myself, and we all know, a long straight, you get behind a fast car, you can get a couple of tenths faster. I think it's okay. I think it's a little bit frustrating to drop to third, but after all of the problems that I had today and yesterday, I'm quite pleased with the job that Team Target did and to improve my car on braking. It's difficult. Difficult to control.

MERRILL CAIN: You've had a few problems during the course of the weekend; you still have to feel pretty good with the car that you have going into the race, don't you?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think we have to do a little bit for the race, to try to make pressure on Cristiano. I think today he was a little bit faster. But I mean, I think on the qualifier, everything starts from zero for me because I was having so much problem this morning and yesterday on qualify. And especially this morning, I couldn't attack the corner, I couldn't get speed into the conners, and then one of the engineers asked, how is the balance of the car, I said the balance is good, because I'm not carrying speed through the corner, I just can't stop the car and I'm having problems braking. Now I can brake get better and then I start to feel some balance shift in the car and when I try to fix it, better race.

MERRILL CAIN: We'll take questions for Bruno.

Q. Seriously, how about overtaking tomorrow, where do you see overtaking places in the race?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, it's a long straight here. You get first corner before that straight pin, makes it possible, you just get out really close with the guy in front. But the problem is you go to turn 14, you cannot go two cars side by side on that turn because of the chicane, and it is not too fast off of the chicane, but it's quiet, you can't go side by side and then you have to pass before the braking, and that's what makes it a little bit difficult to pass. But on the other hand, I think this track has been really difficult on braking. I think everybody it's going to be quite easy to make a mistake.

MERRILL CAIN: We're joined by Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 KOOL Honda/Lola Bridgestone. He will start on the outside of the front row tomorrow after putting up a best lap of 1:19:334 at a speed of 122.98 miles per hour puts him on the front row of the grid for the third time this season and the first time since he won the pole earlier this year at Cleveland. Talk about your qualifying efforts. At one point you at the top of the charts. It was certainly an interesting last few laps out in there qualifying with a lot of action.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, after the weekend, it was hard, but feel like we had a pretty good result today. Really struggled with the car all weekend. I think we made some definite gains this morning. We were on pretty old tires, so we didn't know how it was going to translate into a qualifying car. Just standard work up to make an engine change, because I overrevved it this morning, between practice and qualifying, did that as well. One of those weekends. Managed to get a pretty reasonable lap early in the session. I'm surprised -- I actually made a big mistake at the hairpin. Second set of tires got a pretty good lap early on and then I started to experiment on the chicane and just see how much curb I could get away, how much speed I could carry and that kind of stuff. I'd get two or three right back in the thing. I never managed to adjust , so I was always a little quicker through one and I'd make a mistake and I was just trying to gain some more time from somewhere, but it wasn't there. So I was very happy to be second today because of the -- as I say, the struggles we've had all weekend.

Q. Just one question for Bruno, have you ever had an animal run on the track in front of you before?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: A lot of times, (laughter), like when I used to race go-cart, one of the normal things is dogs goes along the track in Brazil. That's standard.

Q. Racing in Montreal, racing for Formula 1, what you are driving, do you have any feeling, sensation that you were in Formula 1?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely not. I have the only sensation that I am driving my champ car and I am pretty happy doing that. I think these cars are a lot of fun to drive, and I'm enjoying doing that.

Q. I wanted to ask about the fans and the crowd, how the reaction is; I think the stands were pretty full today.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, again. That's pretty impressive when you see the stands being full and the reaction the fans have, in particular, for the players guys, which is understandable, but it's great to see that, to see a passion like that from the fans is amazing. You know, as drivers, we like to see people enjoying the sport. What can you say? It's everything I expected it would be.

MERRILL CAIN: Cristiano da Matta joins us, pole winner for tomorrow's Molson Indy Montreal. Driver of the No. 6 Havoline Toyota/Lola Bridgestone. He wins the pole with a best lap here with 1:18:959, a speed of 123.512 miles per hour, which establishes a new event record here in Montreal for the CART FedEx Championship Series. Cristiano's last three laps were each good enough to give him a pole position, and it's his sixth pole this season and gives him another championship point in the year. That brings his total is now 145 points for the season and widens his series lead to 44 points over Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira. It seems like those last three laps, you are just trying to top your own effort. It has to feel good.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: It feels good, but also I didn't know what was coming behind me, because I knew Bruno, Dario was on new tires, and the guys on the team tried to talk to me. So I didn't know how -- when I did the first 91, I didn't know how far behind everybody else was or if I was close enough or in the last. I saw on the board that I was P1 at the time, but I never know what's going to be at the next lap on the board. So I kept pushing, I had another -- my clock beside the car, the countdown for the qualifying, stopped working, too. So I figured I'd better push it until I see the checkered flag. So I kept going. I was very fortunate in my run because I didn't have any traffic; was just clear from the beginning to the end, just nothing to complain about. It was perfect qualifying run: Tires were there, I was able to hit the tire pressures all on the same team. I had enough laps, enough fuel, to go all the way to the end, so my only concern was to push it.

MERRILL CAIN: You guys all had a chance to take a look at what this course was like. What's your approach for the race tomorrow?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, it's like this last couple of races we've had. It's a very long race, the laps in this place, it's going to be pretty hard on the cars. This track is particularly hard on the brakes. We have hard braking like we do in Ohio, but we don't have the long straights to put the brakes back down, so it's going to be concern No. 1. Starting is a little bit of a concern because first time everybody is starting this racetrack, turns one and two go like way left and right and just a little short chute between the go -through. We've seen a lot of action from the Formula 1 race, we've seen it before, so hopefully we can do a little better than that. But it's lots of competitive guys and competitive cars out there. I think it's going to be a tough race, like every race this year has been like. The pace for every race this year has been like qualifying pace, and that's why I feel -- that's why everybody likes to watch and that's what we like to do, just get in there and race as hard as you can, not having to worry about fuel, not having to worry about anything else. It's a pretty tough race, as usual.

MERRILL CAIN: Also, to clarify, the extent of the red flag period, it was caused by some oil on the track. Under the new qualifying rules mandated by CART, we extended qualifying session by about nine and a half minutes in order to satisfy the 30 minutes of guaranteed time.

Q. Where do you see the best testing opportunities here?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Good question. I think this track there are three places that it's possible to pass. I don't think any of them is easy. I think three places are very hard. One is into turn one, pretty difficult to pass, but I think possible. The other one is into the hairpin. Same thing, pretty difficult, but possible, too. And the other one, into the last chicane. Last chicane from what I've seen on TV, is not a very easy place, probably the worst of the three, because every time I've seen races here, people trying to dive on the other side of the which I cane, they go up the chicane and they run over the curve and everything, and so probably not the best place. But I think those three places are possible to pass. It's not going to be easy because, of course, you see the fuel, that everybody is running very close as far as lap times. So, every time -- the closer the cars are on lap times, the more difficult it is to pass, but I think it's possible.

Q. Coming back to the last chicane in Formula 1, we saw other drivers hitting the wall, especially three world champions in the same race a few years ago. Is there any concern from that? Did you find that chicane really, really that difficult to go through?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, it's a challenge. There's no doubt that it's one of those places that invites you to carry a lot of speed in because it's so open and wide, until you realize the track is maybe a small piece in the middle, but there's so much open space there, so you have to be careful of that, first of all. And again, not to take too much curb because the top bottoms out on the curb and then you lose steering, and into the wall you go. So I can see why people have gone off there before. A couple of times in the past two days, I came pretty close myself .

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Difficult, especially seeing the things Dario said about the curbing. All of a sudden, you can find yourself with the front wheels not on the ground, so you're along for the ride. It's a pretty tough corner.

Q. As you say, you had a bit of a struggle yesterday and never really got quite right in qualifying and here you are second on the face of it. You must have got in pretty good shape today. Is that true, or do you still have to make some work to really make it right for the race?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: We still have a bit of work to do, there's no doubt. We are certainly a lot better than we were yesterday. I mean, yesterday was bad. We really, really struggled. But yeah, as I said, there's a couple of ideas still getting bounced around back in engineering already for tomorrow. Hopefully, I will give it a little bit more and we can give this guy a hard time.

Q. The long delay, what does it do as far as presenting problems for you when you have a delay of that length?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: You get really warm in the car. (Laughter). No, it's fine. You just -- actually, it gave us some time to sort of think what we are going to do on the car and make a couple of changes. If it gets -- in the traffic, everybody gets out in the pit lanes together. It's pointless to rush out there and sit in traffic in the last eight minutes of the session. It's very difficult, if you back off from the downfront, then the guy behind you catches you, so you have to get on the other side of the track to get into clear space.

Q. Did you tell Cristiano at the start if you expected a bigger man?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I could tell him what I want but he won't listen. (Laughter.)

Q. Dario and Bruno, the last four or five minutes were really exciting because you guys kept trading back and forth, were you guys keeping track on the radio? Were they telling you when you were P1, going back and forth and was it surprising that he was able to break 1"19?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Not for me, just assure my position and lap time. I thought when I move to pit two, I thought it was Cristiano, but then it says that I was Dario was second and then Cristiano.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: My guys told me in qualifying, I get an earful in the radio. You are pretty focussed in there. And I was giving it everything I had today. It was one of those occasions where I went out -- certainly had no hope in hell of getting the qualifying, but let's see what I can get out of the car with 100%, and that's what I did. I think Cristiano's time -- could have been closer, a been perfect lap, but as I said, got a bit greedy over the chicanes.

Q. Cristiano, the final tally was 6.123 seconds different with Montoya's qualifying in Formula 1. That's better than you predicted before on Thursday, is that what you expected are you pleased with CART for being that close?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Remember I said between five and seven seconds? Right there. Didn't know it was going to be that accurate. (Laughs). No, I'm pretty surprised. Especially two five-minute sections over there, we all know how much difference this makes. Just looking at the Formula 1 lap times on this same track for last -- somebody showed me this morning, for last four years, the pole was 119-something in 2000 or '99, 118.4 I think in 2000, and then 115 on the first year after the tire wars started, and then 112 -- so improve six seconds just after they change tire manufacturer. So I think speed-wise the cars would be -- if both had similar compounds, I would say it would be within two seconds, which is pretty damn close for the difference on the budgets --(Laughter). I think it's only $200 million. I think our engineers are looking very smart right now.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: The other thing, our cars are much heavier, so 400 pounds or whatever heavier. I was actually surprised because I know in the last couple of years, we have taken the cars down by taking boost away, basically for the ovals more than road courses. If we came in with '99 spec cars with soft tires and big boost, I think we would have embarrassed a few people, for sure.

Q. Was this the most difficult of the six poles you've won this year?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: This one was -- it was pretty difficult, but I think the most difficult I had this year was Elkhart Lake on Friday because on Friday, Bruno brought it back. On Friday it was pretty difficult. So for the provisional, that one. This one has still got a little bit of a gap in front of Dario and Bruno. There was many other places that we were all a lot closer together. So, I don't think it was the most -- I mean, difficult, they all are, but definitely not the closest.

Q. Looking forward to the start tomorrow, given that you've got the tight chicane and on to the front straight, do you anticipate any problems keeping the field close enough together?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, I hope not. Really, if you look back the last couple of races, all of the starts have been very good. We are trying to keep it up. I any you know, 118-lap race, the first corner is important, but it's not that important. I think everybody is going to be pretty smart. Hopefully you're not going to see anything -- any crashes and we're not going to leave any cars at the beginning. Hopefully I'm going to keep my nose clean.

Q. Dario, are you going to look at a replay at the start of Toronto with your teammate jumping ahead of this guy?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think I'll look at the Elkhart Lake start. I think that was a bit more impressive. (Laughter). Just got to take your opportunity if it comes.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much.



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