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CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Molson Indy Montreal

CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Montreal

Kenny Brack
Cristiano da Matta
Scott Dixon
August 23, 2002


MONTREAL, QUEBEC

MERRILL CAIN: We have Kenny Brack with a best lap of 1 minute 19.873 seconds, that's a speed of 122.099 miles per hour. If his position holds up it will be his best qualifying spot since being up in the front in Portland this year. You were at the bottom of the scoring charge for a good part of the session before jumping up into fifth and your finishing position of third. Was it a matter of getting dialed in with the car?

KENNY BRACK: I think the car, we didn't change anything in the car. It's just a matter of getting -- we went on to the first set of tires, and as soon as we went out, one of them hits the fence and turns six or something and so that was a red flag, and so we didn't get a lap. And second set of tires, we were out in a big traffic jam. In the end, everybody keeps backing up to get a clear lap, and so you get traffic all the time. So got off line and just waited for 20, 30 seconds, and then I got going and got that lap in there at the end. So it wasn't ideal in the tire life, but it was at least a clear track. So I think we had a hard time today to get a clear lap, but we did it in the end.

MERRILL CAIN: Scott Dixon is also joining us, driver of the No. 4. Target Toyota/Lola. He ran second in today's qualifying session with a top effort of 1 minute 19.755 seconds, a speed of 122.279 miles per hour. If Scott can it hold up, it would be his best starting spot of his CART career. Talk about your qualifying effort. You put a quick lap early in the session, was it a matter of you getting a clear lap?

SCOTT DIXON: For sure. It's the same deal every time. Everybody is checking up and trying to get a clear track. We are lucky enough that we sort of got it early. We almost didn't get it because -- inaudible -- slowed down going into 10, and then he must have seen me and then got on it and started his lap earlier, which allowed us to finish a lap. Then after that, we just hit traffic again so that was pretty much it.

MERRILL CAIN: Provisional pole sitter today is Cristiano da Matta, driver of the No. 6 Havoline Toyota/Lola. He wins the professional pole with a lap a speed of 122.726 and he books himself into a front row starting sport for Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal. And the front row spot will be Cristiano's eighth of the season, and also earned him a championship point and gives him now for the season 144 points and widens his CART FedEx Championship Series point lead to 43 points over Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira. I'm sure for a lot of the journalists who are seeing us here for the first time, you can do whatever you want to do, you jumped up with the quick time at the very end of the morning session. Obviously posting a quick time today didn't seem like a whole lot of effort for you. Did you just make it look easy?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: No, it wasn't that easy. But of course when the car is working good, it's a lot less complicated from the side. Since we unloaded the car, the car was running fine. Especially for a new track, there wasn't a whole lot of things that we had to do to get it decent. It was decent right away, so that's a big plus because then we can, you know, get the time to do some other experiments, instead of doing basic things; so the basic things were actually pretty well sorted out. It's a good job for the team on the preparation coming into the event for a new track and everything. We did a lot of guessing and did it very well, and right. Just happy with the car. Happy with the performance today. It's only Friday -- I know it means a lot, being on the pole on Friday because it gets you on the front row for the Saturday qualifying, so it's a lot less pressure for tomorrow. But, the race hasn't even started yet, so still a long ways to go. Still another 23 points, 22 points on the table, so we have to keep on working and this was just the beginning. It was a good beginning, but still a lot of water to go.

MERRILL CAIN: What was your initial impression of the track. You drove it for the first time today?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, it was funny because when I was going around in the rental car, I was thinking, wow, this doesn't look like the track I see on TV. It doesn't look nearly as nice as what I saw on TV. Today when I first got in the race car, I found that what we watched on TV, you know, it was -- from the road car, everything looked kind of small, tight, and on the race car, everything was more the way you are actually used to see. So it's a very smooth track, that's, of course, very good for us physically and for our setting of the car, it makes it a little bit easier, and the biggest challenge is a lot of hard braking in this track, lots of important places for traction, and many chicanes, so you have to have a good car when you change direction. So it's very specific, the things you have to get right on the race car. It's a track that even though the turns are not very high speed, it's not very easy, too, because there's quite a lot of variations on line that you can use. So I was -- I'm still in a little doubt in a couple of little places. I think everybody is still finessing it a little bit, because, of course, first time for everybody. That's why we have another practice tomorrow and another qualifying. We have to be ready for the race. Just hope everything keeps going well as it is now.

MERRILL CAIN: A note, Cristiano's effort led to a Toyota sweep of the top six spots this afternoon. Also we are joined by a fourth member of the podium, the Montreal Casino pole position trophy will be presented tomorrow my about Gaton Troxeaux (ph), chairman of the board of Toyota Quebec (ph), that's immediately following the second rounds of qualifying so you guys will be going after that trophy, as well.

Q. I would like to ask all three drivers to comment about the crowd response today: Pretty good crowd for a Friday, and also, so many fans in the paddocks. I would like to get your comments.

KENNY BRACK: I think it's great. I think the Canadian fans are very knowledgeable and they certainly turn out for our races here. I don't know if that's true or not, but I heard it was like 150,000 tickets told for the event, and that's a LOT OF people. Of course, Canada has a strong interest in the CART series because of the Canadian drivers, of course. But I think they greet everybody, every driver in the CART series with joy. I certainly enjoy coming to Canada to race.

SCOTT DIXON: For sure, I think it's great. Obviously it gets a little bit hectic in the pits, but as Kenny said, all of the Canadian races are fantastic. To see this size of turnout on a Friday is quite amazing, I think. It's think it's best I've seen so far.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think the MORE people watching the races, the better it is. It couldn't be any better than it is -- than what it was today.

One thing that is very important, everybody has been very polite, even when they approach you for autographs or pictures and everything, they approach you, and if you say you're rushing somewhere, they understand it, they don't feel like you -- when you sign or take a picture, they always thank you and they appreciate it a lot. YOU don't feel like many places we go to, you take a picture, sign an autograph and people just think you are doing your obligation and you have all of the time in the world to be there, sitting, signing and taking pictures, but that's the reason we are here, so that makes me very happy about the people that was here today. Everybody is really smart about what's going on.

Q. Cristiano, everybody here obviously is interested in comparisons between F-1 and CART on this track. You drove an F-1 car earlier this year, obviously in a different place, but can you compare the two a little bit, since you are the only person around here right now who has driven both this year?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, I think the lap comparison is the best way to compare the two. Even though it's pretty unfair to compare one car to the other, it seems one side spends $200 million more than the other side -- (Laughter) -- and plus they have not only that, but they have the tire war going on on their side, too. We are running Bridgestones; they are good compounds for consistency and everything, but they are not as good as the F-1 Bridgestone where, they are built for automated performance. Today we are, if I am not mistaken, six seconds behind the Formula 1 lap time, and somebody told me three seconds from the lap time they did on Friday. So, I think that our engineerings are very smart and our manufacturers, with ten percent of the budget we can go to three seconds, I think it's pretty amazing. (Laughter).

Q. Earlier, Cristiano talked about preparation for the race by going around in the rental car. Did you play the video game or did you watch films of F-1? How did you prepare for this race?

KENNY BRACK: Obviously, watching the track on TV is a little bit of a help. I actually went over to a friend of mine who has one of those Grand Prix III games, but I don't find those -- you know where you can learn how to turn right and left and so forth, it's very difficult to do a quick lap because you don't have the feel. But, I did that, anyway. And then the rental car is always good thing when you come to the track, you go around and take a good look at everything. But it still takes you probably 30, 40 laps before you have every little detail down, and maybe it takes even longer depending on the track changes and stuff like that. Those are things that you can never really learn, other than with experience having been there.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, I did a little bit of the games, too, but as Kenny, I found out when you get to the racetrack, it's completely different. Not completely different, the turns go the same way, but when you are inside the car, it's real life, it's a different feeling, it's a different prospect. I think to learn a track, 95 percent of it, it's all after you are getting in the race car. You can only get five percent maybe done by just going around in the rental car, computer games, watching races on TV and the track. I think it's a lot more when you are getting the car and just to see how the car is going to feel through each turn, each breaking, each acceleration straight, it's just a whole different world. But you still have to get the five percent -- first five percent done.

SCOTT DIXON: Exactly the same way. I'm sure most of us play the video es game now and then, but, yeah, just go around in the rental car. But things on the curve you don't know how the car is going to take it, so it's hard to pick up, as Cristiano said, the smaller parts. Doesn't help a whole lot.

KENNY BRACK: You know, the video game, there is a lot of people playing those, and think that's the real deal, but it's a couple of things missing. First of all, you don't have the back feel, that you can feel what's going on. And secondly, if you make a mistake, there's nobody behind you whacking you in the head with a club; you pass out for an hour or so. And so it's not real the real thing.

Q. Toyota being first through sixth, what's the advantage? Is it the horsepower or drive ability that you guys are gaining over everybody else?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think to be one through six, it has to be both. If it was only thing, it would not be one through six. Hats off to them. Because last weekend, we were maybe a little bit down on power compared to the opposition. Of course, I think every driver from Toyota was screaming about that after the first qualifying or after -- after the race. They come back here and it seems like we are a little bit ahead now again. So it's very good job again, for all of our Toyota friends, let's keep it like this.

SCOTT DIXON: I think that Toyota does a very good job in the way they also help the teams with different -- it's one thing to have horsepower and drivability, which, you know, I guess all three of the engine manufacturers have to a certain extent, depending on the track. But I find Toyota, they also help the teams with a lot of simulations and stuff like that. So it's a great resource that they can help the team their teams with, so they are really helping out a lot. The only problem is, you know, that there's a lot of teams running Toyota. So you have an advantage, but there are a lot of other drivers having the same thing.

Q. Would all three of you drivers comment on the revisions to the qualifying? This is the first time we've gone to the new system.

KENNY BRACK: I think it's good for the fans, you know, that there is not a quiet track out there for the first half hour. I don't think it changes too much for us because even if we get to run 15 minutes before the qualifying starts, the track grip is still going to pick up with each car that goes out with new tires, so everybody is still going to try to wait for everybody to be the last one out there, to make take advantage of the extra track. For sure, it's a good thing -- basically, it's the same for us, but better for the fans. I think it's an improvement for that matter.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: One thing that helps us a little bit is before if you risk to go out for the first time in the last 25 minutes or 20 minutes and you had the red, you only had 45 minutes guaranteed. So, that means you would only go out -- going out in 40 minutes, you would only have five minutes left guaranteed. Now, 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed, you can make risk going out a little later.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, that was basically the main things I was sort of happy what was the guaranteed stuff, for sure, and obviously had helps balance-wise for the track. It does change a lot for our position and especially towards the end, it doesn't make a big difference, but it's especially good for the crowd. We have been so many places and they sit there for 40 ins with watching nothing.

MERRILL CAIN: It was an hour-long session previous to this weekend where we went with a short practice session followed by a short break and then 35 minutes of qualifying.

Q. Next year with the departure of Toyota, how much would you miss the Japanese engine?

KENNY BRACK: That depends where you go. For sure, I think it's going to be not so good for them going elsewhere, but that's the way it's going to go, and next year, I don't think anyone would have a disadvantage because everyone would run the same stuff. So it's not going to be bad for the series in that way. I think that it's sad to lose a big engine manufacturer like that.

Q. Could you talk about running on the curbs? I don't know how many other tracks other than Surfer's who have as many curves you might go up on. How does that affect the car and how do you think it will affect you in the race?

KENNY BRACK: I don't know. Hard to say, really. Sure, you run a lot of the curbs here. But I think everyone has to strengthen their suspension after Vancouver, anyway.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think even though we have lots of curbs here, they are not as hard as Mexico, for example and even surfers, the you curbs are a lot bigger hit than here. In Vancouver, they are a lot harder, bigger hit, too. So it should be okay.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I think obviously they are fine, but I think we could pretty much just about hit anything in one of the Tiger (ph) cars and they are pretty strong, after that.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much. Excellent effort in qualifying today. Good luck in the second round tomorrow.



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