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CART FedEx Championship Series: Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

CART FedEx Championship Series: Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio

Patrick Carpentier
Cristiano da Matta
Christian Fittipaldi
August 10, 2002


LEXINGTON, OHIO

MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started with our top three press conference for tomorrow's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, following a very exciting qualifying session at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. We are joined by Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi. We'll begin our press conference today with the CART series points leader, Cristiano da Matta, driver of the #6 Havoline/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. He will start third Sunday after posting a best lap of 1:06.934 seconds, that's a speed of 122.433 miles per hour. It marks his best ever starting spot in Mid-Ohio. Cristiano has not started lower than third since the round four event in Milwaukee. Cristiano, talk about your qualifying effort today. It was quite an exciting session. I think all three of you guys, including Patrick Carpentier, were at the top of the charts within the final two minutes of qualifying. Excellent effort for you today.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Thank you. I had a pretty good session. Got a little bit tense because nobody would go out. I thought it was going to be just like yesterday. So it was 20 minutes to go, just a few cars on the track. I was thinking, "All right, here we go, try to find a clear spot." But actually worked fine for me. I had clear laps both runs. The tires are peaking a little earlier here than last year. I got my best lap on the third lap on the second set of tires. After that I kept on trying, but just didn't have enough grip there. We need to make a couple little changes for tomorrow to find the 2/10ths we are behind, the two and a half 10ths we are behind right now, and go from there, because I can't complain about traffic and complain about anything, just performance. We need to tune it a little bit more about two and a half 10ths. I think we should be -- so Patrick doesn't disappear from us tomorrow.

MERRILL CAIN: Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the #11 Lilly/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone outqualified his Newman/Haas teammate Cristiano for the first time since Milwaukee. He takes the outside spot on the front row with a lap of 1:06.263 seconds, that's a speed of 122.675 miles per hour. This is Christian's best starting spot of the season and best at Mid-Ohio, also his best starting spot since last year, coming at Nazareth. Christian, I think you had a little bit of a problem with grip early on, as a lot of drivers did. Obviously, you got it together, and for part of the closing minutes you were at the top of the charts.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Actually, my car was better than yesterday, a lot better than this morning. Everyone had problems with grip because it was hotter. But my car was very good. Actually, when I went out on my second set of tires, on my first lap, by the start/finish, I did a 6.6, so I knew there was a lot in of car. I thought we had a shot at the pole. After that, I only got traffic like one lap after the other. I had to keep waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. I posted my best lap on my sixth or seventh lap into the run. So obviously the tires were not at its best, the same way they would have been like on the second or third lap. If we had a shot at it on the second or third lap, maybe things would have been different. But it doesn't go that way. Nevertheless, I'm still happy. We have a big shot at the race tomorrow. Tomorrow is more important for me than anything else. Pat did a great job yesterday, did a great job today. He put it together; we didn't.

MERRILL CAIN: Your pole sitter for tomorrow's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio is Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth-Reynard/Bridgestone, who took the top spot with the best lap of 1:06.128 seconds, that's a speed of 122.925 miles per hour. Patrick gives Reynard its first pole of the season and earns the second of the season for Ford-Cosworth. The championship point he earned for winning the pole this afternoon moves Patrick into a three-way tie for third place, giving him 74 points on the season, that knots him with Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain, Jr. Patrick, you proved yesterday was no fluke. No red flag today; you earned it.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, I'm extremely happy. I thought it was a fluke yesterday, too. I thought I got lucky with the red flag (laughter). I'm pretty surprised. The guys did a fantastic job. The tires came in. The car was perfect. We had a good lap. A couple of times it went sideways, I stood on it, it just shot me forward exiting the corner. After that, I tried to redo it. I couldn't do it. But, hey, just need to do it once, and the team gave me the car to be able to do it today. Ford did a really good job. They came up with some new stuff. It seems to be helping quite a bit. No, I just want to say thanks to the team and everybody. It's my first pole in a road course. It's fantastic. My hundredth race this weekend. It's my birthday Tuesday. So yesterday was for the hundredth race and today was for the birthday. We'll see tomorrow. Hopefully I get another birthday or something (laughter). But it's going to be a long race and a tough race. I think it's going to be tougher than Cleveland. I know these guys going to be pushing really hard. So hopefully I'm there at the end. Hopefully we can battle it out.

MERRILL CAIN: Patrick, obviously you have the win in Cleveland a few weeks ago. Do you really feel like you're starting to hit your groove, the team is starting to click?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I feel like I'm starting to understand. I worked a little bit differently with the engineers. I'm starting to understand how to work with Michael, Eric and Bruce, more than before. It seems to be paying off. But, hey, I'm saying this this weekend. Next weekend I might be 18th on the grid. It's so competitive, you never know. At Vancouver, I was 15, I won the week before, now we're first. Every weekend is different, but I'll take this one.

MERRILL CAIN: Maybe it's the Ohio thing. You're a Buckeye at heart. Open it up to questions.

Q. Because it's so tough to pass here, we've seen some ragged starts, What do you do to keep these two Brazilian guys behind at the start?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I learned a little bit from Cristiano at Cleveland (laughter). But, I don't know, we'll see what the outcome of it is. Hopefully we get a good, clean start going into the corner on the back straight, and everybody gets through. I hope I come out of there in first and keep it. But I don't know. It's hard to tell. It's different every race. We're going to try to get a good start.

Q. Are you surprised to see a Reynard Ford up front? Everybody says that you have the best package, but now you have more competition.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: This year we're racing so many different tracks. When you say we have the best package, it's like the consistency. If you look to the Lola /Toyota, this season has been a lot, like what Patrick has been mentioning, being first, being 15th. We don't have this kind of oscillation. The car seems to be able to keep inside the window where you're able to qualify on the Top 5 weekend in and weekend out. We know the Reynard can be very fast, too. But it's what Patrick was saying, the problem is make it go fast every weekend. So, no, I'm not surprised.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I'm a little bit surprised to see them go that well over here. I think that the next race they're going to be even tougher. They're going to be even more competitive. But to be quite honest, to go that well over here, I am a little bit surprised. Maybe Pat is also a little bit surprised. I know that in Elkhart Lake, I think they have a bigger shot at the pole than over here. I think they're going to be stronger over there. We'll have to come up with some new tricks for us to beat them.

Q. Am I right in thinking this is your first pole since '98? Long time.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Very long time. A little bit too long. I'm almost out of a job (laughter). Three, four years is too long.

Q. Remember that now you can knock on Carl's door because you have my car to drive.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Will I get salad dressing with that (laughter)? No, I'm pretty happy. For me, I came more with the road course background than ovals. But every success I have so far seems to be in the past year since I have been on the oval tracks. For some reason this year all the points we get, all the success we seem to get is on the road course. I'm pretty happy, really happy about that actually. To get the pole today is fantastic. I had it yesterday. I thought that the red flag helped me a little bit. We put a lap together today and held it. So it was an interesting qualifying. Kept switching. My engineers kept me up to date on who was where. But, no, it's very satisfying.

Q. Supposed to be maybe low 90s tomorrow, high humidity. What do you do tonight? How do you brace yourself for tomorrow?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Suggest these two guys to go have a couple of beers, keep hydrated.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: You make sure you have a girl all night.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Pat and I, we have wives. Maybe we have to do some homework tonight. Cristiano has his bicycles, that's everything he has.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: The worst thing is that I'm happy with this (laughter).

MERRILL CAIN: You have salad dressing, too.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: We won't get into that. Just drink a lot of water, rest. I know it's going to be a tough race. Cleveland was really tough. It was hot and tough. Everybody was a bit drained out at the end. Hopefully tomorrow we get a lot of energy. But that's usually one of the toughest track of the season, and the race going to be longer this year.

Q. You have four straight races, middle of summer, late in the season. How much of a factor does physical fitness as a driver become at this point in the championship?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: We don't all have bicycles. No, we train. I think most of the training should have been done over the winter. During the season you just try to basically maintain it. If you're in good shape, then it hits you a little bit less hard at the end of the season. That stretch of races that we have is going to be tough. Four races in a row. For us, we have Montreal that's going to be extremely busy. We're going to be there promoting all week, so we have to leave Sunday night after Elkhart Lake, do a lot of promotion. It's going to be tough.

Q. Patrick, a win in Cleveland, a pole here, what does that do for your ride shopping for next year? Does that help out?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. I'll tell you in a few months. I'll have a more clear idea. I don't know, to me I drive the same as I've always done in the past. It just seems like my relation with the engineer has gotten better, not as friendship, but as understanding what I want in the car and how he perceives different things. That's where I think it's better. Plus the team is improving the Reynard every week. They're working really hard with it to make a lot of changes. Ford-Cosworth, we struggled early on with the traction control. They made huge progress throughout the season. In Cleveland it was really good. In Vancouver it was better. Here I think it was fantastic. Tested with Jimmy Vasser and improved it. So, no, I'm really happy of what's happening right now. I think the timing couldn't be better. For what's going to happen next year, I have no idea. We'll see. We'll just do the race tomorrow and hopefully I can win it.

MERRILL CAIN: A lot of times people talk about the rumors. People tend to lose focus. Has this gone the other way with you: you've increased your focus, focused yourself on the driving and not worrying about the rest of it?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it's -- well, Christian is leaving next year, so it opens things up (laughter). I think there's 14 out of 18 this year that don't -- that are not signed up yet or confirmed. I think it's a bit of the same situation for every driver. For me it doesn't really bother me.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Has no focus now so it's all the same.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Everybody lost their focus so it's all the same (laughter). For me, even if I worry or don't worry, it doesn't change anything. The only thing I can control is how I drive the car and how I work with the engineers. That's all I can focus on. If I start focusing on everything that's happening around, I think racing is one of the toughest sports mentally because what you have in your hands, you cannot always control. Not because you're in the best shape in the world you're going to be up at the front. Sometimes it's very difficult. I think you just have to really focus on what you do and what you can control, and that's it.

Q. On the flipside of the negotiations, you must have confidence to where it used to be when you had your Formula Atlantic season. Does this confidence go over from race to race?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, no, it's good. Cleveland proved that we could do it. I just like to do it. We had a great year in Formula Atlantic. But the CART series is so competitive and difficult. You can go from first place, you lose a couple of 10ths, you're 11th. A couple of 10ths, at the end of the lap, there's like 12 cars within this time. If you calculate the whole lap, where you lose the time, it's very competitive. I think what Cristiano has done so far is pretty remarkable, especially in a series like the CART series. But to do what I did in Atlantic, I think it's almost impossible, it's too competitive. The confidence of those years always helps, yeah.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank you today. Good luck tomorrow in the race.



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