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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 9, 2002


LEXINGTON, OHIO

MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We'll go ahead and get started with our top three press conference following provisional qualifying for Sunday's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. We'll begin with Christian Fittipaldi, to my immediate left, driver of the #11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he was third quickest in today's session with a best lap of 1:07.436 seconds, a speed of 120.541 miles per hour. Christian has yet to earn a Top 3 starting spot in his six previous visits here to Mid-Ohio, although he does have a podium finish of third to his credit, that coming in the 2000 event. Christian, if you would, talk about your qualifying effort today. Seemed like it was tough for everybody to get a clear lap out there today.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I think it's pretty obvious when people wait until the very last minute, they go out, they have a huge, I would call it, domino effect. And to be quite honest with you, no one -- it isn't anyone's fault. But at the end of the day it is, because everyone is screwing everyone's lap there. If I have a car in front of me that's slowed down because of two cars that are in front of him that also slow down, it creates a huge chain reaction, and there's nothing you can do. So I think everyone should be mad at everyone right now, unless if you're slowing down, you should get out of the way. That's what common sense tells you. But unfortunately, it doesn't go that way. No one is playing that game out there. I'm not doing it. Shorty's is not doing it. None of the other 16, 17 drivers out there are doing it. So this is what happens in such a turbulent session. First run of tires, I had to pass people on my quickest lap, so the whole day I never did like two laps in the row where the tires got better. Definitely without touching the car, there's a lot more in the car yet to come. I'm pretty sure the young man here is going to say the same thing, there's a lot more in his car. We'll wait and see until tomorrow. I'm pretty happy. The car ran well this morning. I think we're going to be up there again tomorrow.

MERRILL CAIN: Our CART FedEx Championship Series points leader Cristiano da Matta qualified second in provisional qualifying session. Driver of the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he claimed the second spot in today's session, putting up a lap 1:07.095 seconds, a speed of 121.154 miles per hour. Cristiano will be looking to earn his best ever starting spot in Mid-Ohio. He's yet to earn a grid position in the first three rows in any of his previous three starts. As we mentioned, the series points leader, Cristiano has won three consecutive poles and five of the last six poles overall. Cristiano, if you could talk about your qualifying effort today.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think everybody is probably going to be complaining about the same kind of things. But as Christian was saying, it's a game you play. You wait until the very end for the better track. You got more traffic. You might got a red. So we played it -- of course, we don't have a crystal ball to see when the track is going to be clear or not. But today happen exactly the same thing that happen in Vancouver two weeks ago on the Friday session when everybody went out on the same time with like 20 minutes to go, and then everybody still had two runs to do with 20 minutes to go. Of course, that makes the track very busy. I'm sure everybody is going to be complaining about the same thing, clear laps and all. But, of course, I felt like I had the car to fight for pole, and I think somebody told me I was on pole until 15 seconds to the red flag. So I'm not happy with my grid position, but on the other hand I'm very happy with my car, very happy with the engine, very happy the way everything has been working for us this week. We just have to try to find a better way, not only us, but like everybody together, to play this qualifying a smarter way.

MERRILL CAIN: Thanks, Cristiano. We're joined now by Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #33 Player's/Indeck Ford/Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone. He wins the provisional pole for Sunday's race with a best effort of 1:07.040 seconds, a speed of 121.253 miles per hour. He earns one championship point and guarantees himself a front row starting spot. The point gives Patrick 73 points in the season and moves him to within one point of Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain, Jr., who are tied currently for third with 74 points. Pat, has to be a great feeling for you. As we were talking, there's been a lot of speculation concerning your future. I guess this provisional qualifying effort couldn't have come at a better time for you.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, no, I'm pretty happy. I've been lately out of many team and into many other team. Actually, none of that's happening right now. We'll see what's going to happen. But I'm really happy today. Like Cristiano said, sometime you need a bit of a break to get it. And we put a good lap in. And I passed the start/finish line. I heard "P1." Then the next thing I heard, "Red flag." I said, "Am I still P1?" They said yeah. That was it. I'm really happy, it gives me a front row start for the race tomorrow. I know it's going to be a really long race. They lengthen it a little bit. It's going to be important to be at the front. Team Player's did a good job. My engineers changed the car pleat completely from this morning to this afternoon. They make the right decision. So was good.

MERRILL CAIN: The red flag that prematurely ended the qualifying session came about with a minute 30 left on the clock, we can verify that. We'll open it up for questions for our top three provisional qualifiers.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: In Vancouver, we were more worried than here. In Vancouver, of course, you're hitting all kinds of curbs. This track is not a track that use a lot of curb, so not the same kind of needs.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, 1:05 seems pretty far away right now. It's strange. This track, I think it changes so much sometimes from one day to the other. When we tested here like one month ago, we did like 1:06.0. Today with the same car, we are doing 1:07.0. It's just one second off. Nothing different in the car. It depends so much in the track. Of course, there's a lot of others series running here as well, so it puts lots of different rubbers. We never know exactly if that's going to be good or bad for us. Historically, usually there's a big improvement on the track on the second day of qualifying.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I think pole time tomorrow is going to be between 1:06.0 and 1:06.5 .

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Don't go faster than that (laughter).

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know what it's going to be tomorrow. We tested here. There was a lot of rubber. We ran 1:05.7 during the test. I'm not sure tomorrow we're going to be go as fast. I think Christian is right about the time, I think it's going to be up at the front tomorrow.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: For the first one, I have no idea why Bruno came to me pissed off like that. I think it was Kenny that was in front of me that kept slowing down to get a gap, so I did the same thing. I was trying to slow down to get a gap. My team said that there was no space available behind me. So I was just trying to get a gap early on. At the end, I just ran all my laps as fast as I could to try to do the lap time. So I'll have to look at the tape because I didn't see. Maybe I blocked him, maybe I did not. I have to look at it, I don't know.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Adding to that question a little bit, I think everybody is wrong after. There isn't one driver out there that is right. If you're slow, you have to get out of the way. But no one wants to lose their track position. And that's why people keep on running and slowing everyone else. I would love to have that performance, but unfortunately we don't have any tire warmers in the series. It's impossible for you to post your time, your quick time, on the first lap. If we did have any tire warmers in the series, it would make qualifying a lot more nice to watch because everyone knows that once you went out of the pits, it would be only one lap and then in. I can guarantee you, we wouldn't have half of these traffic problems that we have right now because right now we need to build a pace for us to do a lap.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: We're pretty confident actually here. I think it's a track that suits the Reynard pretty well. The faster racetrack, like here, Elkhart, Laguna Seca, Portland, these types of track, Cleveland, seem to suit our car better. What we're struggling more is more on the street circuits. We seem to be having a problem to produce downforce at low speed when the car needs to be a bit higher from the ground. I'm pretty happy here, but we tested fast. We're hoping we're going to be fast. Team Player's is working really, really hard to keep developing the chassis, keep making it better. I think so far they've done a pretty good job.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: I didn't think there was going to be that much traffic at the end. I thought on this type of track would be kind of more by ourselves. But it seems like everybody was kind of around the same pace, and traffic played into it a little bit also. But from the time we did on the first set of tires to the second set of tires, that indicates to me it was better to wait today. It's always a risk you take. Sometimes it's better to get a clear lap than to get a little bit more rubber on the track.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, I think this track, for a road course, is a little bit more sensitive than other road courses. I'm not sure if it's because of the concrete patches. But I always feel like, even throughout the weekend, is bigger difference here on lap time from Friday to Saturday to Sunday in this track than you usually see in other ones. So maybe that's why everybody was waiting all the way to the very end. I think maybe there's a place, a road course, that makes it a little bit more different. I think this is the place.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: That's a good point. That's what we did in the last race. I don't know if you noticed, both of us went out in the beginning of the session - I can't remember - five or 10 minutes into the session. I think that made also everyone else come out after us. So it changed the whole format of how it was last time from Friday to Saturday. But here I think the difference in the track from the beginning of the session until the end is a little bit bigger than in the last race. Historically in this place, the more rubber you have down, a lot quicker you go. It's not a matter of picking up one-tenth, sometimes without even touching a car, just because you run about 10 or 15 minutes later, there's a lot more grip out there, you go up to half a second quicker.

MERRILL CAIN: Cristiano, will the tactics change tomorrow?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I don't know. I wish it changes, but I don't want to be the first out (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's always a bit of a distraction when you're into the unknown. But I think that's life in racing. I think there's a lot of guys in the same situation. I think a lot of us won't know what's happening until later in the year. I just got to drive the car the best I can and do the best job I can. Right now I'm trying to focus on getting as many points and going up in the championship more. That's about the only thing that is going to work for me. Besides that, I kind of been talking, a lot of people have been talking lately, but I don't know nothing and I think it's a bit early. I'm just going to drive the car and try to win races and get some points. We're going to see I think what happens more later in September and October.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: The latest and greatest rumor out there, I heard Pat being linked to a Newman/Haas drive. That is true or not?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Next question.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: We're going to work hard. We're going to try to get another point. If we can do that, to confirm it, that would be fantastic. If not, we're starting on the front row. We're going to try. It's going to be a long race, so the tires are important to be in good shape, too. We're going to try to improve the car. I mean, if I'm second tomorrow, but I'm a second and a half off of the Top 10, then it's going to be a long race. We've got to keep working hard and try to get the pole again tomorrow.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Distance on the race? Personally, I think the races are getting a little too long. A race like Cleveland, for example, you see after the fourth pit stop, everybody was pretty much just waiting for the race to finish. I would prefer to have the races a little shorter like used to be in the past. I think we talked about that on the drivers meeting. Most of the drivers actually prefer it, too, because we have road races with more than two hours, two hours and 10 minutes. Normally the time for those things is an hour and a half, an hour and 45. It makes a difference for equipment, for reliability on the cars, engines and everything. It changes it a little bit. Not so much of a sprint.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: The thing is that Cleveland was really, really tough. Here I think is one of the toughest race we get all year because we're always turning, elevation changes, hard braking, heavy G-load. If it's really hot on Sunday, I think it's going to be a really tough race. It's a longer race. The pace, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be coming down at all. It's like every lap's like a qualifying lap. You run pretty hard. We have a stretch of four races. It's tough on the cars and everything.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I'm not the best guy to answer you that question because my short races from next year onwards are probably going to have three hours and a half. So I'll pass on that one (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: We talk. In race, for example, was supposed to be a hundred and something laps.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: That's the same expression everybody used in the drivers meeting. They shortened the race 92, 93. It's a little bit better. Wally is taking care of us (laughter).

MERRILL CAIN: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck in the final round of qualifying tomorrow.



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