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CART FedEx Championship Series: Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante

CART FedEx Championship Series: Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante

Kenny Brack
Cristiano da Matta
Bruno Junqueira
November 17, 2002


MEXICO CITY, MEXICO

MERRILL CAIN: Welcome to our top-three press conference. Let's get started here with our champion Kenny Brack, as well as your second place finisher Cristiano da Matta, in today's exciting race in Mexico City. We will start with Cristiano da Matta, CART Series Champion here in 2002, driver of the #1 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. Cristiano finished second today, the 11th podium finish of the season for him, the 18th of his Champ Car career. He scored at least one championship point in 17 of 19 starts this season, and he's finished on the podium in six of his last eight starts, including victories at Road America and Miami. Cristiano, obviously it's a great way for you to finish up your CART career here as you're moving on to Formula 1. Talk to us about the race, how it panned out for you, your feelings as you look back on your CART career.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: For me it was a very tough race. I don't think I had the car that really deserved to finish the race second today, but I think that's where the teamwork comes into play. Many times during this championship, with the whole package, either one day the car wasn't great or the other day maybe the engine wasn't great, the pit stops wasn't great, and other days the driver wasn't great. There were always the other parts trying to cover the other people's not mistakes but weaknesses that very day. Today I feel like the car wasn't a hundred percent capable of finishing in the top three. My crew just gave me a pit stop that I don't know where they came from with that. It was just so quick. I went from eighth position to second position. I give all the credit for the second place to the crew. I passed only one car on the track. Everything else was their good work. So what can I say? They've done a wonderful job the whole season. Today they just finished smoking all the other teams in the pit stops. I'm just very happy - in two ways. I'm very happy for the team, having a second place out of my last race in CART, and the other way leaving a team that I got along with everybody so well, of course it's not a good feeling. On the other hand, I have a Formula 1 challenge in front of me that I'm really excited about. But today, if you just talk about today, for me the result and everything, it's not a very happy day.

MERRILL CAIN: Congratulations on a great season and great CART career. We wish you the best of luck next season. Certainly we'll miss you. Bruno Junqueira joins us now, finishing third, driver of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, clinching second place with today's effort in the FedEx Championship Series points standings, winning a prize of $500,000 finishing second. I guess the tequila or cerveza is on him. It's the seventh podium finish of his career and sixth podium finish of this season. Bruno has finished on the podium in every race he has started from the pole, including wins from the pole at Motegi, Japan and Denver. Bruno, talk about your effort today, finishing third. Has to feel great to wind up second place in the championship with the season ending in Mexico City.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Today was a tough race. But in the end I'm quite happy to finish second in the championship. I had a very good car all the weekend. But on the start, starting the pole is not that big an advantage. Tony got inside of me. I tried to outbreak him. I hit a bump, because I was in a line I never do it. I just lose my pedal, the throttle, and I couldn't lift the throttle to downshift. I was stuck in fifth gear and locked a little bit, then I went straight. It was a silly mistake. Then I came to ninth, and I was patient to go forward on the grid. I had a very, very fast car, but unfortunately I wasn't able to pass people. My car wasn't that fast on the straightaway today. Once I got to run by myself, I could close the gaps. Our last pit stop for sure my crew did a good job, put me behind Carpentier. I knew the second place in the championship was between me and him. On the restart, I did a very good last turn, outbreak him in turn one. Then I just follow Cristiano, make sure that I'm going to finish in front of Patrick, guarantee the second place in the championship. That's quite good because Cristiano drove very well, but I am not ashamed to finish second in the championship.

MERRILL CAIN: Kenny Brack is your champion here in Mexico City. Driver of the #12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, his fifth career Champ Car victory, his first career win on a road course. I didn't realize that. Last CART victory for Kenny came in the Memorial in Germany last year. It is the first time the two Target Chip Ganassi drivers finished on the podium since Bruno won and Scott Dixon finished second in Denver earlier this year. With the win today, Kenny also moved from 11th to seventh place in the championship point standings. A great effort from you today, Kenny. I know we all felt great you were able to take home this victory.

KENNY BRACK: Thank you. It's been a strange season. It's nice to finish this way. It's really, really fantastic to come here to Mexico and see, first of all, this facility with all the fans. It's really a track that has very high standards. It's been a pleasure to run here all weekend. For me and for the Target Chip Ganassi team, the crew of the #12 car, I think it's been fantastic, too, to finally get a victory. We've been so close so many times this year. We led a lot of laps, but not the last one. Today was finally great to do that. For me, too, I mean, to win on a road course here, I thought I wasn't going to win on a road course (laughter). We've been good this year on road courses, but we haven't won. It's a fantastic feeling for me and the team, Target, Chip Ganassi and everybody. Thank you very much.

MERRILL CAIN: Couple notes here before we open it up for questions. It's the fourth time this season that Toyota has swept the top three finishing positions in a race, first time since Denver earlier this year. Kenny is the ninth different winner in CART this season, and it is the fourth consecutive year there's been at least nine winners in CART. The top five unofficially in the point standings winding up the season, Cristiano captured the championship with 237 points; Bruno Junqueira second with 164 points on the year; Patrick Carpentier in third with 145 points; Dario Franchitti in fourth with 138; and Christian Fittipaldi rounds out the top five with 122 points on the year. Let's open it up now for questions.

Q. Kenny, is it the last time we'll see you in CART racing?

KENNY BRACK: I can't answer that right now.

Q. Did this victory rescue your season?

KENNY BRACK: Well, we've certainly finished in a good way, the best way you can finish. Of course, going into the season, I had hopes to try to challenge for the championship, like we did last year. But due to various reasons, that hasn't happened. I'm certainly feeling very, very happy that we won here today. To win in Mexico, on a fantastic road track, it makes it all the better. I'm glad for myself, but also for my team. They worked very hard this year, the crew and everybody, Toyota, Target. It certainly makes up for a lot of the mishaps we've had. For sure, you can't compare it to a season when you have multiple victories and stuff like that. It's been a tough season, but it's a great way to finish.

Q. Cristiano, you had a wonderful season for CART. The next one is a completely new one in Formula 1. What are your expectations? How do you see the new season for you?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: It's definitely going to be very different. I don't know a hundred percent yet what to expect because I only drove the car for one day. The whole experience driving a Formula 1 car is one day. To make predictions what my next season is going to be like, I have to wait for the off-season testing, see how I perform driving the car, see how the new Toyota car performs. There's many question marks still in my head. I have a good feeling. I know at the beginning it's going to be tough, but I think it's a very promising thing for the future. I think, I don't know, two or three years' time we can be very competitive - maybe a little bit more, maybe a little bit less, it's difficult to say. One thing for sure I know the Toyota team is going to be competitive someday and I'll make sure I'm there.

Q. And the new tracks?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I'm not concerned about learning tracks. I think I can learn tracks very quickly. The biggest thing is to learn the car. Once you learn the car, to learn the track is not a big deal. I know some of those tracks, not many of them, because I've raced in Europe before in Formula 3000 and Formula 3. Although many of the tracks have changed what I raced, and also it's been so long, so it's almost the same as not knowing any of the tracks. Again, the tracks are not my main concern. I think once you're a hundred percent with the car, you're used to it, you and the car are just one piece working together, I think learning the tracks is not a big deal.

Q. You and Bruno are going away.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I'm going away for sure, but I think Bruno is not going away yet. I'll do it in English because I speak better.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Really (laughter)?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think CART, the series, no doubt is going through a difficult moment with two of the engine manufacturers leaving. That's, of course, difficult for the series. But I'm sure the series, the way the rules are, the way the cars are, the series is always going to be here. Maybe this golden era that CART has been going through, all the competitive teams, drivers very competitive, you go to a race weekend, you have 12 or 14 guys that are able to win a race, I think that's going to go away for a little bit. I believe maybe next year there will be bigger differences between the big teams and the small teams. But I think it's going to come back, maybe in one year, two years, three years. Who knows. I think the series is going to go back in time a little bit, maybe closer to what it was a couple years ago. I'm sure it's going to be here. Sometimes you have to do one step back to do two steps forward afterwards. I think that's more or less what's going to be going on next year.

Q. Kenny, could you describe that last pit stop. You seemed to have picked up quite a bit of position there while some of the other teams were a little confused. For any of the three, were you surprised there wasn't more passing during the race?

KENNY BRACK: If you look back in the race, you'll see we had a long stop the second stop, we took more fuel there to be able to do a shorter stop on the third one. I guess it's different how strategies play out. I was fortunate that my team did a fantastic job in doing the strategy that way. It worked out in the end. We got ahead of all the guys we needed to get ahead of going out of the pits. That was really what decided the race. Cristiano did one move that we managed to avoid getting passed, and that was it. My car was pretty fast once everything got up to temperature and everything. From that point on, it was just to go to the flag really, make sure you make no mistakes. As far as passing, I think as even as this series is, the same equipment as we all have, we all have the same engines here on the podium, we all have Lola cars, Bridgestone tires, it's going to be very, very close. There's going to be a little bit of passing, but it's not going to be as much as you might want to see if you had a little bit more different quality of perhaps tires or equipment.

Q. Bruno, I'm confused. Could you take us through the first couple of turns again on the first lap. Could you go over that again?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: On Turn 1, I was straight because he was already ahead of me. I tried to outbreak him. I lost my right foot on the pedal of the throttle when I have to downshift. I was stuck in fifth and I locked when I went straight. Then I came up on the track a little bit behind him, but I tried to outbreak him going to Turn 4. But I think my car has a lot of dirt because I went in the grass. When I break, I just lost a little bit, then I lost all the positions. It's a shame because I tried to be aggressive and to race to win the race, but unfortunately what happened in Australia, because I should arrive here already with the second place in the championship, then I could really race like the last laps. I think it would be really difficult to pass Cristiano or even Kenny, I don't think I could do that. But I didn't take a risk because I just take a risk to pass Patrick, I pass him, and I said I have to guarantee. That's what happened the first lap. Then I had to be really calm, make sure that I finished the race, finished second in the championship.

Q. It's important to have you here in Mexico because it's our first very big race in such a long time. What is the meaning for you to have won here in Mexico?

KENNY BRACK: First of all, Mexico has a big presence in CART with Adrian and Mario and Michel and everybody, the new drivers, too, that have raced here. I guess CART racing has always been big in Mexico. We've been to Mexico two times already to race in Monterrey. What you always see is the fantastic atmosphere, a lot of people come, a lot of fans, really knowledgeable fans, and they're really into motor racing. It's a joy racing in front of people that are really into the racing like that. I think for all the drivers really we all enjoy coming here very much. Here, this facility, it's fantastic. If you look at the layout, it's really first class. The only bad thing is the traffic getting out of here.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Another thing for us it really means a lot when I can go in the parade lap and see all the grandstands full, everybody screaming. We like to see people excited about what we do, you know. It's always a great pleasure. Same thing as in Monterrey. Every time we go there, everybody is screaming, everybody enjoys the race. It makes me race even harder because I just get excited about all the fans. I love coming here.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think it's pretty nice to come here in Mexico. As Cristiano said, when I do the parade lap and see the grandstands, when you go to the baseball park, see all the grandstands full, it's pretty nice. I think I want to add something. This is the last race of the year. I had a very good relationship with the blond here, you know, Kenny. I'm a little bit frustrated because I finished the race third.

KENNY BRACK: I told you.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, you told me, but I'm happy for Kenny, he deserved it. Especially in Portland, he deserved to win that race. He's a very good teammate, the best teammate I've had ever. He's fast. For sure he deserved to finish up on the championship. But he has a problem, for sure. He was outqualified by (inaudible) this year. But he's still been very fast. Now I'm going to talk about Cristiano (laughter). Cristiano deserved to win. I hope that he'll have a very good season in Formula 1 next year, the year after. He's a very good driver. He showed that he's capable to win. For sure if you have a good car, he can beat anyone in Formula 1.

KENNY BRACK: Me and Bruno, we've been debating this fact. Like I say, it's the final result that counts. In the final results, I think he beat you, Bruno. End of story (laughter).

Q. How do you see the next season in CART, with all the new drivers? You are going to be the guys with the experience. Will that represent extra pressure?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I don't know. Let's see who is going to race next year. We don't know yet. It doesn't matter who you race against; you want to beat everybody. For sure, I will be in my third year in CART. Last year wasn't good, this year was much, much better. Unfortunately, we had Cristiano in the championship. But that's happened. I hope next year I can do a little bit better.

Q. Because you're South American drivers, how do you rate the track, the event, the fans?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I rate number one las chicas, muy, muy bonitas. After I rate the track very good to drive here. It's a real racetrack, you know, very good corners, it's pretty nice. I think third is the crowd that makes us really, really excited to race. I think that's it. Now Cristiano has to rate the other things. The party tonight I think will be really good.

KENNY BRACK: It will be the best one.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: But that didn't happen yet. Let's see.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I think the whole event, it was very good. Even though I struggled so much this weekend on the track, I still enjoyed the track a lot. For me it's still the best track in the CART circuit by a long ways.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, no, Road America.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Road America is nice, fun to drive. But as a complete circuit, I think this one is better. As a facility, this is a lot better. I think this track is very good. The facilities are very good. The crowd, what can we say about it? It's great, perfect. I think the organization was very good, too. From 1 to 10, I give it 10 for all the aspects. I really mean it.

MERRILL CAIN: Well-put. Thank you very much for a great, entertaining race.



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