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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Michel Jourdain, Jr.
June 4, 2002

MERILL CAIN: We now head out to Mexico City, Mexico, we are joined by Michel Jourdain, Jr. Thanks for taking a few minutes to join us this afternoon.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Yes, hello. Sorry for being a little late. We had a press conference. I am here in the Gigante offices. We had a press conference with all the Mexican media and arrived a couple of minutes later when you had just started with Paul, so I am very sorry. I am here.

MERRILL CAIN: We know how the media is. We will cut you some slack on that. We appreciate it. I will just do a quick introduction for Michel - competing in his first season for Team Rahal Michel has gotten off to a tremendous start this year earning 42 points. It's the most he's ever had in his career in CART. It's only through the first four rounds of competition to lead the CART FedEx Championship Series points standings. Entering this season Michel earned one top-five finish in his previous six seasons in Champ Car competition. This season driving the No. 9 Gigante Ford Lola Bridgestone Michel has earned top-five finishes in all four of his starts including Sunday's fifth place effort in Milwaukee. Michel, first off, this has to be a very exciting time for you, of course, certainly a lot of racing to be done in the season, but the points leader heading into Round 5 this weekend has to feel great. I know that Gigante, as you pointed out, your sponsor is hosting a media reception for you today. How has your success been received in your home country in Mexico.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: It's been received great. It's great to be leading the Championship, all that. I have been telling everybody, I think now it doesn't count anything to really win the Championship right now, it is now leading the -- a race you can lead all the laps but the last one; that's the only one that matters and to win the championship the only one you have to be leading the points at the end of the season that is important thing.

Like Paul says, he was leading the championship within the first four, five races and then a lot of things happened. So a lot of things can happen to us too. So we just have to keep working the way we are. Team Rahal is doing an amazing job. I think I have done a good job. I haven't made mistakes. We just have to continue doing the same things. Some things could have been better running these four races but things could have gone worse, so I mean, the team is doing a superb job. The car has been perfect all the time. We have done the most laps and so we're there. That's what it takes to win the championships.


Q. I would think there's some satisfaction of finally being on top of the heap no matter when it comes considering, you know, how it's gone for you in the past few years just trying to get that good ride. What does this do for you personally from a confidence standpoint?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: For sure it is great. As much as it doesn't matter 'til the end to win the Championship -- most important to be in the lead at the end. It is better to be in the front than in the back, in first and second, so it's great, you know, for me couple of months ago I didn't know if I was going to be racing, then everything comes together with Gigante and Team Rahal, four races into it, and I am leading the points. It is great, four races top-fives, you know, I mean we are just right there getting ready to finish, to win in the podiums and winning races, and it's great to get into -- to CART.com and I see my name in front of everybody else, you know, that's -- it's great. But at the same time I just want to -- I mean, go tomorrow fly tomorrow to Laguna, and from then on its just one more race, and I cannot think about the Championship or anything, just to do what we have been doing, get the best result possible, and try to get the most points possible every weekend and hopefully at the end of the year we can still be heading for the championship.

Q. Following up, you spent all the month of May pretty much either in Columbus or with the team over in Indianapolis or testing like at Milwaukee and stuff. What did that do, you think, for you and the team? The Gigante deal was put together so quickly, you know, I would think first time you show up you got your helmet on. What did it do for you to immerse yourself in the team a little bit and for you guys to get to know each other a little better?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Right away since, I mean, since I arrived with -- when we did the press conference in Mexico City and it was a deal, that same day I flew to Columbus. Next morning arrived to the shop, met all the guys, and I promise you, they were having, that day, a team meeting with all the guys in the shop and met them, went to all the engineers, after five minutes I felt like I had been working with them forever, the first test, I think it helped a lot that Jimmy and I have been able to drive very similar cars, so, as soon as I stepped into the car, the car was pretty good. So I mean, all these months that I have been in Indy or Columbus or testing, all the months with the team, I feel like it was more just to be with them and I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be with them in Indy, and in Columbus I enjoyed being in the shop a lot. I enjoyed watching my car, enjoyed talking to them. The same in Indy, I was with Jimmy everyday, picked me up, go to the track with him. After that, go have dinner, being with the guys, so I mean I just -- I love racing, and this is my life and I enjoy being around my car owner and my team.

Q. It's hard to believe you are in your 7th CART season and yet you are just 26 years old. Does it seem that long to you?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Well, you know it's unbelievable. I mean, when I was racing in Mexico I always thought I had a good chance to arrive to CART, but not at 19, you know, and I thought maybe when I am 24, 25, 26, I will be getting there, and now I have seven seasons and over 100 races, so it is quite a lot and it is hard to believe that so many years have gone by, you know, I still -- I am still pretty young. I feel, I hope, and with a lot of experience, you know, so it's good.

Q. Obviously moving to Team Rahal has made a big difference. I want to know anything that you have done personally to change things that's helped too this year.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: I think always as a race car driver you are trying to do your best, but I think Team Rahal has helped me a lot in many ways, you know, I always try to be in the best possible physical shape possible, but we have a trainer, that's with the team, he trained Bobby (Rahal), Bryan (Herta), Kenny (Brack) when they were there and he's helping me a lot, and I think I have improved a lot in my training and I feel much better physical shape. All the other years, with Herdez, it was tough, because most times I didn't know if I was doing the next race or not and Team Rahal, they are helping me a lot with my confidence. Only thing I worry about is to drive the car and that's the big, big help, just concentrating on that, and that has been, I think, for me personally the biggest thing. And then driving a car that's always there, that never breaks, that every time we go testing we do a lot of laps, every time like we come into the pits we gain a couple of positions, and all those things help you a lot in your motivation, all that.

Q. Tell me what you think about the race in Vancouver and also about the city itself.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Well, one of our favorite races. Both Toronto and Vancouver are great. Montreal is coming, but Vancouver for me, I like it a lot. I did my first year in '96, it's always been around my birthday, so I like it. I have always, I think, I have been always pretty fast; never I thought the result but it the same in Milwaukee, never got a good result in the past, but this year, I did. So feel very good about it. And just the city is great. It is a great city. I love it. It's a lot of fun. A lot of people from Mexico always come to Vancouver because of that, you know, because it's a fun city, and it's one of the cities that people want to go, people want to go and see racing but they want to have fun, and Vancouver is a perfect city for that.

Q. With Team Rahal giving you confidence and what they are putting under you for you to drive, does that build your confidence even more, and does that in turn build their confidence to give you better equipment?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: For sure, I mean, as a driver Team Rahal is one of those teams that you want to be and where you want to drive for. So I mean, I wanted to be in this situation forever and finally I have been able to, to go there for many years and finally we are able to get it done and it's great. Since we got it done, from everybody, everybody here in Mexico from Gigante, everybody in the team is, okay, like you worry only about driving, you know, and it's only thing I worry about now is to do my best, and the team and the car is always there for me and the guys are always there for me. Everything has been done very good, since the first time I stepped into the car, I felt like I have been in it forever, every race we go, every test we do, car doesn't break. We come out of the pits in the front. In the past sometimes it was hard to -- I am not saying always, but a couple of times, you know, you are doing your best, you pass a couple of people in the track you come in and -- lose a lot of spots. I am not saying always, you know, but I mean, it happened once here in Milwaukee too, but you know, it happens a lot less, little things, you know, and little things -- a lot of little things make one big thing and that's why we're in front of the Championship and that's why we have had top -- top-five finishes in all the races. So my confidence is very good right now and thanks to all of them. Every time we are running bad, they are working on it and they are blaming them and they are working harder. It's -- I feel the same when we're doing bad. I want to do better and I try to see what I can improve. But a lot of times in the past always like, oh, the car is very good, you have to drive better. Well, that doesn't help you a lot, you know, when you have people here working very hard to improve every little detail, I mean, as a driver every time you get into the car it's great.

Q. It sure shows in your result. What about Laguna this weekend? Is this one of your more favorite tracks? Do you think this is maybe where we are going to see you on top of the podium?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Hopefully. It's a track that I like a lot. Every time I have been there I feel I love it. It is one of my favorite tracks. And so I feel very good about this weekend. It's always -- like always it's very important and we have to be good, but like everything, you know, you cannot make mistakes. It's one of those tracks that's very hard on the cars because of the fast corners, you know, you are turning all the time, on the driver it's pretty tough too. I don't know how the weather is going to be but I guess this time of year maybe warmer than what we normally have, so that's even tougher on the cars and the drivers. So it's going to be a very tough race like every other race, I mean, every driver can fight for this podium, for the qualifying, so it's very, very tough.

Q. What is the appeal of CART in Latin America, why has it gotten such -- why do you see such a strong reception?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: I think -- I mean, in Mexico it's huge, CART and I think the race -- I mean, it's a lot of things, you know, like in Mexico we have a Mexican since the early '80s, you know, when CART came to Mexico my dad did both races, Josele (Garza) was there for many years; then my uncle, and Adrian (Fernandez), when he did Indy Lights and he's been there forever; Carlos (Guerrero), me, now Mario (Dominguez), so....Then Colombia, Juan Pablo (Montoya); a lot of Brazilian drivers, a couple of Argentinians. There's always been, you know, something connected to Latin America; probably more than Formula 1, you know, everybody -- everybody in Latin America, all the countries, depend a lot on the States and this is -- I mean, it's getting more international Championship, but it's more a U.S. championship. So I think it's a lot of things that connect Latin America to the U.S. and Latin America to CART because of the races we have and the drivers that CART has had for all these years. It's huge. Mexico, I mean, after soccer CART is the biggest thing.

Q. You mentioned Formula One, is CART looked at as an alternative or as a stepping stone to Formula 1?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: I think people are always trying to compare it. For me it's just a different thing, you know, I mean, CART is such a completely different product. The car is different. We race in ovals, street courses, big, medium, small ovals, different kind of street courses, road courses. For me as a driver, I always look at us different. I don't know why. Well, I guess I probably know why. I always try to be more -- to CART, you know my dad did a couple of races in the '80s when my uncle raced here, growing up I always wanted to be here I guess from the influence from my family, Josele, I drove for him my last year in Mexico, racing, I drove for Josele, and he was very I mean, he was driving there for many years, well, here, for many years. So I always wanted to be more in CART than Formula 1 probably because of that. I felt more in touch with CART.

Q. So do you look at CART as a destination and not as a preparatory experience for getting a Formula One ride maybe one day?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: No, no. I think -- I mean, drivers going from CART to Formula One, it's something that I mean, Michael (Andretti) for the first one and then Jacques (Villeneuve), something that started in the last ten years, you know, I mean, I started racing in 1988 which was a long ways before that and I have been in racing since I was born, you know, so it's not that something that happened for many years, people going from CART to Formula One. At that time it was more drivers coming from Formula One to CART, and I think -- I mean, CART is right now so competitive and everything, that a lot of drivers don't care where they are. A lot of drivers just have had chances to go to Formula 1 and they want to stay here because of the competitiveness, and it's more fair for the driver. I think it's more fun and you have bigger chance to win if you are not in the perfect situation. Formula One, if you are not in the perfect situation, there's no way you are going to win.

Q. You don't think that competition is challenged by having fields that you know, 18, 19, 20 cars?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Well, competition for sure not. We have we had 19 cars last weekend and all of those 19 cars could win. Formula 1 could have 100 cars, there's only two cars that can win, only one driver allowed to win. So competition, for sure, has nothing to do with that. It is so competitive here, everybody can win. I have been here for seven years, and since I arrived at the beginning there was two, three, four, teams that you know, they had no chance and different types of cars and different tires, and different engines. Now both cars are so strong. The engines are so strong, only one tire, all the drivers are very, very fast, very capable of winning races, you know, and all the teams are very professional. So I mean, it's amazing.

MERRILL CAIN: Thank very much for joining us today. We know you have got a few things you have to take care of this afternoon. We appreciate you taking a few minutes to join us this afternoon. We wish you best of luck in Monterey, California this weekend.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR: Thank you. Thank you very much. Again I am sorry for being a little late. But -- yeah, I will see you this weekend and thank you very much.

MERRILL CAIN: As long as you are on time this weekend, we won't hold you to it. Thanks, Michel. Thanks for taking part in today's CART Media Teleconference. We remind all of you that the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey featuring the Shell 300 will take place this Sunday, June 9th at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Air time is set for 4:30 P.M. eastern time on Speed Channel. Thanks to all that participated in today's call and have a great afternoon.

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