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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Luis Diaz
Michel Jourdain, Sr.
Michel Jourdain, Jr.
November 12, 2002


ERIC MAUK: Welcome to the CART weekly teleconference presented by World Com. This is in advance of the Gran Premio Telmex-Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa to be raced at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the season finale of the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season. We are joined on the call today by Team Rahal driver Michel Jourdain, Jr. and a special guest, his father, Michel, Sr., who has more than a little experience driving Champ Cars in Mexico City as he participated in the first two CART races in Mexico City back in 1980 and 1981. Thank you for joining us.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Thank you.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: Michel, Jr. as you know is having his best season in his seven-year Champ Car career. He currently has 105 points, standing ninth in the championship standings, and scored points in his first 17 races this season. Michel, I know you've been asked this 20,000 times this year, but share with us about your thoughts on the season, what has made you more successful this year than what you have been in seasons past?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, I think it's a little bit of everything. I mean, obviously I have more experience every year, which is helping. Being able to step into Team Rahal, which has so much experience, being able to work with teammates, Jimmy, for the first time in my career. The team has experience, has worked with all the best drivers in the world, that has helped me. All the races, all the practice, it's just easier to get in a rhythm, learn how to finish all the races. I think it's a little bit of everything. The crew gets the best pit stops. Just everything is so much better. That helps a lot.

ERIC MAUK: To the elder Jourdain here, some of your thoughts. Obviously your son has been racing for seven years in the Champ Car Series, pretty much been racing his whole life. You're watching him go through what has been his best season of his career, to date.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Well, of course, like he said, we knew that going to a team like Rahal, with all their experience, teammate like Jimmy, that's all he needed. He was for many years with the Herdez team, great people, great team, but he never had a teammate, and the team didn't have the experience. I guess all this is making the difference.

ERIC MAUK: Have you both had a chance to go out on the Mexico City track and take a look around, get the lay of the land?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: We went around just to look at it. It's beautiful. The track is just beautiful. Everybody is going to be here for the event is going to realize all the investment. The investments were very well done.

ERIC MAUK: Michel, Sr., obviously you raced on the track in 1980 and '81, it was a little shorter, 2.48 as opposed to 2.75. The famed peraltada curve has had a bit of a bite taken out of it. Can you compare and contrast the two layouts?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Yes. The difference now, we're using part of the Formula 1 track, not going through the peraltada, but going into the stadium, which is unique in the world. It's beautiful. So, yes, the track is longer. I mean, I would say that 80 percent of the track is the same. At that time in '80 and '81, the track was shorter, and we went through the peraltada, which is a very fast corner. Now it's different. But it's very similar in a way.

ERIC MAUK: We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Michel, Jr., how do you feel about finally being able to race on a track in your home city?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, it's unbelievable. You know, it's a lot of things. To race in the city I was born, that I've lived all my life, it's great. All my family lives here, all my friends, everything. To race in this track, which pretty much I was born here watching my dad race, all my uncles, then I started racing here myself. I raced in Mexico for seven years. Some years probably I raced 10, 15 times on this track. It's a very special feeling. Especially now to come and see the unbelievable job they have done on the track, it's unbelievable. It's the best track we're going to race in the whole year by far. The people, the whole city, moves around this event. To have a city of 20 million people moving around an event, it's amazing. I'm just so proud to be a Mexican because of the track and the event. It's just great.

Q. How do you feel about your chances for this weekend? Do you know the track well enough that you think the setup you're going to get on the car is going to work straight out of the box?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, I'll know on Friday. This track is just so different to every other track we race on. I mean, it's just so different. It's just very different, you know, because we have an unbelievable straight, some very slow corners, some very, very fast corners, change from pavement to concrete in the little stadium. Just so many different things that make it very, very unique.

Q. Michel, Sr., you must be very proud that once again racing as returned to Mexico City.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Oh, yes. I mean, it's beautiful. I've been on this track since the beginning. The first race was in '59. I was here. I've been on this track every year many, many times. I've seen the rebuild in the '80s for Formula 1. They did a great job. Now you're talking something really different and very impressive. The track is just one of the best in the world. I'm very excited about this race. Of course, for me, having my son racing in this event, it makes it very, very special.

Q. You've been involved in racing in Mexico for all of your life along with your brother. Can you give me a synopsis of what all you have done, how that really directed you up to this weekend?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Well, I've been involved in racing all my life, as a spectator, then as a driver for like 30 years. Then I moved to be a promoter for the last 20 years. Well, I was a promoter and driver at the same time. Don't think I'm 70 or 80 years old. I was a driver and a promoter at the same time. But I've been promoting different series in Mexico for the last 25 years, 28 years, building some racetracks around the country. That's all I've done all my life, just be around racing one way or the other. My brother Bernard, same thing. He was a driver for many, many years. He got to CART, all the way to CART. He has his own team. He was in CART for like two years. Then he had a pretty bad accident in Indianapolis. I guess that helped for him to quit. He's coming to Mexico for the race. He wants to be here with all the family. This is a racing family, that's for sure.

Q. Michel, Jr., when you first heard confirmation that the Champ Car Series was coming to Mexico City, what was your initial reaction?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, we've been working on trying to get a race in Mexico City for many years. Since Adrian, a couple years before I came to CART, everybody was trying to get the race. My dad, we didn't see it. I didn't see with it Mr. Forsythe very good to do it. It was just an unbelievable dream come true. To race in Monterrey was unbelievable. I raced in Monterrey for many years also, on a different track. But coming to Mexico was already huge for me and for all the sponsors. But now to come to Mexico City, to the track, this track is for the Mexicans like Indy and Daytona put together for the Americans. Just to be able to race here, it's the best feeling. It's been a lot of work for everybody, for all the sponsors, for everybody. The work they've done here on the track, it's unbelievable. Everybody, when they arrive today, tomorrow, Thursday, when they come and see the track, nobody will believe it.

Q. Michel, Sr., when you look at all of the history that you have with racing at this track, you see what is coming, not only those that will be in attendance, by the worldwide audience, how does that make you feel?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Well, of course, unbelievable. I raced on this track for many years. I promoted races for more than 20 years at this track. Of course, I wanted to be the promoter of this race. Well, maybe it was too big for me. I tried, I couldn't make it. But I'm very proud to be a small part of it. I'm helping on all the national series that are going to be racing in the program during the weekend. I'm very proud to be here and really the work that the people have done here is unbelievable. The track is going to be perfect for the next 20 years. Like Michel said, this is our racing cathedral for our country. I'm very proud to be here. Like I said, this track is going to be great for the next 20 or more years.

Q. What does it mean for the City of Mexico City to have this race?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Well, imagine, it's the largest city in the world, over 20 million people. The track is in a way the middle of the city, very close to the airport. This is a racetrack with a lot of history, where the very famous Ricardo Rodriguez died. I mean, this is something very special for the Mexicans. This track, this event, with three Mexicans racing in this series, this event, all this makes it very, very special.

ERIC MAUK: You talked about promoting the support races going on. Looking at the schedule of events, a very busy slate. Can you tell us about some of the other racing we'll be seeing this weekend.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: The schedule is very, very busy. We're going to have on Friday a race for Neons. We're going to have more than 50 cars equally prepared. It's one class. We're going to have more than 50 cars for that race after qualifying. On Saturday, we're going to have a vintage race with 50 cars, beautiful old Mustangs, Porsches, Ferraris, just beautiful cars. That's going to be before qualifying of CART. Then after qualifying, we're going to have a Dodge trucks race with like 23, 24 trucks. A great event for sure, too. Then Sunday we're going to have a race for Mustangs. We're going to have 30 to 31 Mustangs. For sure the greatest series we have in Mexico. That's the NASCAR of Mexico. Then we're going to have some shifters karts, 50 shifter karts, just on part of the track, then the CART event. It's going to be a very busy weekend that for sure the spectators are going to have a great time.

ERIC MAUK: If we can't find any of our Champ Car drivers at any time this weekend, we'll look for a vantage point because they'll be watching the racing.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: I forgot to say Sunday we're going to have a celebrity race, too. Very busy weekend.

ERIC MAUK: We have just been joined by Luis Diaz. He finished a successful Toyota Atlantic season for the Dorricott Racing squad. He finished fourth in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, turning wins at Elkhart Lake and the Portland circuit. Thanks for coming on today.

LUIS DIAZ: Hi, everybody.

ERIC MAUK: Luis, you're standing by as a possible relief driver this weekend in case Adrian Fernandez cannot recover from the injuries suffered at Surfers Paradise. Talk about the mindset it takes for you to come into a race weekend and prepare for a race without really quite knowing if you're going to be able to race or not.

LUIS DIAZ: Well, that's right. Right now my situation, it's very uncertain. I need to talk with Adrian about his situation. I hope he's going to be able to drive this weekend. But if he's not able to drive, I am going to take his seat this weekend.

ERIC MAUK: Not to say that that is the only thing you've got going on. You are one of eight drivers that will be participating in the Ford-Cosworth engine endurance test that will take place beginning November 21st, 22nd and 23rd at Sebring. We'll also run the engines on an oval course and another road course to be named later. The tests are designed where we'll run the same engine for three separate 400-mile tests, running 1200 miles on the same engine, to help Ford-Cosworth put together a power plant that we will use in the Champ Car Series for next season. Talk little bit about that, what you expect to do as a driver there, and your feelings on being selected to undergo the tests.

LUIS DIAZ: Well, I really feel great. I think this is great for all the young drivers. This is a great motivation for all of us. I feel very grateful to the CART guys, they picked me for this. I hope to help the team, Ford, to improve the engine, I don't know, to help them to develop the engine for next year.

ERIC MAUK: Let's go back to questions.

Q. Michel, Sr., with the impact of the race attracting I've heard projected numbers of a quarter million people for the race, do you have any idea what the economic impact to Mexico City is going to be?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: For sure the impact is going to be very impressive. I know the impact in Monterrey, they talk about maybe over $30 million in a weekend for Monterrey. So for this race in Mexico City, I'm sure we're talking over $50 million that the city is going to get from all the tourism, international and national, that is going to be coming for the event. Of course, this city has so many hotels and restaurants and everything. I'm sure almost everything is going to be full. The impact to the city is going to be great. Of course, the event is going to be on TV worldwide, which is going to help develop tourism in Mexico. The impact is going to be great.

ERIC MAUK: Michel, Jr., tell us a little more about the racetrack itself. There seem to be some very tricky parts. The S's coming out of the of the baseball stadium especially grab your attention. Could you tell us about where some of the spots on the track are that you might be able to make up some difference.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: This track is very tricky everywhere. You have a very, very long straight, then very big breaking, corner, then a right-left-right, then a very long straight. You have to get the first corner good to go fast in the three corners later. After that, you come into what is called in Mexico the stadium, because it's like a stadium. That's kind of like a stadium, I think similar to what they have in Hockenheim. Probably the people there, they're going to be able to see the cars the most amount of time, 25, 30 seconds. Then you have left-right-right-left-right, many corners in a row. It's all about rhythm. You have the first one bad, you miss everything. Just the whole track, you got to get it right all the time. If not, you lose a lot of time for later, for a straight. You just have a rhythm and all that. Then you come to the last section, Foro Sol. It's unbelievable. It's the most exciting corner in the world. But I think for these cars, just the way the whole situation was, it would have been a little bit too dangerous, they would have had to do too many modifications to make it absolutely safe. But going through the Foro Sol, it's unbelievable. You have 30,000 people in the stadium going right in the middle of it. I wish for a couple of laps in the race I could step out of my car and just stand in there and watch the race and all the people. They have baseball games there. They have a lot of concerts. I've been to concerts there. After I knew that we were going to race there, to watch all the people now, to know all those people are going to come and watch us, go in the middle of that, like in the parade, it's going to be unbelievable. The track I think is very good for the drivers, it's very good for the teams, it's the best for spectators. It's going to be a great event.

ERIC MAUK: You've had to deal with this a couple times in Monterrey, but talk about what it takes for you to stay focused at a race in your home country when obviously there's going to be 300,000 and many of them want to see you. A lot of demands on your time. How tough is it to stay focused in the race car?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: I've been trying to get the busiest things already. Last week I was up at 6:00 in the morning and going to midnight every day. I tried to do the busiest the earliest as possible. Like on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I don't have as many things to do. I can spend most of the time with my engineers and mechanics. I'll have to think I'm in Australia, Long Beach, somewhere else, not to think I am in Mexico City. That's what I tried to do when I was in Monterrey. If you try to listen to the people, what they are saying, when they come and see you, all that, it would be impossible to stay focused.

Q. Luis, talk about how difficult, or is it difficult to be in a situation where you think you might be driving, but you don't know?

LUIS DIAZ: Well, actually it's very difficult. I can't sleep and all. Sometimes it's better if you know something. But at this point I don't know anything. I think Adrian is going to be with the doctor tomorrow or today, I don't know. If they give Adrian the chances to be driving on Friday, he's going to try the car. But if he doesn't feel very comfortable in the car, if he's got some pain or something, I have to drive. I think I'm not going to know till Friday if I'm going to be there or not. So it's really very difficult because here in Mexico, Adrian is a very popular driver. Almost all the people want to see Adrian on the track, like Michel or Mario. It's a very difficult situation for me. I'm here to help Adrian, to help his sponsors. I'm going to try my best to be focused. If they need me, I'm going to be there.

Q. How much pressure would it be for you if you get the nod that you're going to drive to not only be driving in your home country in a CART Champ Car race, but also to replace Adrian Fernandez who lit the fire of Champ Car racing in your country?

LUIS DIAZ: Well, it's going to be a huge pressure for me. I know that. All the people, including Adrian, he's been supporting me a lot from the test. I think with that, with his support, I think all the people here in Mexico, they know that I don't have the experience of Adrian or his talent. I need more time, obviously. I think it's going to be hard, but with Adrian's support and all his team's support, I'm going to be fine.

Q. Michel, Jr., in your wildest dreams, what would it be like to win this race Sunday? What would you feel?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Well, obviously it's something I think a lot about. In all these years, if I'm going to win this one, I would change all the races and many championships to win this race. The way the track is going to be, the way all the people are going to be here, it's going to be unbelievable. This is going to be probably the biggest sporting event in the history of Mexico, the amount of people we're going to have here. The biggest soccer stadium holds like 120,000 people. There's going to be a lot more people here on Sunday. To be able to be part of that event and to have all these people coming to see mostly Adrian, Mario and myself, if I win this race, it's something that would change my life forever. It would be like an American winning the Indianapolis 500. It would be exactly the same thing or maybe even bigger because in the States you have other racing, you have basketball, baseball, all these sports that are so, so big. If a player wins the Super Bowl, it's a team of 50 or 60, I don't know how many people. The same with basketball and all that. But here, even though it's a whole team, at the end I'm the one in the car. To win this would be the biggest thing that could ever happen to me in my life.

Q. Michel, Sr., i remember when Adrian won his first Champ Car race. We were talking the next week. He said he felt as though he brought some pride back to his country. Is this race doing much the same thing?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: I remember when Adrian won his first race. If I remember well, it was Toronto when he won. Of course, he deserved it because of course he deserves everything he has. He's a great driver. It's the same for this race. All these guys, the three Mexicans, imagine winning a race in any part of the world is very important. Like Michel says, this race is completely different. You're going to be in your hometown in front of hundreds of thousands of people. The whole country is going to be watching the race on TV. If any Mexican wins this race, he's going to be a real hero. Like Michel said, it's going to change his life completely, like winning the Indy 500.

Q. Does the race itself bring pride to the country?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Yes, of course. Of course this is a country that is more towards soccer, football. I'm sure that after soccer in this country racing is the second biggest sport, the second biggest thing in this country. Basketball and American football and baseball, all that is not that big in Mexico. This event is going to be very, very big because CART is very big. We had in CART for many years my brother Bernard, Hector Rebaque. For sure, all changed when Adrian Fernandez got into CART. Then Michel and Mario Dominguez, and I'm sure we're going to see more Mexicans in the future, like Luis Diaz. A great kid, a great driver. This is important, very, very important for Mexico.

ERIC MAUK: This concludes the CART media teleconference presented by World Com. Thank you very much to Michel, Jr. and Michel, Sr. as well as Luis Diaz. Best of week luck this weekend.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, SR.: Thank you.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Thank you.

LUIS DIAZ: See you, my friends.



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