Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
KELBY KRAUSS: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us for this week's CART Champ Car media teleconference. I'm Kelby Krauss with CART public relations. We have a great lineup for the call today featuring two drivers coming off very successful runs in Toronto two weeks ago. In just a little while we'll hear from Patrick Racing Oriol Servia. Leading off in the teleconference today we welcome in Champ Car veteran Roberto Moreno, driver of the #4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Herdez Competition. Roberto, thanks for joining us on today's call and congratulations on a strong run in Toronto.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thank you very much. My pleasure to be here today.
KELBY KRAUSS: Roberto qualified seventh two weeks ago in Toronto and had his best weekend since March in Monterrey, Mexico, turning his top 2003 starting position to a sixth place finish. You obviously have to feel good coming back to Vancouver, a race you won the last time you were here in 2001.
ROBERTO MORENO: For sure. It's always great to go to Vancouver. Again, the fans there are fantastic. The racing is very challenging for all drivers. You know, my last appearance there, I did quite well. So it's always good to go to a place that you did so well. So I'm looking forward to going to Vancouver. I'm actually on the plane in an hour and a half.
KELBY KRAUSS: You also come back with another two-car team, after pairing with Jimmy Vasser in 2001 for Pat Patrick. Herdez has obviously stepped up their game this year as a result of the work you've done with Mario Dominguez. What advice would you give him coming into Vancouver for this weekend?
ROBERTO MORENO: Oh, basically what has helped Mario a lot is actually having a teammate to drive with. I also benefit from that because when you have a two-car team, you always are exchanging information, and one helps the other to develop the whole team. Sometimes you go in a different direction, you find something that is better for the other one, you use it. Technically, having a two-car team, actually helped him really well. I think what Herdez did extremely well this year was to be able to in a very quick time develop this group of people and pick the right persons to the right spots and develop so quickly. So I think, to answer your question, basically there's not much to tell Mario. He's quite capable. Mario, always we discuss situations in the track, like a veteran I discuss with him always. He's always been at that level since the beginning of the year. So what Mario really needed was, just like any driver would benefit, a teammate to work with.
KELBY KRAUSS: Makes perfect sense. Right now we'd like to open it up to the media for a couple questions for Mr. Roberto Moreno.
Q. I wanted to ask you, because you've been with this series for so long, you've got the benefit of a long view, how do you find the level of competition this year with the spec engine basically, and mostly the Lola chassis, probably smaller budgets, the cost-cutting that has happened, has it affected the level of competition and the quality of the show, do you think?
ROBERTO MORENO: I think the quality of the show is the best it's ever been. The level of competition, it's also great. You've got to do everything right now in order to win a race. You've got to get the right speed, you've got to be always the best pit stop possible. You've got to do things really right in order to win here. It's very, very tough. It's taken us half a season to come to the top level at the moment, which I think we'll now be able to, you know, chase to win races now. It's just so competitive now because everything is the same. So you're relying on information that you might have from the past to get the best start of the day when you go to a weekend. So everything counts. It's millimeters here, millimeters there. It's so competitive. The level of drivers are great. You have what I call half and half. You have young drivers full of energy, with a lot of talent, already showing their speed, and you've got veterans that use their experience to benefit from.
Q. I don't know if you want to talk in detail about other drivers, but I'm wondering, this is looking to be Paul's year. He hasn't fallen off as he has in past years in the championship hunt. He still is as aggressive as ever, it seems, still has that kind of take-no-prisoners approach. Is there anything that's changed in his driving style that's made his run a little more sustained this year, do you think?
ROBERTO MORENO: I think joining Forsythe Racing has been a big step for Paul. Paul has been also personally in the process of calming himself down a little bit. I don't think that aggressive approach has helped him in the past. And now that he sees that, and he's able to work well with that, he's been able to benefit from the results. I think the package there is working really well now.
Q. Back to sort of the big picture. With the departure last season of some of the higher-profile players over to the IRL, including drivers and of course Team Penske, was there a concern there would be a fall-off in quality among the drivers? You've explained you don't think that's happened. Was there a concern among the drivers and team principals that it would be hurt by losing these people?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, initially myself, that was a concern. But as soon as Chris Pook has taken over and started to work and help CART to develop again, I think he's done a great job. There's nothing that's missing there as far as quality of drivers and level of teams. He made a category that was less expensive to run and very equal so everybody has the same equipment, so everybody gets to fight and win a race. He brought the quality of young drivers that is unique. So initially yes, myself, I was a little worried, but a month later everything fell into place in a very short time.
Q. How important is qualifying in these downtown street races?
ROBERTO MORENO: Well, it's extremely important now. If you look in the past, you didn't have a number of laps that you had to stop. Now you must not do more laps than a certain amount in every track, which makes you have to be up to speed from the first lap to the last lap of the race. It's extremely important to qualify well. In the past, you could probably qualify halfway, save some fuel in the process, because you could do a lap or two more than the other drivers, the good drivers that used to save fuel. On those two laps, you would make up some time that you lost saving fuel and gain furthermore. So when you finished all the pit stops, you were one or two cars in front of the cars that were in front of you before you stopped. Now you must qualify well and push from the first lap to the last lap because there's no advantage in saving fuel here. Everybody pushes to the limit. So it's definitely important, not only on the street courses but in every race.
Q. The road course, the setup in Vancouver, is this a place that is especially tough to pass? Are there some pretty good passing lanes here? How is it set up?
ROBERTO MORENO: I used to think it was difficult to pass until I passed Gil de Ferran three times for the lead (laughter). It's one of those things, when you have the right car, you're hooked onto it, when it's your day, nobody stops you. But it is difficult to pass. It's very bumpy. It's a very challenging circuit to set the car up, to start with.
Q. You've started pretty slowly with this team. You seem to be building it up a little bit. Is it simply a matter of you were out of the seat for so long or does it just simply take a while to meld with any team?
ROBERTO MORENO: It doesn't take time to meld with any team. Basically it takes time to grow from scratch. That's what is taking time. Knowledge is very important. In the past, I raced Reynard cars, so I knew a lot about setting up a Reynard. We've gone now to Lolas, which is a complete different car to set up. My engineer is a great talent, a great engineer, but he didn't have any background in CART. So this is what is taking time, is for us to gel together and also to learn about the new Lola, which we've been doing very good. With Tom Brown being the head engineer between the two racetrack engineers, he's been filling us in with a lot of information. Now we're starting to be able to use it. We can't forget that this team, my side of the team, is the brand-new side of the team. We're building really in a very short time.
MR. TAKER: Thank you for joining us this afternoon and we'll see you in Vancouver. Good luck to you.
ROBERTO MORENO: Thank you very much. My pleasure.
KELBY KRAUSS: We now welcome in Oriol Servia, driver of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Oriol celebrated his 29th birthday in Toronto two weeks ago by rounding out the top five. He also scored his seventh consecutive top six finish in the process. Thanks for joining us today, Oriol.
ORIOL SERVIA: Good morning.
KELBY KRAUSS: Vancouver is a track you've had some success at in the past. In '99 you came from 22nd on the grid all the way up to finish fifth. Talk to us a little about what Vancouver means to you, the layout there, and your past success.
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, it's a normal street race. Obviously, to me, it doesn't mean anything more special than any other street race, apart it's a Canadian race, it's always nice to come to this country. It's very well-organized. But on the track itself, for me, just another street race, you know, with a couple of tricky places, just another place you want to be the fastest team.
KELBY KRAUSS: We'll get right into it. We'd like to open it up to questions for Oriol.
Q. Starting your second year with Patrick Racing, you have a new engineer this year. How are you guys getting along? He didn't have much time with the Lola before now, and neither did you. What are your thoughts on all this, on all the changes?
ORIOL SERVIA: The first thing I have to say is that he's pretty excited about this race because he's a local, he's from Vancouver. He's really looking forward to win this one. Since the beginning, I think we both did a good job together from spring training, you know, was our second test with the Lola, working together. We were quickest on our second day. From the beginning, we've been quick. From then on, it's just a question of, you know, communicating the best we can every weekend. We are half season right now. We just passed half season. I think from now on we both are feeling that the best results from both of us will come along. Even if you understand each other from the beginning, you don't get the best of each other until a while because you don't know the other guy a hundred percent. It always takes a little bit. But I think it's coming on together.
Q. Is there anyplace on the Vancouver track that you find particularly challenging? Is there anyplace where you think you can overtake?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, you know, at least most of the drivers, at least myself, you always pay attention to the fast corners, you know. But here in Vancouver, there's one turn there that is very, very slow. I think it's the slowest place here, probably one of the slowest places we go through the whole championship. I think it's turn nine, the slow chicane, before the last chicane, that you really need to pay attention there. It's so slow, it can almost be (inaudible) for our cars. But it's very important, too. You still need to be the quickest through there. That's a tricky place for sure.
Q. Some of these street courses, it seems so tough to pass. Do you notice it's that much more competitive during qualifying, guys are out there blocking each other, trying from getting fast laps?
ORIOL SERVIA: I'm not the right guy to ask that question because in Toronto I never got one clear lap. You know, I was with traffic all of the laps. I'm a little bit upset right now. But, honestly, I don't think it's people trying to block each other; it's just people trying to get a clear lap. You try to get your own space from the guy in front of you. Just when you see the car behind you, you start putting the speed on. You know, the problem is you're probably going to screw somebody out of his lap doing that. We are not helping each other doing that. That's our own problem, the drivers' problem, because at the end it's going to be impossible to qualify if we keep doing that. You need to think about the others. If you give them a break, they will give it to you. If you let them do their best lap, they're going to let you do your best lap. Right now we are in the half of the season. You know, everybody has been screwed up some point. You're upset with the others, and you're doing the same to the others. It's not making life easy to anybody. So I hope that at some point we all going to become more smart, more intelligent, and just make it easier for all of us.
Q. How competitive is the situation? Paul Tracy has had a little lull in the middle, but seems to be on a roll right now. You know how these Canadian fans react to him. Is this still a situation where three or four drivers could win the championship or is Paul the guy to beat right now?
ORIOL SERVIA: If you look at the Toronto race, it looks like Paul is the guy to beat, no doubt. You know, I finished fifth. I think I had a very similar speed than the guy that finished second. If I would have started second, I probably would have finished second. But Paul was definitely, you know, quicker and better than everybody else. He's leading the championship. So right now he's the man to beat. But there's still lots of races, lots of points to play. We'll see. It's still early to say that.
Q. About qualifying, there has been some talk, I don't know how strong it is or whether it's something that is certainly going to happen, of instituting a F1 style one-lap qualifying approach. First of all, how do you feel about that idea? Do you think it would solve the problems you were talking about?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, it would solve definitely the problems because then, you know, it's just yourself and the racetrack. That would solve it. We did it in Brands Hatch and I thought it was a great show for the fans and for the rest of us because you actually get to see the other guys qualifying. I think it adds a little bit of emotion to the whole process. They need to do something, I think. Either that or maybe just tire warmers. Tire warmers I think would help because the problem with he have now, yes, we have 15 laps, but half of those laps we are slow trying to get the tires warm. If you would have tire warmers, you would go out on warm tires, our second lap would be really quick, and you wouldn't be slow in the middle of the track while other people are quick. I think that would help, too. But definitely the one car on track at a time, I think it's a good idea.
KELBY KRAUSS: Thank you very much, Oriol. We appreciate your time.
ORIOL SERVIA: Thank you.
KELBY KRAUSS: And we thank Roberto Moreno for joining us earlier on the call. We appreciate you taking time out of your schedule today for joining us and we look forward to the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford as it returns north of the border to Canada for the 14th annual Molson Indy Vancouver. Have a good afternoon.
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