Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
June 20, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Our guest today is the driver of the No. 22 Panther Dreyer and Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, Oriol Servia. Oriol, thanks for taking the time to be joining us today.
ORIOL SERVIA: I'm happy to be joining you, Arnie.
THE MODERATOR: Oriol is currently 10th in the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings heading into this weekend's Iowa Corn Indy 250 at the Iowa Speedway.
Oriol, you've had three top‑five finishes in the last four races, so what will it take to keep that momentum going at Iowa this weekend?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, I think there's no secret, we are doing the best job we can at every race we have. I was going to say, every day, but obviously we are not doing a very good job in qualifying, and we just seem to be showing up on the race.
But definitely just keep pushing. We had a slow start this season, and I think that made us all very hungry as a team and willing to prove that we deserve to be running up front and that's what we are doing now.
THE MODERATOR: I know you had a pretty productive test at Iowa before the Milwaukee race, but earlier this week the series announced some changes to the aero package for the weekend. What are your thoughts about the changes and putting the car more in the drivers' hands this weekend?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, it's definitely putting more of the car into the drivers' hands, and also into the engineers' hands. I definitely see less downforce, it makes it a lot more demanding for the engineers trying to find a good setup that, a, will give you the speed, but also, b, that will make the tires last the whole thing. And if not, then we have the engineers having to focus on trying to find a tenth of a‑mile‑an‑hour, because we are all going around flat. And then the focus, the ability to find these speeds for veering or these things that make the wings flex better or worse. Honestly it should give you a tenth of a mile, but that's what you need to make a difference.
Now, when you need to drive the car you and need a setup that takes care of the tires, if you don't do that and you don't focus on having a good mechanical setup, it means that you're not going to be losing a tenth of a mile, you're going to be losing ten miles an hour.
It's putting the focus back where it should be which is finding a good, proper setup of the car that makes the car work, the tires work, and that makes the drivers work. I hope with all of these changes‑‑ it's always tough to find what level, and with downforce, how much we really need.
The only thing I haven't been totally happy with the strategy is that we just tested last week in Iowa and it cost money to the team and now for everybody to do the best in between the races between Texas and Milwaukee, we are in Iowa testing, and it would have been nice to know the rules when we were there. So at least we were spending the money on a package that is not exactly what we are going to be racing on.
But apart from that, I understand not everything is perfect, but I'm very happy with the route that IndyCar is taking with these changes.
THE MODERATOR: Another change for this weekend, you mentioned that you would just show up for the race. Qualifying this weekend, as someone who has gained 89 positions on track in the race, you have to be upbeat about trying to race your way to the fold.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, actually that's a good point. We have been much better at passing the cars on track than beating times in qualifying. So the races seem to go our way. You still need to put a good time up there to try to get into the top three groups, but yeah, it's good.
I think it's interesting that the series are trying different ways for qualifying, you know, the starting position for the races. I think it's good that we are being a little adventurous and brave to try things. I don't know if this is going to be the success formula, but I'm definitely happy that, again, we are not afraid to make our sport better every day.
Q. The team seems to really come to life with the joint venture you guys have with Panther Racing and getting the Chevrolet engine. I know you mentioned the slow start but has the potential to compete been there the whole time with Dreyer & Reinbold and yourself?
ORIOL SERVIA: You put it together very clearly. You know, both things happened at the same time. We went and became part of the Chevy family at the same time we got together with Panther and we joined forces, and I think both things have had a big influence in our program and our performance. There's no doubt that, you know, Chevy has been a major, major improvement, and it's definitely been such a dose of fresh air for the rest of the season and the future.
Now we know that if we do everything right, we have the same tools to go out every week like everybody else. And Spencer has been great. It's a great group of individuals, great program, very well funded; that being together, it's at least one of the things we need to be able to do to beat teams; to beat teams that not only have experience, brains and money, they also have three or four cars on the track every time we hit the track.
So at least you need to be a two‑car team so you can not only share the data between drivers, but also between engineers. We have two cars on the track trying two maybe different suspensions where you can get information and find a good ride for Sunday.
It's been really good, and again, I'm not going to get tired of thanking Robbie Buhl, Dennis Reinbold and John Barnes from Panther for making things happen, because for the benefit of all of us, but it took a lot of wheeling between them to make it happen.
It's been definitely a plus, and you know, it just makes us be able to dream about victories here, where before it would just not have happened.
Q. Wondering about the race in Toronto with the new car and the different engine suppliers and those things. How do you think the new car, the new chassis and the engines are going to respond to that circuit, and you know what do you think the big differences might be this year?
ORIOL SERVIA: Okay. Toronto always provides a great race, no matter what car we show up there, it's always fun for us drivers and the fans. Somehow the race is always exciting. This year, I am sure certainly won't be any different; actually, will be better.
The car, this new car I thought behaved really well in Detroit, and Detroit has a similar layout in a sense, where you have some asphalt and then concrete in the corners. The car behaved really well until the track came apart. So I think it's going to be really good.
But I think even more than the car or the engine, what's been providing great racing this year is the Firestone tires. I think they were brave, also, this year, Firestone by giving us a tire that when it's new, it's extremely good, which creates a bigger difference from when the tires are new and when they are old.
That's why we have seen so many races, Barber, Detroit, where the guys that have cars that are able to take care of the tires better than running to the front and overtaking people; or, if somebody goes off sequence and puts new tires in before the other guy or a different timing, the speed difference is very different. That was V‑8; V‑8 created a lot of good racing like we used to have 30 years ago, and it creates a lot of passing.
So I think Toronto is going to be very exciting, because we all, a, love that track, love the city, and now with this new package of new car, new engine and the Firestone tires, I think it's going to be an awesome race.
Q. Is there anything that the fans, apart from the look of the cars, is there anything that the fans will notice that's difference or will it be the same kind of race that we have normally seen?
ORIOL SERVIA: I think you'll see a couple of differences, obviously as you mentioned, I think the cars look a lot cooler and better. But the engine sound, again, like back in the day when we had Champ Car in Toronto, I think that the engine noise is a lot nicer than the last couple of years. And the racing itself, I think you'll see us racing closer to each other, and passing more than we have before.
Also, with the new rules that you can actually block a little bit more, it's going to create a different race, especially going into turn three, which I don't know how Beaux Barfield is going to fall into that one, because already turn three in Toronto has always created a lot of controversy and accidents and issues, and I'm sure this year won't be any different. So I'm sure it will provide a lot of excitement.
Q. You were James Hinchcliffe's teammate last year you and watched him develop in IndyCar as a rookie, and he moved to Andretti this year. He's now second in the championship. The guy has been Top‑6 almost every race, except one, from when he got into trouble in Detroit. He's been qualifying high. You were pretty high on James last year, but did you expect him to be where he is right now, and has this been a surprise for you, or do you think that it's just a natural progression?
ORIOL SERVIA: It is a natural progression. I saw it right away already in the first race last year that the guy is not just a fast, smart guy. He's a guy that spent a good number of years in Indy Lights, Atlantics, which is really where you learn the sport, when you learn the work ethic that it's not just showing up and going fast. There's a lot of work behind it; you need to work with the engineers, work on your setup, finish races.
When you spend so many years in Indy Lights, even if you think you're good, it's just, you know, you never know if you're going to make it yet until you make it. So that makes you work really hard within you.
If you almost do the jump too quickly, then you never go through that kind of tough process that I think makes you better. And I think that's what James went through, and that's why now that he's got an opportunity on a great year and a second year, he's got experience, he's doing great and I expect him to honestly be challenging for championships every year. He's got a good team behind him.
Q. Iowa being the last of the five races in a row since the Indy 500, how does that effect the driver? I know that you guys like driving the car as often as possible, but how tough has this last month been for you guys as drivers?
ORIOL SERVIA: It's not just this one month; it's been busy the whole season if you think about it. We went to Brazil and then stayed, I don't know how many weeks in Indy nonstop and then every race and testing in between. Believe me, we have it the easiest, the drivers, in the sense that we usually get to fly home for a couple of days in between.
But the crews, it's just inhuman almost the amount of hours that they have to put into the cars, because, you know, there are other cities out there, like say NASCAR, where they have more racing than us; they have 38 race weekends or whatever. But because they have always stuck to the schedule, the teams are already prepared. They have a group of people that only do testing and a group of people that only go to the shop and work on the car and a group of people that only go to the races.
On our team, it's one group of people that does everything, that prepares the cars in the shop and goes to the test and goes to the races.
So these people end up having very little time for their families and time that everybody needs. So it's a very demanding schedule on everybody, and I'm glad that at least the races have been showing well and we have been having good racing and good shows, because at least, you know, the effort that everybody puts is paying off.
There is no doubt in the future I would like to see a schedule a little more flexible in the sense of maybe having two races in a row and a weekend off where people can reset, prepare the car to the shop and go to the next one. I understand that it's never an easy thing to do, because you have these promoters that have their dates set of when they want to have a race. But ideally, that would be I think the goal to maybe have a little more spread season.
Q. With China being cancelled, if you could pick any racetrack on the planet that IndyCar could go to and have a race, which one would it be and why?
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, I would have to pick‑‑ I have to say the Barcelona racetrack, because, a, it would take me home; b, my father is the director of the track, so maybe he could give me a couple of shortcut ideas.
But more realistically, of the options that have been brought up, I would definitely like to go to Elkhart Lake. I think it's the best racetrack in the country, and if we would have any opportunity to go back there, I think it would be great. Not only a lot of fun for the drivers, but I think it provides a great TV show, entertainment with the long straight, real overtaking, fast corners. IndyCar would show great in the fast corners with the downforce it has, and I think it would be a home run.
But I obviously don't know where the real possibilities stand. I'm just reading the news like all of you, and I hope that's the direction we are going.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time today and wish you and the Panther DRR team the best of luck this weekend at Iowa.
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