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Indy Racing League Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indy Racing League

Indy Racing League Media Conference

Dario Franchitti
Vitor Meira
Scott Roembke
January 20, 2005


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us. At this point we're joined by Scott Roembke, vice president and general manager for Rahal Letterman Racing; Vitor Meira, driver for the Rahal Letterman Racing team; and Dario Franchitti, driver for Andretti Green Racing. Before we get started on the test session today, about a month ago Rahal Letterman Racing announced their driver lineup for the 2005 season. I'd like Scott to say a few words about sponsorship for Vitor's team.

SCOTT ROEMBKE: As you see by the release, and I think it's the worst-kept secret in racing, when we announced Vitor as a driver, we were finalizing some plans. In the last month John Menard and his friends at [] Johns-Manville have agreed to come join us. They have a relationship with Vitor. I think John is the one that brought Vitor over here and gave him his start. Mr. Menard thinks highly of Vitor. It was a perfect fit for us. We hope to give Mr. Menard some victories. He's pretty pumped about the season and we're glad to have him.

THE MODERATOR: Vitor, if you would, and obviously based on what Scott just said, your relationship with John Menard, if you can talk about the sponsorship and your relationship.

VITOR MEIRA: Yeah, everything started in 2002. By the end of 2002, when he gave me the first opportunity to do the first IRL series, actually the last four races. And we always had a good relationship, even when we kind of got each other -- I mean, he went his way and I went my way, and we got separate. But we always talked, we always liked each other. Now the two persons that I had to thank, now it's going to be under the same roof, which is Bobby Rahal and Scott, and John Menard. So I don't think there's a better combination - at least on friends and relationship and trust.

THE MODERATOR: Dario, you topped the speed charts today. If I remember correctly, you were back here in September with our very first test. If you can tell us about your day today.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. We basically spent the last couple of days going through various different changes on the car.

VITOR MEIRA: Tell everything.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: They'll kill me. They don't even tell me some of the changes. As I said, we've been sort of making changes to the car, seeing the reactions we get from them, trying to get rid of some imbalances, basic stuff we do at the right start of every season really, although we're a little bit rusty from driving only on ovals the last couple of years, the team as well setting the car up just for ovals. We had a pretty good couple of days. We all made progress. Definitely have seen the benefit of the four-car team on the road course because I would test something or Bryan or Dan or Tony, and we could either confirm it was a good change in one of the other cars or not as the case may be so that was really helpful. I think Honda have made progress over the winter, and I think we have the car, as well, we're probably, with the same tires as we run now or something similar, we're probably about a second quicker than we tested here in September. I think that shows the pace of development in the series. I think that's only going to continue.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, from your standpoint, and obviously Rahal Letterman having a tradition of racing on road courses, now being over in the IRL doing road courses, everything you guys have done in the past, are you starting from scratch or are you able to take some input from your road course experience?

SCOTT ROEMBKE: Well, certainly there's some things that carry over, but these are different cars. They have less power. They're fun to drive. I think all of our drivers enjoy driving these cars. They look good out there. They're real race cars. So some of the stuff you learn. Shocks and stuff like that certainly is applicable as you come from your history. But, you know, it's like today, first real test day of a three-car team, we had three different setups and three different this's, just trying to go through the stuff and try to take advantage of that. So we're just still learning what these cars want on these types of circuits. But certainly having the experience helps, but you've still got to develop the cars.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for any of our panelists.

Q. In the two days you tested now, how well are these cars going to be racing on road courses, and the overtaking?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it depends on the course, first of all. But I think Scott said, what have we got, not quite as much power as maybe we used to, so the straights will be a little bit longer, so that should help for setting up passes. I know I've seen some passing out there the past couple of days, and that bodes well for the races we're going to have.

Q. When you tested the other cars, CART cars, (inaudible)?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it's slightly different because of the new banking. I think it's changed because of that. You know, coming off turn nine or whatever, then over the last corner, as well. I think the course is a little bit slower now because of that. It tightens up that last corner significantly.

THE MODERATOR: I think the CART cars used the Grand-Am road course setup? No.

Q. You said you were faster today than the test. When you tested, did you use the same course or did you go up on the oval?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: We used the same course.

Q. What is the key to getting around this place quickly?

VITOR MEIRA: Well, Dario for sure knows much better than I do right now (laughter). Mostly the last half hour. I mean, it's a combination of a bunch of stuff. You just have to get everything in sync, make everything work a hundred percent. I mean, taking advantage of your tires, taking advantage of the power you have, taking advantage of brakes and everything. Just make everything work - not for itself, but in sync with everything else. That's actually the secret of everything, even ovals and everything else. You got to just get in sync with everything.

Q. Is there a specific area of the track that you've got to get right in order to make a good lap?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: The whole place here. I've spent the past couple days, it seems, making 11 out of 12 corners right, and always messing one up. So we finally got a lap where I didn't make a mistake.

Q. Pretty busy most of the time?

DARIO FRANCHITTI: I missed a couple -- maybe three, four long straights. Certainly not the most physical track I've been on. But there's certain combinations. This combination off the banking, the last sort of two, three corners is a nice little combination. Also the first three are pretty good, pretty flowing.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.



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