Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone, for joining us for another Champ Car media teleconference as we head into the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. We'll kick it off with the 30th anniversary of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that will take place in the streets of Long Beach, California, April 16 through the 18th.
We are joined right now by two of the returning top five drivers from last year's point standings. Right now we're going to go ahead and get started. We will introduce Mr. Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing. Patrick, thank you for joining us today.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you, for thanks for having me.
ERIC MAUK: We're also joined by the runner-up in last year's championship, as well as the 2002 championship, Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing. Thank you for joining us, Bruno Junqueira.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Hi, how you doing?
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and take a question, starting with Patrick. Obviously a fairly interesting off-season for you, one with a few ups and downs, but got things headed the right way. You got some testing under your belt. Now that everything is on track for Long Beach, how do you feel?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I feel pretty good. We had a few days' testing. The team gave me back pretty much all the mechanics I had, the engineering and stuff. So I'm really happy. It went pretty well at the test. Seems to be a very good effort. I'm looking forward to the season, for sure. At first I was a little pissed off with everything that happened, I was in, I was out, then came back in with the team. But overall, when I look at it, I just feel pretty fortunate that Gerry decided to go ahead and put the money forward out of his pocket and to put me back in the series. I really appreciate that, and I think it's looking very good for this year also.
ERIC MAUK: Patrick will be starting his eighth season of Champ Car competition. He has four career wins, four poles, has won a race in each of the last three seasons, including last year's Grand Prix of Monterrey, Laguna Seca. Pat, you tested with your two new teammates last week out at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Is it much of a different attack now that you have three cars in the stable now?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it's always good. You know, we share more information. We look at everybody's data. We just have more information on the team. For sure, was a little bit hectic for the guys at the shop to put that together at the last minute like that. But we did a good job. At the test, everything was running smooth. It was a problem-free test, and it went pretty well. Hopefully that's the way it's going to keep going. But I can imagine it's only going to get better as the team gets used to it.
ERIC MAUK: We look forward to it. Best of luck this season, Pat.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Bruno Junqueira comes off two wins and two poles last year, second in the championship as we referenced earlier. He is the first driver since Alex Zanardi from 1997 to 1999 to win Champ Car races in each of his first three years in the championship. Bruno, you've had a lot of testing time already, as well. You ran down at Sebring. Are you feeling good about the way things are going so far?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Sure. The PacifiCare Newman/Haas team is prepared for this year. We learn a lot last year by finishing second in the championship. We did a lot of work over the winter to try to improve the car. I did a lot of work to improve myself as a driver to see if we can do a better year this year.
ERIC MAUK: Your second year with Newman/Haas Racing. Newman/Haas is one of the teams in the championship who has managed to keep most of the same people year after year. In the amount of time put in the Champ Car World Series just in that team is probably the highest among any of our teams. Now that you've had a year to look at it, tell us about what kind of an advantage it gives you just to have the same people year in and year out, just the knowledge on that squad.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For sure is really good. I have pretty much all the same mechanics. Just one mechanic left. All the engineering group is the same. Peter was the engineering director. But my engineering Rocky is the same. I'm looking forward, now the team start to work well, the test, and that makes it easy. I know everybody I have to work with. We have a great relationship, and they know me well. I think that's going to be a big advantage because last year was everything new for me on the team. Now I feel like a big family and I can do better straight for the first race.
ERIC MAUK: Again, best of luck. We look forward to seeing you next week in Long Beach. We'll go ahead and open it up to questions from the media. We all saw the release put out by Newman/Haas Racing last week that they will be participating in this year's Indianapolis 500. They will be naming their driver and other specifics of that effort later on. We would like to honor the team's wishes and let them make their announcement at their own time, and we are here to talk about the Champ Car World Series today. We would appreciate not taking any questions on this effort today. We appreciate your help with that.
Q. I'd just like to ask Patrick, you talked about being pissed off when this happened. Can you talk a little more about exactly what happened. You were out, then what transpired to get you back in?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I guess just for spring training, Gerry -- Paul called me first, then Gerry called me to let me know they couldn't find the sponsorship. They were disappointed. I was actually disappointed that nobody from Canada actually came up to sponsor the team, even though I think the team presented some great deals to some of the sponsors. Player's kind of paved the way for them to come in and get a lot of exposure. Then he told me, "Well, maybe I can have you do a couple of races, but you can't race more. I don't want to do that, so I would like you to get the time you need in the car. We're going to try to find you a ride. Hopefully we do, but you're going to get paid all year." But for me was very important to race this year because there was no more -- the other series has already started, and there were no more rides. It was a bit of a stressful couple of weeks. Then we talked with Gerry a few times, he talked to us, tried to look for other sponsors. Talked to the team, had meetings. Gerry called me back and he said, "Well, we thought about it, and we're going to have you run on our team. We're not going to send you to another team. We think you already know your guys. We're going to give you back your guys, we're going to put a couple of cars and you're going to race again this year for us. We're pretty happy to be able to have you do the full season." For those two weeks, I must admit I was not too happy, especially because it was a little bit late for me to know about it. But then when Gerry came and decided to put the money forward, I was pretty excited. I think one of the reasons, as it was explained to me, was trying to I guess shock the Canadian sponsors or try to get media attention to try to get a sponsor to just come on board and say, "Okay, we'll sponsor," something like that. But it never happened. So I'm pretty fortunate that I'm racing this year.
Q. Gerry has committed to you; you don't have to worry, you are set for the entire season?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes. Full testing, full season, full effort. From what I've seen at the tests I've done so far, it was not only just put a car to fill up the grid, it was really a full effort. I was allowed to test all the shocks, all the equipment, everything that we wanted to test. Same stuff as Paul so far. I think it's looking pretty good.
Q. You guys have both tested. Is there anything different about driving the cars this year? Are the tires different, the new pit rules, 'push to pass'? Anything you're going to have to learn or adjust to in order to be competitive for the championship this year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, the car is pretty much the same. The tires are the same. I think the 'push to pass' is something that we're going to have a chance to use in the race that's really good. That's going to give more excitement for the race, I think especially the street courses where it's very difficult to pass. That extra power allows us to pass the guy in front. That's going to make it exciting, you know. When to use it, we'll have to learn a little bit as drivers. I know that Bridgestone and Champ Cars, they were talking about to use a softer compound for some races. But at this moment, I don't know anything. I think Long Beach is going to be the same tires as last year, which was really good. The Bridgestone tires in Long Beach worked well last year, and pretty much the whole year. I don't see why we should change it. But for sure, the new Ford 'push to pass' button will be really good for this year.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, same thing. We tested it in testing. We tried it a few times in different areas around the track, and pushed it. You definitely can see the rpm jump up. We get, I think, a few more hundred revs with that 'push to pass'. There was a difference. But for sure if you want to make a pass, you're going to have to be aligned pretty well and have a good shot at it. But the good thing is that we only have 10 shots in the whole race. If you're a little bit faster than the guy up front, usually you cannot pass. You know if you're close and try to pass, he's going to use his 'push to pass', but when he's out of it, that's the time you're going to be able to see the difference a little bit later in the race. I'm looking forward to that. I think what Bruno said is right.
Q. Bruno, I was wondering what area you think you and the team need to focus on improving to beat Pat, Paul, the Forsythe guys?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: What we need to improve?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think you have to always try to keep improving the car, because last year Tracy won the championship. You saw too good, (inaudible) should win the championship. For sure, did a little bit of work on the car to improve some small things - especially what we did, because the first -- especially for me, the first part of the season, I pretty much drove the car that they had in 2002 that was not the best setup for me. It was a really good car, but it didn't suit my driving style. It was better for Sebastien. When I had opportunity to do one test during the season, mid-season, in Elkhart Lake, we changed a lot of things on the car, and the car was much better. I thought for the second part of the year, I was much faster, doing more poles, being more up front. Then they try some different setups towards that direction. I'm feeling more comfortable with the car now. I think the last test at Sebring found some things that suits more my drive style, and I think we're going to be a little bit better. But I think auto racing, every year you have to improve the car. I mean, you see the lap times on the same track always get better and better. You cannot just stand still and wait for another season, otherwise another team's going to pass us.
Q. Pat, with all this drama, do you think you can use it as a little extra motivation going into this year?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, for sure I was not too happy. I went cycling three, four hours a days. Actually, I'm in really good shape. I did two (inaudible) down in Florida. After those three days was first time back in the car since I think quite a few months. I was not even tired. I had no ache in my body. My neck was fine. Everything was fine. I was really happy. I think I'm a lot more relaxed and a lot more ready than I was last year. This season was a little bit different. If you talk about motivation, you can believe it, that I've got quite a bit of it this year.
Q. Patrick, to follow up on that motivation factor, you're coming into this year, everybody knows you can win. You've won, third year in a row you've won a race. Will it be in the back of your mind that this year you will be looking maybe towards 2005, what's going to happen after this year?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for sure. Nobody knows for sure what's going to happen. Everybody's working hard. I think the guys at CART are working really hard to make this year a great year. But one thing I'm going to tell you, from what I've seen in testing, the way the cars are, the way they've set up the season with the rules, it's going to be extremely competitive. There's going to be I think eight, ten guys that are going to be very fast, and it won't take much to go to 10th place or 1st place. Every detail and every little part of it will be extremely important. For me, motivation, I have a lot actually. I've seen what it was last year. I've seen how it worked, how the teams work in the series, being teammates with Paul. This year I prepared quite a bit more personally than I did last year. I think we're still going to work very hard together, me and Paul. We always have. We have a good relationship. I thinks that is what makes our team extremely strong. I'm really looking forward to it. Without having a contract passed this year, not knowing what's going to happen, for sure, every lap and every session counts.
Q. Patrick, the other day Paul was talking about the lack of parts with the addition of three cars. Do you see that as a problem?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: That's what I thought at first. For the first couple races, we're going to share the same backup car. So there's one backup car that's missing. But as far as parts, shocks and things, we've got quite a bit of it. I think we're going to be all right for the first couple of races. What helps us is that we go to Long Beach, then we're going to have a month off. I know my team is going to get an extra car, so we're all going to have our own backup car, we're going to have our own parts. It's a little bit the same way that Alex Tagliani worked last year for the first few races. His backup car was just parts and pieces. We have a full machine shop at the shop, and the guys right now are making as many parts as they can. So, no, I'm not concerned about that. The team assured me it will be a full effort. From what I saw in the test, it was.
Q. Patrick, do you see Paul as the guy to beat this year coming off the championship or do you think it's wide open?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think Paul is definitely a guy to beat in the championship. Paul's strength is that on any given day, every time he sits in the car, he always gives a hundred percent. He's always very aggressive and very fast. That's one thing that if you want to beat the guy, that's what you've got to do every time. And that's what I'm planning to do this year. There's going to be a lot of guys. Bruno is definitely a tough guy, a fast guy to beat. Sebastien Bourdais. Alex Tagliani this year has more equipment, is going to be faster. The Bettenhausen team is going to be difficult to beat. (Inaudible), these guys. Michel Jourdain, we'll see with his new team, how it goes. There's actually going to be a few guys going to be tough to beat. I think the top eight guys, it's going to be a fierce battle. A lot of people think that what happened over the winter, there's going to be a couple of fast guys, it's going to be boring, this and that. But I think this year is going to be one of the most exciting series, especially with the 'push to pass', everything they've changed. We cannot tell right now who is going to win the championship. It's going to be consistency, for sure, but with a few victories.
Q. Bruno, I wanted to know, at one point with all the uncertainty, when did you start to get gung-ho about this season and your chances to win the championship?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I trust a lot in Carl Haas and Paul Newman. They decide to stick with Champ Cars, and they believe in that product. I really hope the thing is going to work. I always look forward. I don't look that things aren't going to happen. I always thought this series would happen. I still have a championship to win. I finished second twice. Now that we're going to go on this year, I hope this year can be my year. I hope so.
Q. Patrick, you were saying you were in such excellent condition. What kind of workout have you been doing?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Actually, over the winter I did some snowmobile stuff, a lot toward the upper chest. But a lot of cycling, a lot of cardio, a lot of cycling. I actually saw Paul this morning, I was coming back down, he was going up with the cycling team in Vegas. But it's a mix of cycling and swimming, because I want to work the upper body also. Yesterday was my swimming day, and today was a cycling day. A lot of work and rest and sleep compared to what I had before. Last year I made the mistake of buying a big boat. It was not working properly. It was a lot of work. I spent a lot of time with that where I should have been I think spending a lot of time preparing for the season. This year that's the only thing I got to do. I just go out and train and rest. I did a lot more cardio than what I did last year. I saw it at the test, it was unbelievable. I did the three days, and at the end of the day I could still talk with the engineers. I was clear on all my ideas. I was in good shape. I didn't have zero neck pain, nothing, absolutely nothing. So I was really happy. I drove hard all three days, so it was good.
Q. Bruno, what have you done to stay in shape over the winter?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I've been cycling a lot, as I did last year. The end of the year, I took (inaudible) classes, that's very good, stretching and balance. Weight lifting, trying to keep the upper body, as well. I think I'm in really good shape. I think was such a long off-season, maybe I'm in the best shape in my life. I had a lot of time to work on that side. But by the other hand, I think the best thing I try to improve, the shape on the car, didn't do as much, but I think I'll be ready for the first race.
Q. Patrick, how confident are you with all that went on during the off-season up until a couple weeks ago that you'll be able to be competitive right out of the box?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: One thing that's good for me is they didn't switch me to another team. I left a message to Gerry just to thank him because I know they don't have necessarily the sponsorship on my car. I think that's one thing that's going to help me. I know all the guys, have all the data. With Paul, we've worked together really well. I think more than the equipment that I have, I think I'm going to have very good equipment. But more than that, I think is motivation. I think that's where the difference comes in. This year with everything that happened, I almost lost a ride, I was not sure. When I was back in the car testing, it was like, "Man, I'm lucky to be sitting back in one of these cars." I just -- I don't know, I just love it, and I want to do it for many years to come. For me, the motivation is different than the past years. And this year I want to make sure that I'm still going to be sitting in one of these cars next year. I want to win the championship. That's what I'm working for.
Q. Patrick, with no Canadian drivers in F1 this year, with there being Canadian drivers and races for the Champ Car series, do you think that will be a boost for the series in interest?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it's looking pretty good. I think we're going to start seeing the difference a little bit more as the season starts because so many things happened with the series, it was bought no too long ago, we were not sure if there was going to be a series. There were so many rumors, in Montreal, especially with everything that happened. I think once the season is going to start, I think for me and for us, we're going to see a difference in Montreal. Especially when we're going to come the time to go race there, when we're going to have the race there, I think there's going to be a lot of people that are going to want to come and watch with Alex Tagliani, Paul Tracy. All over Canada, I think we're going to see the difference.
Q. My question really was, I just read somewhere where the TV ratings for F1 in Canada were way down because Jaques was no longer involved. I wonder if that will boost the interest in the Champ Car series.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think so. I heard a lot of people were waiting to buy the tickets because Jaques was not in Formula 1 anymore. A lot of people were kind of hoping that CART would come to Montreal and have a race there. I think that now that the season's going to start, we're going to see a lot of people switch to the CART race because they have access to the cars. It's going to be I think a great show. This year in F1, I think we pretty much know even in Montreal in a few months, Ferrari is going to most likely win that race. I think people are definitely going to come and watch the CART series.
Q. With three cars on the team, do you think that will be a benefit in terms of sharing setup data and stuff like that over the weekend?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I hope it will be. Sometimes I think it will be. Sometimes I think it will be more difficult because it's a lot of work. It's a big team, a lot of people, a lot of implications. But I think that after a few races, it's going to be a better thing. I know that when Penske had the three cars, had a lot of information, they did pretty well. Actually, Rodolfo was pretty fast on the last day of testing. I think it might be pretty interesting.
Q. Patrick, can you tell me what it is to be in one of the first three teams in the Champ Series?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's fantastic to stay on that team and be part of it and get another shot at the championship this year, is all I wanted. So I'm very grateful for it. Hopefully I can show it on the track every time I come out of the pits. But, no, it's a great thing to be part of that team for the coming season. It's something that I always wanted from last year but I was not sure it was going to happen. Now it's good.
Q. How is your relationship with Rodolfo Martinez Lavin?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It's very good actually. We talk a lot. I talk to him about quite a few things. Every question he asks about setup, things in the car, even vitamins that I take, that we mix before the race, all that stuff, we always talk about, from the shoes I have and things. It's a good relationship.
Q. And, Bruno, what do you think about so many drivers from the Formula 3000?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think it's good. I think Formula 3000 is one of the best series in the world - or used to be. I think now because of the Formula 3000 champions, the front-runners, they can't get a ride in Formula 1. They discover that if they came to Champ Cars, they're going to do well. That's really good. That raises the level of racing here or keeps the level high. That's what I think this year, we have a lot of good drivers. I think it's good. I think it's good for them to have the opportunity to race in America. Everybody is enjoying, because the racing in America is more relaxed, a little bit less pressure. It's good to live in America, as well. The Champ Cars are a really good car to drive. I enjoy it. I hope they enjoy it as well as I do.
Q. Patrick, you mentioned your disappointment in Canadian companies not stepping up for sponsorship. Yet it's ironic that three of the most successful races on the schedule are the Canadian events, proving that your racing series is extremely popular. Any thoughts as to why the Canadian track-side success isn't translating to the Canadian corporate sponsorship dollars?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know why, because the races, like you said, in Canada are so popular. The attendance is always sold out, and people come to watch the races. They always wear the Canadian guys' colors, a lot of racers on the series from anywhere. They wear their colors, buy their stuff, come to the autograph sessions, watch it on TV. I don't really know why. I think Player's got a heck of a lot of publicity out of it. I'm surprised that nobody else just stepped in and used what Player's had started. Marketing firms, everything, was laid out for them to just jump in, keep going with the program. It took Player's many, many years, dozens of years, to develop that, develop racing in Canada, make it more popular, make the drivers more popular. But I don't know why. Maybe the economy at this time doesn't allow it as much. But I think right now with the prices that Gerry is giving, they could put their name on the whole car, it's actually really cheap for what they're going to get. It would be a really good deal at this time.
Q. You had mentioned maybe about two years contemplating taking control of your own destiny and perhaps starting your own team. Is that still a future consideration for you?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It always is. It always is. We have definitely some talk with some people for the future, talking about that. I think some people that can definitely own their own things. But to me, I also see every time somebody got his own team and was driving at the same time, they never seemed to perform as well. It always seemed to take his mind away from what he should focus on, which is the driving. I think I'm going to wait a little bit.
Q. Bruno, are you surprised by some of the absences, bigger-name teams, established teams, that won't be competing against you this year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It's a little bit sad. I think Patrick (inaudible). When Adrian left, how he left, it was not good. But when can you do? You have to keep on and keep racing. I think still a lot of good teams, a lot of good drivers. Let's try to do the best, best races and best show for the fans.
Q. Bruno, I understand Paul Newman made a surprise visit to you guys in Sebring. I was wondering what kind of message or pep talk he brought when you were there?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: That was pretty nice of him. I mean, we were testing there for three days' test. Actually, I tested first and the third day. He came out on the second day for a surprise for me and the whole team. Everybody was really happy for his support. I think Paul is someone that really loves racing. It's pretty nice, because I watched the team with Sebastien driving. It's incredible. He just love it. He's a big race fan, race passionate. That's pretty nice. I feel pretty happy, pretty lucky to have a team owner like him and Carl that likes race so much.
Q. How disappointing is it to see there will be no Champ Car races anywhere in Florida this year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, that's pretty disappointing. Now I live here in Miami. Last year we had two races, St. Pete, a really good race, and Miami. Now we have none. I hope maybe we're going to come back to St. Pete. That was a pretty good race. I hope we're going to race in St. Pete in the future or maybe in Brazil. I want to at least race at home, no matter if it's in Miami or Brazil.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference today. Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira, thank you for joining us today and best of luck as we get the season started next week.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you all for joining us today. Have a good afternoon.
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