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Champ Car Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car

Champ Car Media Conference

Oriol Servia
August 31, 2005


ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to a very special Champ Car media teleconference today as we are joined by the newest driver to join the ranks of Champ Car race winner, driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Oriol Servia, who took his first career victory just this past weekend at the Molson Indy Champ Car Grand Prix of Montreal. Thanks for joining us today.

ORIOL SERVIA: Hello, everybody. Thanks very much. I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on your new baby, Eric.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. Oriol has done a fabulous job this year after stepping into the #2 Newman/Haas car in place of the injured Bruno Junqueira. He has six consecutive top five finishes. Five of those top five finishes are podium runs. Five podium runs in the last six races for Oriol. Now that you've had a few days to digest everything, tell us a little about how it feels to get that first win under your belt.

ORIOL SERVIA: Just great. It's so great right away. Still feels great now. I mean, I'm just overwhelmed of how much people have called me. They congratulate me, how happy everybody is. Obviously, I'm the happiest one. Everybody's happy, everything's going. I'm just great and ready. Now that I taste it once, I definitely want to have it again.

ERIC MAUK: Speaking of that, I understand in your home country, this is pretty big news. Can you tell us a little about how it was received in Spain.

ORIOL SERVIA: Actually, the reaction has been huge. I mean, these last few races when I was in the podium, I had a lot of press. I was surprised how many people were following us. I think because of that, everybody knew we were getting close to that win. And the fact that we won, I don't know, made everybody follow us. Actually many, many people followed the race live through Eurosport. We made all the news on all the network TVs. It's been surprising but really good.

ERIC MAUK: Let's talk a little bit about the final few laps of the event. Someplace it's been misrepresented a little bit that you were handed the win, Timo had to move over. You had the pass made on him at least two separate occasions. Talk to us about how you approached trying to line up Timo and to get that pass and take the lead.

ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, actually I don't think anybody handed me nothing. I can tell you that. I had to pass him twice. I mean, 10 laps to the end, I was third. It was a great fight. I think it was great drama. Through the years, I think everybody knew that my first win was not going to be easy because I had been close many, many times. Seemed like something was going wrong every time. So it was clear nobody was going to hand me a win, at least my first win. It definitely took some drama to get it. It was actually great because, you know, we made everybody stood up of their seats, and that's always good.

ERIC MAUK: It's okay with you if somebody hands you a second win, though.

ORIOL SERVIA: Of course. I mean, we can always take wins, especially next one is Vegas where luck plays a big part on everything that happens in Vegas. We're willing to take it.

ERIC MAUK: Oriol is 61 points behind his teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the points standings, but moved up to second place in the overall standings with his victory last Sunday. With that we'll go ahead and turn it over to the media for some questions.

Q. After the race was over, I was talking with Jimmy Vasser. He was saying there was going to be quite a party in Montreal that night. Was there? Can you share any of the details?

ORIOL SERVIA: I actually cannot share any details (laughter). No, actually we all had a very early flight. We had to be at the airport by 4. We definitely celebrated. We had a nice dinner and a little party. I think wasn't up to Jimmy Vasser's standards as he was planing.

Q. Maybe you can get to Vegas a day or two early.

ORIOL SERVIA: I'm sure we're going to find an excuse. Maybe another win to make it to have a decent celebration in Vegas.

Q. Could you maybe talk about your experience this year with Newman/Haas. Everyone of course points to what you've brought to the team and what you sort of brought away from your experience with such a professional team on the engineering front and everything. Could you maybe talk that this is probably the first time in quite a while you've been paired with a teammate who is very experienced, obviously championship caliber driver, sort of what you've learned working with Sebastien, looking at the data, if you think it's made you a better driver above and beyond your working with the Newman/Haas engineering group.

ORIOL SERVIA: For sure, having a teammate like Sebastien, it's a big plus. As you mentioned, since 2000, when I was Cristiano da Matta's teammate, I haven't had a teammate for a full season. It's always hard to work on your own, first to make progress on a short weekend like we always do, but also it's hard for the other people to rate you because if there's no teammate, you always supposed to win, and if you're not winning, it's always the driver's fault, right? I mean, it's all a plus to have a good teammate. And Sebastien, I say it before, I'll repeat it, I honestly think he's the fastest man on the planet, and what a better reference than that. The champion, the fast guy like him, plus a guy that we have a very good relation. Since day one, we've worked very well. Apart from having a good personal relation, we both come from a background that we understand that we really need to work together to beat the competition first, beat all the other teams, and then, of course, it's about us, it's a fight between us. We both want to win. We definitely going to try our best to beat each other. But obviously that's after working together and making sure that the rest of the field is behind us. It's been working very well. It's just part -- one of the reasons why I think Newman/Haas, it's so successful, they always have good drivers together, and it's part of one of the reasons that makes the team so strong.

Q. Are you still living in Miami now?

ORIOL SERVIA: Yes, I am.

Q. How did you survive the hurricane?

ORIOL SERVIA: Well, it was easy for me because I wasn't there. I had some friends that really had some issues, although was not a big hurricane when it touched Miami. I think was not even category one. I was surprised when I got back how many trees were still in the middle of the road.

Q. How much have you been corresponding or working with Bruno since you took over? Probably more so at the beginning than now. What is your relationship with him? What has he been contributing to the team?

ORIOL SERVIA: Bruno has been great, great supporter of mine. Since day one, just before Milwaukee when they were considering me, Bruno was always behind me. Since then, it's always been. I mean, we are good friends. We always cycle together in Miami with Cristiano. You know, we definitely have -- honestly, we are friends. He wanted the best for me. He knew he couldn't drive, so he knew I deserved an opportunity. As I said, he gave me all the support and still gives me all the support. Was the first guy I spoke after the win. He called me right away on Lauderback's cell number. Was very happy for me. I'm happy to see that he's doing so well and that he will be a hundred percent whenever he is. He's been clear already to race in Mexico. That's great news for him.

Q. What will happen to you in terms of when he comes back?

ORIOL SERVIA: What will happen to me? For sure, whatever it happens, I'm going to be in a lot better position than I was nine months ago, no matter what. I'm just extremely pleased with the opportunity I had. I believe that if things keep going well for me and I'm in a good championship position, the team may try to run three cars. If there's one team that is prepared and have the right to run three cars, that's Newman/Haas. I wouldn't be surprised that we do that. But, again, I'm just a driver, I'm not a team owner, so we should ask them.

Q. Do you have any contact with a fellow Spaniard who is doing well, Fernando Alonso?

ORIOL SERVIA: Actually, not much. Unfortunately for me he's much younger than me. We never really raced together. I've known him a few times, but it's not like we have a big relation just because there never was. I've been racing in the States since '98, and that's probably when he started racing cars. I'm happy for him. I'm happy for Spain in general because is the first time that a Spaniard has a chance in a top team in Formula One. He's definitely taking advantage of it. It's actually a very good year for motorsports in general in Spain.

Q. When did you have your last victory?

ORIOL SERVIA: Last win was Formula 3 in France in '97 in a city called Albi. Was actually on an airport racetrack, kind of Cleveland we have nowadays.

Q. How do you keep your morale up when you haven't had a win for that long?

ORIOL SERVIA: You know the drivers, we always have excuses. The worst is that we believe those excuses. You know, in the back of my mind, I always knew that I was supposed to win some races, and things happen. I don't know. I guess we are a different kind that we always have hope. As I said, we always have an explanation why things went wrong. We always see a way that we can improve things and make them happen the way we want. I don't know, there's not really a secret for that. Just, you know, I've been doing what I like, having a great time. Maybe not through the best bigger-budget teams. But, again, it's always a challenge and I've always tried to beat any challenge I had like last year. I think I've been successful and happy with the challenges so far. It's just that.

Q. Will you be in a third Newman/Haas car at Mexico City then?

ORIOL SERVIA: Well, I don't know for sure at all. I don't know the team knows. But PacifiCare has been great supporter of mine since day one. Every race I think they are happy and pleased with what I've done so far. I'm very happy to be part of their team. The Newman/Haas crew stay the same. I think it will depend when we get there what's the point situation, where we are. The team I'm sure will decide what's best for all of us.

ERIC MAUK: While this might have been first Oriol's on track victory since '97, he's been consistent through his six-year Champ Car career. Before that, he won the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights championship, had five runner-up finishes that year. In his six years in the Champ Car World Series, he's had podium finishes in four of those six seasons, including his rookie year back in 2000, third in Detroit.

Q. Did you have a chance to speak with your good friend Mark, another Catalonian?

ORIOL SERVIA: Actually, not at all. I'm sure he's busy testing for Ferrari. No, I haven't.

Q. What are some of the activities that you've done now that you've got your first winner's podium that you're surprised comes with the territory of being there?

ORIOL SERVIA: I think probably because was the first one, as I said, the media reaction in Spain has been a little exaggerated. I've run through the battery of my phone every day. It's been a little too much. I don't think is going to be like this after every win, although if that's the pain I have to go through, I have no problem going for it again.

Q. Is there any sort of reward that you might have to remind yourself of this win, like somebody will buy themselves a bike or car? Something special you're going to do to help commemorate your first win?

ORIOL SERVIA: Not really. Haven't thought about it yet. Haven't really thought about it. Maybe give me a second win. That would be a good gift.

ERIC MAUK: Let's talk a little about Las Vegas. We go to the Las Vegas Speedway, mile-and-a-half oval, last weekend in September. Last year you led a good number of laps there. Ended up finishing a little deeper than the pack that you would like. Talk to us a little bit about what you think about going to the big superspeedway oval.

ORIOL SERVIA: I think just going to Vegas in general is always good. It's good for the series, good for the fans, good for the drivers. It's just a very different race in a very cool city. The event, it's always good fun. Plus for us, we're right there after the first win. I know it's an important race for PacifiCare also. Last year they put a great show, Sebastien and Bruno. I hope this year we can do the same. Maybe we could reverse the order and would be welcome for all of us. We'll see. Last year unfortunately I had to start last because we missed qualifying. In the first lap, I passed 10 cars. I had fun in that race. I remember it was actually very different to what a Champ Car race usually is. But was kind of exciting. Again, being in Vegas, I think it's welcome for all of us.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien won the last Vegas event, but he beat Bruno in the PacifiCare car by 66 one-thousandths of a second, just nipped him at the line. The two traded the lead back and forth throughout the last 10 laps pretty much every time coming off turn four. Very exciting race. Oriol will be in that PacifiCare car this year as he just alluded to.

Q. Interesting circumstances with the win that have you this much time off between the win and your next race. Any sort of formal testing plans? What do you expect to do on a professional side between now and Vegas?

ORIOL SERVIA: I have a couple of things going. First, professional, but not really professional. More fun than anything. I'll probably do a prerun for Baja in Mexico, which I'm not sure a hundred percent sure I'm going to race Baja. Just in case, it's always good to be prepared. Then I have a test in the middle of September with the team. Yeah, for sure, Newman/Haas doesn't stop working. They're going to be working hard to get more wins to make sure the championship goes home and that we are 1-2 in the championship, which is the main goal at this point. I think it's a very realistic goal. Just keep working as usual at Newman/Haas.

Q. Where is that test?

ORIOL SERVIA: It's going to be in Ohio.

Q. Mid-Ohio?

ORIOL SERVIA: I actually -- I believe somewhere in Ohio. I don't know.

Q. One of the other things left on your plate this year is to actually beat Sebastien in qualifying. You've come close on a number of occasions. Montreal, you ran out of fuel on a lap that looked like you were a few 10ths up on him. That would be something that would be a real --

ORIOL SERVIA: -- achievement. It definitely is a challenge, a huge challenge for me, a great achievement I would consider for myself. Again, I keep repeating, I really believe he's the fastest man on earth. I've been very close. San Jose, I think I was only few thousandths off in the second qualifying. I had three laps that although Tracy was pissed off at me because I was in his way, I had cars in my way, too, and I couldn't finish those three laps that I was more than 2/10ths down in the time. We drivers always say, "If, if, if." As you say, Montreal, if I had not run out of fuel after the last corner. But, you know, I have to do it. It's not going to be an "if" question. I really would like to, but I know it's not going to be an easy thing. It's not my main thing to beat my teammate at all. I just know that if I beat Sebastien, I'll be P1 because he's always P1. You know what I mean? That's the real goal. It's not really just beating Sebastien, it's being up there. We'll see. I mean, as you say, every race I'm getting closer. I'm working I think better with Rocky, the engineer, and with getting the best out of the car every time. It's just going to be a question of doing everything right for sure, the setup and the driving and the qualifying run, to beat Sebastien. We're definitely up for the challenge. As I said, focus is to beat competition first and then your teammate.

Q. When you prepare for these superspeedways, what sort of things do you do? Do you enjoy them? Where do they rank relative to the other courses you drive on throughout the season?

ORIOL SERVIA: When we used to Michigan and Fontana, I have to say I did enjoy them. They were long races, very different. You had to play a little bit the strategy. Plus in the race, it wasn't flat all around. It was definitely a challenge. As I said, a different race to all the other races. I thought they were very interesting to have them in the schedule. Vegas is a little bit -- I think is a little too easy for us to go flat, I have to be honest. It's not the typical I think kind of racing we like to see in a Champ Car. But, you know, we all know Vegas is a great market and I think the series has been trying to have a street race there, as I understand. Maybe that's the process we have to go through. It's just, at the end of the day, another race. You still want to get the 30 points and do a better job than the other teams and drivers. At the end of the day, it's a similar business, similar business.

Q. You mentioned working with Rocky. Pretty much the race unfolded in Montreal the way that he had called it. It was going to be pretty straight out at the beginning. It was the yellow flag that put everything out of order. Can you understand the frustration of Justin Wilson who perhaps could have overtaken Timo if you were successful in your pass or he had pulled over much earlier

ORIOL SERVIA: Of course. I mean, again, it's one of those things that in a perfect world you would like the penalties to be addressed as quick as possible. But I understand the situation of the officials. It's six laps to go. You don't want to make the wrong call. They probably saw I had one more shot 'push to pass'. Probably they thought, Let's hope he can do it again and arrange it without us getting involved. At the end of the day, most of the time it's the best solution. Once the officials gets involved, it's a very critical position they are in. Then they wait. I did the second attempt. I pass him. He did it again. At that point they definitely had to do it. Unfortunately, was only one lap to go. I mean, I would understand that Justin wanted everything to be arranged quicker, but me too. At the end of the day, I think the officials did what they had to do with the time they had.

Q. What about working with Rocky?

ORIOL SERVIA: It's fantastic. I really, really, really enjoy it. It's one of the reasons that I'm so pleased to be at Newman/Haas. Obviously, the whole crew, it's fantastic. Everything, it's just wonderful. It definitely is. But Rocky, being the engineer, makes it very special. He's been very good before in the past had many success with Cristiano and Bruno. I'm really enjoying. He's really nice to work with, gives you great support. He's tough when he needs to be tough, tells you things the way they are. At the end of the day, he's very smart and works harder than anybody I've ever been with. That's probably the key to his success is how smart he is and how much he puts into it. I'm just really proud that I've been able to work with him all this year.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference. Thanks to Oriol Servia. Enjoy a little time off, get those test runs done and we'll see you at Las Vegas at the end of September.

ORIOL SERVIA: I will. Thank you very much to all of you. I hope these four races left, very different. I think we at Newman/Haas have a real chance of winning the four of them. We'll keep it up. Hopefully we can bring more wins to the PacifiCare people that have been, as I said, real supporters of mine. I home I can keep delivering the goods for them.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you for joining us today.



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