Grand-Am Rolex Series: Rolex 24 at Daytona
Topics: Rolex 24 at Daytona
January 31, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Second place, Felix Sabates, Max Papis, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Justin Wilson. And Marco Papis also on the podium.
Let's start off with Memo Rojas. Could you talk about your excitement and your part of the race.
MEMO ROJAS: Well, first of all, I'd like to thank all our team, all our crew. I think they did an excellent job. Every year for this race everybody in the Chip Ganassi Racing team, they have one of the best preparations. They work all winter to get our two cars ready for this race.
And, well, you know, we had a good race. You know, even though we want to take the watch in this race all the time we're happy with second place. It's good points for us for Scott and I who are contending for the championship this year.
We take the points with us as the positive side of this race. And, well, you know, the race went flawless for us. The car was good all day, and we just had a miscue there at the end, which gave the lead to the 9 car, which, by the way, did a great job. And congratulations to them, because this race is won by not making mistakes, and certainly they didn't do any mistakes.
THE MODERATOR: Justin Wilson, great job driving. But people are going to be asking about what happened there that brought the team to the garage there for that very short visit.
JUSTIN WILSON: It was very strange and frustrating. I came out of the bus stop chicane, and I felt what sounded to me what like a small explosion in the car. The car shook around. It was a bit of a vacile after that.
I was wondering if it was a wheel bearing or I had blown a front tire. I couldn't work it out. You've got about five seconds to decide do I another lap and dive into the pits? If I do another lap and it's a blown tire I'll probably lose the body work. I dove in the pits, checked it out. There wasn't a problem. We went back out and continued.
It was just disappointing to have to hand it over like that. But it's part of racing. I enjoy being part of this team. Everybody on the 01 TELMEX Target Chip Ganassi race car did a fantastic job. The crew did great pit stops. And these guys as well, every time you wake up at night you go and say let's see how we're doing, and we're always first or second. So I think it's hats off to having great teammates.
THE MODERATOR: Mad Max Papis finished second here in '96. And made his name in racing. Today looked like you really wanted to get back to the top with a lot of great racing with about eight hours to go. Running like it was like the last lap. Could you talk about that.
MAX PAPIS: First of all, it's an honor to be here. Just look at the lineup. I kind of feel -- it's a bittersweet moment, but I really wanted to win the 24 with Scott.
We went through a lot of special things together. And it would have meant the world for me, and I really felt that that's why I was giving it all I had, because at the end when Chip called me we came over here as one team, with one goal. It was winning, second place. We take it. But we accept it and at the same time I want to really congratulate the 9 car. The guys did a superb job. They really put us under pressure and felt we responded really, really good.
Of course, you know, when you get an opportunity like this, you kind of feel that you should take it. But that's part of racing. Like any 24-hour, and know you can win them and lose them by some small details. And I just felt that it was a real honor to be part of this team, because, first of all, when you get a call from Chip Ganassi, first it doesn't happen very often. That's an honor itself.
And the way we handled the race in the pit and off the pit, we were a one-team effort. We were four drivers and, I don't know, 20-people crew, but we did an absolute superb job. And it's just a little bit of a shame that I have to go back with a plastic watch but I will be back, (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Scott Pruett, three-time overall winner. Eight-time class winner the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Looking to give BMW its first victory here since '76. You started the race in torrential conditions, drove in the middle as it was drying and finished it up. Your thoughts how the race went.
SCOTT PRUETT: It's always nice to win. And congratulations to the 9 car. They just ran awesome the whole time. And I also gotta say thanks to Pirelli, both the rain tire and dry. It was awesome and consistent. It's the best tire we've ever had from them. And we were pleased with that and that kept the times as fast as they are and let us do what we were doing with the cars as well.
And also to my team of guys up here, everybody did a superb job. Ganassi organization. It takes so much work and effort and energy getting here. There's a lot of unsung heroes you never see, the guys putting the cars together, the guys staying up 24 hours while we're getting a quick nap that are doing the pit stops and doing the tires and taking care of whatever it needs, all the prep, if anything happens.
And the TELMEX guys and Ganassi guys, they were all spot on and couldn't be more excited about BMW. Unfortunately for the 02 car but the 01, it just ran flawlessly.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Scott, this race always comes down the team, generally comes down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, but this year the mistakes, if that's what you want to call them, were a wad of tape getting caught up in a seatbelt clasp. A vibration that goes away. Is this the strangest way for two teams to knock themselves out of contention for one of these?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it talks volumes about the quality of the teams. I think in years gone by -- and every year it seems like the cars get more refined and more robust and more durable. So you're not losing a wheel. You're not losing a transmission. You're not losing brakes like in the past here. Continues to get better.
So unfortunately there are those little things that would happen during the regular race, or races that have gone by. But it's so overshadowed by everything else going on that you don't necessarily see it.
I think it just talks about the quality of the cars, quality of teams out here in Grand-Am. The level of competition. I mean, I know the 01 car we ran hard, we ran hard the whole time. You had to be careful in traffic but as far as the car was concerned there were no issues of having to conserve brakes, having to conserve the engine or transmission. We just ran the thing as hard as we could.
Q. Scott, you guys have run now 48 hours over the last two years, 1490 laps. Lost by less than a total of a minute.
SCOTT PRUETT: Thanks for bringing it up.
Q. And basically by half a lap. Can you speak to the -- is frustration the right word? And what's the emotion inherent in that? Thank you?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, without being part of a team that's gone through everything that's happened since last November, I mean all the preparation that goes into the cars and then through December and the tests and for us making an engine change, there's been just so much work and effort and energy that has gone on behind the scenes before even getting here.
So expectations are always high, especially at the Ganassi organization. Whether the IRL or NASCAR or our side, and being here and winning it three times and finishing as well as we have, the last two years, this year and last year, second. I think that says a lot about the team. But you just can't put it into words.
Because you've been in the winner's circle, and because the race is so long and so tough and so just draining, that when you don't get -- when you've been on the top of the stand and you don't get back to the top of the podium, it's a little frustrating.
So it's emotions. It's just there's a lot of emotions that go into this race and build up and planning and planning and prep and prep and planning and there's no way around it. If you've been at the top and you don't finish at the top, it's just always frustrating.
Q. Scott, talk a little bit about switching to the BMW motor right before a 24-hour race after having worked so long with Toyota and Lexus and what a leap of faith that was?
SCOTT PRUETT: Well, I don't think it was a total leap of faith, because BMW had a pretty good foundation to work from. BMW and Dynan specifically. And I know Mike Hull and Chip labored over that decision which engine to go with. I know it was deliberating until the tenth hour to make that decision.
And then once the decision was made, the guys went to work and we made it here for that December test. And, yeah, the 02 car had a problem, but I gotta tell you, for changing engines to a new organization, it's gone flawlessly.
And the engine itself runs superb. I mean, I gotta tell you over the last three years I've kind of struggled in the rain, and you know the start of the race we went right to the front and took the lead, because the engine just runs nice.
You're not trying to overcompensate and things not peaky and trying to get away from you all the time and great power. So we're looking forward, really to the whole season.
Q. Justin, did they ever tell you what it was that you heard when you were coming out of the chicane, what might have been wrong with the car, number one? And number two, when it was determined that you were okay to leave the garage and go back out on the track, what were your emotions at that particular time?
JUSTIN WILSON: I don't think we've worked it out yet. I think Max came up with the most possible cause. One of two. The team thought maybe the roll bar had snapped, that's why it suddenly felt different. And Max said he had it before where a big chunk of tire rubber comes off and hits the underside of the body work, gives you the sensation, as Max said, a small explosion and the car moves around and you think you're done.
But after that, we were back on track, and you're pushing hard, just trying to make up, trying to do the best job you can, and push hard.
So it's frustrating. And in the split second I had to decide what I was going to do, I felt I had to take the safer option and make sure we kept the car in one piece. But I just want to back up what Scott said. This Dynan BMW engine has been fantastic. We were passing cars no problem on the straights. And it was singing along.
It's unfortunate for the 02 car, but from our side it was flawless the whole time.
Q. Can you talk about your disappointments, your comments on that front?
MEMO ROJAS: I know Max and Justin were here only for the watch. Scott and I, we wanted the watch, too, don't get me wrong. But we also need to think about the championship.
And actually what Justin's decision was the safest, it was smartest thing to do, because it could have been the other way around.
And luckily we got good points on this race. Obviously our two main goals this year is to win Daytona, which we were close, and win the championship. It's a good start for the season. Obviously the 9 car is going to be a contender. They won the race, and they're leading now.
I look forward for another season. There's really good and really quick cars out there, like which had problems today like the 10 car, like the 99 car. The shank cars, which are going to be, they're going to be up there all year and that's what Grand-Am racing, is endurance racing. But it's flat out all the way.
I say this is a 24-hour sprint race, because like Scott said -- when I was younger, running open wheel formula junior classes, they always talked to you about endurance racing. You need to drive 90%, 85%, conserve the car, conserve the gear box.
Since I started racing sports cars in Grand-Am, you're not doing that you're driving 100% all the time, 4:00 a.m. at night. You want to catch the guy in front, and the car allows you to run 100%. And you cannot give anything up in these kind of races and luckily we got good points out of this, and we're content from this championship.
Q. Max, could you compare your workday here to your workday at NASCAR, and is it still fun for you?
MAX PAPIS: Yes, I mean, this is just a blast. It's like racing every stint in a Daytona prototype is more or less the length of a NASCAR race, maybe a little less than that.
But it's a joy. This is my background. This is what I know how to do. And it's a special thing for me to be back in Daytona every year. It's a great warm-up for what I'm going to have to do this week and it's just reassurance to know that you can run well, because, of course, when you go back to NASCAR, you know, it's not going to be as easy as it was today with racing with Chip Ganassi Racing.
So it's going to be a different deal. But for me it was a great warm-up and it was just a fantastic thing. And I just wanted to add one thing, because I heard a lot of question about what happened with Justin and everything. And I just want to make sure at least on my side, we win or lose as a team.
We didn't lose for what happened there. It was just something that happened. And today we all finished second and me personally I'm pretty proud of what we all did. So it's not just one situation. I'm sure Scott can agree on that, right?
Q. Justin, real quick, when you felt that thing thump underneath, did you have time to call and I felt this, what should I do, was there time to go through all that?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah. I got on the radio I said I had a large bang; something felt like it broke. Should I pit or stay out? There's just not enough time. So I think they responded when I was already turning into pit lane and they said just go straight to the garage.
So it all happened so quick. You just don't have time to think about it. You just have to react.
SCOTT PRUETT: I had it happen to me before. I had it happen to me in this race. It's violent. It's explosive and all of a sudden it feels like a tire is getting ready to fall off. If you haven't experienced it before, it's a pretty dramatic thing.
Q. Scott, the 02 car led almost 140 laps in the first eight hours. Was that a matter of those guys pushing harder or the car setup, or different strategies?
SCOTT PRUETT: I think it was, as Juan told me, he said you know what I've been here with you guys before, I'm worried about the points in the 01 car. I'm not worried about the 02 car. He was clear at the start. They were real pleased with their chassis setup.
I think they had maybe a little better setup than we did. But also with that, they were -- it's win or bust. For them it's no championship. It's win or bust. And they looked at the race that way. And they wanted to go try and win the thing and had it in hand. But, wow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
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