Indy Car Racing Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
March 7, 1995
JOHN PROCIDA: Well, I want to thank you all for joining us this evening. We have three guests with us tonight. We have Andre Ribeiro who has been kind enough to give us a call from the Atlanta Airport, and we have Steve Horn, the president and owner of Tazman Motorsports and Robert Clarke from Honda Performance with us. And I want to say a special thank you to our friends from Australia who are calling in to us this morning. And we don't have a lot of time with Andre, he has a plane to catch within about 45 minutes, so I want to go ahead and open the line for questions for Andre Ribeiro.
DAVID PHILLIPS: How are you doing, Andre?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Okay and you?
Q. Good, good, good. I wonder how -- you obviously had, you know, a very encouraging start to this season, I just wondered looking back on the whole weekend if you might kind of assess how it went for you; the good points and, you know, perhaps the less of good points.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Okay. Well, I think we did the start the weekend with outstanding practice. Our first practice we did finish on second position, 2/10 behind Michael Andretti, and it was really a surprise for me; not really because of the position where we were because -- hello. Can I continue?
JOHN PROCIDA: Yes, Andre, go ahead.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: So I think we have on the equipment point of view potential to be in that position. But for me it was a surprise because being a rookie and on a first time with all the drivers on the series on this position was really a surprise. For the qualifying I had some problems myself getting used to the speed and the G-forces of the car. It was the first time that I did so many laps together, so I did feel for the first time the G-forces and the acceleration, so I had support my neck. And I had some problems with this on the first qualifying. The second day was exactly the same. We were very fast in practice. And I made a mistake on the qualifying and touched the wall so we did not finish the qualifying on the second day. For the race, it was a completely new experience for me to be with all the cars on the track fighting for positions, and I think I did learn a lot from the time that I was on the track. I had two incidents. One with Fernandez that I first thought was his fault because I felt a touch from the back, but watching on TV yesterday, I did see the there was no more race incidence where I did one line and he did another and we touch one each other. So it was not his fault. And back to the track again, I made a mistake going to turn fifth -- I think fifth up at Chicane where I did an off-line trying to overtake another driver, and I went into the dirt side of the track as that corner is very dirty -- was very dirty anyway, so I missed completely the grip on the car and I touched the barriers.
Q. Andre, you've gone into the season with what many would consider two question marks; one being the Honda engine package and the second being the Firestone tires. Can you give us your opinion now after you've gone through a race weekend on what kind of package did you have leading into the season.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, as a fact two question marks, but for me it's very clear that those two question marks are two major companies with a lot of success in motor racing. First is Honda, who did prove all the potential in the past in a lot of different type of racing that they did they won and they were very successful. So I have no doubt that Honda will have the same kind of results that they had in Formula I or Formula II or IMSA they will have in IndyCars. The same with Firestone with so many wins that they had in IndyCars in the past. So I have no doubt in my mind that it will be the same in IndyCars. So those two companies combined with Tazman who also had a lot of success on the last two years, we have a winning combination. So I think it's just a question of time where me as a driver can gain some experience and use all this potential that we have.
Q. Andre, was there any one thing or couple of things that you learned in this first race that you said say to yourself when you get to Australia, that's something I'll never do again?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, I did learn so many things yesterday morning when I was watching the TV. I did a list and this list was almost two pages. So it is incredible. When I did Indy Lights and I finished the season, I really felt that I was ready to go to a race in IndyCars. But I had no idea how many things you need to learn to really go into a race on IndyCars because it is a very complex world where you really need to have experience to explore the best of it. So I did learn a lot of things. If I start to tell you what are the things that I did learn, we'll stay here for a long time.
JOHN PROCIDA: Andre, we're going to go to our friends in Australia. Chris Nixon, do you have any questions for us?
Q. Good morning from Australia to Andre and John and everybody. Andre, I'd like to know how you feel about coming to Australia. You've not raced here before, but what have you heard about this track, and do you think that the experience being on a street course first up at Miami has got to be of some assistance to serve as Paradise rookie.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, good morning.
Q. Good morning.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Definitely coming from a trick course it will be -- but won't be easier but will be more helpful than if I was going to an oval track. I think from what I saw on TV the last two years, the track is a little bit different than Miami, but it's still a trick course. So I think we will definitely use a lot that we learned in Miami to Australia. But again, it's another track that I don't know and it's not a situation that I have to go with a lot of care.
Q. Andre, in talking a little about in your opening comments about how your neck felt even working around the street course in Miami, and after you get back from Australia, I know it's a little bit far ahead to look down the line, but you've got two pretty tough ovals coming up there; you've got Phoenix and then you've got Nazareth which is, you know, kind of the oval that you guys drive like a road course. How has the transition from driving an Indy Lights car translated to your oval testing.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, first of all on the physical points of view I do have very specific and very tough training in Brazil with a person who did assist Emerson Fittipaldi in the past. And we worked very, very hard on a lot of exercises; especially for the neck. But what I did realize in Miami is that because it was my first race, it is very normal that I was very tense, not only because of the first race but also because it was the first race in Miami where there was so many Brazilians and so many Brazilians attending, so I think it was naturally that I would be more tense than the normal. And when you guess tense inside the car you tend to get -- to lose your physical condition sooner. And I felt that I was doing more -- I was holding, especially in my neck, more than I needed. But at times that I didn't support the neck it was fine and then at the end of the practice I was fine again. We did test that at the ovals and I didn't have this problem. So I really feel that after a few races or even after Australia I will be much more relaxed in the car and I will not feel those physical things anymore. So I'm really looking for the next few races on a completely different situation as I will be much more relaxed on the car myself.
Q. Andre, talking about the oval courses, of course the first one you'll see this year will be Phoenix, I noticed that you finished -- well, what did you finish, fourth in the Indy Lights race here last year?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Yes.
Q. Is there much of your experience with Indy Lights that you can carry over into the bigger cars, into the IndyCars?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Yes, I think looking for the test that we did in -- at Phoenix, both Firebird and PIR, I did feel more comfortable on the oval than on the road course because I could concentrate more on driving than thinking about all the new things on the car like sequential gear box and boost and all those things. And we had a very good test at PIR a few weeks ago where we were very, very competitive. So I'm feeling very comfortable to come back to Phoenix, especially for the practice, because I think first we have a good setup for that, and I did view my confidence from the first test we made it. So I would say that from what I had in Indy Lights, I'm bringing a lot of experience. But for sure will be a lot of things to learn. But I think it's closer the experience from Indy Lights to an oval than to a road course. I think there is more to learn on the road course from Indy Lights to IndyCars than to have from Indy Lights to IndyCars on an oval.
JOHN PROCIDA: Australia, do you have anymore questions for us?
Q. No thank you. We also had Chris Hammandson on the line from Honda Australia Magazine, he may have a question at this stage. Andre, just wondering how you think the Honda engine is going for power compared with the Cosworth and Ilmor Mercedes engines and how it will affect you and Surfer's Paradise which is a fairly stump start drag race sort of a track.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: This weekend was the first time that I had the possibility to compare myself with the other cars, because on the most of the other tests that we did we were alone, we were buy ourselves. And for me it's very difficult to compare with other engines because Honda is the only engine that I drove on IndyCar. So the only comparison that I have is with the Indy Lights engine, the 66 (sic), and for sure the power is completely different. But from what I saw in Miami, I think the Honda did incredible job from during the winter and they really have a stronger engine with a lot of power comparing with last year's engine. And I really think that first we'll have to setup the car correctly so we can use all the power of the engine on the ends of the corners because I think we will have a very competitive engine for Australia.
Q. Well, Andre how much oval time did you have in practice and in testing?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: We had three days in PIR only this year.
Q. Andre, about how many days did you in fact test?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: We did test four days at Firebird and three days at PIR, so I think after seven days in total of tests to do what we did in Miami, personally, I think was very good. It's a shame Michael wants to finish the race. Unfortunately we did not finish, but I think in general looking to the times that we did and the things that we did achieve on the weekend was a very positive weekend considering that we had only seven days of tests in total.
Q. Andre, you were talking earlier about, you know, getting used to such things as the sequential gear box and things like that, did you find yourself in the race having to think too much about the mechanics of driving the car and not enough about racing because of that? I mean, you know, were you occasionally distracted or find yourself wondering what gear you're in, things like that? Can you explain what you mean?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Yeah, I think it's very easy to understand. It's like when you buy a new car and you go out for the first few days, you have -- when you want to switch the radio you have to look to the radio and find the button, when you want to switch the lights you have to look to the button to find the light button. After a few months you can do everything all the automatically, you don't need to look anymore to change the things and to turn the radio on and all those kinds of things. It's exactly the same on the race car. So right now, for example, to change the boost I had to think where is the switch button, to look to the speed, for example, or to look to the gear or revs, for example, I still need to look to the dashboard to do those things. So for sure you lose a little bit of your concentration or you could concentrate in different things like track and situations on the racing instead of think about those things inside your cockpit. But I think after a few miles on the car, I will be much more comfortable and I will concentrate more on driving the car on racing than looking on the dashboard or buttons or things like that.
Q. Andre, have a safe trip by the way when you go on. Can you just talk a little about the humongous number of Brazilians that come over here, not just in IndyCars but also Indy Lights and Atlantic and everything else.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, I think the time that I did decide to move to America and to do Indy Lights was probably a coincidence. But the new Brazilians start to look at the American racing as an option instead of Europe. I think the motorsport in Europe is going through a difficult time. It's very expensive. It's very difficult to reach Formula I on a competitive way because of the costs, because of the way Formula I is structured now. And I think the American races are much more not only competitive but cost effective. So it's much more organized for this time. I think Formula I lost a little bit of the reality, especially when you think about the financial situation that the world is going on. And I think IndyCars are more realistic. Together with this, IndyCars in Brazil are on a process to go over from Formula I in terms of audience. There is a new TV network showing IndyCars in Brazil that has 11 points of audience, that is -- I'm sorry, 12 points of audience in this race. That is incredible, it's more than Formula I. So IndyCars is becoming a major success in Brazil. So I think it's naturally that a lot of Brazilians will start to look to America as a serious option to their career.
Q. Andre, with your limited testing that you've had in this car and setup and what have you and jumping right into the first race like that, did the package come together late or -- and do you feel that you -- you're kind of like getting your baptism under fire here. Do you feel that you had enough time to, you know, practice time and testing time under your belt to start the season?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, I think Steve and Robert Clarke can explain to you better about the time we start testing. But for sure it was that we had to change our program by the end of the year. And definitely I think on a medium turn this will give us much better return because we are with a very strong package, stronger than we had originally. For sure I would like to have more tests, but we have to go through our reality and this was the reality that we had. So I have to concentrate more, I have to work hard on myself to eliminate any kind of problems that not testing a lot could come to me. So now I just have to use the practice and the qualifying and the race as a test.
Q. Andre, coming out of Chicane like that in Miami did you find yourself able to stay with like a Mercedes in front of you or a Ford as far as like the drag race to the next corner, I guess would be turn four? I mean, did you find yourself able to, like, stay with those guys powerwise; was the power there.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: I think --
Q. I guess from a pretty low speed up to another high speed.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Yeah, I think it's very difficult to say about Australia because I never drove there before.
Q. No, I meant in Miami.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Yeah, yeah. I would say that in some occasions I feel -- I start to feel that the Honda engine will be stronger than Cosworth engines. But it's very difficult to compare because I was behind not the fastest cars, but I was behind the medium cars. But I can answer -- I will answer better this question after Australia.
Q. Andre, work with me on this if you would. If you project yourself ahead, let's say this is September 1995 and you're now looking back on your first IndyCar season, what kind of bench marks did you set for yourself where you look back on the season and say this was a successful years? What are your goals for this year?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Last year I went through the season without thinking about the next race, I tried to think about the first race, the race I was doing and I think this was the right thing to do. So I'm really trying to do exactly the same this year, especially because there are so many new things for me. So I prefer not to think for the future because I can -- really because I think we have an incredible potential. So for me now even if I think well, I want to finish in the points or I want to win a race or I want to win the championship, I don't know my potential yet. I can imagine some of this potential, but I don't want to project anything. I want really to work on a daily basis and try to improve myself daily because I think we can surprise a lot of people.
Q. Andre, obviously making the transition from the Indy Lights to the IndyCar gobs and gobs of acceleration, how is that going to affect your driving style when you get to a place like that Nazareth? That's not like any other oval you guys drive on the circuit, and I know that you drove it on the Indy Lights. How will you attack that?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: I think exactly like I did on Indy Lights, because when I drove at Nazareth on Indy Lights it was my first race there, we never tested there before and I finished second in the race and I did lead the race for a while. So I want to go to that race, for example, or to all the other races exactly the same way I went when I did Indy Lights; trying to do my best daily. So first practice, try to learn the track, first qualifying, learn the track a little bit more and give me best on the second qualifying on the race; try to use all the experience from the next -- the last two days and try to do the best in the racing.
Q. Thanks. Have a good safe flight.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Thank you.
JOHN PROCIDA: Chris, do we have anymore response from Australia?
Q. I don't think I have anymore from Australia for Andre, thank you.
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. We'll come back to the states. Anymore questions for Andre?
Q. Andre, one quick point, pick up on what you were talking about with Jeremy earlier with regards to the Brazilian popularity of IndyCar. Were you impressed by the number of people from the fans perspective; they were demonstrating the flags and the T-shirts and all the enthusiasm for you. How does that make you feel coming to the States and having that kind of nationalism from your home country?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Well, this is great. I think Miami, for all of the Brazilians, is their home country first because Miami originally is a town with a lot of Latin-Americans and there is a lot of Brazilians around as well. I heard some numbers but I'm not sure that -- I heard there was around 15,000 Brazilians on the race; that is a lot, a lot of people. This shows how the Brazilians are about racing. They are really great fans of motorsports. And everybody is keeping asking me when IndyCars are going to Brazil. And it's a difficult answer for me.
Q. I'm sorry, what did you say? What do you tell them when people ask you when IndyCars are going to Brazil.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: I have no answer for this.
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. Andre, I know that you have a flight to catch.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Uh-huh.
JOHN PROCIDA: We don't want, obviously, for you to miss it. How are you set on time.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: That's fine, I still have 20 minutes.
JOHN PROCIDA: Okay. We'll continue to keep it open for Andre.
Q. Andre, can you talk a little bit about the transitions -- what was the most difficult part of the transition from Indy Lights to IndyCars for you?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: For me particularly I had some problems with getting adapted to the gear box. And on the first test it was really strange to change gears just forward, just in one line instead of using H on the original gear, on the original gear box. So this was the main difficulty for me. The second thing is the power, acceleration and the brakes, the amount of brakes that you can use and -- to stop the car to the corner. Boost is another thing. To get used to the boost. How you change this, how you keep the boost. And the main thing on the race was when I first -- when I first saw all the cars on the track. So the feeling that I had on the start, for example, when I originally came there were so many cars beside me and I had to brake there. It's a completely different feeling for me the Lights. But I have to say that Indy Lights, from my point of view, is a fantastic preparation for IndyCars because you learn so many things on Indy Lights that you can relate to IndyCars that I think is very useful.
Q. Did it change your driving style any; the way you approach things?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: No, it's very, very similar. I don't feel that I had to change something on my driving style. I still use various moves, so I really just have to adapt to the power and the acceleration of those cars.
Q. Andre, with all of the Brazilian drivers, are you particularly close with any of them?
ANDRE RIBEIRO: With all of them. First because Emerson, Raoul, myself and Jieu (sic), we are part of the Marlboro Team, so we are sponsored by Marlboro and we have to participate in a lot of promotions together. So because of this we get close. And Ujimean (sic), Ujimean did help me a lot when I first went to Europe. He helped me to make contacts with teams there, and I would say that he's responsible for me to be here because he was the first one who started to tell me about the IndyCars and the races here. So he did adapt me to come and to see the reality here. So really we are very close one to each other.
JOHN PROCIDA: Do you have anymore questions for Andre? Andre, we want to thank you for being with us tonight and we hope you have a good flight home.
ANDRE RIBEIRO: Thank you very much.
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