Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car, The Milwaukee Mile
ADAM SAAL: The historic Wisconsin State celebrates 100 years of racing action in 2003 with this Saturday's race marking the 102nd champ car event held on the legendary oval. The first one was way back in 1933. It is also the first time that CART will field competition at night, and we have with us today Adrian Fernandez, the 2002 Milwaukee Mile pole sitter and race runner-up, as well as a couple of representatives from Musco Lighting, Jerome Fynaardt, who is the mobile sales manager and Terry Haskel, who is the event manager and they can talk about how we can supply the lighting for drivers like Adrian and the others to do their stuff in what will be an historic event for us and we look forward to it. We'll get started with Adrian. Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to join us today.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: This will be a new experience for you racing with the other drivers. Talk a little about the anticipation. It's always interesting; new racers like to try new things, and I don't think you've had any testing experience or any racing experience -- you're going to run under the lights. Tell me how much you are looking forward to it.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It's going to be very interesting. I think it's going to be great for the fans. It is absolutely magic when they race at night. I think it's very special for the anniversary especially now with the new grandstands and everything. I'm sure I have never raced under the lights at night. I raced -- I finish up my career racing with the lights on the car a little bit like 24 hours at LeMans without the lights on the racetrack. I don't see any problems, I see more of a problem, not problem but just for the driver to get used to it basically running in cold conditions. There's a little bit in the weather forecast that we may be under low 50s, and that's the only thing. So my girlfriend was giving me the bottled water on the pits; she's going to give me hot chocolate. It's going to be great to race in this new configuration.
ADAM SAAL: Adrian is the driver of the No. 51 Lola Ford-Cosworth for Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex. His best showing this year was at Long Beach. Talk about your season so far and you are obviously going back to a track on which you performed incredibly well last year. You're not in top on the points at this stage, but can the championship be in reach for you as we start the balance of the season?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think so. I mean, we are trying to make some changes, but we have the consistency that we need for the championship. Like you said, last year we were dominant through the whole weekend. We just had that problem at the start of the race, but we had a good car so hopefully we can bring that. Obviously the configuration is a little bit different. We have a lot more downforce and less power, so that's going to make it easier to pass. But it's going to make it a more exciting race. I hope that our base from last year is going to transfer into this year. In terms of this year, it's been a little bit up-and-down. We had good results in Monterrey and then at Long Beach. We were looking forward to good races after coming back from very strong testing sessions we had in Portland and Phoenix. Unfortunately we just made a mistake on the way we picked our configuration for both races. Basically that left me with no chance of being competitive in Germany. But I think we can get back into these next few races and the changes that we are working towards the future and being pretty strong at the end of the year.
ADAM SAAL: I need to mention at this point that it's quite possible we are going to be joined by Emerson Fittipaldi, the 1989 champ car titleist who made announcement for his racing team earlier today. And a couple minutes from now, I think we'll have him join us for some breaking news related to that announcement and we look forward to that. One final question for you before we move on to our friends from Musco. Everybody is running the same power this year, yet there still seems to be quite a bit of leeway in the times that you see on the grid. Has it been a problem with everybody having the same equipment or do you still see it as competitive as ever?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I think it's very competitive. The thing you saw in Germany was that people picked the configuration for Brands Hatch and whatever it is you think was going to be right or wrong at Germany. Even if you knew you were wrong in Germany, you could not do anything. That's why you saw the difference between some drivers and the leaders. But I don't see that's going to happen in the next races. You are going to see more competitive with, obviously, top teams like Newman Haas and Players. They are strong teams that are always going to be there, with their experience and people and everything. Even though the equipment is very similar you are always going to have a little bit of an edge just because of the expertise and everything. It's just always you're going to be able to get an edge on everybody if you work hard, to make the car competitive. So the only thing that we have to do with the rest of the team is try to close that gap. I believe these next race is going to be very competitive. We are hoping with this new elevation on Milwaukee and running at night, hopefully the temperature will be consistent. It will be good for passing. It allows the drivers to hopefully go side-by-side like in the old days on this track. This was one of the tracks in the old days that you could pass. That's what Chris Pook and his team have been able to try to do with these new rules which makes for good racing. And all of the fans that come to see us at night for the first time in history on this track is going to be very happy with the results.
ADAM SAAL: This is a history-making event and Adrian and his colleagues will take to the track tomorrow night. It's a Thursday/Friday/Saturday event. The race will be live on SPEED Channel Saturday under the lights. And the people that are going to provide it are the top group in the industry for supplying Major League lighting projects such as this. It's Musco Lighting based in Iowa, I believe and we are delighted to have Jerome Fynaardt and Terry Haskel with us. Jerome, a question for you. This project came about basically late but we're going to see your best in this action. What can the fans and the drivers expect on Saturday night?
JEROME FYNAARDT: I think both the fans and drivers are going to be real thrilled with what we have put together as far as the lighting needs for both the drivers, the fans, the television, both for a good show for them to see quality and also safety for the drivers. The guys have been up there, they started setting up last week. They are putting some of the final fine-tuning, so to speak, on the lights tonight and tomorrow night. We are just going to try to see how everything looks.
ADAM SAAL: Take us back to the beginning. Chris Pook had the idea of taking two of our most historic and well-known events, both the Milwaukee Mile Race and the Cleveland Grand Prix, as he said, giving the lady a new set of clothes; trying a new promotional activity this year with the lighting. Again, it was other a couple months ago that we announced this. How long does it take from the engineering drawings to actually taking the trucks to the facility to do this process correctly?
JEROME FYNAARDT: Once there was some first mention of this, we started putting things on the drawing board already and getting the layouts of the track and of the airport or whatever for Cleveland where the other CART race is going to be held and start figuring out equipment needs and stuff like that. And as we got closer to putting the thing together with CART and Chris and everybody that's involved with the whole project, we were fairly up to speed with what we were going to and what equipment we would need in the future.
ADAM SAAL: How does the Milwaukee compare to other projects?
JEROME FYNAARDT: The equipment and stuff that we have are going to be used at Milwaukee is comparable to what we did in the past, like three Super Bowls would be a good comparison; that, and when we used to light Bristol on a temporary basis, it's about -- it's almost three Bristols, I guess, International Raceways on the 5/8ths mile we used down there. The one good thing with Milwaukee is it's fairly close here to Iowa where we are based out of, and that helps a little about the. We have been able to go out and take a few short trips to look at the facility, and we have done one test up there.
ADAM SAAL: How are the lights transported? Are they brought in on individual units or are do you have to truck them out?
JEROME FYNAARDT: Most of the trucks of our own that we have got up there all come in on truck-mounted units, cranes, with their own generator. So it is a complete self-contained unit. Just about all of the equipment itself are all remote control fixtures, so once we put them up in the air, we could pan them left-to-right up and down and also spot and plug the units.
ADAM SAAL: How many people in total? How many units and how many people in total to make the operation run?
JEROME FYNAARDT: We have 14 of what we all our Musco lights, which is the 6,000-watt lamp units. We've got five of the temp light units which are helping to light pit row. And all together with the crew, there's about 20.
Q. Jerome, you made the comparison to Super Bowl level. What do you mean by that in terms of the amount of lighting, the amount of time and preparation, the expenditure? What do you mean by that? And were you guys involved with Ground Zero lighting; is that correct?
JEROME FYNAARDT: Correct. As far as the comparison to Super Bowl and some of the other projects, it's basically the equipment-wise, as far as needs and stuff. As far as like at Ground Zero, we had five of these units lighting up the Ground Zero in New York. We've got 14 of them up here at the Milwaukee one. So when it is comparing equipment needs rather than actual lighting needs, so to speak -- obviously Super Bowls, when you get into NFLs and stuff like that and the Major League light level and things like that are very highly needed for cameras, for slow-mos and stuff like that.
Q. And you said you have five of the 6,000-watt units?
JEROME FYNAARDT: We have 15 Musco lights, and they have 15 6,000-watt lamps on each unit, so there's 90,000 watts per unit.
ADAM SAAL: Can you give us a comparison? Those are impressive numbers, but as far as the lighting capability for something that has 90,000 watts of power, exactly how much of a punch are we talking here?
JEROME FYNAARDT: I know that when we did some of the comparison back and forth with the trucks that are actually going to be there with all 14 of them, it would be the equivalent of 250,000 car headlights or nearly 284,000 household lamps.
ADAM SAAL: How far can these units project their light? Obviously you'll have them focused on the racing and pit areas, but do you turn them on and let them shine straight out, how far can you see?
JEROME FYNAARDT: You can see them up to a couple miles away easily.
ADAM SAAL: So these are going to get the job done.
JEROME FYNAARDT: These are going to get the job done.
Q. Is there any difference, you said you worked at Bristol with lighting in terms of working with stock cars versus the CART cars, in terms of what they needed technology-wise and how much lighting, etc.?
JEROME FYNAARDT: Now, as far as comparing between Bristol and Milwaukee, we pretty much went under the same technical needs of what we thought both the drivers and television and spectators would need. Obviously through the years, we have led a number of tracks on the permanent basis at Daytona, Charlotte, Atlanta, a number of the racetracks on a permanent basis. Through the years, we have learned more and more on the permanent side and we have just adapted some of those engineering things that we have learned over the years to the temporary side for the racetrack.
ADAM SAAL: One of the questions I have for you, and maybe Terry this would be better for you, the first time you use your permanent lighting structures , the cooperation between the drivers and the Musco lighters, it was kind of unexpected. Can you share that story with us?
TERRY HASKEL: This was a NASCAR race that was held in Atlanta and we had partially finished the track for a day-event and had not actually fine-tuned or final-aimed any of light fixtures themselves, and we had a tremendous rain delay in Atlanta that year. I'm trying to recall the year exactly. It had to be four years ago or so, five years ago. The first race we did there. It got to the point where they had to decide whether to go ahead with the race or call us. They held a drivers meeting and the drivers said: "We've driven in Musco's work before, so we think it's going to be okay. Let's run the race." And, in fact, that's what happened.
ADAM SAAL: So definitely trial by fire there, and it worked out well. It's a good testament to how ready you guys are for your jobs and it's going to be outstanding. We do have Emerson Fittipaldi joining us right now and.
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: How are you doing? Just ready to go to Milwaukee.
ADAM SAAL: So is Adrian Fernandez who joins you here today. And we have two of our friends from Musco Lighting, Jerome Fynaardt and Terry Haskel, and they are talking about how we are going to get the facility ready to go. Before we get on with the conversation more extensively with our lighting and the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 50, share with us the sponsorship announcement that you and your team made earlier today and talk about how you feel about it.
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, I'm very, very happy that we got a deal with Carrera. It is one of the most traditional sunglasses manufacturers and name in the sunglass industry. It is a prestigious name. I am very happy that Fittipaldi will be sponsored by Carrera now. I think the type of public, the spectators that enjoy and enjoy CART is what Carrera wants and what Carrera needs, and I think we can make a great job with Carrera and it's going to be a great synergy between our team, Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing, Carrera and CART. I'm very, very pleased to announce that.
ADAM SAAL: In the press release that was distributed, they do supply goggles for other sports competition, motorcycle racing and so forth. Any plan to get a little scientific or technological with the motor sports application?
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: Well, Carrera is very much involved in downhill skiing, snowboarding, and I'm sure they will look in the future to get technical in motor sports when needed. I'm sure motorcycle definitely will get involved. I think our No. 1 thing is the spectator we reach, not just in America, but international. They have to join us and I'm sure we are going to have a great effort together to deliver what Carrera expects from us, from our racing from our team and from our series.
ADAM SAAL: Congratulations, Emerson. The announcement is that Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing joins Carrera Sport USA to sign a sponsorship agreement for the team. And the car is driven by Tiago Monteiro from Portugal, and looking forward to him having a change of luck. He has had some struggled races. Even in Monterrey he came to a halt before the race even got started. Any advice for your rookie driver?
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: First, I would like to say that this deal was orchestrated and done by Graphite Marketing (ph), our friend -- inaudible -- I know him for many, many years and he is very well known in marketing. I would like to thank him for the great job he did in putting the deal together. As you mentioned, we are going to , we are hoping that the surface will be smoother and we can run our chassis low to the ground and get maximum downforce from the chassis and be able to be competitive. Had a very positive experience in Germany. Tiago was aggressive, first time he was driving in an oval. With the limitations of the Reynard chassis, he did an outstanding race in Germany. I was very, very pleased. In Milwaukee, he'll be able to drive aggressive on the short mile. On a one-mile oval, you have to be extremely aggressive driver. I always say, it's one of the most tense type of driving because just you are cornering most of the time in a very aggressive way because you still can be aggressive, the car on the track and you still have a very good chance -- it's not like a high-speed oval that's not forgiving. I think he can do a good job in Milwaukee.
ADAM SAAL: It was a good job in Germany. He did very well. Talk about his experience on ovals in general. Was this year the first time he's ever been on an oval track?
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: First time he's been on an oval track. We experience Las Vegas Speedway just three weeks before going to Germany. He did a very good test in Las Vegas. He went very fast and he enjoyed the ovals, because I always say to the driver, love it or hate oval track. It cannot be both. Tiago loves to driver oval. I'm sure it will be a new experience and I hope we can give a good car for him.
ADAM SAAL: Are these lights going to be so bright they are going to need to wear shades? Are we going to see these new Carreras at nine o'clock at night?
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I have myself a yellow, Carrera that you can -- it will clear your vision at night; that I am taking special at Milwaukee to test.
Q. Adrian, explain, if you will, for those of us who will never drive on a track like Milwaukee, what it's like to be on this one-mile track ? I've heard some drivers say it's almost driving inside of a basketball arena.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: In terms of what, the speed?
Q. The closeness of everything.
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To be honest, Milwaukee is one of the nicest drives to drive. It is a track that it doesn't have much banking in. In the past, the way the configuration we had allowed a lot of passing and side-by-side racing. It's always been one of the best tracks in that respect. For a few years we went away from that, trying to -- we had different configurations that we had with the wings and all that. And now with these new configuration of high downforce and the power controlled by Ford, we are going to go back to the old days. Just driving this track at the high downforce, it's fantastic. As a driver, that's what you are always looking for. The way we had it before, you had to -- the cars were very fast on this straight with the low downforce and you have to break a lot into the corner and you cannot see the speed on the corner. But now, we have close to 2,000 pounds of downforce more than before. We are probably going to go flat-out through turns 1 and 2 and that's that really makes an exciting race. If we can add some side-by-side racing, it's going to make great racing.
Q. You mentioned consistency. Talk about what you think the team needs in order to get over the hump and find that most important word in racing, and that is "consistency".
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We have developed a very strong team where we are still very -- we have a lack of experience in our engineering department, and that's where mistakes and attention to details has been left aside and that's where we have been focusing. The mistakes we did in Germany and England cannot happen if you want to challenge for the championship. So that's where what has been hard for us to be strong on the engineering side, and basically that's where most of the teams, they always work harder in trying to get that side strong. But you have to get the people to be able to work together and to understand each other, etc., Etc. That has been one of our problems, so we have made some changes in the way we are going to work and make things happening. So, we can be more consistent. We know we can be fast, but we need to be fast consistently if you want to be a challenger for the championship. So sometimes it's frustrating. And I can't blame the owner; I am the owner, and these things are sometimes hard to understand. There's more pressure and all that. But also at the same time, the challenge of these things, that's what makes it exciting and I know we are going to get over the hump and be competitive again.
Q. You mention the fact that you can't say anything to the owner because you are the owner, but do you find yourself sometimes as a driver telling yourself the owner, "What the heck are you doing, I need some more help here"?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To be honest, it's been harder than I thought to do both things. It's hard to be a driver and knowing that there is problems and just not do anything. So it's been harder because you have the whole pressure, you have pressure in terms of the results of the driver and as an owner. I think the hardest part of being an owner/driver has been already done and now we have to get over these problems and try to -- the hardest part is done. The thing is we have a group of mechanics and now we just have to put it together correctly and work. You can never give up because sometimes it can be around the corner, or the answers. You give up, you may give up big things for the future. So we have fallen under tough times and we are just hoping that good times will start coming. I think it's more difficult being a race car driver than an owner and hope all of the things we are doing will turn into results.
ADAM SAAL: Emerson is no stranger to the owner/driver concept. He has reserved his role now restricted to owner, retiring from competition. What's been your biggest eye-opening experience as a champ car owner for the first time this year?
EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think what Adrian says it correct. To put a team together with good people motivated and I think I was very fortunate that the last minute organization, because very close to the race, we were able to put a very good team of people together. We are all very motivated. I think that's changed the whole synergy, the whole effort on the team. My partner, James Dingham is doing a very good job with sponsors and bringing new people to motor racing that had never been involved. I think one thing we need to bring in more of these people to get involved in motor racing. It's a tough time for everybody. That's been our biggest challenge so far this year. And I have a very good relationship with Eric Thatcher (ph). He is doing a great job. He has been a very tough situation for him to put a team together under his roof, so we work on the same roof but he's been doing a great job with us and I'm very, very pleased. It's a new situation that we've put together but if we can be working a little faster, we can be competitive this year. I think there's a lot of challenge and you always have new experiences.
Q. You've had quite a bit of success at Milwaukee in the low downforce configuration. Do you think you have a handle on preparation for the higher downforce?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I hope so. Our basic setup in some respects; should always work when you go back to the same rack track. It is a setup that has worked for us on different occasions. Now the car has a lot more downforce. Before, you have to make the car work more mechanically and aerodynamically. Now the car is basically aerodynamically -- setup because of the amount of downforce you have on the wings. So there is going to be some changes, but I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to get to the setup that we -- the, the car in the configuration and hopefully be as fast as we were last year.
Q. Most of us are familiar with the permanent facilities that use a reflective system on the in-field. How much different will it look to the spectators and the drivers?
JEROME FYNAARDT: There really won't be any noticeable difference. The one thing that has been done a lot -- I guess the biggest difference between the permanent systems that are currently installed, a lot of the NASCAR tracks and things, a good chunk of that is a lot of it is two-directional lighting. The poles and stuff that are used on a permanent installation in the fixtures, there's more poles, more locations for lighting and the lights are not as high as wattage, where we are using less locations and higher wattage. The levels and stuff that are going to be on the track are going to be real comparable to those on other tracks around, so there shouldn't be a lot of noticeable difference as far as the spectators and fans go.
Q. Jerome, how did you arrive at a figure for Milwaukee and Cleveland when the NASCAR tracks are lit?
JEROME FYNAARDT: The way that we have lit for the Milwaukee and the Cleveland tracks, the major difference is going to Cleveland first. It's more of a road course and we have a lot of two-directional lighting at that. I guess as far as the difference in the levels, when we arrive at speaking with CART and Chris, the main objective was to have a safely-lit facility for the drivers. That was obviously the number-one key for the whole thing. Both putting packages together for both the cars, for both the CART races that were going to be decent levels for the drivers, as well as the spectators, and also for television was taken into consideration when we put everything together. The light levels that we're looking at, I was going to shoot for a 50-foot candle level at most of them at both tracks and from the -- what we are getting out of the guys up in Milwaukee right now, we are actually going to be above those levels.
Q. Not so much more Milwaukee but Cleveland, what are the contingency plans if you find that you don't have enough lighting, especially on that road course, specifically since it is a road cars and since it is so large?
JEROME FYNAARDT: The one good thing that we have here at our engineering facilities at Musco is we are able to actually -- we know what the output of the lamps and stuff are and we know where our lighting locations are going to be and with putting that in together on engineering drawings with the tracks themselves, we get a very accountable light level that we are going to end up having at both facilities.
Q. Especially the sharp-right-hand turn at 1, I know we spoke back in November and December, and I mentioned there would be enough spill-over on it. Perhaps Adrian can also address this. What happens when they do run-off and all of a sudden they are in the lead at 170 miles an hour with very little light?
JEROME FYNAARDT: There is going to be plenty of light everywhere. I don't think there's going to be a problem for anybody. The driver standpoint is when they run off the track itself as far as enough light to see where they are going. I think once everybody sees how much these units -- 14 of these units up in Milwaukee is going to light up just the infield. When there's nothing actually aimed in the infield, you are going to be very surprised to realize what we can do with these units and how much spill light, so to speak, is going to be off of the track.
Q. In case there is a problem in Cleveland, given what happened at Surfer'S Paradise last year with the rain delay and not having the track for the next day, are there contingency plans where the race can be run on the Sunday if indeed they find they cannot run on Saturday night?
ADAM SAAL: We have contingencies in place to get the race in on Saturday. We are dealing with the best people in the business here and we'll have plenty of time to test these lights and make sure they work adequately. If you just look at their credentials, we know we have what it takes.
Q. The weather forecast for this weekend looks a little iffy. What are the plans if it should happen to rain Saturday night?
ADAM SAAL: Well, our general rain policy is to run next available opportunity, which is generally the following morning of the race. Would that mean we wouldn't use the lights? In this case, obviously we wouldn't if it was a day race. But then the objective becomes in the event of a rain out on Saturday night to get the race in the next available opportunity. Thank you very much. Appreciate you taking the time out of your schedules, as well as your travel stay to join us, and we look forward to a great event in Milwaukee, as well as a great event in Cleveland under the powered Musco lights coming up this weekend for Milwaukee and a couple weeks from now in Cleveland.
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