Continued from part 2 Q: Robert, the Atlantic Series has always had a great reputation for talented drivers. It's even more so now with the new program, new car, more horsepower. Is there any feeling of intimidation or is your confidence level...
Continued from part 2
Q: Robert, the Atlantic Series has always had a great reputation for talented drivers. It's even more so now with the new program, new car, more horsepower. Is there any feeling of intimidation or is your confidence level such that doesn't bother you at all and you're ready for these guys?
ROBERT WICKENS: Honestly, I don't really feel any intimidation. Then again, I've only tested with John (laughter). I haven't really actually seen how we're actually doing. I feel like I'm doing pretty good.
Coming from the Formula BMW USA Championship, getting an opportunity to win the championship in 2006, it's pretty much given me the most confidence I could have going into the 2007 season. It seems like Formula BMW is like -- like the Champ Car Atlantic Series is the next jump from the Formula BMW series. Being able to be the champion, going up into the Atlantics, it does give me confidence knowing I was the best of people from BMW, and there are quite a few people from BMW moving into Atlantics.
I think we'll see how we all play out in the first official test.
JOHN EDWARDS: I don't feel very much intimidation because I've only tested with Robert (laughter).
But, no, it's great because I think we have one of the best packages in the paddock, just from being with Forsythe. You know, obviously Robert and I are very close in times at each test. We're both good in different places. I think that's going to help us regardless of if we have a veteran driver, if we're both rookies.
I think we both push each other well. We help each other go to the front as far as our driving. Then the engineers and the team management on Forsythe is, I think, the best in the paddock.
It's hard to be intimidated when you're on one of the best teams and you've got some of the best guys working for you.
Q: You're both making a transition up to significantly more powerful, more advanced cars. Tell me a little bit about how the transition has gone so far and what the steepest part of the learning curve thus far has been.
JOHN EDWARDS: The biggest part about moving into Atlantics is the downforce. The hardest part is that the downforce creates such a pull to the ground that in the braking zone you can hit the pedal harder than I've ever hit it before, and the car will actually respond and stop as opposed to locking up the tires. In other cars with less downforce, you hit the brake that hard, you'll immediately lock up the tires.
With this, since it grips so well to the ground, you can really stop the car, as well as in high-speed corners, you just have to trust the car. That's one of the harder things to get used to, but I think both Robby and I are doing very well with that.
ROBERT WICKENS: John pretty much wrapped it up. I mean, the biggest part is the downforce. Your car is basically acts like a vacuum. For me it's been a problem for the BMW, especially with like a flat-bottom car, that it doesn't really matter how you hit the gas or anything like that, as long as you can keep up the speed through the corner, you're fine. With this, the car is much more pitch sensitive. If you hit the gas, you're not getting as much downforce in the front, you get an understeer. There's a lot you can do from inside the car to change the handling. They have the front roll bar you can adjust in the car, which is new to both John and I.
It's a big learning curve, but I think over the four days that we've already done, I know me as a driver, I've improved a lot. I actually did a test in the Atlantic before the Formula BMW World Finals in Valencia. Like John was saying about the brakes, you can put so much pressure on the pedal. I went into Valencia, go into corner two, I hit the brakes, I actually locked up all four tires. Oh, can't do that.
I found the best thing about the car is, coming from the BMW tire, it's cool. Hit the gas, seems like you're moving, where the BMW is actually pretty slow. The braking is the best part. You can get on the pedal. It's just a great feeling. Almost feels coming from the BMW you're driving a Formula One car. I'm wondering what a Formula One car feels like.
Q: You both are pretty new to the cars. You're learning stuff each time out. John said you seem to be different in different parts of the track. Do you have similar driving styles or different driving styles but you're sharing information and learning from each other a lot?
ROBERT WICKENS: I would say we definitely have different driving styles, but we can adapt to each other's. For example, what I think about the test so far, John may think about something else. Seems like John is faster in the high-speed corners, I'm faster in the lower-speed corners. We're kind of complete opposites, but as teammates it's basically perfect because we can learn from each other and make each other stronger in each section.
JOHN EDWARDS: I agree with Robby. He's done very well in the technical sections. I've been a little better in the high-speed stuff. I think that's great. We have a balance. If we can adapt to each other and kind of get better in the areas where the other one is better, we're both going to move forward to the front. So far in the tests we've done that. We've been very close in times.
Although we have a little bit different driving styles, Robby is right, we can adapt to each other's styles in a certain corner. I think that's really good, that we can learn that off each other.
Q: John Brunner, I caught a few minutes of you testing yesterday. When you come to a track like Moroso with two young drivers, is this trying to get seat time for your drivers or are you actually doing some serious testing trying to get some information? If you are, how much information can you get from a track you'll be able to use at another track because you won't be racing here?
JOHN BRUNNER: So far testing with these two, every test we've went to, we've truly been testing. They're already accomplished race drivers. We're not worried about that part. They're adapting to the car. We're in a learning process, the testing process, immediately the first test right off the bat was with a new tire. They were getting used to the car, we were learning the new tire.
For here at Moroso, this is the second time in the past couple months we've been here. We come here with a list of test items that we need to work on. This track, we chose this track here because it is bumpy, it's not great for grip. It wears on the tires quite a bit. That's what we're used to racing in. Those are the conditions we race in. We can learn some things here that will carry forward to other tracks we'll be going to, other street venues and things like this.
Q: You also mentioned the tires this year, Atlantics is going with Cooper tires. How much of a difference is it from last year's tires? How are they holding up compared to last year's tire?
JOHN BRUNNER: This tire is going to be wonderful for the series. It's a softer compound, so it cures one of the handling problems with the Atlantic car right off the bat. But also it peaks pretty quick, quicker than the Yokohama did. Once it peaks, like I said, it peaks very quickly, it just levels out and it's going to be a wonderful race tire. I'm looking forward to it. I think the racing is going to be better.
I think this tire will also bring some strategy back into qualifying because the tire does peak quicker. These guys are going to have to go out and get their qualifying lap in immediately on new tires, which is going to bring a little strategy into the qualifying sessions.
Q: You mentioned it has a softer compound. What was the handling problem last year?
JOHN BRUNNER: The Atlantic car, the 08 and the 014, the new car before, and the new car, the 016, those cars have always understeered. This new tire has helped that right away. It's taken a lot of the understeer away from the car. Makes the car probably easier to drive in some situations, but it's balanced the car, which is nice. You're able to start going some other directions on some of your other setup stuff because you're not always chasing this understeering situation.
I think the cars, ultimately everyone will be faster. I think the cars will be faster. The tire wears wonderful. These tires go forever. It's a really nice combination with the car and the tire.
MERRILL CAIN: For both of the drivers, before we let you go. Coming into the Atlantic Championship, steep task for you, with the experience you have had, certainly you're ready for it on the racetrack, but some of the stuff off the racetrack, do you think working with each other, coming in as you are both rookies into the series, both young drivers, in with the same team, the Red Bull background you both share, some of the stuff dealing with off the track, being away from the parents, traveling on the road, do you think that's going to help you adapt to life in Atlantic land once the season gets going this year?
JOHN EDWARDS: I've been living in Europe for two years. When I first moved over, my mom went with me. She was kind of back and forth. I was alone most of the time. Then this year I was pretty much living alone. Although I did live with my teammates, a couple mechanics. But my parents were normally not there.
I think it's going to be easier next year because I'll be living at home, just traveling to the races.
ROBERT WICKENS: For me, obviously I've lived at home pretty much all my life except for when I'm in hotels. But so far, honestly I don't feel a difference from my parents being at the track or when they're not at the track because my parents, they always just give me my space. On race day, I almost wouldn't see them at all because we're always so busy looking at data, trying to find out how to get quicker.
When my parents are there, I don't even know they're there. I haven't really noticed a difference.
I am moving to Indianapolis fairly soon, in the new year. That will be great for me. I'll be able to be at the shop, train as much as I can to try to make myself the best driver I can for 2007.
MERRILL CAIN: Again, echoing the comments earlier in the call, you both certainly display a level of maturity well beyond your ages. We're looking forward to see what you can do in the New Year. Thank you all for joining us on the call today. That's ust about going to wrap up our time on the Champ Car Atlantic media teleconference. I would like to thank Robert Wickens, John Edwards, John Brunner and Peter Davies of Forsythe Racing for joining us on today's call. Thank you gentlemen and Happy Holidays.