Continued from part 1 Q: Three races, two different kinds of cars, not the greatest experience. GRAHAM RAHAL: No, no, but experience is experience. I mean, I have to say Formula BMW, I had my best qualifying of the entire season there. Ran...
Continued from part 1
Q: Three races, two different kinds of cars, not the greatest experience.
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, no, but experience is experience. I mean, I have to say Formula BMW, I had my best qualifying of the entire season there. Ran right up front. Star Mazda, you know, we were very quick. Probably I think we had a good chance of winning the race if we hadn't gotten taken out. We were clearly the quickest in the afternoon sessions. Just being able to say I've driven a hundred laps there is more than most people can say. That's what's most important.
Q: Graham, obviously you're going to wait and see what happens with the race this weekend, the championship to be decided, but regardless of results, do you have any other tests planned coming up over the winter months with any more Champ Car teams?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I think -- if I have a deal in Champ Car, I think it will be announced fairly soon. Whichever team that's with, that's who I'll be testing with. I mean, at this point we all know that you can test the old car until I think it's December 15th. Basically once your motors run out, you're done. I don't know. We'll see. I will be testing, continue to test, but probably with the team I'll race with next year. We'll see what happens there.
Q: I've seen where your times were fairly quick at Sebring. Can you talk about the adjustment of going from the Atlantic 300 horsepower to 800 horsepower car.
GRAHAM RAHAL: You know, I've got to say that being in a Newman/Haas car has to make it easier. They obviously have a great setup. The biggest difference is the power and the speed on the back straightaway. At Sebring, it's 30 miles an hour difference. That's about it.
Really the guys did a great job there. The car was fairly -- I was very happy with the car. Therefore, made it a lot easier. I was a lot more comfortable in the car. Therefore, the transition was nowhere near as difficult as it may be for most people.
Q: Simon, in your situation, I've heard from Derrick Walker that he has an interest in retaining you next year. Perhaps if he got his wish, he'd have you in a Champ Car. Do you think you might have a test with any of the Champ Car teams? Will it depend on whether you are actually able to get the championship coming up at Elkhart?
SIMON PAGENAUD: First of all, I think I may have a test day with Walker Racing at the end of the year because it was something we planned together. I may have a test like this. Then we will see. It's up to the championship if I take it. I don't know yet what's it's going to do. I don't know the money, where the money is going to be spent, by who, how it's going to work. I can't say a word on that because I don't know anything about it.
Actually I would say for sure if Team Australia can propose me a very good program, I'd like to stay with them. But I can't say anything because I don't know anything about that.
Q: Graham, as you go into this weekend, is it your mindset you have to get every point you can get? Will you explain what's going into your mind? I'd like Simon to answer that, too. Simon could cruise in second place and win the championship. I wanted to know what's on your minds as you head into this winner-take-all situation.
GRAHAM RAHAL: For me, that's basically it. I just need to go win. I'd like to say it's a lot easier -- it's easier said than done to just cruise in second. It's not going to be an easy task. At the same time, you know, we've seen people have bad weekends, whether it's me or Simon or whoever. If that happens to one of us, it's going to obviously make it fairly interesting and throw a little extra, I don't know, spark into the mix. It's going to be a challenging weekend.
I think for me the pressure's really off, like I said. I can't go backwards in points. Second is as far back as I can go. I already have the most race wins, most poles. I'm leading prize money by a fair chunk. I have everything else covered. I just need to win this championship. That's all I have to do really.
Q: Simon, you don't necessarily have to win the race to win the championship. How does that change your psychological makeup going into this?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I absolutely agree with you, I don't need to win this weekend. But I'd like to because the team has worked so well for that, so it would be a great gift I could give to them. Winning a race, it's always a very good gift for everyone.
I'll thinking about that for sure. But if there is no pressure, I'm second behind Graham, I'm just going to stay there. If Graham is not that quick, I'm going to try to pass him for sure because I am a racer and I really want to win. That's it. I think when you have the car, you just want to win. It's just a matter of being a racing driver.
Q: What have you learned about yourself this season? This has been an incredible season in many respects, one of which is you could have won three or four more races like the Liberty Challenge, whatever it's called. What have you learned about yourself as a race car driver?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I have to say when I came into the season, being 17 years old, I sat there even looking at like Matos, these guys, they've got a lot of experience, age, everything he is on me. I didn't expect to win five races, let alone, as you say, I think if I hadn't got taken out of Portland, the same at Toronto, those are two tracks that are very difficult to pass on, and those are the two tracks where I absolutely had the best car, would have just run away with the race. Those were two places where if I could take it back, obviously at Portland I'd be less conservative.
I've learned that I can be competitive, that I can win races. I learned how to win races and I've learned the limits of the car. It's helped me because everything I've jumped into, even the Champ Car last week, I immediately could find the limits of what it can do, and therefore that brought me up to speed extremely quickly.
I think that was proven when I jumped into the IPS car. I felt very confident in the car. Obviously, I had a good car there, as well. Immediately we were competitive. That should have been a race I won. We've had a lot of those this year.
I would say the biggest disappointment for me was San Jose obviously. If I had just finished second, which I was perfectly happy doing, I would have been leading the championship right now. At the same time that's another learning experience. Now I can put that behind me and just move on.
Q: How many classes are you taking? What is your situation high school-wise?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I'm taking four classes at this point in time because I've worked extremely hard the last couple years to make sure that I could have an easier year this year. We've been in school three weeks now. I've been there four days. I have a full AG1 schedule this year. I know it's not going to get any better. I purposely did that. I'm not going to say that any of them are easy classes. I'm not just cruising through. I really feel that my racing, the opportunities I've gotten, have really taken off recently. It's something I need to focus on a lot more than I've had to in the past.
Q: Simon, have you and the team worked out all the different points and areas in terms of knowing where you're going to be in the race and how hard you have to push to win the championship or are you just going to go all out for the win?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think first of all we need to see how we go in practice and then with we look at every part of the track, where we are fast, where we are slow, try to work on the slow parts, make the car the best we can and try to win this race. That's the only goal of everyone in the team actually. Then for sure I will think about the championship. Yeah, first of all, the first goal is to win the race for sure.
Q: You won't be happy with second or third place?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I say is up to where is Graham during the race. I would be happy if I'm in front of Rahal. I would be happy every time I would be in front of him for this race only. Even if I'm just behind him, that's the only matter, if I want to win the championship. For sure, the first goal is to win the race, then it's up to the setup we have on the car. If the car is really good, we try to win the race. If the car is not good, we do the position we can do and we'll see.
Q: Graham, you've had an opportunity to drive a number of different cars in the last year. Which one was most exciting?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I have to say that the Atlantic car has suited my style very well. I've always been one of the more smooth drivers out there. I think this car really rewards that, whereas I've driven some other cars like the Star Mazda which didn't. Certainly I would say the most exciting would have to be the Champ Car. The power, everything else, just makes it really enjoyable. Certainly the Atlantic car, obviously having the success I've had in it, that's probably the one I have enjoyed the most or I should say the most emotional connection to because I've had a lot of success and really enjoyed driving it.
Q: You were on track in Sebring last week with the new Champ Car. Although they supposedly are not trying for fast times with the new car yet, were you able to gauge at all the performance of that car compared to the Lola you were in? Was that car beating you at certain places in the track?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No. Well, certainly not. Like you said, they're not going for speed. You can see that. They're not making adjustments. What they're trying to do is run it until something breaks. I have to say nothing broke. Obviously they've done their job. That's their goal right now. I have to say that the car with the paddle shift and everything, it sounds great, downshifts really well. I think it's going to be a good series next year. The new car is going to add a lot of excitement.
I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that the car will be able to match the speeds of the Lola. Technology has advanced a lot since the Lola was built. I think in the interest of Champ Car, they can't make it so it's slower. We'll see what happens. For me being there, again, they weren't going for speed and I was. I would say that was the biggest difference.
Q: What are your plans between now and the end of the year? What projects do you have between now and the end of the year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: For myself we'll see at the end of this race how it's going to go. I might try to go on do some endurance race to see how it is, see some friends coming here and racing the Petit Le Mans. I'd like to see that. If I can drive, that would be great. After that, I just want to see how it can go for the next year, try to make the contract signed as quickly as I can.
GRAHAM RAHAL: For me, I would say much the same. I would hope a contract would be signed very soon. A1GP is something I have to focus on. My contract there is for eight races. I'll be busy with those. Also I have a few opportunities in sports cars. Hopefully I'll be at Daytona and possibly Sebring. We'll see.
I'll certainly be busy with A1. I think my first race will be Czech Republic in three weeks time. I'll be busy from there on out.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car Atlantic media teleconference. Again, thanks to Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal for joining us today. Guys, best of luck next weekend at Road America.