CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford Racing finale notes

FORD-COSWORTH CAPTURES ITS FIRST MANUFACTURERS' TITLE SINCE 1995 - In a battle of attrition that saw only six of the 26 cars that started the race take the checkered flag, Ford-Cosworth clinched the CART Manufacturers' Championship with a one-two...

FORD-COSWORTH CAPTURES ITS FIRST MANUFACTURERS' TITLE SINCE 1995 - In a battle of attrition that saw only six of the 26 cars that started the race take the checkered flag, Ford-Cosworth clinched the CART Manufacturers' Championship with a one-two finish at the California Speedway. Christian Fittipaldi claimed his first victory of the season, and the second of his career, while Roberto Moreno survived to finish second. Gil de Ferran clinched the drivers' championship with a third-place finish, while rookie Casey Mears and Adrian Fernandez rounded out the top five. The win was the seventh of the season for Ford-Cosworth and its first manufacturers' title since 1995 when Jacques Villenueve won four races and became the second-youngest champion in CART history at age 24.

CASEY MEARS JOINS IMPRESSIVE LIST - By leading 10 laps in Sunday's race, Casey Mears became just the fourth driver in CART history to lead the field in his first race. Others who have accomplished the feat include former driver Nigel Mansell and current rookies Kenny Brack and Alex Tagliani, who did it this season. Interestingly enough, all four of these drivers were powered by Ford-Cosworth when they led their first race.

BRUCE WOOD (CART Program Manager - Cosworth Racing) - WITH THE RACE STOPPING YESTERDAY, WHAT HAS THE LAST 24 HOURS BEEN LIKE FOR YOU? "Only running the first 33 laps yesterday, we were pretty happy at the end of that. It's obvious that the two Newman-Haas cars were very fast, and although we had a problem with Michael's (Andretti) car we were sure we could fix it if the race was stopped. Then the race was stopped and it was a lucky break for us and Michael, although it's a sad today that we wasn't able to finish the race. But we really didn't lose too much sleep last night. We checked all the engines we had out there and were confident that they were quite good and safe. We didn't make any changes at all last night figuring that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm very sad for Alex Barron, that's a terrible shame, and Max (Papis) as well. But at the end of the race with only five cars running and only one of them not a Ford-Cosworth, I think that's a testament to what we can do here because it was a huge race of attrition with a lot of cars falling out. We wish we could've also won the drivers' championship, but it's a fantastic accomplishment for Gil (de Ferran). It's great to win the race and it's great to win the manufacturers' championship so we'll just have to aim for the drivers' championship next year."

WHAT EMOTIONS ARE YOU FEELING HAVING WON THE FIRST MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP FOR FORD AND COSWORTH SINCE 1995? "I don't think it's really sunk in yet. Relief, more than anything, that's it's over. We got what we came for, which was the manufacturers' title, and to top it off with a race victory is great. And it's great win for Christian as well. I shook his hand before the race and told him, 'let's make it a good last one of the year.'"

HOW DIFFICULT HAS THIS SEASON BEEN FOR YOU AND COSWORTH RACING? "It's been a very, very challenging year and hopefully everybody back in the UK and down the road in Torrance (CA) will be partying because it's those guys who have really put in a huge effort. People have been working 20-hour days to try and get these engines built, and it's been really difficult to support 10 cars all season. But it's days like today that make the effort pay off - of 26 starters only five cars were still running and four of them were ours. When we began the season we knew there would be days when it would be hard and days when it would be worth it, and this is one of those days that makes it worth it. But I have to say that I feel really bad for Alex Barron and the entire Dale Coyne Racing team because that was a terrible shame with such a short distance to go. They've been loyal customers of ours for years and years and it would've been really nice to see them get a podium result."

WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE IN LOOKING AT NEXT SEASON? "Obviously we had two failures in this race, maybe three, which is two or three too many, but looking up and down the pit lane the other guys had at least as many. I think we're all striving so hard now and with the competition between the manufacturers so strong that to have races in the future with no engine failures I think will be almost impossible. But we have work to do on reliability, and that's very much at the top of our minds. I know I've said that all season, but it still remains the top priority. Over the winter we want to make this thing a little more solid - basically it's there, but we want to make it a little more solid, and I think we need to pick up our performance a little bit. But again, we're pretty happy here. These superspeedways are power circuits and I think we showed today that we have as much power as anybody else does - I don't think there's any question there. We started the season with an advantage and I think that's tapered off, but I'm glad to say that based off today's result I'm sure we're not behind the others."

JAY O'CONNELL (CART Program Manager - Ford Racing) - "It's fantastic to see the Ford-Cosworth XF engine win the manufacturer's championship in its debut season. It's a real credit to Cosworth Racing to introduce a new engine and clinch the championship in its first season."

HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS CHAMPIONSHIP TO FORD MOTOR COMPANY, ITS FIRST CART TITLE SINCE 1995? "It's very important to win the manufacturer's championship and get it back from Honda. This is such a competitive series with the manufacturers that it is fantastic to get it back."

HOW DIFFICULT HAS BEEN FOR YOU THIS SEASON TO NOT ONLY DEBUT A NEW ENGINE, BUT THEN SUPPLY 10, SOMETIMES 11 CARS? "It's been stretching Cosworth Racing to the limit supplying so many cars with a new engine while trying to develop it at the same time. We had some early failures but we overcame those, and it's a tribute to Cosworth to be able to persevere."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT FURTHER DEVELOPING THE ENGINE FOR NEXT SEASON? "Next year will be an evolution of the XF engine so we can work off of our performance from this year and make some good gains during the offseason."

YOU HAVE TO FEEL CONFIDENT THAT YOU HAVE A SOLID BASE TO WORK OFF OF WITH AN ENGINE THAT WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN ITS FIRST SEASON? "Well it's a great place to be. Having supplied 10 cars this season, we've run roughly twice as many miles as any other manufacturer with the new engine, and that gives us a tremendous advantage when looking for increased performance and reliability for next season."

GREG SPECHT (Manager of North American Racing Operations - Ford Racing) - YOU MUST BE THRILLED THAT FORD MOTOR COMPANY HAS NOW WON MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE THREE MAJOR NORTH AMERICAN MOTORSPORTS SERIES (CART, NASCAR, NASCAR TRUCKS). "That's quite a coup. In the truck series it means a lot because we haven't won championships there in the past and we won both the drivers' and manufacturers' championship, while in NASCAR we have tremendous teams that really carry the ball for us. What's special about this one is that in CART it's the first year of the XF engine, and to be able to grab the manufacturers' championship when our competitors had carryover engines is just fantastic. My hat's off to Cosworth - they did a tremendous job, and with a lot of teamwork between Cosworth and Ford we were able to deliver."

THIS IS ALSO THE FIRST CART CHAMPIONSHIP SINCE 1995. "And that speaks to how competitive it is here in CART and shows the caliber of the teams that we had working with us. But it was really done with a lot of hard work and ingenuity on the part of a lot of people to win this championship, so we're very happy with it."

CASEY MEARS (#91 MCI Worldcom Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 4th - "I'm thrilled - I can't even believe that we're here at the end. I just took what everybody told me all weekend and just put it into play. They said, 'if the car doesn't feel right don't push it too hard,' and we just stayed on the lead lap and did exactly what we wanted to do. Thanks to Ford, Firestone, Worldcom and Bobby (Rahal) for putting this deal together - everything they said that I needed to do came true today."

WITH ALL THAT YELLOW AT THE END, WERE YOU CONFIDANT THAT YOU COULD'VE CHALLENGED FOR THE PODIUM WITH MORE GREEN? "Definitely - the car was working really well and I think maybe we could've gotten around Gil (de Ferran). But I made a mistake on that last restart but I'm a rookie so I'm allowed those. I just had a really good day. I made a couple little mistakes but all in all we had a clean day. The guys did a great job on the pitstops and obviously I can't say enough about how well this car stayed together all day. For the amount of attrition these guys put one hell of a car together and we're still here."

MAX PAPIS (#7 Miller Light Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 12th - "We were doing more than great - we were dominating the race. This was our race but unfortunately the engine let go. This has been the story of the season for us, but next year we're going to be better."

YOU'VE GOT CRUTCHES HERE FROM YOUR ACCIDENT ON FRIDAY. ARE YOU STILL A LITTLE SORE? "I'm more than sore. I have a problem with my knee but that didn't prevent me from being out there fighting for the lead. This was our track and our day. Unfortunately the million dollars is going to someone else."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#6 Big Kmart/Texaco-Havoline Ford-Cosworth) - Finished 19th - "When Tony (Kanaan) went by all I saw was a big plume of smoke and it was a white-out. I went a little higher to get away from Tony and I guess I got in the way of Oriol (Servia) and that was it. I was afraid that I'd get hit from behind and that's what happened."

IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD A VERY STRONG CAR. "Oh yeah, the car was capable of leading every lap so far today but we were just hanging in the back waiting until about lap 200 before going for it. I could have led easily but they wanted me to stay in the back and save fuel. You take risks when you do that and we just found that out the hard way."

ELEVEN YEARS WITH NEWMAN-HAAS OFFICIALLY COMES TO A CONCLUSION. WHAT EMOTIONS ARE YOU FEELING? "It's just really a big disappointment because I really wanted to finish this with a win and I think we had the car today to do it. It's just really disappointing to come away empty-handed like this. I have a really sad feeling right now, like you're leaving your family."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Casey Mears , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Alex Tagliani , Kenny Brack , Nigel Mansell , Alex Barron , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing