CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Manufacturer's Forum

Participants: Roberto Moreno (Ford-Cosworth) Oriol Servia (Toyota) Paul Tracy (Honda) Moderator: Larry Henry HENRY - ROBERTO, YOU HAD SOME GEARBOX PROBLEMS EARLIER IN THE SEASON BUT IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE GOT THOSE WORKED OUT. WITH THREE RACES...

Participants:
Roberto Moreno (Ford-Cosworth)
Oriol Servia (Toyota)
Paul Tracy (Honda)

Moderator:
Larry Henry

HENRY - ROBERTO, YOU HAD SOME GEARBOX PROBLEMS EARLIER IN THE SEASON BUT IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE GOT THOSE WORKED OUT. WITH THREE RACES TO GO YOU'RE RIGHT THERE (FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP).

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "What can I say? The car had a little bit of a handicap, but I'm trying to get used to it. We had a little bit of a problem this morning which hopefully we fixed, and I can't say too much really."

HENRY - ORIOL WITH TOYOTA, OF COURSE. YOU HAVE A PODIUM FINISH THIS YEAR WITH PPI AND THE CAL WELLS OPERATION. OF COURSE THEY ALSO GOT THEIR FIRST WIN THIS SEASON WITH CRISTIANO DA MATTA. ABOUT THE SEASON, OVERALL IT SEEMS THAT YOU WERE ON A ROLL THERE FOR A WHILE THERE. SOME PROBLEMS ALONG THE WAY, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE YOU'RE GETTING THOSE FIGURED OUT DURING THE SEASON AND THINGS ARE BEGINNING TO COME BACK TOGETHER FOR YOU AND THE TEAM.

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "I think we are progressing a lot with running a good race lately. (At) St. Louis we were pretty good. We had a bad qualifying - started 18th and finished 5th - but were very strong. Very strong car, strong engine. And here so far it's my first time so I just went out to just learn the track. I was happy with the engine, honestly. I had very, very good speed on the straights, and apart from that it's just a little work of getting back in the corners in order in time to move up."

HENRY - PAUL TRACY WITH TEAM KOOL GREEN, OF COURSE REPRESENTING HONDA. HE IS ALSO THE DEFENDING WINNER HERE AT THE TEXACO/HAVOLINE GRAND PRIX. HE AND HIS TEAMMATE, DARIO FRANCHITTI, HAVE WON THE LAST TWO EVENTS IN HOUSTON. OBVIOUSLY PAUL, YOU'RE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE POINTS CHASE AND COMING TO A TRACK WHERE THIS TEAM HAS DONE HISTORICALLY WELL. IT'S GOT TO FEEL GOOD COMING IN AND YOU'VE GOT TO BE SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT.

TRACY (HONDA) - "Yeah I think so. I think our strength from Team Kool Green has been on the street courses and road courses so far this year, so we've always been quite good here. The car felt good this morning, so we're pretty happy with how things went. We changed the gear ratios from what we ran last year because we wanted to try a different combination and it wasn't very good, so we're switching back to what we've run the last couple of years. The car is mechanically ... balance-wise is quite good."

QUESTION - HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE REDUCTION IN HORSEPOWER FOR NEXT YEAR? IS IT GOOD? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "If you cut the horsepower and give us more efficient downforce, yes. I agree with that. It needs to be done in step with more efficient downforce (and) less drag. More downforce."

TRACY (HONDA) - "I have to agree with that. I mean, the cars have gotten very fast so what they've tried to do is limit the cars aerodynamically and it's just made the racing poor because the cars rely so much on downforce and balance from the aerodynamics. When you get behind another car it makes it very difficult to drive and stay close, so if they can reduce power and give us some downforce back, hopefully that'll make the racing better."

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "It's a little complicated because when we say 'we want more downforce,' we want more efficient downforce, less drag. The drag is what creates that big bubble behind the car that the other people following ... on the straight you've got a good slipstream, but in the corners you lose so much of your downforce because of that. If you go back to more efficient downforce, when you're behind a car you won't feel that bad, and you cut the speed another way which would be the horsepower, then I agree with it."

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "My point of view, I mean as a rookie I can't compare it to any other combination, but I agree that on the ovals for sure we have to do that. I mean I gave pretty good examples in Brazil and Japan of what is happening. But I think the car is a lot of fun to drive on street and road courses right now with the power we have, (and) I think it would be a pity to give up any power."

QUESTION - IS THAT PROBLEM YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT, TOO MUCH DRAG OR HOW THEY'RE SLOWING THE CARS DOWN, IS THAT A PROBLEM EVERYWHERE OR IS IT JUST A PROBLEM ON THE SHORT TRACKS? HOW BIG OF AN ISSUE IS POWER IN SEPARATING THE MEN FROM THE BOYS? IS POWER MANAGEMENT GETTING IT DOWN ON CIRCUITS LIKE THIS? IS THAT AN ADVANTAGE FOR A GOOD DRIVER?

TRACY (HONDA) - "I don't think it's an advantage for a good driver. I mean, like Oriol said, the cars are quite fun to drive on road courses because they have good power, but the speeds are getting faster and faster and faster on the ovals. I ran a lap at Michigan with the Hanford wing at 240 (miles per hour) in practice, qualified at 235 and broke the record that had stood since '96 or '95. The engines are making so much power now that they're overcoming the limitations we've put on the cars aerodynamically, so I think we've exhausted all of our attempts aerodynamically to slow the cars down (and) the next step is to take power away. And we did that before. We went from 45 inches of boost to 40, and now they're talking about another boost reduction."

QUESTION - IS THERE SOME SORT OF COMPROMISE? YOU WANT THE HORSEPOWER BECAUSE AS RACECAR DRIVERS YOU LIKE GOING FAST AND THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE COME TO SEE, BUT IS THERE SOME COMPROMISE IN THERE BETWEEN THE ENGINES AND THE AERODYNAMICS AND EVERYTHING TO PUT A RACECAR UNDER A DRIVER THAT'S STILL THE TOP-OF-THE-LINE RACECAR WE HAVE NOW?

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "See, it's not just horsepower that makes the car fast. If you get downforce you make better late braking and things like that. The problem I see is with the drag that's created on the ovals. We can't get close to anybody, and now we don't have the difference between the tires like we used to. The tires are very consistent which helps us to be more equal to each other. If you saw at St. Louis the way people were passing each other, it was because different drivers had good tires at different times and the driver who was on newer tires was much better than the driver on older tires. So, you've got to make up for that and one of the things I see is to give us back some efficient downforce. But if you do that it's going to be too fast, so you've got to find a way ... I also believe you need to take enough power away to anticipate the development from the engines."

TRACY (HONDA) - "I agree. Take away 100 horsepower, but that can be found back by the time the season ... okay they say, 'we're going to go to 38 inches of boost,' so there'll be more revs, this that ... they'll make that power back by the time the season starts. It's got to be a big reduction."

QUESTION - THIS IS A LITTLE BIT OFF THE BEATEN PATH, BUT HAVE YOU GUYS WITH THE OLYMPICS GOING ON THOUGHT ABOUT RACING BEING AN OLYMPIC SPORT? PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ELSE IS AN OLYMPIC SPORT, WHY CAN'T YOU GUYS BE IN AN OLYMPIC SPORT?

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "Well I thought that Olympics was non-professional...

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "As an idea I think it would be great, but I don't see the way it could be equal because there's a machine always."

TRACY (HONDA) - "It's a pretty interesting concept. One car. Teams, drivers ... it would be an interesting concept, but I don't know if it would ever happen."

QUESTION - WHAT DO YOU HAVE DOUBTS?

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "Because I ran Indy Lights and it's supposed to be the same car, and it's never the same car. So I think in the Olympics it has to be a real sport, exactly the same as here. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm saying it's very, very difficult for that to happen."

QUESTION - WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO TO THE CARS TO GET THEM TO RUN AT A REASONABLE SPEED AT HIGH-BANKED TEXAS MOTORSPEEDWAY NEXT YEAR? ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT THAT ALREADY AT THIS POINT?

TRACY (HONDA) - "Well, I think the big power reduction is going to be important. We don't know the numbers of what we have in horsepower range, but it's somewhere around 900 horsepower. Honda doesn't tell us what their numbers are precisely, so 900-plus is the standard. IRL package is probably 600, 650 horsepower, and they're still quite quick. I'm not really a rules maker (and) I don't know what speed is acceptable - I've never seen the track. I know it's high-banked, it's going to be wide open (and) we have the potential to run 230-plus there."

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "I don't know the track, but to me the problem is not going 230, 240 miles per hour. To me it's going 200 miles per hour with 10 cars around me, you know? To me that's the problem and the big danger."

HENRY - ANY THOUGHTS ROBERTO?

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "I was just thinking about ... it's not that they don't tell us how much horsepower we have. With Ford every time we put the engine on the dyno it breaks the dyno so we don't know how many horsepower ... it only goes to 1,000 horsepower on the dyno before it breaks it (laughter).

Serious now, I've driven in Atlanta in an IRL car and I did eight laps and I was completely flat (on the throttle) after eight laps having never seen the circuit. So from then on it was about taking drag out of the car and making it faster. And then we were going to race in Charlotte against the other cars. It was a tough job. It's going to be very tough to race wide open with those cars around us. It's hard enough at Michigan or Fontana, which will be my first time, but it's hard enough that way."

QUESTION - PAUL, DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FORMULA ONE ANYTIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

TRACY (HONDA) - "No. I think being at the Formula One race last weekend, it's interesting (and) very technical but at my age now, 31 ... I had an opportunity to go to Formula One in '94 and I passed on it and probably the time has past me by now, so my ambition is to win a championship here and do the best that I can here."

HENRY - WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE LAST WEEK'S FORMULA ONE RACE?

TRACY (HONDA) - "I think it was interesting ... very technical. In my eyes racing is racing. When you get out on the racetrack, a race driver is a race driver. Roberto has driven in Formula One and you see everything that's going on and it's really just money that can do that. We're so restricted in our series that there's a lot of things that you can't do. It's maybe not as glamorous (as Formula One), but when it's time to go racing the race driver is out there just like another race driver. I wouldn't say that a guy who's in Formula One is better than a guy who is over here, I don't think that's the case."

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "I'm sure Paul will agree with me, if a driver gets with one of the top two teams that can win races, and there's only two that can really win races, you're very happy. It's fantastic. But if you don't it can be a nightmare. In CART, you can pick 10 teams and you can win races here and you can be competitive. So that's how I see the biggest difference. Formula One has become so technical - a team must build its car, it has to build everything almost. So if you hire the wrong chief designer, your project is wrong throughout the season. Or if you're not wrong, all it needs to be is not as good as the other guy, and you're out for the season in a way. You're not going win a race. Here, you can go buy the same car that's always winning the race (and) that's why I think this is much better now."

SERVIA (TOYOTA) - "The only thing I really like about Formula One is the noise (laughter).

MORENO (FORD-COSWORTH) - "It's a test car's drive, most likely. The gear ratios on the steering wheel, it's fantastic. But once you go racing, if you don't have a car that can win races it starts to be boring. I spent three or four years with back of the grid teams and I thought, 'shoot, why am I doing this?' And suddenly I got a break with Benetton out of the blue and then I'm up there on the podium, second place. It has to do with technology (and) not everybody has the same."

QUESTION - PAUL, WITH SO MANY DRIVERS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE THIS SEASON AS OPPOSED TO LAST, DOES IT HAVE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FEEL?

TRACY (HONDA) - "There's a lot more pressure to perform. With my situation last year I was chasing third in the championship at this point in the season and really didn't have a chance to win. And now, you're looking at one bad race, I mean I currently fourth and one bad race could drop me to eighth or ninth, which is not where I want to be in the championship. Because when you look back at a season and you have a successful season, which to date I have three wins and six podiums, and a couple of bad races could put you to eighth, ninth, 10th in the points. You look back at the end of the day down the line and you say, 'well I finished 10th in the championship,' well that doesn't sound very good, does it? So it's much more critical this season just to be consistent and get points, and that's what not everybody has been able to do so far this season. That's why the championship is so tight."

HENRY - AND THAT'S OUR MANUFACTURER'S FORUM FOR TODAY.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia