An interview with Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi and Dario Franchitti. Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top-three press conference. We start out first today with Dario Franchitti, driver of the ...
An interview with Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi and Dario Franchitti.
Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top-three press conference.
We start out first today with Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. Dario qualified third based on yesterday's qualifying time of 1:26.147 seconds, a speed of 116.424 miles per hour. It is Dario's best starting position since he started second at Montreal in August during the FedEx Championship Series. He would go on to win that race. Dario spun on oil on the track, crashed, ending his session early.
Dario, an interesting session. Challenges for you out there today. Nevertheless, you start third in the race tomorrow, an important position for you to start in a race that should be very exciting. Talk about your effort today and the importance of starting third tomorrow.
Dario Franchitti: Our main objective today was to get on the pole. That's what we were out there trying to do. The lap I went off with was pretty good. I know Bruno [Junqueira] had his trials in that session, as well. I think we were putting some pressure on him.
We started off this morning with a different setup on the car, looking for more performance. Actually it made the car worse. We went back to our initial setup for the qualifying session. The car felt very good.
I think it is unfortunate there was a couple of interesting calls made by race control during the session, the first of which was sort of the knee-jerk reaction for the red [flag] for the [Tora] Takagi incident, then when some oil was spilled on the track, on one of the fastest corners, they still didn't do anything about it. I went off in an accident, and only then was the red flag brought out. The track was incredibly dangerous. I think if these guys don't know the difference between a dangerous and safe track; they should be doing their job. Absolutely not acceptable.
Merrill Cain: Not to dispute Dario's claim at all, but race control felt that the oil that was spilled on the track, they could handle that with the yellow flag situation. Obviously, Dario's situation proved otherwise.
Dario Franchitti: I think the accident was the proof of that, to be perfectly honest. I spoke to [CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant] Dr. Trammell, and he told me he radioed the situation into race control. It's not a good situation. Unfortunate to have one pretty damaged car, but I think I'm pretty lucky, though to be able to race tomorrow.
Merrill Cain: Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the #11 Lily Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, starts second tomorrow, based on yesterday's time of 1:26.027, a speed of 116.587 miles per hour. It is Christian's best start since he started second at Mid-Ohio earlier this year, a race he would go on to finish second in.
Christian, if you talk about your qualifying effort this afternoon, the importance of starting second tomorrow.
Christian Fittipaldi: Well, it wasn't that big of an effort because of everything that happened. I'm pretty happy to be in the front row. But unfortunately things didn't go according to plan. I think that we had a car that we could have gone into a fight together with these other guys for the pole position.
I was really happy with my car this morning. I ran like really old tires this morning, so we had a good balance in it. I thought when it came down to the time trials, we really had a shot at it.
There were a couple things that happened during the session that I really didn't understand, like when we went green again when the first car went by the start/finish, and the other time we went green when the flag dropped. There were a couple things that I didn't understand.
I guess everyone has to move on. I'm pretty happy being in the front row. I'm going to try my very best tomorrow to win. I imagine Bruno is going to say the same thing, and also Dario, probably the other 16 guys out there. It's going to be really fun tomorrow.
Merrill Cain: Bruno Junqueira is your polesitter for tomorrow's race, driver of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. This is Bruno's fourth pole of the season, his first pole since the Denver race, a race he would go on to win. He turned the fastest lap today, earning him another championship point. That extends his lead to five points over Patrick Carpentier for second in the championship race.
Bruno, talk about your effort this afternoon.
Bruno Junqueira: It's very good that I kept the pole today. It was very difficult qualifying because I couldn't get two laps in a row. When I went out, I did one lap. After the red flag, it was very strange because, as Dario said. The only time I did two laps in a row was when I did one lap and the next lap, somebody blew off, I think it was [Paul] Tracy, lots of oil on the track, but I did my best lap. Then at the red flag, they took out my lap at that time. The track was pretty slippery, especially on the chicanes - that's the high-speed part of the track.
I mean, after they red flagged it, they cleaned it, it wasn't completely fast as before, but I could put one good lap and get the pole from Tony [Kanaan]. It's good to start from the pole. I hope I can do a good race.
Merrill Cain: A couple quick notes. This is the sixth pole of the season for Team Target, and also in research that Team Target has done, a testament to Bruno's efforts in qualifying, his qualifying average is fourth this year, actually ranked higher than the past five champions, Gil de Ferran [2000-01], Juan Montoya , and Alex Zanardi [1997-98].
Let's open it up for questions.
Q: Can you run your backup car, Dario?
Dario Franchitti: I don't know. We might be able to run the primary car. I don't know how badly it's damaged. It took a pretty big hit. I think it might have broken the gearbox. The guys are looking at that right now.
Q: Did the track slow down? Everybody expected maybe more speed. Did it get slower or was it because of the starting and stopping?
Dario Franchitti: I think with the heat, it maybe slowed down a bit. I think we improved our cars today. Some of the laps were quicker than Bruno's pole from yesterday. Again, Bruno said he had trouble with the same situation. I think Christian did, too.
Bruno Junqueira: I think the track was a little bit slower today. I could go as fast as yesterday, but as I said I couldn't get as fast because of Turn 1, 2 and 3. I think today nobody could get a lap. I don't think anybody is happy with their lap time because of so many red flags, and even because of the oil.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think the track was very quick yesterday. It's not that it got slower today, it was very quick yesterday. We had sort of abnormal conditions. It was really cold. They thought it was going to be a little bit hotter over here. Probably if we had this heat yesterday, we would have been going quicker today. Unfortunately, we had excellent conditions yesterday.
Q: How will you give it your all to finally come to Mexico and perhaps take home victory tomorrow?
Christian Fittipaldi: Drive my very best, everything that I can do tomorrow. As I said before, there are drivers that are not going to be here next year that are definitely going to do their very best. The race could be very interesting. I just hope that everyone can be really civilized going into the first corner, that we don't have a problem going into the first turn. I think if we make it safe through the first corner, then you guys are going to see some real racing tomorrow, a lot of people trying instead of only 100%, 101%.
Q: Have you learned enough in the practice sessions and qualifying that you can comment on how you feel the race will go in terms of passing on some of the other road courses?
Dario Franchitti: I think for passing, there's a long straight, Turn 1, there's maybe a couple other places on the track can you make a move. A nice feeling going into a race that you know you can actually make some moves. It should be a fun race tomorrow.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think there are some passing places here, although it's not that easy to run really close. But the fact that we have a very slow corner that puts us along the straightaway, that makes it a little bit easier for you to run really close. On the back section where you have the right-left, right-left, it's a little bit harder to run very close there.
I think we're going to be seeing some passing at the end of the straight and at the end of also like the back straight, at the end of that second straight.
Bruno Junqueira: I hope there will be no passing.
Q: What do you think of a baseball park track?
Bruno Junqueira: It's a racetrack. When you're driving, don't even notice it's a baseball park.
Merrill Cain: Thank you, gentlemen. Good luck on the race tomorrow.