An interview with Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART Media Teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. We are pleased to welcome to the call today one of ...
An interview with Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today on this week's CART Media Teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. We are pleased to welcome to the call today one of the pleasant surprises of the CART FedEx Championship Series, Michel Jourdain Jr., driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Rahal.
We now want to welcome in Michel Jourdain Jr. from Team Rahal. Michel, we thank you for joining us this afternoon. Thanks for taking a few minutes.
Michel Jourdain, Jr: Thank you, Merrill, and very happy to be here.
Merrill Cain: Michel has quietly been one of the best stories of the year in CART this season in a truly competitive ride for the first time in his seven years in the series, Michel has established a new Team Rahal record scoring points in 13 consecutive races. That's every event this season, including Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal where he finished sixth in the race on Sunday. Michel is now tied for Christian Fittipaldi for fifth in the CART FedEx Championship Series points standings with 88 points on the year. Michel, you have to feel great about the season you are having. I know it's the best season of your career. You have done a marvelous job on the track yet I know you also feel you could probably get a little bit more out of the car and yourself as you head to the finish line of the season as the Championship wraps up. Talk about that a little bit, the performance you had and what you feel you can even do better to raise the bar the rest of the year.
Michel Jourdain, Jr: I am very happy, very optimistic for the rest of the year. I mean, these 13 races have been pretty good. It can always be better. I think we started the season very, very good. The off-season just testing started pretty good, especially for Jimmy and then when I came on board we had some pretty good tests. We started to see some very, very good, in Monterey, Long Beach. We had the couple of top fives in Japan and Milwaukee. After that we had a little bit rougher time, and then we came back and we more speed in Cleveland and Vancouver. But this one, I think we were very, very competitive all weekend.
In qualifying, unfortunately, I couldn't get one clear lap, either I had made a couple of mistakes with traffic or the red flags, whatever, nothing seemed to go my way in qualifying. But the car, we had the speed all weekend. And I had a couple of very, very good laps going, but at the end it didn't matter. But we had a good strong finish. The team did a great job in the pit stops and the strategy. So I think we improved a lot this weekend compared to the other ones. We still need to get a little bit more speed out of the cars. I think we are in a good way. We found many things this weekend that I am sure are going to help a lot, especially we have so many street courses coming, three street courses, right, so, I think it should be good. It should be good closing the season, these six last races, hopefully. We need to keep finishing the races, and that is a very good first goal for Ricardo (Nault), my chief mechanic, and we have been doing that. To win, first you have to finish the race and to be on the podium. Now we need to get on the podium. We have been close many times. We need to do this and I can win my first race here pretty soon.
Merrill Cain: You talked about finishing races. You have been very good at that, obviously, all year long. Talk a little bit about the challenge you've had qualifying. I know you haven't qualified where you want to and with the strong performance you had on race day, you probably got to think that if you would have qualified a little bit better you could have scored even some more points as we head into the final stretch run of the season.
Michel Jourdain, Jr: Yes, it has been a long time. (Inaudible) The way it is right now we have had a few laps sometimes in traffic and red flags and all that is -- you might only get one chance, one clear lap and a couple of races I made a couple of mistakes. It has been hard but we're working very, very hard to keep improve and hopefully we can do better in qualifying.
Q: We talked back earlier this year about how happy you were with Team Rahal. I know now you have had some difficult times even though you are in the points race. How are things progressing with getting the car and everything and the team functioning as a whole and getting that chemistry back you had the early part of the season?
Michel Jourdain, Jr: I am very happy. If you look at everybody's performance I think everybody has had the ups and downs. Everybody has had the up and downs, so I mean, big up and downs, but especially Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake. Everybody on Team Rahal is working so, so hard. I am very impressed with the amount of work everybody on the team puts in - the engineer department; all the mechanics, it is unbelievable how much they work and how hard they are trying. But it's so competitive. Every year it gets more and more competitive. So if you are a little off it is a lot, so everything has to be perfect. So everybody is working very hard to try and stay as close to perfection.
Q: I know with this being a career year for you, they have to feel proud about that at the very least.
Michel Jourdain, Jr: Yeah, I think everybody is very happy. It's the same, everybody wants more. Even Cristiano wants more. He feels he should have 30 or 40 points more, so everybody wants more even him, so everybody on Team Rahal, we want to do much better. We need to get to the podiums. We have been very close many times. Jimmy was on the podium at Long Beach. We're working really hard.
Q: Jimmy (Vasser) still being a lot of help and support to you in this season?
Michel Jourdain, Jr: Yeah, Jimmy is great. He is a great competitor. He's a very, very fast driver. He knows so much. He's a great teammate in every way and with all the guys. He knows that if we both work together, there's a bigger chance that we're both going to do better. At the end he wants to beat me and I want to beat him but I want to beat him for the first couple of places; not for the lap, so we know that working together it is going to be easier to get up to the front.
Q: Gigante, up here in Canada it is not really known but Office Depot is. I am wondering, you really worked hard with your dad to put that deal together to take to Rahal. How are your sponsors looking at your achievements of this season?
Michel Jourdain, Jr: I think they are very happy. It's the first year in racing overall, so they are learning a lot. Right now they are working very, very hard, especially for the Mexico City race. It is going to be the biggest sporting event of the year in Mexico. They are working on big, big promotions for Mexico. They are going to be the presenting sponsor for the race so they are very happy and very motivated and I think working very hard to try to get the most out of this.
Michel Jourdain Jr press conference, part II