CRISTIANO da MATTA ( ...
CRISTIANO da MATTA ( #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola):
On the feeling of winning in first race with Newman/Haas Racing last season
"It was good. Of course it was a very special feeling because it was the first race with the team. I don't think anyone expected it to happen so fast. I knew I could win and the team knew they could win but the questions was 'Could we win together?' Winning a race is always a great feeling, difficult to explain, but a great feeling."
On pressure of defending 2001 victory
"I don't feel any pressure at all because I am not thinking of one race in particular. I am thinking more about winning the Championship, and I know that whether I win in Mexico or not, it is not going to make a big difference in my result at the end of the season at this point. It is just a start of the Championship so I don't feel a lot of pressure. Having said that, I really want to win there because of all the fans and how big the event is. Because, of course, the bigger the event you win, the more enjoyable it is for you. I would also like to win because I enjoy the track. I want to keep my sweet memories from there."
On expectations for 2002 Monterrey race
"I think it will be a great race again. When I went to Mexico to meet with the media, I was able to go to the track for the first time since my win. I could see the changes that were made. There were a lot of improvements such as rumble strips placed on turns to prevent drivers cutting across the grass. This circuit is one of the best ones, with a very smooth pavement, very nice and in a beautiful place. It is only the second year for the track and it is already at a level close to Formula One."
On the fans in Monterrey
"Monterrey fans, I am sure, are among the best ones anywhere. They know what is happening on track, what do you do as driver, and understand about competition and I am feeling very honored to arrive to a place where people talk about me and enjoy what am I doing. I like it very much"
On CART's new qualifying procedure
"I think more important than scoring points on Friday, is the fact that all of us will be in one group to qualify. Friday qualifying is going to make the show more exciting for the fans, because in the past we focused on setup and testing changes for the race. But I think that qualifying in one group, not in two groups as the last year is more fair and exciting for the fans, and increases competitiveness -which is very high in CART- although I hope not so much because I want to win many races."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Reynard):
"What a difference a year makes! Last March, we were a three-month old team making our debut at one of our most important races. Now we are headed to Monterrey prepared to meet the challenges. Personally, I am in the best physical shape of my career and I am really looking forward to this year's race. Monterrey was very special for me last season. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had with the number of fans, the atmosphere and the tremendous showing of support. I had never experienced anything like this in my entire CART career. It was a lot of work, but at the same time, it was very rewarding. I think our new Honda/Lola/Bridgestone package is a good car. With the new testing rules, we have only used six of 10 test days. After the last test, we were pretty close with where we wanted to be with the car. We are not there exactly, but hopefully we will be able to make that up over the weekend. Don [Halliday] and I are still learning, but I have no doubt that we will be competitive this year."
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola):
"I'm very excited for my first race in the CART FedEx Championship Series. It's a dream come true for me to be able to make my Champ Car debut in front of the crowd in my home country and our sponsors. We have worked very hard in the winter so I'm feeling very confident about my first time out in the Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola. For me, I think the biggest challenge will be the race strategy. These races are completely different from what I am used to - I'm still getting used to pit stops, the much longer race distance, and all of the strategic decisions you have to make. But the Herdez Competition team has really helped me every step of the way and I feel I am ready for my first race in Monterrey! Dominguez emerged victorious in his first career Dayton Indy Lights start on an oval at Homestead in 1999."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Reynard):
"There have been some rule changes made this off-season that I think fit my style of driving, so I'm really looking forward to beginning the season. Getting rid of fuel economy runs and letting us run flat out all race is a great change. That's the way I like to drive and I'm sure the fans will like seeing everyone driving hard throughout the race. Opening the season in Monterrey will be fun, Team KOOL Green did a great job there last year, Dario and I both ran well and I even got a podium. You want to start the year off on a positive note and I hope I can be on the podium again this year. The atmosphere in Mexico is electric; even on Thursday when the cars aren't running there are people everywhere."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard):
"I think Team Motorola has got a lot of momentum going into this first race. Last season we were a brand new team and everyone was getting used to working with each other and figuring out what worked best for Team Motorola and for me as a driver. This season, we're coming into Monterrey as a much more fine-tuned team. We've got a full season behind us, we all know what we need to do to get the job done and we're working well as a team. So I think that's going to play a big part this season and our experience together will work to our advantage."
On racing in Monterrey
"The Monterrey race was very successful last season. The fans in Mexico are so enthusiastic and supportive of CART and in return, I think we put on a great show in Monterrey. The track was fun to drive and since it's the second year for this event that the track will be in better shape than last year."
On recent CART rule changes
"With the fuel restrictions lifted we're going to be able to go out and just drive as hard as we can for the whole race and I think that's going to make for a better show for the fans. I'm really looking forward to that and I think this is a great example of what Chris (Pook) is trying to do to improve the CART show. The product that we have in CART is second to none and I think with the leadership we have in CART now that there's a good opportunity to show the positives that CART has to offer."
JIMMY VASSER (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola):
"It's been a very good winter for myself and the Shell team. There was a brief learning curve for everyone. I had to get adjusted to the new engineers and crew and they all had to get used to me. But after a day or two,we were all on the same page and things really progressed well. It was one of the best testing programs I have ever been involved with in his CART career. Team Rahal showed me how they won all of those races last year. I remember that Bobby wanted me to drive for him a few years ago but the timing wasn't right at that point of my career. I was set at the Target team then. But it didn't take me long to say `yes' to Bobby when he asked me again. This team is one of the best in all of U.S. open-wheel racing and I'd like to continue the success of the Shell car immediately at Mexico. Our goal is to put the Shell car back on top of the victory podium in 2002. Winning races is a primary goal as well as the CART championship. If you win and score points, the championship is right there for you."
TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda/Reynard):
"Last year, I won a really nice bicycle at Monterrey in a running bet we had with Cristiano all last season. The winner of a race would have to buy the other guy a bike, and Cristiano went out and won the race down there. This year, I don't want a bike. I want the first-place trophy. I'm really looking forward to starting the season. We worked really, really hard in testing. Now, I'm ready to go to work so we can start earning points for all of our hard work. It's bound to pay off. We made good progress in every area, from our Honda engine program to our new Reynard chassis and our new Bridgestone tires. We'll get to put it all together at Monterrey on one of the most interesting race courses we go to all year. It was a little difficult because grip was a real problem all weekend long. I had to qualify with the slow group last year because they broke us into groups based on points from the previous season. So even though we ran in the top four or five in all the practice sessions, we had to start 10th, and the best we could do was to finish seventh. It was really difficult to pass. Hopefully, this being our second year on the racetrack, all of that will improve. We're all going to have a fair shot at the pole with the new qualifying rules. Otherwise, it's a great place to race. The people down there really fell in love with us. The atmosphere was electric on the grid on Sunday. I remember getting goosebumps. I'm ready!"
MAX PAPIS (#22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola):
"It will be great to start another CART season once again! When we raced here last year, it was such a wonderful, festive time and the fans were great and full of enthusiasm. My goal for the race is to finish in the top five and I think that can happen. I am going to be concentrating hard and the guys on our team will be focused and on the job. I will have some momentum for this race as I finished on the podium (2nd place) at the last race of the (2001) season. I will also have my 100th career CART start and that will be special for me as well. It's going to be an exciting start to the season."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard):
"With the limited testing Team KOOL Green is allowed nowadays the start of the season seems to come on pretty quick. I'm anxious to go racing and I'm excited about going to Mexico and starting the season. I think this year is going to be fun. I'm sure some people will be complaining about the new qualifying procedures and some people will think they're great. I'm looking forward to that first qualifying session, I think it is only right you get a point for being the fastest on Friday. I like what CART is doing; that they are trying different things, it shows that they are thinking about making the series better and trying to make progress, so that's good. Traction control is also going to come into play and that is going to be a new experience and it will be important in Mexico because the track there is so slippery. I ran traction control in Germany in the DTM (German Touring Car series) car so I have some experience with it but certainly there is going to be more stuff going on in the car and more work for the engineers. Team KOOL Green is going to Monterrey in a very positive frame of mind and we are going down there with the goal of winning the race."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's Ltd./Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard):
"It's hard to believe that I'm about to start my sixth season in the CART series. Time flies when you're having fun, and, more than ever, I'm having a blast racing and competing. I know that every team is optimistic as it heads into the season but that's especially true for Team Player's. We finished last season on an extremely strong note and then our winter testing program was very productive. Every time out, our engineering and mechanical crew learned something new about the car and we believe we have the package to improve on last year's performance. If you look at some of the times that were clocked at the CART Sneak Preview a few weeks ago, it's easy to see that again this year this is going to be an exceptionally competitive series. With everyone so close, most of the time it's going to come down to a team being able to find a tenth of a second here and there to put them over the top. We are the only team with a Ford/Reynard package and that might just give us the edge. I have great confidence that our Team Player's crew is going to be successful in coming up with ways to put us in a position to contend in every race this season. I've never felt so confident and pumped up for the start of a season."
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's Ltd./Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard):
"You enter every season with the goal of improving on the one before, and that's definitely what I'm looking to do this year. With a lot of help from the Team Player's crew we were able to make some good progress in that regard last year, advancing five places in the standings, with 27 more points than I had as a CART rookie the previous year. We had that improvement despite a slow start to the season, when we had such miserable luck. This year, we're hoping to get off to a faster start and have a consistent performance throughout the season. That's how you get to the top of the drivers' standings. I really like the changes that the series has made for the 2002 season, especially with the new qualifying procedures where you can get a point and be assured of a front-row spot by being the provisional pole sitter on Friday, and the fact that qualifiers will be going in one group, rather than being split. I remember saying quite often last year that I thought drivers in the first qualifying group were at an unfair advantage because they were basically going out and laying rubber for the second group. We struggled to get points early in the season last year, but with the new procedures and the direction Team Player's has taken since Toronto last season, that won't be a factor in 2002. I just can't wait to get going!"
SCOTT DIXON (#7 PWR Championship Racing Toyota/Lola):
"Monterrey has very enthusiastic race fans and I'm looking forward to returning there - they really add to the overall excitement of the race. I'm pleased with our off-season testing and believe we're on the right track and have definitely made progress. With our new Toyota Lola package for 2002, we are very optimistic that we will have a very strong and competitive season. The Toyota engine continues to be solid and reliable. I think being consistent and finishing races will be a strong point for our team this season. I finished the race last year in 13th position, but led the race for awhile, which was very exciting for me considering it was my first Champ Car race."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Newman/Haas Racing Toyota/Lola):
"Consistency. That's what we're going to concentrate on this year. In this series, you don't have a chance without it. If we can just put an entire season together we should have a great chance at the Championship by the end of the season. If we could put a season together with the consistency of 1996, the momentum of good results like we had in the first part of 1999 before my testing accident and the qualifying from 2000 where we were in the top-six or eight everywhere then we would be looking good. When we left Portland last year, I was in fifth place ahead of Gil in the point standings and from that point on we went downhill. This season, our aim is consistency and scoring points at every race. We definitely have the speed, but we've lacked the consistency. On a number of occasions we've been close, but we've never been able to put it together.
Sometimes I screwed up, sometimes it was a part of the car ... just different situations that didn't work out but hopefully, everything will come together this year."
On changes going into 2002
"We had a change in the engineering setup at the team and I think change is good sometimes. So far in testing Craig (Hampson) and I have communicated pretty well and that's encouraging. I think it will only make the entire team stronger now that Peter (Gibbons) is overseeing both programs. I think that the legalization of traction control will help everyone. Now everyone is on the same page. The new qualifying system will be interesting for everyone. Especially the first two races where everyone will go through a learning curve to see how to get the most out of the session. After Long Beach, everyone will be better prepared for the other races in terms of getting over the learning curve."
On the Toyota/Lola package
"I think Toyota has a strong package. They concentrate on finishing races and that's how you score points and win Championships. The new Lola also looks improved. To me, the championship looks up for grabs, and I intend to be one of the guys trying to get my hands on it."
ORIOL SERVIA (#17 PWR Championship Racing Toyota/Lola):
"I am very excited about going back to Monterrey, Mexico. The fans gave us a very warm welcome last year and it's very important to the series that we return to Monterrey. Last year I qualified 8th and finished 14th, but prior to the season opener I didn't complete a lot of testing. This year I've done much more testing and feel it's really going to help me, so I'm confident we'll be up at the front. The team has been building momentum throughout our testing sessions and I think we're justwhere we want to be going into the season. It's been a whole new challenge for me, especially working with a teammate again. With Scott Dixon, I have somebody to share information with and telemetry data. Scott and I raced in Lights together - he's very quick, very fast, so he will push me to the limit. We will definitely work together to move the team up competitively. Also, I'm extremely happy to be back with Toyota. I raced with them while I was at PPI Motorsports in 2000. It's very clear to me that Toyota is committed to winning and I feel like I've come home again. I'm very honored to start my third CART season with PWR and taking over Mauricio Gugelmin's seat. Mo has done a great job and has always impressed me. I am extremely honored and hope I follow in his footsteps. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to learn more from him."
TOWNSEND BELL (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota/Reynard:
"I have learned a lot during the preseason and I an really looking forward to the start of the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team is a very dedicated group of professionals. They have made a big effort to help me make the adjustment to champ cars and I appreciate the effort they have made. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team has done everything possible to be prepared for the start of the season. As far as the car is concerned, the Toyota engine has been both reliable and powerful, the Reynard chassis handles great and Bridgestone has, once again, produced some tremendous tires. Based on our preseason-testing program I think we have a very good setup for the first two races of the season, which are both on road/street circuits, so I am confident heading in the start of the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season."
SHINJI NAKANO (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Reynard):
"I am looking forward to going back to Monterrey next week. This is an important race for Adrian and for the team. It is the same feeling for me when I go to Japan. We have made good progress during the off-season with our new equipment package, and we are ready to make a new start this year. The team has also grown to a new level as well. I am excited about this year and I am looking forward to showing the results on the race track."