FIRESTONE FIREHAWK 500 "QUOTEBOARD" Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on last year's misfortunes at Twin Ring Motegi, when he ran out of fuel while in the lead: "Personally, I think Motegi owes me one. We charged all the way...
FIRESTONE FIREHAWK 500 "QUOTEBOARD" Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on last year's misfortunes at Twin Ring Motegi, when he ran out of fuel while in the lead: "Personally, I think Motegi owes me one. We charged all the way up from 14th place to have almost a one-lap lead on the field before we ran out of gas. It's impossible to have that kind of lead in this series because it is so competitive! The car was on rails. We had the race won and made a mistake. Hopefully, we won't make the same mistake this year and have the car work as well as it did last year. At overseas races, the fuel rigs are supplied by the promoter and our hose didn't fit as well as it should have, and we didn't get as much fuel as we thought into the car. We should have caught it before it determined our fate. Those types of details cost us the championship last year, so we are paying extra attention to detail this year."
Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard), on starting the season with a fourth-place finish at Homestead: "In the first CART race of the season, every driver is so pumped up and excited that anything can happen out there. Rookies are out there for the first time and each driver wants to get a great start, so I'm very pleased to come away with a fourth-place finish. Things will calm down for Motegi, and I'm very excited to race there again. It's an impressive, modern facility in a very beautiful country."
Bryan Herta (Shell Ford Reynard), on Twin Ring Motegi as an "equalizer": "Twin Ring Motegi is an amazing facility with a personality all of its own. It's very fast and it's the only oval we don't test on. Every team has the same disadvantage at this race. If you fall behind early in practice, it is really difficult to make up the ground in the short time you are there. But the track is smooth, and if you get hooked up in the race, you can really fly. Last year, guys came from the back to the front in a hurry. I think you'll see that again this year."
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on building momentum after matching his career-best FedEx Championship Series finish of fifth at Homestead: "I think we are learning each other more and more - myself and my team. I'm gaining a lot of confidence in everyone on the team. I hope they have confidence in me after Homestead. I believe we can compete with the leaders at Motegi. I like that track. It's fast and smooth, different from other oval tracks. The turns are not the same. The car must handle both corners. Bobby [Rahal, team owner] was fast last year, so I feel good about our chances."
Scott Pruett (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on the layout at Twin Ring Motegi: "The Motegi oval has a wider radius through Turns One and Two than through Turns Three and Four. You're basically flat out through One and Two, then you downshift to go through Three and Four. It's a fine balance between the two, and the challenge is to make both ends of the track work together."
Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on a "wide-open" Firestone Firehawk 500: "We ran quite well in Japan last year until the right front upright broke and I was lucky to keep it off the wall. The Twin Ring Motegi circuit is flat out except for one corner and the competition will be intense. There are about 12 drivers in the FedEx Championship Series that could win on any given weekend. We've made good progress with our car since the Homestead season opener and the whole PacWest team is very motivated to do well. I'm confident heading into Motegi."
Robby Gordon (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Reynard), on improving his first-year team's fortunes at Twin Ring Motegi: "We feel like the race at Homestead [Gordon finished 19th] didn't do justice to what this team is capable of. We're working hard right now to make Japan a real start to the 1999 season for Team Gordon. We weren't too far off the pace in Homestead and with Motegi being a similar track, I feel confident we'll be on the pace where we should be - towards the front. Toyota is there, [Cristiano] da Matta sure proved that to me in qualifying a few weekends ago!" [Rookie Cristiano da Matta posted Toyota's best ever qualifying effort of sixth at Homestead] Firestone Firehawk 500 "Quoteboard"
Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his memories of Twin Ring Motegi: "Although this is only our second race at Twin Ring Motegi, I have lots of fond memories of the track. The first time I drove for Team KOOL Green was at the CART Open Test at Motegi in the fall of 1997 and I remember thinking at the time just how fortunate I was that fate had put me at Team KOOL Green with Dario [Franchitti]. I also remember the day the Honda people organized a trip down the North Short Course where Alex Zanardi and I got to drive the Honda Side-by-Side Formula Cars. Naturally, Alex and I went at it pretty good, but the best part was that Mr. Kawamoto, the head of Honda, was right there cheering us on, taking pictures and having the time of his life."
Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the challenges of Twin Ring Motegi: "The Motegi track is one of the most interesting ovals we race on, with two very different corners. One you run flat-out, and the other is tight enough that it requires braking and even a downshift; it makes for a unique challenge when it comes to car set-up. Then there's the facility. Fantastic. I mean, you go up into the mountains and there it is, like something out of a James Bond movie! It leads the way in racing facilities, from the hotel to the road course, to the garages, to the Honda museum to the dirt oval and drivers training facilities - it's the complete package."
Gil de Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Honda Reynard), on the upcoming show at Twin Ring Motegi: "I think you're going to see a lot of exciting overtaking going on at both ends of the track. There's definitely more than one groove around the track, and it's fairly easy to get clean air, so you're going to see passing both on the straights and on the turns."
Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on the Japanese fans: "I have always looked forward to racing in Japan. I raced at Suzuka twice when I was in Formula One. The fans are great and unbelievably polite. They actually get in a single-file line when they come up to you to get an autograph. The track is one of the best in the world and the layout is very different because the two corners are different. We started off the season with some points and the Big Kmart crew did great pit stops in Homestead, so I'm looking forward to the next race to keep up the progress."
Tony Kanaan (McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda Reynard), on last year's success at Twin Ring Motegi: "I scored the first points of my Champ Car career at Motegi last year [with a sixth-place finish], so for sure, I will always remember that race. When I go to Motegi, it is the same type of pressure as when I race in my home country of Brazil because it is Honda's house and I want to do well. I feel like I have a big responsibility to go there and do well."
Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), on the confidence generated by his 10th-place finish at Homestead: "After my first oval race, I'm confident that I belong in this series, and I look forward to my next chance to prove it. Three points isn't too bad for my first race, but I know I will improve in Japan."
Naoki Hattori (Alpine Honda Reynard), on the disappointment of missing the upcoming race in his Homeland due to a double compound fracture of the left leg sustained in the season-opening race: "Racing in front of Japanese fans in Motegi was one of my biggest dreams this year. I had been working toward that since I started racing in [PPG-Dayton] Indy Lights two years ago. I am terribly disappointed at this moment not to be able to race my Champ Car in my home country. In terms of my recovery from the injury, I still cannot tell exactly how it is because of the medication I'm taking. At this point I will focus on my rehabilitation program, and I will seek and try anything which will help me get back to the track as soon as possible."
Richie Hearn (Budweiser Ford Swift), on the similarities between Twin Ring Motegi and Homestead-Miami Speedway: "Twin Ring Motegi is such a great facility, probably one of the best we race on. The track is really similar to Homestead. Turns One and Two are really fast, but Turns Three and Four are tighter, so you actually have to brake and downshift, which is rare for ovals. It creates a great passing zone, though, making for some exciting racing."
Cristiano da Matta (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), looking forward to his first trip to Japan: "I have not raced at the Motegi track. I am really looking forward to seeing it in person. I am not too worried about racing there, because we have done a lot of oval testing to prepare. And we had a really strong first race in Miami, especially with our sixth-place starting position. I don't like to predict anything, but I think we are ready for Japan for sure. It will be kind of strange for me to show up at a brand new track in a foreign country, climb into a car and just start racing. But I see the race as any other race. I will give 100 percent of what I can do every time I am in a race car, no matter where I am."
Alex Barron (All American Racers Denso Toyota Eagle): "I'm looking forward to competing again at Motegi. Due to Toyota Racing Development's hard work, we have a newly developed engine, which promises more power for the race weekend. We've done a lot of testing in the in the last month with the new Eagle 997 chassis. A good result in Motegi would be especially
Source: CART Online