An interview with Patrick Carpentier Part 1 of 2 INDIANAPOLIS (July 16, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Patrick Carpentier. Merrill...
An interview with Patrick Carpentier
Part 1 of 2
INDIANAPOLIS (July 16, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Patrick Carpentier.
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for joining us on this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain with CART public relations. We have a great lineup on tap for the call today featuring two of our champions following last weekend's CART FedEx Championship Series event in Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport. In just a minute we'll hear from Ryan Hunter-Reay, one of the top young names in open-wheel racing who won his third CART Toyota Atlantic race of the season last weekend. But leading off in the teleconference today we welcome in Patrick Carpentier of the Player's/Forsythe Racing team.
Pat, thanks for joining us on today's call and congratulations on Sunday's win.
Patrick Carpentier: Thanks for having me today. It was a great day Sunday.
Merrill Cain: It sure was. Patrick qualified second for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank and he took advantage of some great pit stops in a nearly perfect car to capture his second career win in CART. It's his first win on a road or street course. He also ended the reign of four straight wins by Cristiano da Matta.
The win vaulted Patrick into a fourth place tie in the season standings with Michel Jourdain, Jr. with 62 points heading into the next CART FedEx Championship Series event, the Molson Indy Vancouver in Pat's home country of Canada on July 28.
Let's open it up for questions for Patrick.
Q: You were telling us on the weekend that you were going to start talking to some other people. Have you had any of those conversations yet regarding next season?
Patrick Carpentier: Yes, we're talking to a few people actually. Alan [LaBrosse], my agent has talked to a few people on the phone. We already started talking for next season. So it's pretty good actually. We're talking in a couple of series and also in CART and IRL. So we'll see what's going to happen.
But I'd like to be with Players for sure because it's a family for me and I've been with them for five years. I just love the races. If we could stay there for next year, that would be fantastic.
Q: Have you had any further conversations since the big win on Sunday with the Player's people?
Patrick Carpentier: No, not with Player's actually. No, not with the Player's team. I think we're going to talk maybe later this week and see what's going to happen.
Q: The Player's people have always said the drivers were number three on the list of priorities, that's why they're not in any great hurry to rush you into signing. There was no disrespect toward you. Can you see the other two problems? I presume the other two are your engineers and crew, and the Reynard chassis versus the Lola chassis for next season. Can you talk about that?
Patrick Carpentier: I know Jerry [Forsythe] wants to keep the Reynard chassis for the next season. Personally I think the Reynard chassis is a very good chassis on a road course, like we had at Cleveland and we had at Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca and at Portland where [teammate] Alex [Tagliani] qualified pretty decently [fourth].
I think it's when we get to a street circuit where the racetrack is actually a little bit more slippery. We have to run the chassis a little bit higher because obviously we run a little bit softer. Because of that, the Reynard seems to be producing a lot less downforce than the Lola when it's higher above the ground. So on a regular road course, we can lower the car much more. The Reynard is producing a lot more downforce that way. So I think it's a very good car in that situation.
We'll see what's going to happen. Maybe they're going to find a couple more things on the Reynard that makes it equal everywhere with the Lola. But that's a team decision first. Before we talk about that, I'll just see if I'm with Team Player's next year or not. I think next year's team is going to be very good.
Q: You're happy with your crew the way it is now, the engineers?
Patrick Carpentier: I'm pretty happy with my engineers. With the tools we had and what happened, I think Michael [Cannon], Eric [Zeto] and Bruce [Ashmore] do a good job. When you have a weekend like we had in Toronto, that's the only thing that I was very disappointed with because we had so many problems. Every season at the beginning of the year we seem to have problems for the first seven or eight races, then it seems to start going well.
But if you want to win championships, that's where you need to be strong, and that's what I think Team Player's wanted to look at as to why we had so many problems early on.
Q: It seemed like your contract with Player's always comes down to the last minute before you renew. Is that kind of frustrating to go through the second half of the season kind of unsure what's going on?
Patrick Carpentier: No, actually right now I'm not. I was a bit stressed before Toronto, but right now I think we have a couple of options that we can go to and different things that we're looking at. So I'm not as stressed as I was before. I would like to be with them, but we'll see what happens.
I would love to be with them if they want to have me drive for them, but I just don't want to force my way in. So I'm going to let them decide whatever they want to decide for the coming season.
But I think this year, honestly, a lot of drivers' contracts are up and a lot of guys are in a similar situation as I am.
With the economy being a little bit tougher at the moment, the first sport that usually get touched by a rough economy is auto racing because it's more expensive, whether it's CART, IRL or NASCAR. I think all the series lost a couple of teams, even Formula 1 right now - soon they're going to end up with 18 cars, which is what we have in the CART series. So I'd say it's just a couple years that are going to be tough for the racing and the drivers.
Q: Winning on a road course, you have been I think unfairly identified by some in the past as a bit of an oval specialist. Six of your previous eight podiums came on ovals. How much satisfaction do you derive from finally getting that first road course win?
Patrick Carpentier: It's funny because the first victory came on the oval at Michigan last year. It was more of a relief. This win is one of contentment; I don't know how to say that, but just satisfaction. I'm really happy because I think if everything is right, like Team Player's did this weekend, Ford-Cosworth, Player's, everybody had it right. My engine was as strong at the end as it was at the beginning. We had absolutely no problems all weekend, and that's what you need to win races because it's so competitive.
I'm just happy. I want to win on a road course and I've wanted to do that for a long time. This weekend we were able to run a fast pace and win a race. Cristiano [da Matta] was a bit faster at the beginning for sure, and they had car problems. At least we were also very fast.
For me it proves a point. I'm very happy because in Formula Atlantic, whether it was on street or ovals, we could win pretty much all the races. It's good. It's satisfying for me, it really is.
Q: Two years ago there were a lot of stories flying around that Player's wanted to replace you with Paul Tracy. You were struggling that season. I think all these stories got you down. Two years later ironically you're at a career high, all these same stories are resurfacing. How are you coping with it this time?
Patrick Carpentier: Actually, I don't know. I decided that it didn't matter. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen - that's the end of it. Every year, because most of the time I only sign one-year contracts, I can have some to like it better if I sign just for one year. But every year I'm involved in the stories. It's the same thing - am I'm going to be replaced or not.
Actually, I'm in pretty good terms with the Player's people. I talk to them. I'm supposed to go have lunch with them this week. I'm not sure I'm going to talk about contracts and what's going to happen. I think I'm just going to let them decide and not force it.
I think I got a couple other things that I can do. Actually, I feel I'm at a crossroads in my career, my life, and maybe we'll see what I'm going to choose and what they're going to choose. If we're together next year, I think we can have a fantastic season. But we'll see what's going to happen. I'm kind of getting used to it, though, because every year it's a little bit of the same story.
Q: I read you're going to sail up and down the St. Lawrence, is that correct?
Patrick Carpentier: I'm actually going to go Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Baja gave me a nice boat. It's a speed boat. I'm going to go on it, ride the St. Lawrence River and just enjoy.
Q: Be careful. You have a history of accidents.
Patrick Carpentier: At least this one doesn't have any wheels, so should be okay (laughter).
Q: Your lunch with Player's, that's going to be when, midweek?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, it's just a lunch to see them, say hi, talk about the weekend and Vancouver. It's going to be most likely Wednesday or Thursday, depending when I'm going to leave with the boat.
Q: Will [agent] Alan [LaBrosse] attend that lunch?
Patrick Carpentier: Not necessarily because it's not a lunch to talk about my things for next year. It's just a lunch as friends because I've been with them for five years. I'll just go see them. Actually, I use their gym at their offices. They have one of the nicest gyms. I'll just stop there, train and say hi.
Q: Do you get sort of personally involved in these negotiations?
Patrick Carpentier: I usually get involved in the first one. I go see the team for the first one with Alan. After that I just let Alan do it because I just want to focus on the driving part.
Q: You say you have two other options.
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, I got a couple other options. I don't want to talk about it now. It's better at the moment with the situation and everything that's happening. I think it's better to just let the time go a little bit and wait a little bit later in the season to make decision.
Q: Do the other options include the IRL as well as CART?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, it's both places that we're looking at.
Q: I read that you said your chances of staying with Player's are 50/50. What are your chances of staying in CART?
Patrick Carpentier: CART is a nice series. I really like the series. I think it's nice to have the street, the road and the ovals, the different circuits and travel around the world. At the moment, I don't know. I've enjoyed my time tremendously in that series. We'll see what's going to happen next year.
Q: You wouldn't put a percentage factor on your chances of remaining in CART?
Patrick Carpentier: No.
Q: Something goofy always seems to happen to you guys. Did you worry something would go wrong by the end of the Cleveland race?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, actually I was the one who almost went wrong. Like I told my guys, they said, "When did you think you were going to win?" I said, "I thought we had a good chance." But often in the last lap or last five laps something happened and we could not win it.
I decided like five laps from the end to slow down and just make sure the car was going to finish the race because it was a tough, long race on all the cars.
I decided to slow down, and for some reason I lost my concentration a little bit. I almost went off the track by myself with four laps to go. After that, I decide to accelerate again a little bit. And for the last lap, if I was going to slow down, I was going to really slow down and short shift of the gears to just make sure I make it to the start/finish line.
Until I crossed that thing, I was not sure it was going to happen.
Patrick Carpentier press conference, part II