An Interview With Cristiano Da Matta, Kenny Brack and Bruno Junqueira Part 2 of 2: Q: How has having a third car made your life different? Or has it? Kenny Brack: It's more crowded in the engineering room, that's about it. I think the...
An Interview With Cristiano Da Matta, Kenny Brack and Bruno Junqueira
Part 2 of 2:
Q: How has having a third car made your life different? Or has it?
Kenny Brack: It's more crowded in the engineering room, that's about it. I think the Ganassi team is a team with a lot of strength and wanted to be able to do something like that in the middle of the season.
I think I touched a little bit on that yesterday. It's a big undertaking. It's not just having a car or an extra car. You've got to have extra spare parts. Instead of making four or five sets of stuff for one or two cars, you got to have to add to make more pieces essentially. It's more load on everybody.
But they have a lot of resource in the team. And I haven't seen any negatives; I haven't seen really any positives either. It's stayed the same. That's good because it hasn't affected our program I don't think.
Bruno Junqueira: I agree with Kenny. The biggest difference for us as drivers is that the engineers' room is crowded. Sometimes you want to go there. You see the guys on the door. You don't go there.
Apart of that, it's okay. I think Team Target is doing impressive job to put three cars in the middle of the season. And I think Kenny and I are still doing as good as before, and that's really good.
Q: Kenny, the first car didn't go out until 26 minutes had gone by.
Kenny Brack: We were worried about that because he's [Shinji Nakano] always going out first. He was waiting. We thought, "No one's going to go out today."
Q: You, the drivers asked for this cutoff now. Is there any way to compromise, see more cars out there?
Kenny Brack: No.
Q: You obviously like it the way it is?
Kenny Brack: That's another question. I thought you said if you can compromise. I think for the racing, this qualifying format is better, as long as I've been in CART anyway, because it's most fair for anybody. It doesn't matter where you are in championship points, you get the same shot as everybody else. Yeah, you can get into traffic and stuff, and that happens to all of us during the season. But at the end of the season, I think you're going to have a situation where you got blocked maybe five times, and so did the other guys. So it's very fair from that standpoint.
We have to do what's best for us, obviously, to qualify up front. We have to take everything into consideration, track a grip, and everything else. The track improves as more cars run on it. So that's why cars are not going out until right at the end when you have to.
It's nothing new. It's been like that in Formula 1 for years. They've had the same qualifying system. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Q: It's been the old CART system for years and years.
Cristiano da Matta: You have to do what is best for the sport. For the sport, the best thing is for all the drivers have the same situation for qualifying where, everybody has the same shot.
Kenny Brack: Last year, was it 30 minutes qualifying? So you have about the same track time now. So it hasn't changed in that respect; it's just that you sit and drink coffee for a half hour (laughter).
Kenny Brack: That or you spy on the other cars a little bit and see what they're running for bits and pieces.
Q: Any of you, once again Toyota is pretty well dominating the top end of the grid, as was the case in Laguna. There's not a lot you can say technically about it. At Monterrey, the Fords and Hondas were up there. Can you talk about the progress that has been made by Toyota, that's given you a bit of an edge the last couple weekends?
Kenny Brack: I don't know. I think for me, I sort of anticipated that to happen this year because I saw it already last year. Toyota's biggest goal is to win the championship, both from a manufacturer standpoint and driver standpoint.
If you look at the resources that they have, I think it's quite natural to see that happen. So to be racing with them is the best boat you can be in right now. The only problem is there's a lot of Toyotas out there (laughter). But I think we have an upper hand on the Fords and the Hondas in terms of drivability and power actually.
Cristiano da Matta: I totally agree with Kenny.
Kenny Brack: I need a spare cylinder. I need a V-9 next time (laughter).
Bruno Junqueira: I think Toyota is doing a very good job. I remember last year every single race they would improve the engine and the same has happened this year. You always have something new on the engine. Every time you can see more horsepower. That's really good.
I think when they came out with traction control it improved things a lot. That's it. I think Toyota's doing a good job and creating competition between us. That's going to be good. You're not just going to have competition between seven or eight drivers.
Cristiano da Matta: They got a little bit mad at us because we keep on asking them for more power, saying "We need bigger advantage." But it's very good, of course.
For me, I've come a long way with Toyota engines, since I started in CART. It's very good to see where we came from and to see where we are at right now. It's very rewarding, of course, for me, and I feel the same for everybody. I know a lot of people inside TRD [Toyota Racing Development]. It just feels good because at the end of the day, you make a lot of friends there. It's good to see your friends doing that well. Not only because you're associated with them, but it's all your friends, too. It's a good feeling.
Q: During those first 25 minutes, if no one is out, you don't have timing and scoring to watch, what do you do?
Cristiano da Matta: We wonder who is going to go out first.
Kenny Brack: We make bets of who is going to go out first (laughter). I lost today because, what's his name, (Herdez?), He went out and did an engine check.
Q: Do you do anything special? Talk to the engineers?
Cristiano da Matta: No. We sit and wait. We hope somebody goes out so at least we can watch on the TV (laughter).
Bruno Junqueira: I have two: When Chip [Ganassi] is here and when Chip is not here (laughter). When he's here I say "There's nobody on the track, it's time to go." When he's not here, then I can talk to my engineers and decide what we have to do.
I don't know, I think today was really a gamble. I did a change the last set of tires. I don't know if the track got hot or the setup was wrong or it's because I got in traffic. Early in the session it was cooler, but then the track has rubber down, so it's a compromise. You never know, if you go out first you might get somebody going out of the pits in front of you with cold tires. You don't know if it will screw your lap up. It's a big compromise either way.
Cristiano da Matta: Today actually was quite surprising to see how much everybody waited. It took so long.
Q: Do you think that was a mistake? It was overcast.
Cristiano da Matta: Are you asking the three of us? For us it probably worked really well (laughter).
But it depends a lot on so many things. As Bruno was saying, there are so many compromises. You never know for sure when is best. The thing is, percentage, if you look at the past, the end of the session is better.
Kenny Brack: On a road course, it's almost always the best in the end, unless there's some rain or something strange going on, like cloud cover. I think on a road course, when all the rubber goes done, it will improve grip.
Q: At Long Beach you talked about the problem of people going out on cold tires. Has anyone brought up a topic about tire warmers again?
Kenny Brack: Not really. It's a big thing to bring tire warmers, to haul them over to Japan and everywhere we go. We're not going there anymore, but we're still going to Australia and everywhere. It's a lot of stuff. It's not one pair of tire warmers. You're talking three or four per car. And it's not a cost issue, it's a logistic issue. You know, everything that comes with you - there will be additional things to think about for everything you add. And we've been doing it this way, so it works pretty good.
Cristiano da Matta: Everybody's doing a pretty good job on getting out of the way. I've seen this year at least there's a lot more respect on the track than I've ever seen before. I mean, I don't have any complaints. Everybody's been very fair. I also try to get out of everybody's way.
Kenny Brack: You leave stuff down sometimes (laughter).
Cristiano da Matta: That's not my fault (laughter).
Q: The Festival Curves up here, you three will be starting up near the front. You have to be aware of what's going on behind you. How will you approach the start?
Cristiano da Matta: For me, luckily I've never had any problems in the curves since I started in Champ Cars. I had one in the past in Indy Lights when I got collected starting second. I've never had any other problems.
And this is first time I starting on pole here, so it's a lot less likely that I'm going to have a problem tomorrow than previous years when I was starting right in the middle of the field. It's good that everybody is so conscious about the turn that everybody takes extra care going into there. There's always one wild man - hopefully it's not me tomorrow. But it's a difficult corner. Probably the most difficult start of the season.
Kenny Brack: I don't know. We'll see what happens tomorrow. It's always difficult there. I think it's about 50/50. If you look at the history of the race, sometimes it happens but we've had good starts here, too. I think last year was pretty good. I spun around, but I was starting at the back so it didn't matter. We'll see. Usually problems happen in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth row.
Bruno Junqueira: It's a very difficult because if you are too aggressive, you're going to hit someone. If you are too cautious, you're going to brake a little bit early and someone is going to hit your behind. It's kind of a compromise. But I don't think it will happen in the first two rows so we'll be fine.
Merrill Cain: Thank you very much, guys. Good luck tomorrow in tomorrow's G.I. Joe's 200.
Top three interview Part I