CHAMPCAR/CART: Rocketsports Racing Champ Car press conference, part II

Champ Car Teleconference January 17, 2003 An Interview with: Paul Gentilozzi Alex Tagliani Part 2 of 3 Q: Good afternoon, Eric, and good afternoon to Paul and Tag and congratulations to the both of you. I guess my question to Tag is: ...

Champ Car Teleconference
January 17, 2003

An Interview with:
Paul Gentilozzi
Alex Tagliani

Part 2 of 3

Q: Good afternoon, Eric, and good afternoon to Paul and Tag and congratulations to the both of you. I guess my question to Tag is: Your world this year will be very much different than it has been in the first years of your Champ Car career where you were sort of, as the driver, sort of the junior member of a two-car team initially, and it was an established team. Here you are coming in as the lead, and only driver in a one-car operation, and although it's an operation that's been in existence for quite some time, is new to Champ Car racing, and I wondered if you could perhaps talk a little bit about the different role?

Tagliani: This is the excitement for me. When I saw the way the team was getting placed, I saw that I was going to be part of something that is getting built, and it's really exciting. I always have those expectations that I want to be on the podium and I want to finish in the top five as much as I can, but, you know, we need to walk first, like Paul was saying before. With all the guys that we have in place, I have the feeling that we have everything - all the tools that we need to be competitive, and then it's going to be the time for us to start and go testing and put the parts that we want on the car and decide what we want to run. And then start testing to try to go fast, and all this persistence is a challenge, but, at the same time, exciting. I feel that I have good experience in CART, and I believe in my abilities to drive a car fast, but now is going to be the time to spend the time with the crew, engineers, the staff of the Rocketsports racing team, and make sure that we put things together in place at the right order to be competitive as quick as we can.

Q: If I might take one follow-up, I know that certainly in your childhood and adolescence you came from sort of a family where there was very much a kind of hands-on involvement in auto racing, and in some regards your comments before about Paul reflect kind of in some ways the same thing, and a team owner that you can talk to about shocks and ride-height and all of that.

Tagliani: It was fantastic. It's difficult to explain because when you get to a certain stage of your career you would like to race for the best team ever and win every race, but you need a lot of different teams and you need a lot of different drivers out there to make a series, and my career is going to go this direction now, and I am willing to take the big step and try to create something with this team for a long period of time.

And when I was at the shop yesterday I felt like I was back at the shop with my dad and working on my own go-cart, and the guys were impressed because I was working on my own seat, I was cutting stuff, and they were looking at me and some of the guys work with other famous drivers, and they said that this was a big premier for them, they are not used to that. I think it's something that is going to be created with all the guys on the team that is going to be good, and I really hope that we are going to be able to have good success and be there for a long time.

Q: Granted, several months ago, this was when word started to leak out about your discussions with Rocketsports, you did voice some apprehension about it because I don't think anybody was hired except for Paul, himself. What's really changed your mind and your approach?

Tagliani: Well, the first time I talked with Paul about the future was when I was in Las Vegas and he had nothing, you know, like he wanted to be in CART but there was nothing there, and in a short period of time he put a team together and the people is always the toughest thing to put together. Like he said before, he bought the cars and he is building a new shop for his new team, so it's a lot of work, but from the time we talked until today there is something that is in place that is for me. It's very attractive, and I was really hoping when I was seeing all this getting built around Rocketsports that I was going to get a call from him and I was going to get the ride because I didn't want to let the opportunity go by.

The best coach I can have right now is Paul because he won everything, he won championships, and I feel comfortable that maybe having him around, it's going to give that push that I need to finally win that first race.

Q: It sounds like you really feel that this is a team has everybody pulling in one direction. Can you compare that to the atmosphere that Player's experienced over the last couple years?

Tagliani: It's very difficult, you know. To explain some of the details, I was going into the hotel the other night and I was very sick and Paul just said, "Okay, wait for me here, I am going to go and pick up some medicine." He walked away and went to the pharmacy and got me some medicine.

It's bad to say, but I don't think Jerry Forsythe ever did that for me, and it's something that shows his personality and how close he is to his driver and how close he is to his crew. I think it's something that's nice to feel, and all the guys that were hired from Paul now, they want to work for him, and at the same time, he took a lot of time to hire them. They are probably the best that he thinks to do the job, and for a driver, it's a good feeling to start a season like that, and it makes me feel that we have the tools to be competitive.

Q: Congratulations and best wishes to you tomorrow. Where are you getting married?

Tagliani: In Montreal.

Q: Alex, congratulations. A huge week for you and, of course, Paul, will comment. Alex, I just wonder how the uncertainty over the second half of the season, particularly through the last couple months, affected your off-season, and now your preparation for the 2003 season.

Tagliani: It was difficult because I was hearing a lot of rumors, and nothing for sure, and people were trying to reassure me, and then bam, you know, with four races to go, pretty late into the season, I have to turn around and try to get a ride. So it was difficult, but I think all those little problems and little steps that you have to go through in your life or in your career are just going to make me stronger. And now that's done, I am going to race for Rocketsports, and all that pressure is off, and we are just going to put some other pressure on ourselves to be competitive as quick as we can.

Q: Everybody is going to be in a similar position this year with the same engine with a different chassis. As a driver, where are you going to look for your advantage this year? How can you be quicker than the rest?

Tagliani: Well, I don't know what to expect, but I am a guy that is able to get used to cars pretty quick, and I don't think it's going to be as worse as when I went from Atlantic to Champ Cars, so I'll try to feel what the car needs to go fast and get to know my engineer and show him what I want to drive the car, and he needs to understand what I like and to see how it works. It's going to take a little bit of time but we are ready, we have everything in place to be competitive, we just need to put all the ingredients in and make sure we have a good recipe at the end, but we are up for the challenge.

Q: Did you meet with new Champ Car owner Craig Pollack?

Tagliani: Not really. I was invited for the 24 hours of hours Mont Tremblant. I was there and I met him for five minutes and we talk and I heard that he was going to be involved in CART, but I didn't even know that he was going to buy an existing team, so we never start negotiating.

Q: The fact that there is going to be a lot of new drivers, and even though this is your fourth year in the series, do you feel like the veteran that you are now? You are even more of a veteran considering the number of veteran drivers who have left. Will that give you an advantage even though ordinarily you wouldn't be looked on as a real veteran, but compared to all the new drivers coming in, you are?

Tagliani: Yeah, last year, three years in CART was still a rookie when you were around guys like Jimmy [Vasser], [Paul] Tracy, Michael Andretti, but now there is going to be a lot of rookies in the series, and I am pretty sure knowing the track is an advantage. But after one year of professional race car driving, you don't need five days to learn a racetrack, so I think guys that are going to race this year, they are really fast and strong. They are going to be able to learn the track really quickly, but as for the fine tuning and the preparation with the engineer, the input and working together to go there as fast as possible, and getting the car out of the trailer, you know, quick. I think that's where the advantage is for me. But I think you can expect a season that's going to be pretty competitive.

Q: The fact that you were bumped from Player's by [Paul] Tracy, was that just business as far as you were concerned, or do you have any sort of bitterness or animosity toward the team or Paul?

Tagliani: No, not really. I am a guy that respects opinions of people, and I think I consider their decision as an opinion, and I respect the change that they wanted. But the only thing that was a little bit hard for me is I would have liked to have known a little bit earlier - especially as driver that is looking for a ride for next year. But during the season I was saying to everybody that I was going to be set for 2003, and suddenly with four races to go I am looking for a ride, and that's the situation I didn't like to be in, but for the rest I think it's an opinion and I respect people's opinion.

Q: Mr. Tagliani and Gentilozzi, I've known Alex a long time, I know how strong he is, strong character and hates to lose, killer instinct, and Mr. Gentilozzi is pretty much the same. What kind of relationship were you expecting? Alex was talking about kind of a father/son relationship when you got some medicine for him, but I know that you are very strong competitors, and what kind of relationship are you expecting from both of you?

Gentilozzi: Well, I expect it's one of respect, quite honestly. We want the same thing, and being on a race team is a lot like being with your family. There are times when you disagree, and you may disagree with a lot of emotion, but you also understand that you are in the same family and you want the same thing, and that's how we have always raced at Rocketsports. I expect that there are times when Alex and I will disagree about what we do and whether what decision we make or how he drives. But that's okay, we do that together, and in the end everything we do is with the same objective, so I respect very much his ability, and I hope he comes to respect what we do as a team. I am sure he will, and we are going to make that into a winning situation.

Part III

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Paul Gentilozzi