CHAMPCAR/CART: Servia, McGee press conference, part III

An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee Part 3 of 3 Q: With the Reynard, there's been so much talk that the Reynard has been a little bit slower on a bunch of tracks, but Oriol, there was a Reynard just ahead of you in position driven by...

An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee
Part 3 of 3

Q: With the Reynard, there's been so much talk that the Reynard has been a little bit slower on a bunch of tracks, but Oriol, there was a Reynard just ahead of you in position driven by Pat. Obviously, you guys were finding something with that and tuning it right to be competitive with the Lola, can you talk about that?

Oriol Servia:  Yeah, I have to say that I drove Lola last year and the
beginning of this year with PacWest, and I always liked the Lola.  I
always felt very comfortable.  I thought it was a better car.

But, since I joined the team, I've had great cars and I've really liked the way the car works. So I'm not that sure that the Lola is better. I think you can still make them both work if you have a good engineering team and you work well through the weekend. Player's [Forsythe Racing] have been improving it lately. They have been quick many places. Walker has also been quick at some tracks. As I said, I'm very happy with how the car has been.

And I want to add, too. You were congratulating us for this fourth place where we were extremely happy, but I think we are happier because we were able to break a little bit of that bad luck that we were having. Because Vancouver, we had mechanical issues; and then Mid-Ohio was a different race but nothing special. And then Montreal and Road America, we were really happy with the car, it was running very strong, very quick and we could see a podium finish, but it looked like something always happens.

So I think that's why we were so happy here at Rockingham, not so much for a fourth place, because what it meant that finally, we got something decent on the paper, and a good threshold to start going good. We feel we have been going quick and the car has been quick, but we have not been able to prove it on the paper.

I think that you will see in the next races, maybe Miami - I think for the Reynard, actually, it works better when we have quick corners, and maybe Miami will not be our best. But Surfer's, Fontana and Mexico, I think will be great events for the Reynard and for us.

Q: Jim, can you comment on that?

Jim McGee: I think Oriol has kind of hit it.

The biggest thing, always, that you have going against you is the car count, Lolas to Reynard because Reynard right now, there's no supporting group as far as engineering or anything like that so you're kind of on your own. We work a little bit with that [Champ Car driver, Tora] Takagi, but not with Player's. So you don't get good - or any feedback, basically, as you would if you were running the Lola.

The Lola has four or five or six engineers at every track. So if you've got a problem or if they see something that may be helping or is an advantage, they feed that information to you. We are kind of like on or own. So, you know, at the Grand Prix of Detroit, I sometimes had to struggle a little bit more to get the most out of the car.

By the same token, when you have a lot of one particular type of car, if somebody makes it go quick, you know that you can make it go quick, too, sooner or later.

But with our car, the Reynard, if we look at the tractors light up and we see all four Reynards grouped in one area, everybody has a tendency to say, well, this isn't going to be our track today, it looks like we have a deficiency, but that's not always the case, either. Sometimes you have a little breakthrough and all of a sudden, bang, the situation changes. You just have to persevere and you have to have the mentality that that's all we got today. This is the car we've got. This is the equipment we've got. We have to get the most out of it, and sometimes stop looking around, and you'd be surprised sometimes what you can get out of it.

Q: Your comments on open-wheel and whatnot, you made a comment earlier, and I think I'm right in interpreting this, that it seems - at least I got it, that traction control is one of the reasons or maybe a significant reason why the cars have become somewhat processional. Some of the comments from the drivers just from this last weekend were ranging from, it's impossible to pass, passing is dangerous and blah, blah, blah. Oriol was able to get by a bunch of people on track, whereas everybody else seemed to pass in the pits. Judging from some of the e-mail that we're getting, there's a bit of a problem there. Is traction control one of the main bugaboos that's holding this back?

Jim McGee: I think traction control has been a big issue. The cars are - even as it stands, there's no big differential in horsepower. The braking is relatively the same.

So if you eliminate the driver as far as with the way he can come off the corner or the way he can use the throttle, again, everybody kind of comes off the corner about the same speed. So you're not going to pass anybody down the straightaway because the cars are relatively the same power wise. So your only choice is to maybe try and outbrake somebody, and you're just asking for trouble when you try and do that, unless you have a good enough run on them.

Even a place like Cleveland, we used to go to Cleveland we saw all kinds of passing down that back straightaway, but now everybody comes off that big wide corner, puts their foot down and traction control takes over. So everybody's acceleration rate is about the same. Nobody makes a mistake, or it's hard to make a mistake. Therefore, you can't get a run on anybody to get them in a braking zone.

So it really does have a huge, I feel like, it has a huge impact on the way - and the lack of passing.

Q: Patrick Racing has committed next year for CART, I get the impression why some of your other comments that Oriol is in line for next year as well, hopefully with somebody like Vasser. Is that something we can run with; that he's going to be running next year? Oriol?

Oriol Servia: I think you should ask Jim.

Right now, we are talking about next year and I think we would be both happy that that would be the reality, but it's not a done deal, signed the extension of the contract. I think if things go as the way they should, it should be the way you were talking, yes.

Merrill Cain: Did you care to comment on that? Do you care to comment on where you guys are at for next year and your plan?

Jim McGee:  Well, I think certainly Oriol is my choice.  I've got one guy
that stands in my way all the time.  (Laughs).

And Pat is - you know, Mr. Patrick is - he doesn't roll over very easy when it comes to anything, and he just wants to make sure that the package and everything we've got is right. And hopefully, from my standpoint, and the team, we're very happy the way things are going with Oriol and the way we are progressing, and certainly, I just want to roll out of this year into next year. So hopefully that's the way we are going to do it.

Q: Jim, you talked about the lack of testing in-season. Is there anything at all that a team or a driver can do to make up for that? Can they do any other kind of racing or any simulation or anything?

Jim McGee: I think you can run two cars, three cars, four cars, five cars. Basically when you're looking at, what it forces you and you can see it in NASCAR and some of the other series, the best advantages that they can get for their dollar is to run more cars. You get more feedback, you get more chances, better car and reliability, from a luck standpoint.

You know, we do a lot of simulation programs and so forth, but still, it's difficult.

You go to a track - and we do have a lot of good data now on the different tracks that we run. We are pretty close when we get there, but again, if the tires are a little different and sometimes Bridgestone will change the tire at certain racetracks and so forth like that, so you go there, the track conditions, it is difficult.

I think next year, there is some talk that what they are going to do is they are going to give you like six sets of tires in-season and with those six sets of tires you can maybe do two or three days of testing at some tracks in case you have a problem where you get behind, or you have a situation like [Champ Car team] Newman/Haas [Racing], I think this year where they had a fuel-pick-up situation and they could not get it solved.

So that becomes a very difficult situation on a race weekend where you go there and you have one hour and 30 minutes of practice and then right straight into qualifying.

So I think that needs to be a provision in there where under certain circumstances, you can go run for a couple of days somewhere and sort out some of your problems.

Q: The talk about the difficulty in passing in CART. How would you both feel about a standard spec, significantly increased braking zones, longer braking zones, do you think that might help?

Oriol Servia: That could be an idea, I think. Probably longer brake zones will create more overtaking, yes.

I don't think it's a golden solution, but it could probably help, yes.

Jim McGee: I think there is some talk about them coming to a spec brake pattern road, but still, the place you pass is off the corner, not in the corner. In other words, you have to get a run on a guy off the corner. You have to

be able to at least accelerate or have some kind of an advantage off the corner, and that's why a place like Cleveland used to be so good because you had this big, wide corner with all kinds of room that you could pick a different line and get lined up and you could actually get a run on a guy then you could outbrake him.

Today, the way the cars are, if you try and outbrake somebody, nine times out of ten, you're going to get in there and lock it up and then you're either going to have an accident or you're going to come down on somebody and put them out, especially as narrow as some of these street courses are that we run.

So you really have to do it off the corner, and at least get even wheel-to-wheel, and then a little bit of outbraking puts you in position where you can make the corner. Other than that, it's kind of tough.

But again, you know, longer braking zones, that is something to think about. And we've thought about - because all of the advantages now are gone with traction control, believe it or not, we have been spending tons of money and tons of testing on brakes, because brakes now are a big advantage because that is the only place you can do it. We've got brake manufacturers, three rotor manufacturers and we are back and forth all over the place trying to gain an advantage in the braking now because there is no advantage on the other side because of traction control.

Q: I heard some people say that one reason why there are braking zones so long is that they have more opportunities to make those passes, so I just thought that might be.

Jim McGee: I think there, you can use your brakes up easy. Our brake package is pretty efficient, and with the cooling and everything, we have available to us, we don't have as many brake fading problems. I mean, you do, but it's not to the degree that they have at Winston Cup and you can run a guy out of brakes in Winston Cup.

In our type of racing, these cars, for 200 miles, if you get the right ducting and with the brake package you've got, it's pretty hard to kill the brakes.

Merrill Cain: Thank you very much for taking some time to talk with us this afternoon. Again, we congratulate you on a strong fourth a place effort last week at Rockingham and we wish you the best of luck in the next CART FedEx event, the Grand Prix Americas in the streets of downtown Miami on October 6. Thanks, we appreciate you joining us today.

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Servia, McGee press conference, part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia