CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Officials press conference, part I

An interview with Chris Kneifel, Adam Saal, John Lopes. Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: I'd like to bring up the members of the competition staff to answer a few questions about today's race. We're joined by Adam Saal, CART Vice President of ...

An interview with Chris Kneifel, Adam Saal, John Lopes.

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: I'd like to bring up the members of the competition staff to answer a few questions about today's race. We're joined by Adam Saal, CART Vice President of Communications, CART Steward Chris Kneifel joins us, and Vice President of Racing Operations John Lopes joins us.

John, obviously a tough race, a lot of conditions that were thrown at us by Mother Nature today. If you could, a lot of the media here covering the series, talk about the process for shortening the race, what went into the decision, and to make it an official race, halfway point of the race, and why it was scheduled for 35 laps instead of when we originally decided to shorten the race.

John Lopes: I'd like first to mention for those of you who haven't been around CART this year, typically when we have a great day of weather, they call it Pook weather. Chris announced the official end to the drought in Queensland. We might want to refer to that as Pook weather.

I want to congratulation the members of the racing operations staff today. They had a difficult task at race control, faced with some very difficult questions throughout the race. Secondly, I think the fans got an unfortunately up-close view of our safety team in action at the beginning of the race. They are the best in the business, did an amazing job with something we always fear, and that's a dual extrication where you actually have to take two drivers out of a car.

To answer your question, typically race distances are calculated based upon a TV window. For this particular race, the halfway mark was 36 laps. A race is official when it is run halfway, or 36 laps, per the rule book. So the race became official at 36 laps.

Merrill Cain: Because the original distance was set for 70?

John Lopes: Yes. Basically that's a short synopsis. The way we calculate 70 laps at the beginning is based on a 2 hour, 10 minute window for television.

Merrill Cain: Despite the fact that after the accident we shortened the race by 20 laps, you went back to the original distance to determine half the race?

John Lopes: The way the rule book reads is that the official distance for the race, it's an official race, halfway of the covered scheduled distance, which was 70. So officially the race halfway mark was 36 no matter how we shortened the race throughout.

Merrill Cain: Chris Kneifel, if you could speak to the issue, the conditions that the drivers faced during the course of this race was obviously very difficult. Talk about the measures that race control took to try and make it as competitive a race as we could, and make it safe for the competitors.

Chris Kneifel: Obviously, Mother Nature got the better side of us today, no question about that.

Not having really done this with this type of weather here in Australia before, we thought the track conditions permitted to go ahead and get the race started. We chose initially going for a single-file start. We asked the drivers to give some spacing. Obviously, that didn't happen on the first start. Turned into a bad situation on the front straightaway in the obvious red flag situation. During the cleanup, the rains came again shortly after we got restarted. We just got upside down and were never able to get back on top of it.

We were hoping to have better things happen today; it just didn't work out.

Merrill Cain: Adam Saal, if you could speak to the situation. A tough situation, tough decisions. You've been through a lot of these races. You know how tough the decision to make is.

Adam Saal: That is actually why I'm joining, because we did have a great weekend here. It seemed we were in a completely different situation today. That's Australia. One day it seems fine, next day literally the skies open up.

It was a great event. Many milestones this weekend. Incredible attendance. We also made it clear we're going to be back here through 2008 with a great continuation of a great event. This is definitely a memorable one.

But frankly we've been through some dark and rainy races here before. We always managed come back and have a great time. I'd like to thank IMG, Jeff Jones, John Cawley and everybody on the crew who made it a great effort for us, it was an outstanding event. Again, not the result we wanted weather wise but we made it work.

I want to thank these guys for coming here directly. I explained to them that it's late in the day, they came in to speak with all of you. We do appreciate that.

Merrill Cain: Because of the late hour, we want to take some questions from the media quickly.

Q: Chris Kneifel, given the conditions at the start, does that present a case for rolling starts to come under review in those conditions?

Chris Kneifel: Rolling starts versus standing starts? That's an ongoing debate. We had a CART fan forum in Columbus, Ohio, a few months back. A lot of our fans love the standing starts. I guess it's an ongoing question. It's something we consider all the time. Right now, this is how we start our races.

I have to tell you, you can have some pretty awful stack-ups with standing starts, as well. The incident today , it's something that happened. You can have a bad deal like that with a standing start. We had some contact that led to track blockage and guys ran into each other.

-cart-

Officials press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Kneifel , Jeff Jones