CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing 11 October 1999

This Week in Ford Racing October 11, 1999 FedEx Championship Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta, who has gained a tremendous amount of momentum over the last few races, looks to continue to build on that success as the series heads across the ...

This Week in Ford Racing October 11, 1999

FedEx Championship

Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta, who has gained a tremendous amount of momentum over the last few races, looks to continue to build on that success as the series heads across the Pacific to Surfer's Paradise, Australia.

Herta, who is looking to cap the season with a string of solid performances talks about the team's recent success and points to determination as the key to the team's strong showings of late and overcoming the early season difficulties.

He also talks about the new aero package, the Handford MkII, which CART will employ for the 2000 season. Herta feels that it will allow for added driver feel and will hopefully make racing as competitive as it is on the superspeedways. Ultimately, Herta hopes that the changes will take him back to the days of his first pole position, which came on the Phoenix oval, in his seventh career start.

BRYAN HERTA -8- Shell Ford --GOING INTO AUSTRALIA YOU ARE THE SERIES' HOTTEST DRIVER. YOU SCORED A POLE AND A WIN AT LAGUNA SECA, AND TWO WEEKS AGO IN HOUSTON YOU STARTED ON IN THE FRONT ROW AND POSTED A TOP-FIVE FINISH. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR STRONG PERFORMANCE OVER THE PAST FEW RACES TO? "Determination. I am not willing to accept the less than stellar performances we had earlier in the year, and I am just trying staying focused, and keep the team focused and motivated to fight back. It's a hard thing when you loose your way and have to fight back, and sometimes people don't. I am just really proud to come back from, I don't want to say being uncompetitive, but I feel like we were not running to our expectations. We had a few good runs along the way, but we didn't have the consistency, and now over the last few races, we seem to have found it and were able to build it back in. Now, we go to each race with the feeling that we can win."

EARLIER THIS SEASON YOU POSTED A PODIUM FINISH IN LONG BEACH AND MANY THOUGHT THAT WAS GOING TO BE THE START OF A BREAKTHROUGH SEASON FOR YOU. BUT AFTER THAT, YOU AND THE TEAM RAN INTO A STRETCH OF TOUGH RACES. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT, WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE THE SUCCESS IN THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON, TO RE-MOTIVATE YOURSELF AND THE TEAM. "It's a really hard thing. When you are lost, you don't know which way to go to get back out. But I think the important thing is that, as a team, we stuck together and fought through it and I think everyone has a lot to be proud of. We have turned what could have been a very mediocre season into something positive and if we could win another race or two here at the end of the season, although the points total won't have been what I had hoped, you would still have to say it was a pretty good year."

YOU POSTED A PODIUM FINISH ON THE TEMPORARY STREET CIRCUIT IN LONG BEACH, A WIN IN LAGUNA, AND A SOLID RUN IN HOUSTON. OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A THREAT ON THE PERMANENT ROAD COURSES BUT IT SEEMS THAT YOUR STREET CIRCUIT PROWESS HAS IMPROVED THIS SEASON. TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT? "I think we had some good street course performances last year. On occasion we had a fast car last year, a good car for qualifying but not necessarily a good car for racing. We really focused on that - not giving up too much for qualifying and focus more on racing with the car, how it feels on used tires and higher fuel loads. It was a matter of looking at the bigger picture and looking at what we will be facing on Sunday rather than keying too much on Saturday's qualifying."

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT YOU HAVE LAGUNA SECA FIGURED OUT, BUT CAN YOU TAKE WHAT MAKES YOU FAST THERE AND APPLY IT TO OTHER TRACKS ON THE CIRCUIT? "The basics are the same. A lot has been made of the success that I had at Laguna, which is really good. There are other tracks like that such as Mid-Ohio, I don't think I qualified worse than third there. If it were not for a couple of problems we had over those last few races we could have definitely been on the podium and maybe won a few. There have been other tracks too where I have had success, such as Portland. Luck has been on our side at Laguna, but I don't think it is exclusive to that track."

LAST WEEK, CART ANNOUNCED A NEW WING PACKAGE FOR THE SMALL AND INTERMEDIATE OVALS, THE HANDFORD MKII REAR WING. UP AND DOWN PIT ROAD THIS YEAR, THE GENERAL CONSENSUS AMONG DRIVERS WAS THAT THE SUPERSPEEDWAY WINGS WERE NOT THE WAY TO GO ON THE SMALL OVALS. ALONG THE SAME VEIN, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CRITICAL OF YOU IN THE PAST WAS YOUR PERFORMANCE ON OVALS. HOWEVER, LOOKING BACK, YOUR FIRST POLE CAME ON YOUR SEVENTH CAREER CART START ON OVAL AT PHOENIX. YOU HAVE ALSO QUALIFIED WELL AT PLACES LIKE MILWAUKEE, AND A FEW OTHER OVALS. MOST OF YOUR SUCCESS ON THE OVALS CAME DURING THE 1996 AND 1997 SEASONS, BEFORE CART STARTED MOVING TOWARDS CHANGING THE AERO PACKAGE AND EMPLOYING THE SUPERSPEEDWAY WING SETUP. HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE HANDFORD MKII, WHICH PUTS ADDITIONAL DOWNFORCE ON THAT CAR, AND TAKES THE AERO PACKAGE BACK TO THE DAYS THAT SAW YOU HAVING MORE SUCCESS ON THE OVALS? "I think it will certainly be a good thing for the series and for me specifically because hopefully it will put more of the feel back into the car. We did struggle this year with the small wing package. We never did figure out, setup-wise, what the car needed to make it comfortable for me. It was a matter of all or nothing his year on the ovals. It was not the best solution, it was done for the right reasons, but maybe it didn't achieve it the right way. So I think that the Handford wing, given the success it had on the superspeedways, could definitely improve racing on the short ovals and maybe put a little more feel back in the car."

A lap around Surfer's Paradise with Bryan Herta

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE TEMPORARY STREET CIRCUIT IN AUSTRALIA? "Well for starters, everything about the track says hustle. If you really hustle the car it pay's off. At some of the other tracks we visit, it pays to be smooth and technical. This is not one of those. You sort of have to grab the car by the scruff of the neck and throw it around a bit. It's fun - bouncing off the curbs and letting the car step out and being aggressive with it and then being rewarded with a good lap time. It's a fun way to drive. It doesn't work everywhere, but it works there."

CAN YOU DESCRIBE A LAP AROUND SURFER'S PARADISE? "It's a unique track because it has extremely heavy braking zones, in particular going into the first chicane. After the quick chicane there is a short acceleration burst into another chicane and then you run down the straight to two pretty important left-hand turns. The first one, is under braking, but the second one is more important because you can really make up a lot of time coming off that corner as you prepare to go onto the straight that runs along the beach. The next two chicanes is where I think the most amount of time can be made if you can roll good speed through them and use the curbs. The second group of chicanes is the one that always provides the best pictures of the year because you get guys that have two, sometimes three wheels off the ground. From there it becomes more of a standard street course. From there the uniqueness ends and it goes back to more of a Long Beach or Houston track where you have the ninety-degree corners and short bursts to another ninety-degree corner and back to the start finish line."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bryan Herta