CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week In Ford Racing

Newman-Haas Racing's Christian Fittipaldi is recuperating at his home in Miami after suffering a subdural hematoma during a testing accident last week at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. Fittipaldi, who drives the ...

Newman-Haas Racing's Christian Fittipaldi is recuperating at his home in Miami after suffering a subdural hematoma during a testing accident last week at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Fittipaldi, who drives the #11 Big Kmart Ford-Cosworth, was in the midst of a career season after he claimed his first pole positions in Rio and won his first FedEx Championship Series event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Through the first twelve events of the season, Fittipaldi was leading the charge in both laps completed and mile completed.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI -11- Big Kmart Ford-Cosworth -- HOW DO YOU FEEL BOTH PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY? "I am doing a lot better. Emotionally I am feeling both sad and happy. I am sad because everything was going well this season but, on the other hand, I am happy because the injury could have been even worse. So it goes both ways."

DO YOU LOOK BACK AT YOUR PREVIOUS INJURIES AS FAR AS LEARNING HOW TO BE PATIENT DURING YOUR RECOVERY? "Well in a way, no. (The injury) I suffered in Surfers (Paradise, Australia) was completely different than this. It was more of a mechanical break (of my leg) and the recovery was more of getting my leg back together again and being able to sustain the car forces. What I have now is something that only time will help me get better."

AT WHAT POINT DO YOU LOOK AT THESE STRING OF INJURIES AND ASK YOURSELF, 'WHY ME?' "Well I think that everything happens for a reason in life. If God wanted it to be this way maybe he is trying to show me some other things in life and he is preparing me for my future. I honestly believe it has to be this way, and I am sure that the day I was testing I was doing everything correct. The team had prepared me a good, competitive car for me running there, and no one was working in a bad way, so, I believe that there are good things that come from bad things in life."

I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU CAN'T REALLY EXERCISE THE TYPE OF INJURY YOU SUSTAINED, BUT RATHER YOU JUST HAVE TO REST. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT FOR YOU? "Actually I have a small, constant headache all day and as soon as I move my head to the sides it hurts a little bit. Basically I am going to try and go swimming a little later this week and go from there. But I am not worried about my exercise right now. I am more worried about getting better as quick as possible now."

WOULD YOU SAY THAT THIS HAS BEEN A TOUGH YEAR FOR DRIVERS IN CART? "That's a bit difficult to comment on. I am really only worried about what happened to me. Obviously, my accident didn't happen during the best time. I think what we should do is continue to improve the safety of the cars. Don't ask me what we should do, but we need to continue to work on making the cars and the tracks safer for everyone."

DO YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING ABOUT THE ACCIDENT IN GATEWAY? "Nothing. I only remembered opening my eyes in the hospital believe it or not. I don't remember anything at all. If someone would have told me that I had my accident in turn three rather than turn one, I would have believed them."

THERE WERE SOME RUMORS GOING AROUND THAT YOU WERE THINKING OF RETIRING BECAUSE OF THIS ACCIDENT. IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THAT? "No, no, no. Those are big rumors. I don't really know who started them. That didn't even go through my mind. The day I start thinking seriously about that I won't have any problems taking that step. But it's definitely not that time for me yet."

WAS THE TEAM ABLE TO TELL ANYTHING FROM THE CAR ABOUT WHAT CAUSED THE CRASH? "What maybe caused the accident was a malfunction in the gear shift. I went from fifth gear to fourth gear and apparently what happened was that fourth gear took a little longer to engage than what I thought it was really going to take. Suddenly when it engaged, it locked both rear wheels and the car spun very, very quick."

DOES THAT SHIFTING PROBLEM HAVE MORE TO DO WITH A HARDWARE PROBLEM, OR IS IT AN ISSUE WITH THE ELECTRONICS. "It's difficult to answer. But in our case it could have been sort of a hardware problem. We were trying a new shifter that was completely different than what we were running this season. What I am not really in favor of is downshifting on the ovals when you are coming from a very high-speed to a low-speed turn which is the case in St. Louis. By the time you get to the end of the straight in St. Louis, you are going about 210 mph. When you get to the turn you are going about 140 mph and you definitely have to go down one gear, so when you get into a problem you have the potential to have a really big accident."

BEFORE THE ACCIDENT YOU WERE TESTING A NEW ENGINE. HOW DID IT FEEL? "It felt really good. Vibration-wise it felt better than the current engine. It vibrated a little less. Power-wise there was not a big difference because obviously, it was not the latest and greatest spec-engine we were running because it was the first time we were running the engine. There were some things that really surprised me and made me very happy when I was driving it. It was a brand new engine and its first time on the track and we managed to run 80 to 90 miles completely trouble free."

ALL OF THE REPORTS WE SEE HAVE YOU BACK FROM YOUR INJURY SOMETIME AROUND HOUSTON. MIGHT WE SEE YOU BACK BEFORE THAT? "Realistically, I don't see me coming back any sooner than that. It is going to happen around Houston and Surfers. I hope it is Houston because it is earlier than Surfers and I really like the track at Houston."

--------------- Payton-Coyne Racing expanded their operation last week by signing CART rookie Memo Gidley to a two race deal that runs through this weekend's CART race at Mid-Ohio. Gidley, who raced for the injured Naoki Hattori earlier this season, will pair up with Michel Jourdain, Jr. in Mid-Ohio to drive a second Herdez/Viva Mexico backed Lola Ford-Cosworth this weekend.

Team owner Dale Coyne gave the young American a call a week from Wednesday, just prior to the Detroit Grand Prix, in an attempt to help the team gain additional information on the teams Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Firestone package, one that is completely unique to this season's Champ Car field.

Jourdain, Jr. and Gidley talked about the benefits that running two identical Lola's and the challenges that the team has been working through all season. Gidley goes on to recreate the journey that has taken him across the country and discusses his role and what he brings to the Payton-Coyne operation.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. -19- Herdez/Viva Mexico Ford-Cosworth -- YOU LOOK AT UP AND DOWN THE GRID AND MOST OF THE OTHER TOP TEAMS WHO RUN A TWO-CAR OPERATION ARE RUNNING THE SAME PACKAGE WHICH SUBSTANTIALLY SPEEDS UP THEIR DEVELOPMENT TIME. NOW, WITH THE ADDITION OF MEMO GIDLEY TO PAYTON-COYNE, YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO RUN A PAIR OF LOLA FORD-COSWORTH'S ON FIRESTONES. HOW MUCH OF A BENEFIT IS THAT GOING TO BE FOR YOU AND THE TEAM TO GET ADDITIONAL DATA ON A PACKAGE THAT IS COMPLETELY UNIQUE TO THE REST OF THE FIELD? "There were several things that put us a little behind from the beginning. We got the Lola a bit late and had like six different engineers at the beginning of the season. So that put us behind a lot. When you only have engineers with you for the weekend it is difficult to build an understanding with them. It doesn't help when we are changing drivers all the time and we are running different cars within the team, it makes it difficult to build up any kind of continuity. Finally, and fortunately, we have been able to get someone in another Lola. It's too bad we could not have gotten him here earlier but now is better than nothing. Memo has shown that he is really competitive and fast driver and it's great to have him on board driving the same exact car as me. It helped a little bit in Detroit but I am sure that it is going to help even more in Mid-Ohio because he will be use to the car."

HOW MUCH ARE YOUR TWO DRIVING STYLES? ARE THEY SIMILAR? HOW MUCH ARE YOU ABLE TO TALK WITH HIM AFTER A SESSION AND GET FEEDBACK AND VICE VERSA? "Unfortunately because the deal for him to run in Detroit came together so quickly at the last minute we couldn't learn quite as much as we had hoped. Even if our driving styles are not the same we can still compare notes and gain a lot of information from one in other."

FROM A COMPETITIVE STANDPOINT, IS THERE MORE PRESSURE ON YOU KNOWING THAT YOU NOW HAVE SOMEONE OUT THERE IN THE SAME EQUIPMENT? DOES IT HELP PUSH YOU HARDER? "It shouldn't but maybe it does a bit. When you have a teammate at this level of racing you are trying to beat him as much as you are everyone else. So for sure it pushes you a bit more."

HOW WELL DID YOU KNOW MEMO BEFORE HE CAME TO PAYTON-COYNE? "Not much. No more than a 'Hi, how are you,' in the drivers meetings, so not much. He seems like a very nice guy and a good teammate to have and I am really happy that he is with us."

MEMO GIDLEY -71- Herdez Viva Mexico Ford-Cosworth - LET'S START FROM THE BEGINNING. HOW DID YOU END UP DRIVING FOR PAYTON-COYNE IN DETROIT? Well I raced in the Toyota Atlantic series last year. Really since the Atlantic series ended in Houston last year I had not driven a car until Long Beach earlier this season. I was committed all along to moving up because I had raced Atlantics for two years and I was just trying to get an opportunity. After Long Beach I got a test with Walker Racing along with one other driver to fill in for Naoki Hattori and the test went well and were interested in getting me in the car. Within a month after that I was in my first CART race in Portland. I ended up driving four races for them before Naoki was healed enough to drive and come back. So after Toronto, I was without a ride. Then on Wednesday night before the Detroit race, I got a call from Dale (Coyne) saying he was interested in me driving. So, I thought about it for a while and called him back Wednesday night at about eleven o'clock and told him I would be there the next day. So Thursday I was in Detroit and we poured a seat for me in the paddock at Detroit and drive on Friday."

WHEN YOU GOT THE CALL FROM DALE COYNE, WHAT WAS THE MAJOR MOTIVATOR FOR HIM TO BRING YOU OUT HERE? "I think the reason he decided to bring me out was that it has always been beneficial to run two cars and have two drivers that can communicate and kind of learn from each other as far as setup on the car and stuff. Dale knows my background. He and I have known each other for about a year now. He knows that the reason I have gotten to where I am now was because I have worked hard at every aspect of it. Not just at the driving but at every aspect of it right down to the little details. I think that maybe he thought some of that could rub off on the guys here."

HOW WELL DO YOU AND MICHEL KNOW EACH OTHER AND WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER IN AN ATTEMPT TO ACCELERATE THE TEAM'S LEARNING CURVE IN RELATIONS TO THE CAR? "I think it can be done. Right now I am coming onto it still getting my pedals, seat, brakes still suited to how I drive. I am still at the level where I am getting through the little details that Michel has already gotten through. But, when we get to Mid-Ohio we will be able to hit the track running. The experiences won't be so new to me and I will have and idea how the team works and the schedule of everything so we can allot our time better."

HAVE YOU RACED AT MID-OHIO BEFORE? "Yes, I have. I raced there in Formula Ford's, Atlantics and I have tested Champ Cars there before. So we will be able to unload and go so to say."

WHEN YOU GOT YOUR FIRST OPPORTUNITY TO DRIVE WITH WALKER RACING YOU PRETTY MUCH PACKED EVERYTHING YOU COULD INTO THE BACK OF A PICKUP AND MAKE THE CROSS-COUNTRY TRIP TO INDIANAPOLIS DIDN'T YOU? "Yep, I actually have a picture of that. I just picked up and made the cross-country journey. I am a first generation racer. None of my family raced or was even involved in racing before I got into it. I started off as mechanic because I never had any financial backing. So, everything I have done I put back into the racing. So I was scraping the bottom of the barrel before I got the call to go testing."

ALTHOUGH YOU ARE STILL GOING THROUGH A LEARNING CURVE ON THE TRACK YOU HAVE SHOWN YOU CAN BE FAST RIGHT OFF OF THE TRAILER. HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BOOST IS IT TO SHOW SPEED THAT SOON? "It's good for your confidence without a doubt but deep down inside I know that I can do it. Although sometimes you question yourself you always have to believe in yourself. The biggest thing for me is that it gets people at this level to start thinking that you have potential. There are plenty of rookies that do well but most of them have the entire off-season to test so for someone to jump in an be competitive at various times without that testing is really attracting that attentions."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Christian Fittipaldi , Naoki Hattori , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain