Champ Car World Series: An interview with Keith Wiggins and Roberto Moreno of Herdez Competition Part 2 of 2 Q: Roberto, you've been known for being able to master the fuel economy runs in the past, really conserve your fuel, end up making...
Champ Car World Series: An interview with Keith Wiggins and Roberto Moreno of Herdez Competition
Part 2 of 2
Q: Roberto, you've been known for being able to master the fuel economy runs in the past, really conserve your fuel, end up making up places that way in the race. With the rules change for this year, how do you think that will affect your driving style? Is that still something you think about or will you be able to adapt to the new rules?
Moreno: You just have to be up to the new rules. At that time there was a gap there that somebody could take advantage of it. I think me and a couple other drivers were mastering that skill. We always looked for some kind of way to be the odd number out there, do a little bit extra. It still pays off in some places to save fuel, but not as much as it used to. I used to gain sometimes two laps in a stint which could mean a lot because if somebody comes in the pits and goes out with cold tires, they could make a mistake here and there and take advantage of that. Most of the times we were able to do the extra two laps faster than anybody could ever do in a race and gain a lot of time on that. But to answer your question, we just have to adapt to the new rules and find another edge somewhere. As there's more experience and the years go past, there's less and less possibilities to take advantage because the rules tie you down to not get those breaks. But there's always something out there we'll find.
Q: Cosworth made the statement it believes the engine will be able to go 1500 miles between rebuilds. The initial dyno-test showed it would be able to go the distance. We know the dyno produces different results than on track. Being one of the teams that has logged a lot of test miles, does it appear you will be able to go 1500 miles between rebuilds or are the results different?
Wiggins: The actual life is 1200 miles, not 1500. All I can say is we've had two engines that have basically done that mileage, I think 1196 and 1195, something like that. Both those engines performed well. They've done the mileage and done a very good job. I think they've had a couple little issues, but that's always to be expected. They're making amends to fix those. From what I understand, the engines that they've also power checked them once they've returned, they've been within the limit they're aiming for, which is like five percent, I think six horsepower. They've done a very good job.
Moreno: I would agree with that. I would even add to say that when they did change my engine at the test, I couldn't feel the difference.
Q: Roberto, before the recent talk about CART being a feeder series for Formula 1, the trend has been towards teams hiring drivers who have relatively little or no experience, and about half your age. With that in mind, how did you have to try to sell yourself over the past year to prospective team owners and sponsors? How do you convince them you're still competitive and relevant?
Moreno: It gets more and more difficult as the years go by. Racing is changing a lot and people have to adapt. Unfortunately, sponsorship is something I never had and I'm not getting any younger. I can only sell myself on what I have. Fortunately, there's people like Keith there that are willing to go the extra mile and invest in somebody like myself and find a way to use me in the team, get me behind the wheel of a car, which is a place I'm happiest. I think, to answer your question, it is indeed very, very difficult. That's why I spent a year out of a race car last year. But I'm still fortunate enough to keep myself up to date, to still be in a way used by a team different than being young and have a sponsorship.
Q: Keith, some people have mentioned over the winter they think that for the cost of fielding a one-car operation in 2002 a given team owner should be able to expand to a two-car team in 2003 for more or less the same cost. Was that the case for Herdez? Would you consider that a true statement? You mentioned earlier you had lost some of your existing sponsors over the past year. I was wondering if you were able to replace any of those?
Wiggins: Well, obviously Grupo Herdez, Enrique (Pons-Torres) is a key function, owner of our company, are significantly behind a number of issues, that also covers the point you just discussed with Roberto. Obviously, personality and ability of the driver to fit into a program, make it work is key. Some people have quoted different things saying that we could run two cars for the price of one last year. I think it was no secret that we were one of those teams that wasn't at the top ranks by any means. I would say there is certainly no other team out there paying more than we were last year for sort of the customer level of engine. So it clearly helped us.
I don't think it's true to say that you can run two cars for the price of one, but in the climate as it is now I would say it takes you halfway, takes you 50 percent toward the second car. You still have to achieve more, but obviously you've got more to offer. I would say the sponsorship climate is difficult for everyone at this time.
That's where I was going with my last part. Obviously we have partners that are very key to us. We have to have other outside commercial input. Some of that changes for various reasons because of the climate and also other people come in who have support from the same sponsor. It's always difficult to fill those gaps. We have achieved some of that, and we're working hard to put the final touches on that. We'll continue to work like most teams do, I suppose, for the rest of the year. You have to watch the money very carefully. We had to step up, but the rules greatly helped us and gave us a springboard to do that.
Q: Roberto, how long do you like to test in a new car to feel comfortable?
Moreno: As much as possible is the right answer. With the rules we have, I think the amount of testing we had was quite good. I did a little check down with the engine with Dale Coyne doing a job for Ford which sort of was a good, slow, progressive test in Firebird. Then we went with the Herdez Competition team to Sebring, did a couple days there. Did a good test at Laguna Seca for another three days. When we came back to Sebring for the spring training, that's when I started to take advantage of all the testing I've done because by then I got to know about the Lola car, which is a very delicate, different car to set up than what I was used to in the past. That was the right amount of testing for a guy that was a year away to freshen himself up and be ready for the first race.
Q: We've seen similar if not faster lap times this year with the lower horsepower. I guess that's been explained because of the increased torque, midrange power from the higher boost pressure. Are we going to see that on all the road and street courses? Are we going to see slower speeds at the ovals? What do you expect to see?
Moreno: From what I've seen, it's difficult for me to predict, especially because I wasn't driving last year, but just taking my experience into account, from what I've seen in the testing, I think we're going to be on the edge of speed or a little bit faster - at least some of the teams will anyhow. I expect to see that in most of the road courses. I'm not so sure on the street courses because last year you had traction control, which is something I never used, but I know it does help a lot on street courses. Without that aid this year, drivers will have to work harder to put the power down. There's a little question mark on the street courses, but most certainly on the road courses you will see similar speeds or faster.
On the ovals, it depends what wing package we're going to have on the ovals. I expect the power to be up there. All they've done, the power, they basically put in a different rev range. The rev range of the engine now is shorter which makes a bit more tricky for the driver to drive. That's all it is. They've compensated the revs they cut with bringing the power band lower basically. Now you've got roundabout a hundred horsepower more throughout the range of the revs, but you have around I think, I will say a round number because some engines were running much higher revs, but 4,000 revs less than they were used to.
Q: Do you notice a turbo lag again this year or is that not there?
Moreno: Well, the turbo lag is the same way, but you feel it more now because you have less rev range to work with. So anything you can gain on the bottom means a lot now since the engine stops at 12,000 instead of 16,000 or past 16. The lag always comes when there's no turbo spinning. Anything you can take advantage of is a benefit, so you feel more, yes.
Q: Roberto, you had a brief spell with the Bettenhausen team back in 1997 filling in for Patrick Carpentier. From your perspective, how much would you say the team has changed since then?
Moreno: You bring me back memories. I almost got that drive until Emerson Fittipaldi convinced Tom Bettenhausen that he should take Helio Castroneves. The team has Tom Brown there. Keith has changed the team this year by quite a lot. He's brought new, good people to make the team go from a one-car team to a two-car team. It's a hard job to do. If you look at the Herdez team now, you see some very good, experienced faces there. He's chosen one by one very, very well, which has made the transition from a one-car team to a two-car team a very, very smooth one.
I more or less from the outside saw that happening, and now I'm very, very pleased with the level that it is now. Back then it was different. It was I believe a lot less money. I think Tom was doing something on a very tight string. I think Tom Brown is a major part of the engineering package of that team and the strength that came from Tom's time, Tom Bettenhausen's time, and it's up there. He's now taking a step back, allowing two new engineers to work with each driver, giving new ideas. What I'm trying to say here is the team that in the past used to be all around him, now it's a group of very, very experienced people working together. I think that's what I'm trying to get to.
Q: Roberto, with the amount of rookies in the series this year, how do you think this will affect the races?
Moreno: I think being a rookie, it doesn't mean that you don't know what you're doing. Those guys, they come from good backgrounds. We might not have seen them because some of them come from Europe, but most of them have good backgrounds and will probably surprise a lot of people over here. I think some mistakes are expected with rookies, that's all I can say. But a rookie in the right team might be up there doing the right job and taking little extra chances that somebody experienced would be waiting for the right time to do it. I see a very, very interesting race this year with hungry drivers and drivers waiting for the right moment to take advantage of a situation. It will be a very interesting race, in my opinion.
Mauk: That brings us to a conclusion of our weekly teleconference. Thank you for joining us today, to the media on the call. We get our season underway this weekend, qualifying Friday and Saturday, race day is Sunday in the streets of St. Petersburg, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Catch all the action live on SPEED Channel Saturday qualifying and during Sunday's event. Thank you for joining us, have a good day.