IRL: Dreyer & Reinbold/Infiniti press conference, Part II

Indianapolis 500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Infiniti press conference April 10, 2002 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Indianapolis Part 2 of 2 Jenkins: As you can see over here to my right we have some drivers like ducks on a telephone wire or...

Indianapolis 500
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Infiniti press conference
April 10, 2002
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Indianapolis

Part 2 of 2

Jenkins: As you can see over here to my right we have some drivers like ducks on a telephone wire or whatever. We'll talk to them. As Bernard mentioned, we have a couple of new Infiniti teams in the IRL this year. One driver who drives for Conquest Racing is from France, has already had some very impressive performances, including a third-place finish at the most recent race in Fontana. He drives the No. 34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Infiniti, Laurent Redon. Come on up. (Applause) Hi, how are you?

Laurent Redon: Good to see you.

Jenkins: Been at the Speedway yet? Run any laps?

Redon: Tomorrow.

Jenkins: Tomorrow?

Redon: Yeah.

Jenkins: So obviously you've been around it in the tour bus or whatever, what do you think?

Redon: To be honest, right now I don't know. I have to ask the other drivers about the race, Robbie.

Jenkins: What are you anticipating this month of May?

Redon: For me, everything will be new for me, for the team, too, because me and the team are new to the series. So we don't know anything about Indy. But, you know, I think we have to prove to the people that really knows this race, and we really want to show what we can do and to be in the top 10. That's our goal.

Jenkins: The team owner, of course, is Eric Bachelart who ran here at the Speedway. Has he been able to help you anticipate what might happen?

Redon: Yeah, for sure, because he did it two times, and he was a really good driver, and he's also a good team owner now. So he tells me what I have to do to prepare.

Jenkins: Laurent, tell me about the race you had at Fontana and your third-place finish. Pretty impressive.

Redon: Yeah, the Nissan engine made a lot of good results because we have seen a lot of power and it's a big race and this result comes from the engine. But at the end we pass through the problems and finished third for the team. It was big race in the championship, so I am very happy and for sure we want to do more. If we can win some races here, we'll be so happy. I think about everything to do. So we have to keep working.

Jenkins: All right, thanks. Good luck. Laurent Redon. (Applause) Next is a guy who comes from good stock. His father was a former world champion, I believe in 1979. If my memory serves me correctly, he made like 112 starts and had 10 wins. So perhaps a lot to live up to; but on the other hand, in his early performances in the IRL, this guy looks to be a super superstar in the years to come. I'm referring, of course, to Tomas Scheckter who drives for the Eddie Cheever Red Bull Racing Team. (Applause) Have you been on the track with any testing?

Tomas Scheckter: I did my first day and, yeah, it was great to be at Indy. I think it's a little bit emotional but you go into Indy, it's such a massive place with so much history. Just to be there, it was great. The first test was unbelievable.

Jenkins: Was it everything you had anticipated or more?

Scheckter: I suppose you look at the track, I mean from the driver's point of view inside the car. It's a lot different to what it looks like from the outside. I've seen a lot of races from the outside and when you drive it, a lot of things are different. So it's just taking some time to get used to it. Eddie is keeping me down by putting a little bit more downforce in the car and just making sure we get a lot of laps, which is the intelligent thing to do and make sure I get around the place and learn the different lines. When the time comes, hopefully we can get a little more downforce and go a little bit quicker.

Jenkins: Now, we're going to open the session here to questions from everybody before long. So I'll ask before they do. Is Cheever still pissed or was he really pissed after Miami? (Laughter)

Scheckter: Hopefully he's got over it. (Laughter) No, I mean Eddie is great. We've got a really good relationship. It's actually -- sometimes we've bonded a lot better, and I think everything, the whole team is moving forward a lot from that.

Jenkins: Does it give you great satisfaction that you have outperformed him in a couple of races this year?

Scheckter: Yeah. (Laughter) I just try to concentrate on myself and doing the best job I can do. It's great for the team that we both have been doing well. That's the important thing for Infiniti, for Red Bull, for all the guys that put a lot of work into it, it's good for them to see the two Red Bull cars are right up there.

Jenkins: Had you ever driven the ovals before you came to the IRL?

Scheckter: No, I hadn't. Up until three months ago, I hadn't seen an oval before, driven an oval. Yeah, it's a lot of new things.

Jenkins: A lot different than road courses.

Scheckter: Yeah, it's just a lot of high-speed corners with no runoff. So it's the banking as well. I think Indy may be a little bit better for me like it was at Homestead, not so much banking, a little bit similar to a road course. You can feel the car a lot more. With the banking, you get a lot of force pushing down and a lot of grip. So you don't know when the car is going to get loose on you. And with not so much banking like we have at Indy, it may be a little better, a little bit more what I'm used to.

Jenkins: Well, if you qualify close to Cheever, be careful out there, would you?

Scheckter: I know that already. (Laughter)

Jenkins: Tomas Scheckter. Thank you. (Applause) I guess one of the most recent additions to the Infiniti team would be Bradley Motorsports because, of course, Buzz retired a couple of months ago. Going into that team with the Epson sponsorship is Shigeaki Hattori who we would also like to welcome. Come on up, Shigeaki, and say hello. (Applause) Don't be modest here, but tell us about how much of a national hero you are in Japan. I'm serious about this because you have a great following in that country and a lot of race fans are really pulling for you, especially here at the Indy 500 this year.

Shigeaki Hattori: Well, you know, this race in Japan has gotten bigger and bigger. More people are watching this race. I'm so happy I'm driving for this race next month.

Jenkins: How did your association with Buzz and Bradley Motorsports come about?

Hattori: Well, you know, Bradley obviously was driving now he controls the team. So he helped me a lot, and Buzz.

Jenkins: I guess he's getting a different perspective on signing the checks and spending the money, huh?

Hattori: Yeah.

Jenkins: Shigeaki, good luck this year at the Speedway.

Hattori: Thank you. (Applause)

Jenkins: He's going to be participating in the rookie orientation, although he really isn't a rookie. He will be at the Speedway, but yet because of the miles that he has driven in the IRL, isn't classified at least by Brian Barnhart as a rookie. We'll open it up for questions. Any of the three drivers, Bernard, Johnny, Robbie, Dennis, anybody want to ask a question here? If not, of course, they will be available for one-on-ones for you when we wrap up here in just a few moments. Anybody have any questions?

Q: For the drivers: Could maybe you -- you guys are all new to ovals and you got some advice from people about ovals. I'd like to know what you think is the most important advice you got was and if there was anything you learned that nobody told you.

Scheckter: I think one of the -- the best advice I got from oval racing is to respect it because, you know, as confident as you can be. You have to respect it. They're very high speed. One of the biggest things to respect, it's not nice to see and not nice to see how Robbie had a crash unfortunately in qualifying; and in Europe you're not used to seeing people get in a crash and not being able to then go into the race. I think maybe that's one of the things, is to try and improve the safety. I think the biggest thing for me is to learn to respect it. They're very hard walls when you hit them.

Redon: As I said, the most you can learn when you come here is to respect because in Europe you always want to fight and, you know, sometimes you'll hit hard with some other driver. Here you have to think the wall is pretty close and the speed is to be high. What I was surprised is the respect there is with all the drivers and I like that. That's, as Tomas said, that's what I learned here and that's what I like.

Hattori: When I drove before for Indy Lights, the oval is quite different than road course. The car is so much important and you need to take it step by step, and we can't, you know, take it like road course.

Scheckter: There's another thing I learned, is never to tangle with your boss either. (Laughter)

Q: This is for Dennis. You've been on the development cycle here with Infiniti. A lot of people are expecting big things from Toyota next year, but do you see where some of their teams in the early stages may go through some of the hardships that you have had to endure while that engine gets developed?

Reinbold: It's difficult to speak for what their program is. They are coming at it in a very solid way, and it seems like a pretty good approach to it. They have to because with the Chevy motor and with our motor, with Infiniti, we're going to have a leg up with experience and already crossing some things off the list that have been tried in the past. I hope that their development curve is a little slow so it gives us an advantage. I think we will enjoy an advantage; and however long that lasts, I don't know. I think they're very intent on catching us, but hopefully they do have to catch us. I feel very strongly that we're going to be the motor to beat in the future.

Q: Do you feel, though, that like right now Infiniti is kind of the sleeping giant? They keep getting closer and closer and closer as performance has shown, but for whatever reason before the checkered flag drops, they've had a problem.

Reinbold: Yeah, absolutely. I think we've identified some issues, and Bernard can speak better to this, but some issues have been identified. With a racing motor, you're always trying to push the envelope and get as much power and performance out of it as you can. If you push a little too far, then sometimes reliability issues sneak up on you. So I'm very confident that we have done a lot of the things that we need to do to get to this point and now reliability is the focus for us and I feel like we're going to have that well in hand by Indy.

Jenkins: Yes, sir.

Q: Question for Mr. Dudot. So maybe you could tell us how you go about engine development different having an RPM limit, for instance. How is the engine development here different than F1?

Dudot: It's a completely different engine and the fact that you have a limit isn't especially difference because all the engineers are working in a frame due to the regulation. But our target is to have the higher as possible reaching this maximum speed getting the best reliability as possible. With respect to the question before, I have to say that as far as the engineer working on the engine, we have all the same problems. You have to find the right compromise between the performance and the reliability. In such an engine, even if they have a rev limit, the margin is very narrow. I have to say honestly now we are on the long way of this march but I think that for next race, for Nazareth race, we should have the right reliability again.

Jenkins: Anyone else? Yes, sir.

Q: This is really for John. Of all the Infiniti teams, you're the guys that are running the G Force and the G Force obviously has some special challenges that you guys have to encounter. Could you explain a little bit about what that might be and how you overcome them or can overcome them?

O'Gara: Special challenges, sounds like you've been around here the last few weeks. The G Force and Infiniti package, I think, is a really, really strong package. Robbie has shown that. There's not any special challenges. I don't think it's any different than the Dallara other than maybe availability of some parts that we've had problems with lately. But the car sitting here that's back together is the car that was crashed at Fontana and the one in the next bay they're working on is the brand new car. I don't know, as I've said all along, maybe we have some special with the G Force/Infiniti package. Robbie had an awful good car at Indy last year and this car should be just a little bit better. The Infiniti has gotten a little more horsepower. I don't know, I think it's a good package.

Jenkins: Yes, sir.

Q: This is for Dennis. Dennis, I'm sure you're approached by many people trying to sell you things and so forth. I'm just wondering who sold you this stage or the platform there. Or is the entire company assets on what you're standing right now?

Reinbold: Pretty much, yeah. That's about right. This is a tie-down pad and we use it to straighten out -- Ferraris. We had a Ferrari out here actually and a former team member of ours was fixing that up for the last several weeks. John, is that fair to say? Maybe a little longer than that. This is a stage for our parties and we use it to make sure that our chassis are straight and everything. But a lot of the things that we have acquired here have, over the years, have come down through -- when we started out, we worked with Mitch Davis and some of his things that he had, which this tie-down pad is one of, that we have purchased from him. So much of our equipment that we have has come from just a variety of sources. When we started out, we had to try to pinch pennies as much as possible and find whatever we could wherever we could. As we've grown our team over the last three years, we've been able to upgrade significantly in the quality of our tools and everything. So our focus is totally on getting us to a championship level. We're knocking on that door pretty hard, we believe. A lot of that has to do with some of the equipment and everything that we use and utilize on a daily basis. So we always try to improve and grow.

Q: Dennis, as a team owner, G Force and Dallara have shown tremendous loyalty to the IRL since '97. Last week or so when Brian came out with additional stipulations for chassis participation in future IRL seasons, were you glad to see him make that call? Because basically pure economics says you couldn't, any series could not support seven chassis like that.

Reinbold: Right. That's important because what happens is once you get into the season, parts reliability and availability, as John touched on earlier, is very important. And if there are too many and it's not a viable business venture for those chassis manufacturers, then it doesn't take a genius to realize it's not going to be a good long-term program and it's not going to be able to support. So for us going into the next cycle of chassis, we have to make a good decision. We're going to do a lot of research before we make that decision. We have not made that yet and we want to sit down and make sure that everything points to the fact that the company is going to be very viable financially so that if we expend money on new chassis next year, which we're going to, then the year after that if that company is not by the wayside, we have to have an ongoing stable relationship. I think Dallara and G Force have done a good job of showing some stability. There have been hiccups here and there along the way but I don't know what that's going to bear out for the next three years. We're going to do a lot of homework sometime later or after the season to make that selection.

Q: But some of the people on the other side of the fence seem to put those stipulations as being a way to keep their products out, meaning if they're going to run in the Indy 500, Lola has that type of chassis. If Lola is not approved, then they're not going to get to run. So what is your response to that?

Reinbold: Well, I think the IRL is trying to protect its teams and protect its suppliers as much as they can. Whether that's exclusionary or not, I don't get the sense that that's their intent. I really don't know that much about it, to be honest with you, Bruce; but I think they just want to make sure the stability is there. From a team owner standpoint, I appreciate that and want to make sure that the stability is there, also. Because we don't want to spend $600,000 on new race cars next year for a couple of race cars and find out the year after that, whoops, we have to spend another 600 because we chose the wrong group or the wrong entity.

Jenkins: Anyone else? Yes.

Q: So far, you know, it appears the horsepower for the Infiniti is not going to last for the duration of the race. Have you been able to test? Are you comfortable that it's going to last 500 miles and it will get you there?

Jenkins: Robbie.

Buhl: Yeah, I think I'll answer the first part of that and then I'll give this to Bernard. You know, I feel really good about what all the Infiniti guys working with Tom Walkinshaw and his group of guys, the power they produce. When something isn't right, as Bernard was saying, it's a balance between performance and reliability. That is something that nobody's missed in this, is we've got to focus on that reliability because it does us no good if we can't be around the 500 miles. There's some changes that they have been making in the motors to accomplish just that, but not to sacrifice performance. But I'll let Bernard maybe answer some of that more technically.

Dudot: Yes, it's a problem we discussed before. Now I think that you take my comment too much, the performance. I think that basically we have a very high level of performance. I think that we are in a position now to be ready to sacrifice later in terms of performance -- not too much -- because my personal project is to keep the level of the performance we achieve now but to get it now and very soon and the target is to be perfectly reliable for Nazareth event, to get the reliability. But you know that -- you have to understand it is a completely new engine. We had another engine the year before and we have to do another new engine for 2003 probably due to the rule. Each time it's a new effort and with a new engine you have some new problems to solve.

Jenkins: Anyone else? OK. Well, I think that does it. These guys are available for your one-on-ones. Thank you very much for visiting the facility here. We'll see you at the next stop.

Buhl: As you're meandering around here, let me just introduce one person who we didn't introduce there that's a part of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, a new person who put this together along with IR people is Lou Ann. Lou Ann, raise your hand. So if anybody has any other questions with regard to the team, if you don't see Dennis or Johnny O or myself, track down Lou Ann. If you're at the race weekend and you want some information about our team, Lou Ann is the person to look for. Thanks, Lou Ann.

-irl/ims-

Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Laurent Redon , Brian Barnhart , Tom Walkinshaw
Teams Red Bull Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Conquest Racing