IRL: Panther Racing Indy 500 Media Tour transcript, part 2

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript Thursday, March 25, 2004 Panther Racing: John Barnes, Andy Brown, Tomas Scheckter, Mark Taylor Part 2 of 2 Q: Tomas, your father (Jody Scheckter) was a (Formula One) World Champion. Can you say a...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Transcript
Thursday, March 25, 2004

Panther Racing: John Barnes, Andy Brown, Tomas Scheckter, Mark Taylor

Part 2 of 2

Q: Tomas, your father (Jody Scheckter) was a (Formula One) World Champion. Can you say a few words about what his opinions might be of the Indy Racing League?

SCHECKTER: I think obviously since I've been racing here, he used to watch all Formula One races, and I think now he's stopped watching Formula One races and just watches Indy races because it's much more exciting. I think once people get to see how an IRL race runs, you really can't compare it to any other racing. I think that's his point of view now, as well. I think that's a lot of point of views, people are changing their minds, as well.

Q: John, you grew up a few hundred yards from here and grew up with USAC and so forth. Did you ever dream the day you'd be sitting between your two drivers, and one was from South Africa, and one's from England?

BARNES: No, absolutely not. I thought maybe, you know, one was from Camby and one from West Newton but not South Africa and England.

Q: Tomas, a lot of people don't remember that your father did drive the IROC series over here in addition to Formula One races back then in this country. He drove IROC races on ovals that when you came over here, at places like Michigan, that were running IROC at the time. Has he told you anything about oval racing as he experienced it in this country years ago?

SCHECKTER: I mean, he did some oval racing, but he really didn't give me any advice on how to drive or exactly what to do. I think I'm not sure he was -- he did such a little bit of it that he said he really enjoyed it, but I remember I went to do my first official test in Fontana, and I think that first test I was quickest, and I phoned him up the next morning and, "Oh, yeah, quickest, what time or lap speed you did?" And I think it was a 221. After I told him that, he almost passed out. (Laughter) He was like, "Hey, Tomas, you get the first flight back home." Because, you know, I mean he gives me a lot of advice how to deal with people and how to, different things in setting up the car, and that's what I really learn a lot from him.

Q: John, yesterday Penske's team and Cheever's team talked against adding a third car. Could this year be a year with the new chassis, new engines, there's so much to learn and little time that teams may be unwilling to add that extra car to take -- because it will take away from the primary efforts?

BARNES: Man, I don't think it's really the attention away from the primary effort. It's the cost. Nowadays, engine leases, I think, for Indianapolis start at $500,000 and go to some place around 750 or a million. I think there's only one position in Indianapolis that pays that kind of money. So it's quite a crapshoot to be able to say, OK, this is willing to do. So I think that you won't see that as much as you had in the past. But I guarantee you there will be 33 cars in the race.

Q: Mark, last year you drove in the Freedom 100 over at the Speedway. How will it be different this year being out there in the big race?

TAYLOR: I expect it to be completely different. It's going to be a whole new experience, the whole month. With the Freedom 100 is basically a few days out of the month, and so you don't get to spend a lot of time on track. With the way that the Indy car works, you spend three weeks out on track and to work with the car. So the whole experience is going to be very different. But it's going to be great to be out there, especially that first test and to get that amount of time in the car, which I feel I need at the moment to get as much time as possible. So it's going to be exciting. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q: Mark, you've now had a little bit of time with Tomas. One of the things that Tomas excels at is racecraft but another is having a very colorful social life. Is he helping you at all with that?

TAYLOR: One thing I can say for Tomas is that he's great at setting up a car, and that's what I need at the moment. (Laughter)

KING: Are you dodging the social life question?

TAYLOR: Absolutely. (Laughter) What he does in his spare time is up to him. It's nothing to do with me. As far as I'm concerned, he works extremely hard, and I think everyone in the engineering department here will agree with me that his experience in an Indy car and what he's done before, he's been able to take that all together and make sure that he has the best car on race day. All I can do at the moment is learn from him.

Q: Tomas, speaking of social life, your team owner's pretty much a big football hero over at Decatur. Is he going to take you on Friday nights to some of the games over there and kind of show you what he did when he was much younger?

SCHECKTER: I'm not sure. I don't know, John, are you?

BARNES: No. (Laughter) I mean, these guys are great athletes. There's a huge misconception about race drivers being good athletes. I mean Tomas proved that in the Superstar competition. He waxed them, you know. And it just shows today, you know, I remember when I first started racing in '68, I mean those guys, the only thing that they rushed to do was get to the White Front after qualifying. But nowadays these guys here, Tomas works out every day two or three hours, is running. Mark's the same way with Tim Drudge, running. They're doing cardio, they're doing weight lifting and stuff, you know. I can tell you they're a hell of a lot better athlete than I ever dreamed to be.

KING: If we could, let's bring Andy Brown up for just a couple of minutes.

BARNES: One thing I'd like to talk about is our relationship with Menard. You know, one of the things that he's really brought us is the ability to use a lot of toys that he had acquired through the years. The MCT/UK thing over in England has really been a great asset to us. The Menard engine development program here in Indianapolis, they built our Silver Crown engines, and, I tell you what, that thing wants to lift the front end off the ground all the way down the straightaway at Phoenix. I think they helped us a lot, and I think our future together in that is very, very bright.

KING: Andy, come on up. Andy Brown is the chief engineer for Panther Racing. Let's find out if we've got -- do we have any more questions? We're going to break in a few minutes, after Andy is done, we'll be able to get one-on-ones with Andy, Mark and Tomas. Go ahead and head on out there. Are you going to hang with him?

TAYLOR: We might have some questions.

ANDY BROWN: This is scary.

KING: Andy, talk, if you would, about the, I guess the challenge to your staff now with a full-time, two-car IndyCar Series effort. The staff continues to expand, but how does it change to engineer two cars versus a one-car team?

BROWN: Well, I wouldn't know because there's no way I can engineer two cars. I'm not that bright, to be honest. But what we've been able to do in expanding the team is we've got two very good race engineers now. David Cripps is engineering Tomas's car, and Brent Harvey that was working with Mark Taylor on the IPS program last year, responsible for all those wins, is still working with Mark. So I've been able to step back and take more of an overall view, try to link the two programs, make sure that we're sharing the information between the two cars. Having those two guys on board has actually made my life quite a lot easier.

KING: Brian Barnhart told us yesterday April 3rd would be the first day we see the cars on track with the new 3-liter engine. How much work has to transpire between April the 3rd and the 1st of May?

BROWN: Fortunately, most of that is on Chevrolet's shoulders. They're an incredible partner for us, and they work real hard, and they've done such a super job with the Gen 4 to put us right back up there to where we had a chance for the championship last year, giving us good horsepower again this year. As far as we're concerned as a team, the transition is pretty much transparent. The engines externally will almost look identical, and it will just slot straight in the existing package.

Q: Will the road-course update kit do the trick to get these cars ready for road courses? Are you going to pretty much need an entirely new road-course chassis in order to get it ready for next year?

BROWN: Well, the way the chassis rules are written, we can't change the tub itself. The Dallara is obviously a pull-rod front suspension car, we can't change that, either. So we will be expecting an update kit from Dallara, which will convert this car into a road-course car. With all their history of road-course racing, the Audi is basically a Dallara, the Formula 3000 cars, we're expecting a good road-racing package from Dallara.

KING: Questions?

Q: Andy, with everybody starting with a new engine capacity in May, will the outcome of the race, a lot of it have to do is see who can get the most out of it the quickest?

BARNES: I mean, it's going to be difficult to predict what's going to happen in May until we run these engines for the first time on April the 3rd. Even when we run those engines, I'm sure that's not going to be the final race version. There's going to be a very steep learning curve initially. I don't think it's going to change our approach to how we tune the chassis that much. If it's got a little less horsepower, then we'll be running a little less drag. The two go hand in hand. But basically what we do is tune our chassis setup to match the engine characteristics that we have to work with, and that's the approach that we'll continue to adopt. It's worked very well for us in the past, and I'm looking forward to a very successful and very competitive May.

KING: Andy, given the new aero package, does anything transfer in terms of previous setup results from other tracks? Does anything transfer or do you start with a blank page in terms of acquiring new setups for the new aero package?

BROWN: We're going to do some wind tunnel testing initially to find out what the new safety regulations will mean to the car overall. Obviously, we're going to lose some downforce, I believe. The car is going to be running a little bit higher because of the new skid, but we'll wait and see what the wind tunnel results show us compared to what we're currently working with. Then we'll just adapt from there.

KING: Any other questions?

Q: I wanted to ask Tomas, as a driver who likes to go fast, do you approve of the speed cuts?

SCHECKTER: The speed, I mean, the main thing I think what they've done it for is safety, and I think no matter how fast we all like to go, I think the most important thing is that at the end of the day we're in one piece. So I have to stand by what the IRL are doing, and hopefully their reasoning for their doing it is safety. So it shouldn't be a problem. And also, the way these guys develop the cars, when they cut the speed, these guys always find it back, you know, in some way or another. You know, the 3-liter engine within a year's time might be pushing the same amount of horsepower just because these guys put so much effort and money into developing things, and I think the same with the downforce. In the beginning of the year, they had a new floor or some new rules to cut down the downforce, but by Phoenix, already we found it back just by things all over the car.

KING: Mark, you don't really have a comparison because this is your first year in the IndyCar Series. Tomas, if I'm not mistaken, you like your car a little bit loose. Do the new aero rules, do they play to your strengths in terms of the way you like a race car to feel?

SCHECKTER: Well, no matter how much little downforce or much downforce you have, you can still make a car understeer or oversteer, and that's the balance of it rather than the overall downforce. But I think what they've done a little bit is maybe the cars can't run as side by side or three abreast as easy as they were before. But certainly, like I said it before, the way they're developing, we should have the downforce back to where it was before.

BROWN: We can make it looser, if you want.

SCHECKTER: That's enough, thank you.

KING: Kind of power-slide through (Turn) 1 and have a little sprint car action here. Any other questions? We want to break for a few minutes. Andy will be available for one-on-ones, as will Mark and Tomas and John. Gentlemen, thank you very much. A pleasure being here with you today.

Part 1

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Jody Scheckter , John Barnes , Brian Barnhart
Teams Panther Racing