Indy Racing League Test in the West press conference. Feb. 3, 2003 Young Stars: Sarah Fisher, Felipe Giaffone, Sam Hornish Jr., Vitor Meira, Buddy Rice, Tomas Scheckter, Tora Takagi, Dan Wheldon, Roger Yasukawa Part 1 of 2 Moderator: As you...
Indy Racing League Test in the West press conference.
Feb. 3, 2003
Young Stars: Sarah Fisher, Felipe Giaffone, Sam Hornish Jr., Vitor Meira, Buddy Rice, Tomas Scheckter, Tora Takagi, Dan Wheldon, Roger Yasukawa
Part 1 of 2
Moderator: As you can see, this will be an unusual press conference. We have so many players. We'll take a comment from each driver and then get questions and answers from the audience.
This is our group of young guns, the group that is under 30, kind of the next generation coming through. Quite an interesting group because if you look at it, we have rookies who have never competed in an IndyCar Series, then our champion Sam Hornish Jr., champion for the last two years.
We'll start with Buddy Rice on this end. Buddy started last year at Michigan and finished second in his first very year in the IndyCar Series. This year will be his first complete season in the IndyCar Series. He's 27 years old, and he's from Phoenix, Arizona.
The next driver we have is Vitor Meira. Vitor also raced last year, but this will be his first complete year with the IndyCar Series. Vitor is from Brazil and is 25 years old.
Next to that, probably one of the most recognizable names in the IndyCar Series, Sam Hornish Jr. Sam is from Defiance, Ohio, and is of course the 2001 and 2002 IndyCar Series champion. He's 23 years old.
Next to Sam is Tomas Scheckter. Tomas is from Cape Town, South Africa, and currently lives in Indianapolis. He is the winner of last year's Michigan race. He also competed in a partial season last year. He's 22 years old.
Next to Tomas is Dan Wheldon. He is from England and currently resides in Indianapolis. He debuted last year with Panther Racing, also one of the drivers who competed a partial season last year, coming back for a full season in the IndyCar Series. He's 24 years old. It was just announced a couple nights ago he will take the place of Michael Andretti when Michael retires after the Indy 500.
Next is Felipe Giaffone. Felipe is from Brazil but lives in Orlando. He is the winner of the Kentucky race last year, starting his third season in the IndyCar Series. He's 28 years old.
Next we have one of our rookies in the IndyCar Series, Roger Yasukawa. Roger is from Los Angeles, and he is 25 years old.
Next to Roger is another well-known name, Sarah Fisher. She's from Commercial Point, Ohio, currently living in Indianapolis. Sarah first competed in the Indy Racing League in 1999. She has a pole and second-place finish. She's 22 years old.
Next to Sarah, we have Toranosuke Takagi. He's from Japan and currently lives in the L.A. area. This is his first year in the IndyCar Series but has much experience having competed in CART and Formula One. He's 28 years old, at least for a couple more days.
For the new people in the series, what do you think about coming to the IndyCar Series? For the veterans, what do you think of the competition level?
We'll start with Buddy Rice.
Buddy Rice: Well, I think for the 2003 year, right now with everyone coming out with all new chassis and engines, I think it's going to be a quite competitive series. Also a lot of new teams coming in here; they're stacking up the drivers. I think it's going to be a very competitive season.
Cheever Racing, we're happy with the way things are going with our Chevy package, looking to get into a solid year. We're just getting to our second test, trying to get geared up for Indy, then going on for the championship.
Moderator: Vitor Meira.
Vitor Meira: It's going to be one really tough year with all those really strong teams up there. We have a really good package with Chevrolet. I think my goal is to learn as quick as possible everything. I just did four races and still have a lot to learn.
My goal for sure is to win races, but also try to absorb anything as quick as I can so I can be competitive really soon.
Moderator: Comments from Sam Hornish, please.
Sam Hornish Jr: With new engines, new chassis and a lot of new teams coming in, it's going to be a very exciting year for the IRL. There will be a lot of things to learn for not only myself but the new teams.
Everybody's pretty much starting with the same package, not a lot of experience with this car, this engine. We feel that staying with Chevrolet and Dallara will give the Pennzoil Panther team what we will need to go out and get our third straight championship.
Tomas Scheckter: We're just learning about the car now. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we get a good understanding for the car and engine, me and Scott can work together, make sure we're competitive before we get to Homestead.
Moderator: Dan Wheldon.
Dan Wheldon: Like everybody said, it's going to be very competitive. Our testing in the winter with the new Honda motor has gone very well with Andretti Green Racing. I think we're excited to get the season underway and see where everybody kind of pans out.
Felipe Giaffone: I think tomorrow we're going to start seeing who is going to be strong in the big ovals, who will not. I think we still have time to react if you're not. But I'm pretty confident with the G Force, this track, also with the Toyota, we're going to be very competitive.
We'll see in the other side, at Phoenix in a couple days, how this package is going to work there. But I'm very, very, very proud to be driving for Toyota and also G Force. I think we're going to have a strong package.
Roger Yasukawa: The IndyCar Series, I think, this year is going to be very competitive. As for a rookie driver like myself and a rookie team, I think we've got a lot to learn. But we've had a pretty successful test days the last couple weeks. I think a couple more days here and those at Phoenix, we'll be ready for Homestead. I'm looking forward to the season.
Moderator: Sarah Fisher.
Sarah Fisher: I'm truly excited because this year I get to drive for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing again, hopefully if we get everything secured by the first race, which is kind of abnormal to everyone else.
It's a great opportunity for me because I get to have the same engineer that I've had last year. We bonded quite well. It will be exciting and hopefully we can catch on just as quick as everyone else.
Moderator: Tora Takagi.
Tora Takagi: The engine and chassis and everything is a new package. I'll be doing my best this season.