Michael Valiante arrived at the mid-point of the Barber Dodge Pro Series season in Cleveland with less points than he hoped. After starting the year off on a high in Sebring with a pole and second place finish, the remaining races have handed...
Michael Valiante arrived at the mid-point of the Barber Dodge Pro Series season in Cleveland with less points than he hoped. After starting the year off on a high in Sebring with a pole and second place finish, the remaining races have handed him his fair share of bad luck and erratic results. Hopefully the second half of the season will see an upswing in the Vancouver, B.C. native's year. The 1998 Big Scholarship winner and 1999 Co-Rookie of the Year left Cleveland with some points in the bag and some burgeoning optimism. Here's the story from his point of view.
Tuesday June 27, 2000
I arrived in Cleveland Tuesday night. For this event, I traveled alone because my father who usually accompanies me had to attend a karting event. Coming to Cleveland, I did not pay to much attention to the details. I thought that there was only one airport and landing at it, I would know where I was right away.
Upon arrival, I wondered why they had not set up any spectator stands or anything. I began to ask myself, how many airports could there possibly be in Cleveland? When I got off the plane I asked the flight attendant which airport this was, and soon found out I had landed at Hopkins Airport rather than the Cleveland Burke-Lakefront Airport where the race takes place. I rushed to a nearby map to see how far away Cleveland Burke-Lakefront was, and to my relief, it was only a half hour drive.
Wednesday June 28, 2000
Arriving early wasn't to bad because it meant that I could get acclimated to the time change (even though it is only three hours). Wednesday I rolled out of bed at noon not realizing how late it really was. When I went to brush my teeth, I realized I had forgotten my toothpaste. So I headed off to the nearest convenience store. As I was leaving the parking lot I saw Richard Fernandez one of the mechanics parking a Barber Dodge transporter. After chatting a while with him, I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the day making phone calls reading up on some notes and catching up with e-mails. When going through my e-mails, I found one from George Tamayo (The Barber Dodge Marketing Communications Manager) that was in a different language. It was written in Italian. I think George thought that I was fully fluent in Italian (and still does --No Michael, I don't, I just like to give you a hard time...GT). Unfortunately, that isn't the case. I generally understand it when it is spoken to me. Anyway, in the e-mail it told me in detail about the media conference that I was to attend at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame the following day. I picked up some of it and guessed on the times. I hoped I wouldn't be late for the media conference the next day.
Thursday, June 29, 2000
I woke up around 8:00 a.m to ensure that I would not be late for the media conference that was to be held at 12:45 p.m. I worked out for a while and read a few articles in Autosport before I hopped in the shower. I arrived at the track at 11:00 a.m. and went over to see my car and my mechanic Luis Pecocarpi. We spoke about his trip and my car, and I asked how it was doing.
George eventually showed up and took Sepp Koster (driver), Rick Ratzicheck (Driver Relations) and I to the Media Conference. I wondered if there would be a lunch at the Media Conference because I had not eaten anything since the day before and was starving. We arrived at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and were introduced to many new faces. Along with other drivers from the Toyota Atlantic and CART FedEx Series, we were all introduced to the media in attendance. Each CART driver took to the stage and said a few words about how their season was going, then soon after Sepp and I were introduced from Barber Dodge and Buddy Rice and Bob Perona from Toyota Atlantic. After the event sponsors had said a few words each, three drivers were picked to go and play some music on stage with some local musicians. Sepp Koster, Cristiano Da Matta and Bob Perona all got on stage and started to jam. They sounded surprisingly good even though Sepp thought it was horrible. After the jam session, we headed down stairs for lunch (finally) and a few interviews. I went over and got a plate of food and started to eat. The few Media Conferences I have been to never have enough tables, so we were forced to stand and eat. Just as I began to eat, George called me over for a radio interview. I was next after Gil De Ferran; all of the sudden out of nowhere Montoya shows up and butts in front of me. I asked George "is Montoya more important than me?" He thought that was pretty funny. So, finally Montoya was finished and then Max Papis slid in there. I told George he better do something. Soon after, I was interviewed and later we laughed about the whole incident. That night I went out for dinner with my mechanic and the night ended with a few games of GT2. I went to bed thinking how I was going turn my year around.
Friday, June 30, 2000
The next morning, I woke up feeling pretty good, and got to the track early to ensure everything on my car was ready to go. I gave the set-up for the car to Luis my mechanic, which I had thought about the night before. Louis D'Agostino (series engineer) and Barry Waddell (driver coach) and I talked about possible changes to make to the car during the session. It was my first time at Cleveland (sat out last year due to an injury), and it's hard to see where the track goes because the track is so flat.
The first session was cut short and we were unfortunately only able to get seven laps in. At the end of the session I sat in 9th position. I looked over data and talked to Mr. D'Agostino about possible changes for the next session, and he gave me some options to think about. The first qualifying session came as fast as it went, and I found myself sitting in a disappointing 12th place. I left the track at 8:00 p.m. due to the late session and went back to the hotel. I called my parents and told them how I was doing. I wasn't too hungry so I went to sleep and tried to think of what I could do differently to gain time. I was looking forward to improve on the next days qualifying.
Saturday, July 1, 2000
Our second qualifying session was run at 10:30 a.m. and we made many improvements in the car, which brought me up to seventh place. I was hoping for better, but my car felt pretty good so I was optimistic for the race.
Our race was scheduled to run at 3:45 p.m. so it gave us some time to eat and think some things over. After lunch I went over the data and saw where I needed to gain some time. Overall it looked pretty good, so I only made a few minor changes. It is surprising how fast the time goes by when the race seems so far away. And before I knew it, I was already being buckled in to the car.
At 3:30 p.m. we rolled out on to the grid and soon after began a single warm up lap. The first start was waved off; when we came around for the second start, the green flag came out. I had a pretty good start, but got stuck on the outside of turn 4 and 5 losing a few positions. I was able to gain one position but started to fall back with increasing understeer. The race was uneventful and I finished in a frustrating 10th place. On a positive note, I finished and picked up some points. It has been a strange year and a half with inconsistent results, but I am still optimistic things will turn around.