CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom Tuesday, April 16, 2002 An Interview with Michael Valiante Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: We'll go now to Michael Valiante, driver of No. 19 Lynx Racing Swift in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series. To...
CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
An Interview with Michael Valiante
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: We'll go now to Michael Valiante, driver of No. 19 Lynx Racing Swift in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series. To give you a little bit of background, he's a 21-year-old native of Vancouver, British, Colombia. He's competing in his second season in the Atlantic cars after graduating from the Barber Dodge Pro Series. In 2001, Michael ran five races and still wound up ninth in the series championship and he's considered a serious contender for the 2002 title as well.
Sunday's win in Long Beach was his first in the Toyota Atlantic championship and he used a daring pass of Alex Gurney on lap 21 of that race to key the victory. Thank you for joining us today.
Michael Valiante: Thank you.
Merrill Cain: We'll open it up for questions.
Q: I was asking Michael Andretti if he was aware of some of the drivers that are coming up through this ladder series. He basically says he'll be able to talk about that better when the season progresses and he gets kind of a handle on everyone. Do you get much of a chance to watch drivers like him in that CART series? Is he one of the guys you look up to or are there other people? Are you too preoccupied and concerned with what you're doing?
Michael Valiante: Well, the main drivers I look up to, something you can learn from. I make sure that I always try -- if I don't get to watch the event live, I actually try to watch it on TV the same day or the next day.
But like Michael Andretti was saying, we're so involved on the weekends with developing the cars and trying to do well, sponsors, it's hard to pay attention to everything else going on around you.
But you definitely want to at least sometimes go in and watch to see how Michael Andretti or Paul Tracy or whoever is taking a certain corner. You can try to compare yourself or compare your line.
Q: In Andretti's case in particular, because the longevity he's had, 15 years between wins at Long Beach, your career is just starting out, when you look at the length of career of somebody like he has had, been successful as long as he's been, do you draw any sort of inspiration from that?
Michael Valiante: For sure. I mean, I think just winning Long Beach in itself is an extremely prestigious event to win, just because of the history. It's great for my first win to come there.
But for sure I mean, any driver that can stay in this sport a long time, I think it's great to see, especially with the talent of Michael Andretti. But it's also great to see the now faces coming out of Toyota Atlantic or wherever else.
Q: First win in any series is so huge. I don't want to use a cliche about the weight being off your shoulders. This is such a competitive series. Knowing that you can beat these guys, at a very prestigious event, that's got to do a lot to relieve a lot of the pressure. You go into these series saying, "Until I win my first one," you wonder if you'll ever do that. Did you think that way or did you know it was going to which eventually?
Michael Valiante: It had to come in one of the top teams in the series. Just joining Lynx, I have basically their reputation to follow. Obviously, a lot of people expect us to win. There's no reason why we shouldn't.
I'd say there's been a lot of pressure for me to perform. We were a little bit disappointed after Mexico where we qualified. But I think we really -- I really am coming together with the team now. I only did five events last year. I have a new engineer this year.
I think it was great, you know, to get this win off early in the season and to prove that we will be a championship contender for the rest of the season.
Q: Nice outside pass on Gurney. Very entertaining. Are you known as a bit of a risk taker? There's not a lot of places to pass in Long Beach. Are you known for doing things like that, a guy who will let it all hang out and stick your nose out there?
Michael Valiante: I think it's early in the season. You've just got to see when you want to take those risks. They're basically calculated risks. The last event, I don't think I would have done that if I was leading the championship and could finish second to win.
My car was so good when I was following him, that when you have an opportunity like that, you really have to take it. As you can see, as soon as I got in front of him, I could pull away quite quickly. I knew, if anything, that race I had to win because it's hard to have that much better of a car than everybody else.
Q: You have to think, "Now I've won one," it would have been nice to do that in Vancouver, but as the schedule works out, you'll be everywhere but?
Michael Valiante: I was looking forward to coming home. It would have been great actually to get my first win in Vancouver, as well. But last season I raced in Vancouver, it was my last race, and I finished second. I almost didn't make it to the event.
I think it was great last year to finish second, it's great to start the season off with a win at Long Beach.
Q: You just talked about the benefit of that win to the Lynx team. For you personally, what does that first win do for the mindset of a young driver?
Michael Valiante: Well, I'm trying to keep everything in perspective because it is the beginning of the season. There's still quite a few more races to go. We're going to need a lot of podium finishes to be a championship contender because now with the merging of Atlantics and Indy Lights, the series has become so competitive.
I'm so happy to finally get that first win out of the way, especially coming in Long Beach. It has relieved a little bit of pressure, but I still think we have a lot of work to do in the upcoming events.
Q: Being from the greater Vancouver area, maybe a few more wins like this, do you think the comparisons with Greg Moore will be become inevitable?
Michael Valiante: I mean, it's hard to say. Greg was a great driver. I only hope I can be compared to him one day. It would be awfully difficult to live up to Greg Moore.
I think it will all depend. The pass I made on Gurney I think I gained a lot of respect from doing that rather than just finishing second and taking it safe. I'm just extremely happy.
Q: You said it would have been nice to race in Vancouver this year. Is this any race for next season in Vancouver or has the schedule not been determined yet?
Michael Valiante: It hasn't been determined yet. Obviously, I'll be pushing for a Vancouver event.