Champ Car press conference An Interview with Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Roberto Gonzalez and Memo Rojas Eric Mauk: Good afternoon everybody, we appreciate everyone joining us at this short notice. We have a list of guests we ...
Champ Car press conference
An Interview with Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Roberto Gonzalez and Memo Rojas
Eric Mauk: Good afternoon everybody, we appreciate everyone joining us at this short notice. We have a list of guests we wanted to make available to everyone today in advance of next week's Tecate Telmex Grand Prix held at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico, Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We have with us three of the premiere Champ Car drivers on the circuit today, as well as an up-and-coming driver from the Barber Dodge Pro Series. I'd like to introduce first of all a driver that you all know quite well, driver of the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Fernandez Racing, the owner and driver of the #51 car, Adrian Fernandez. Thank you for joining us today.
Adrian Fernanedez: My pleasure.
Mauk: Also we're joined by the driver of the #9 Gigante/Office Depot Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Rahal, finished a career best second place in the season opener, stands second in the 2003 points standings, welcome Michel Jourdain, Jr.
Michel Jourdain, Jr.: Thank you.
Mauk: And also the driver of the #11 Lotto Speed Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Dale Coyne Racing, rookie Roberto Gonzalez.
Roberto Gonzalez: Thank you.
Mauk: And from the Barber Dodge Pro Series, the driver who started fourth and finished third in his season opener in St. Petersburg, Memo Rojas. Thank you for joining us.
Memo Rojas: Thank you.
Mauk: Adrian, a busy time for you, you had a long day yesterday in Los Angeles, entertaining much of the Hispanic media, then you're off to Mexico to shoot a commercial tomorrow for the first of two races you'll have in Mexico this year. How much does the crush of media around these races hinder your focus? How tough is it to get your car ready, team ready, do all of the media obligations that are heaped upon you in these Mexico races?
Fernandez: It's just a matter of organizing yourself. This is not the first time we are doing it. It's not the first time that we are going to be racing in Mexico, so that's helped us know what to expect and why we've been organizing ourselves to the point of trying to be, you know, more efficient with our time and everything. We're pretty much under control in all those respects.
Mauk: Michel, last week was a big week for you as well. You were in Monterrey with us giving pace car rides. Before that you met the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, other dignitaries down there. Tell us about that and how it came about that you met the President of Mexico.
Jourdain Jr: Oh, yeah, I think to come to Monterrey was organized before. It was a coincidence that Mr. President was there, you know, for an official trip, I guess. So they organized meeting him. He was in a convention center that is right next to the track. We were going to meet there. So they organized a quick meeting. It was very nice, very exciting always to meet the President. Before that I was with the ex-governor, which is now the Secretary of the Economics in Mexico. The next day we had a press conference with the governor of the state, the mayor. It was a good day. Then pace car rides, driving nice people, a lot of fans, and a lot of sponsors. So it was pretty nice.
Mauk: Roberto, as Michel said, you were down there for two days giving pace car rides. It was non-stop. The support from the fans and media down there was unbelievable. You were participating driving in some of those pace cars and getting ready to drive in your first Champ Car race in front of your hometown fans. Are you excited about getting down there, getting this thing rolling?
Gonzalez: Yes, I'm very excited to race there. I've been there the past two years just as a spectator, always wishing to be there driving. So this is going to be my first year. It's very exciting. It's too exciting, I don't know how to express it. Last weekend was a great event. There was a lot of media. It was also a great opportunity for us with the new drivers. We got to get around the track a couple of times and just have fun with the media guys, show them a little bit of what we feel during our hard drives around the track.
Mauk: Memo, you were down there as well giving out some rides, meeting a lot of people. You're just getting your season started, getting your Barber Dodge career started. To start off with a podium finish at St. Petersburg, tell us about the way you feel things started for you in 2003.
Rojas: I'm very happy the way the season started for us. Always a podium finish is good to start the season. I had a little bit of troubles with qualifying because my engine blew, but we were able to deal with that. For the second qualifying we got it fixed and we were able to get a podium finish at the end. I'm thrilled for this season, especially going to Monterrey, which is for me the first time I race in my country for the last four years. I'm very excited because the sponsors and family and friends are used to watch you on TV, on broadcast, or just during the news, but now they're going to be able to go and watch and see it live. For me, that's thrilling and very exciting. I'm happy to be racing at Monterrey, looking forward to next week.
Mauk: As we all are. Let's go ahead and open it up for questions from the media.
Q: Michel, with your Mexican sponsor, Gigante, they did interesting promotions in Mexico City. Can you tell me some things you've been doing to promote the Monterrey race and how it affects the buildup for you?
Jourdain Jr: It's been really, really busy, you know, press starting on Monday after St. Petersburg. It was really, really busy those first couple weeks in Monterrey. Right now this week I'm in Columbus in the shop. My personal trainer is right here, I'm working out really hard. On Tuesday I'm going -- actually I'm going back on Friday to Monterrey for some promotions, going back to Mexico City on Saturday, then on Tuesday to Monterrey. I have other promotions Tuesday night or Wednesday, dinners with big suppliers, with Gigante and Office Depot, with a lot of people, the people from Gigante. It's going to be really, really busy.
Q: Obviously, as we all know, this is a very, very big weekend for all of you, from the experienced guys to the rookies. Adrian, you're the most experienced guy, the guy who's driven so much of the interest in Champ Cars in Mexico. Could you talk about how well-established the sport has become there in Mexico, how far it's come in such a short period of time, how you've seen it grow in the past few years.
Fernandez: Sure. Well, it hasn't been that quickly. If you think about it, it's been a while since things like this have happened in Mexico. It's been a process, from different drivers starting from the Rodriguez brothers, then we have Hector Rebaque, Josele Garza, Bernardo Jourdain, just different drivers, different eras, different times. For a period of time, we really didn't have anything. Really to be able to go to United States or to be able to go to England, it was basically crazy, it was absolutely impossible. So there were not many opportunities to race outside. Our racing in Mexico was good. We have a good championship. But it was just that, it was not very professional in terms of being able to grow towards a bigger series.
So over a period of time, racing has grown tremendously in Mexico to the point of having more interest in companies, and this is all part of also the initiative of Tecate, Gigante, Quaker State, Herdez and Telmex, to be able to support us right from the beginning and believe in this project. With a combination of promotions and results and all that, it grew up to the point of making a lot of noise in Mexico, becoming a big sport. Now that has influenced other companies, other drivers to come to CART.
It's nice to see it growing because it's something that we always wanted. I think, you know, now with people like Michel and Mario and Roberto coming, you have secured I think for a great part of our immediate future for international racing.
And I think also the Mexican local racing is starting to grow even more. Events like Mexico, like Monterrey, it does good for our racing in Mexico, for the local racing, because it attracts new sponsors, brings in new companies and all that. That's fantastic. It's starting to become a little bit like the Brazilian sort of situation - but not yet as big. If we continue like this and we all put our help to try to keep all this, I mean, I think our future in racing looks pretty bright.
Q: Michel, from your point of view, you've been there in the middle of this growth as well, now you've got yourself into a top team. You're in with a chance at the championship, running second in the points. How does all this affect you? Do you feel this is sort of a motivation or do you feel it's pressure? How does this whole situation affect you?
Jourdain Jr: Yes, I think I been in a really good situation because, like Adrian says, since we were young, we were in racing. When I was younger, when racing in Mexico started to get a little bigger, the local racing in Mexico, one of the first things I remember is Josele Garza leading 13 laps in Indy. I mean, when Adrian came through, went to Europe, I remember that, when he left Mexico, that was really big, you know. Everybody was really talking about that. And he tried so, so hard.
Like he said, it's what happened to my dad. My dad, when he used to race in Mexico, he could just go on a Sunday with his helmet and he could drive five cars. But if you try to go to the States or Europe, nobody would help. So for people like Adrian and all the guys that went to Europe, it was so hard. But Adrian was the most successful. He came back to Mexico, racing Formula 3, then in the States. He worked so, so hard at it. He was very smart, he was working on a good team, running very good, good in Indy Lights, brought himself in a different team in CART, started doing good, getting results, worked so hard at the sponsors. I think all that what has helped all of us here so that later Herdez got in, then I came in. Just more and more people started coming. It has changed so, so much. Now the races in Mexico, I mean, the racing world in Mexico is so different in 10 years.
Q: Adrian, what was your reaction to the cancellation of the race at Road America?
Fernandez: Well, obviously it's something that you don't want to hear. It's definitely one of our favorite racetracks. I mean, it's been the all-time favorite for us. It's going to be deeply missed by all the drivers. But, you know, there were some issues that CART had to fix, and unfortunately they could not be fixed without canceling the event. We all hope that that event can come back in the future and we be able to, you know, go back there and have the solution all fixed by then.
Q: The first race at Road America was won by a countryman of yours, Hector Rebaque. What remembrance do you have of that, if any?
Fernandez: To be honest, I don't remember anything of that. At that time, to be honest, we had not much influence of Indy cars in Mexico. You know, we knew more about the Indy 500 and Formula 1, things like that. I just don't remember much about it. I really came more in contact about CART and all that after I came back from Europe and things like that. I mean, we knew about it. I think I was very young when all this happened, so I don't really remember much.
Q: In previous years the only race in Mexico was Monterrey. With the great success in Mexico City, do you see that detracting from the Monterrey event at all?
Jourdain Jr: I mean, in the past, you know, even when we had Houston, racing in Houston was like racing in Mexico. Like in Denver they played the Canadian anthem, in Houston they should have played the Mexican anthem. In racing, it's really big, you know, in all the north of Mexico, Mexico City, all these places. A lot of people that went to Mexico City was their first time. But there's people coming to Monterrey all the way from the north of Mexico, from south, from everywhere. They're going to come to Mexico City. Some can only come to one.
I mean, if you put the two together is, what, for the three days is like 300 or a little bit more, actually a lot more, let's say half a million in the three days for the two races. We have 100 million people in Mexico. A lot of people that go to one goes to the others. So I think, I mean, both events can be really, really huge. Last year we had both events and they were really big. I cannot see one distracting from the other.
Mauk: Roberto, then Memo, you hear about Adrian and Michel talk about how tough it was for them to get started. Talk about how what they have done in the last five or six years that has made it easier for you guys, or do you think it has gotten any easier for you guys to break into racing?
Gonzalez: I think what they have achieved has really changed motorsports in Mexico. It's really helped us. They've opened international motorsports to the eyes of business companies here in Mexico. In that sense, we really owe first Adrian a lot and then Michel also, he's been there for a while. We owe like, Adrian said, Tecate, Quaker, Telmex, Herdez, we owe them a lot.
I also had the opportunity to live through a little bit of what Michel and Adrian had to live. The past three years I've been racing in Europe. It was basically a time where no other Mexicans were racing over there, so it was like a first timer. We really had to work hard for that. But it definitely is part of what Adrian and Michel have already created.
Rojas: I think for me it has been the same, similar to Roberto, I've been able to witness how racing has changed. I remember the first time I saw Adrian race a Champ Car when he was racing here in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. I remember I was like 10 or 11 years old. For me, it was amazing to watch. That was one of the moments that for me pushed me to be a race car driver because I was in love with the car, and then I was able to see how the sport began growing.
As Adrian said, it's very difficult to get started. I've been struggling a lot getting support. And right now I'm very fortunate to be involved with the Telmex racing team, for supporting young drivers which is involved directly with the Champ Car ladder system. So I'm very happy, fortunate to be part of it. Hopefully I can follow Adrian and Michel and Roberto's steps in the future.