Here are exceprts from the press conference following qualifying for the Exxon Supreme Series GTS division race at Laguna Seca tomorrow. The polesitter is Johnny O'Connell, who in the last practice session finally edged ahead of new teammate Eric...
Here are exceprts from the press conference following qualifying for the Exxon Supreme Series GTS division race at Laguna Seca tomorrow. The polesitter is Johnny O'Connell, who in the last practice session finally edged ahead of new teammate Eric van de Poele, then went on to take pole in qualifying, ahead of his other teammate, Steve Millen.
"You can't let a European come in here and beat you, now could you? In our own back yard, we'd look pretty silly if he had gone better than us. But Eric's a world-class driver, and he's certainly been very valuable to this team. We're very pleased with the way he is performing. Nissan's No. 1 agenda is to win the manufacturers' championship, both for us and our tire sponsor, Yokohama. That is why we have brought Eric in, because, of all the people around, he has shown the ability to get in the car and go real quick right off the bat. For a sprint race like this, that's pretty much what you need. He also has ties with Nissan, so that was also critical -- he races for Nissan in the British Touring Car Championship. I was actually quite surprised, because we've been chasing my car all weekend. I haven't been very happy with it. I mean, we were the fastest car on Thursday, but yesterday we had a lot of problems; I wasn't feeling well. This morning, we were quickest, but we threw a soft compound at the car to do it. For qualifying we went to what I consider to be a very good compound for the race. Lo and behold, the car had a lot of grip."
Talking about the different cars in the Nissan stable:
"Each has strengths versus the others. The unfortunate thing is that you can't just say, `OK, this setup is working very well on Steve's car, so let's put it on Johnny's car.' It doesn't work that way. Each car is improved upon, so whoever has the latest model you would think would have the best car, but it doesn't always work like that; some of the old stuff works pretty well too, which I think Eric has shown. He's in an older car. [asked if it's a transaxle car Eric van de Poele has] That is a transaxle car. That's actually the car that I won in last year. It's a really good chassis."
Then I asked O'Connell if he thinks the GTS series can grow, or if it's destined to die.
"It can grow. I think all that it needs is just a little bit more massaging, to allow other competitors the opportunity to compete against us. The problem with GTS right now is really that only Nissan and Oldsmobile have a chance to win. I think if you could change the rules a bit to perhaps bring some of the teams from Trans-Am in or something like that, or rather than make it GTS and GTO, change the rules either by slowing us down or speeding the GTO cars up so you have one big series. The neat thing about GTS is that it used to be the most technologically advanced production-based cars in the world, which means they were the baddest boys in the world. When they start to turn us back, so to speak, as in taking our boost away and adding weight, the rules to slow us down are taking away a lot of the glamor of what that car was. It used to be just a frightening car to drive when you had that much horsepower. Shoot, last year I almost spun coming over the top of the hill by breaking traction with the rear wheels. Now the cars are a lot easier to drive. I think the most important thing is to guarantee good racing. Racing is fun for us and the fans when you can look out and you see, for an hour, guys beating on each other and leaning on each other and having a lot of real close racing rather than just a runaway race. I think right now we've kind of got that parity -- at least, at IRP. If you watched the race at IRP, we were one-two-three-four the entire time. I think that's what makes the racing enjoyable, but as far as what IMSA plans to do with our series, I hope they leave a place for us to run."
He later described his turbo-restricted car as "a much more docile beast."
-- Ron O'Dell `Keeper' email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com