CHAMPCAR/CART: An interview with Patrick Carpentier

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone, welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us this afternoon. Our guest today is driver Patrick Carpentier of the Player's Forsythe ...

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone, welcome to the CART media teleconference and thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us this afternoon. Our guest today is driver Patrick Carpentier of the Player's Forsythe racing team, who, despite missing three of nine events due to injury, is in the midst of one of the successful seasons of his four-year FedEx Championship Series career. Good afternoon, Patrick. Thanks for being with us today. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. T.E. McHALE: Patrick, driver of the No. 32 Player's Ford Reynard, posted a fifth place finish in round nine of the FedEx Championship Series, the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by Firstar on July 2nd on the runways of Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio. It marked his fourth Top 5 finish in six starts this season, and moved him among the Top 10 drivers in the championship. Patrick's other Top 5 results to date have been fifth at Homestead, fifth at Detroit and a season high third at Milwaukee. He missed events at Long Beach, Rio de Janeiro and Japan after sustaining a small fracture of left wrist in a fall at his Las Vegas home. Despite that setback, he stands 10th in the FedEx Championship Series drivers standings with 47 points heading into this weekend's Molson Indy on the streets of Toronto in Patrick's homeland of Canada. Since his return to competition at Nazareth on May 27th, Patrick has moved from 19th position to his current 10th place ranking in a span of just five events. The Molson Indy, round ten of the FedEx Championship Series, will be televised on ESPN this Sunday beginning at 3 p.m. eastern time. With that we will open it up to questions for Patrick.

        Q.  How is your wrist feeling?  Is it a hundred percent now?
        PATRICK CARPENTIER:  Yeah, it's much better.  We had a test at
Sebring a couple days ago.  Seems to be very good.  It was really tough at
Nazareth when I came back.  It was a bit better every week after that.  
Now I see it's not as strong as the other one.  I've got to make sure I
hold the wheel very tight when the circuit is bumpy.  But I'd say it's
about 99.5% now.  It doesn't hurt at least.  That's very good.

Q. We understand some of the CART teams, Ford teams, tested a low-boost setting at Chicago last week. Was your team one of the teams? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know, because our team didn't run too long. We had a bit of a problem. We didn't have a chance to test a lot of stuff there. We've been testing components on the engine since the beginning of this season. To be honest, I'll tell you that the boost and whatever it is has been in development, whether it's Mercedes or Ford, in the last year and a half or so. We just don't talk about it too much.

Q. 43 points behind Roberto Moreno, still a lot of time left in the season. Realistically, where do you expect to finish this year? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. I'd like to finish Top 5. It was the objective of the team, to improve the team, finish into the Top 5. But I think we stand a very good chance. I think when testing last week in Sebring, the test was scheduled after Cleveland when we struggled to qualify, 19th, 18th place on the grid. I think we made a lot of changes that we've never done in the past three years on the Player's team. I think the car should be much better coming into Toronto. I think our chances to be in Top 3 or 5 in The Championships are still very good because the car seems -- my car seems to finish a lot of races. But Roberto is going to be hard to beat. It was one guy in the Series that I was hoping was not going to take the lead of that championship, it was Roberto Moreno. He's very steady. If the car is good for a fifth place, most of the time he's going to finish fifth. If it's good for a first, it's going to finish first. I'm not sure he's going to win all the races, whatever it is to end the year, but I'm sure he's going to be up there all the time. It's going to take a long time to get close to his points.

Q. Your test at Sebring, did you work on qualifying or a race setup or both? PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, in the race we're usually not too bad. We basically work on a four, five lap at a time, mostly qualifying. There are some at Sebring. We're pretty happy because the racetrack was fairly slippery. We're happy to have that. Plus the tire compound we used during that test was really hard. Firestone is making a harder and harder tires because they're the only supplier in the series. It may create less marble when we're racing. Using that tire, I think we did a good job with the car. Hopefully it will be the same when we come in this weekend.

Q. Any extra pressure racing in Toronto? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, always, every year we come. To be honest with you, it's the first year I'm excited and I'm looking forward to the race. I know they lengthened the race 15 laps. I think I've done my job. I'm fit, I've trained a lot, did everything I could. I really do believe we have a good team. We seem to start a little bit further back than we would like to, but the guys so far has not made any mistakes in the pit. Knowing the team is behind me more takes a bit of the pressure away. For sure, there's always a little bit more than anywhere else.

Q. Since breaking your wrist in May, how difficult was it for you to come back and recover your form? PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was difficult, but like I said, I talk to Jerry Forsythe a little bit more now, we talked in Milwaukee, it was very difficult because the car was very fast, I was not there, Alex was running up at the front. It's the first time that I couldn't race. I had to watch the car. It made me grow up, made me appreciate what I was doing. You know, I used to do motorcross, all sorts of sports, jet skiing, besides racing. Every sport I was doing was almost working towards being a champion in that sport, maybe not paying enough attention to what I was doing in CART. I stopped doing all of that.

Q. Really? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I stopped doing all of that. I just play golf once in a while, but I'm not going crazy about it. It's just to relax. Maybe I come into the race weekend more rested. I can tell the engineers and talk to the guys a little bit more about what the car's doing. I'm more focused and I'm working mentally a lot more on what the car's doing and things. I think I came back stronger than when I left. I'm more decided on what I want to do.

Q. Leading up to the Molson Indy this weekend, what are your goals? Why do you feel that this year is different? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I feel it's different because I think I've changed. I feel it's different because Player's is investing a lot more money into the team than they've ever done in the past. Bob, who is the president, is not laughing about it. He wants to win races. He work for some other teams before, brought those team to victory and championship. I think he wants to do the same with this team. There was a lot of change on the team, in the organization, the way the engineers function. Have a new engineer this year. I think he's very good. We have my engineer from last year, Lee is really brilliant, working at the shop to develop the car, try to improve it. He spent yesterday and today, took out the shaker, which is a machine that recreates racetrack. We can work on the race car without being on the racetrack. I think, yeah, I'm much more well surrounded than I've been in the past.

Q. From a personal standpoint in terms of your performance, you said that this is one of your strongest years. What has changed to make this your strongest year? I know you did well in '97. Why now? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, to be at the front and to do well, you need a better car. I think this year we have a better car. We put a Ford engine into the car. It seems to be very drivable, makes it a bit easier for us. But also the focus of the team and the objective of the teams have changed. I felt like the past years, we were running to win, but it was not really towards victory. This year they're really focused on that. The reason like I came 19 to fifth place is because the guys are so much faster in the pit stops, so many things. It's mandatory we practice pit stop every morning with the team. We do a lot of stuff that we didn't do before. That's why I'm more confident going into this one.

Q. You said when the season began you pledged it would be your break-out year. Despite injuring your wrist, do you feel you still can accomplish that? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think so. We want to have victory. We understood the cars were not up to what we would like them to be in Cleveland and in Portland. What's different about the past years, everybody works toward the same goal. I give a hundred percent, and my focus is only on racing. The team, I feel, is giving me 110 or 100%. Everybody's working towards that. We got the money to do it. The package we have is Ford, Firestone and Reynard. Right now this package is leading the championship. Yeah, I think it should be a breakthrough year.

Q. Last year approaching the Molson Indy, you did fairly well, a little better in the Toronto, qualifying-wise, than some of the other tracks. I think this year you said you've been working on the qualifying. What did you bring back from the Sebring test which would make you think you should be able to be a little quicker in Toronto? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I cannot say what we did. I think it's very good. Sometime you change tracks and you're really surprised because it doesn't work the same way. I think it will. We changed just to see something like quickly. We had some things on the car that we had in the last three years that were not -- that were keeping the car from being smoother and better into the corners. We took a lot of that out and made some changes and put something else in. Pretty much anything that moves, that creates grip or adhesion on the track, has been changed or modified through the Sebring test. The Sebring test was a test you would normally do over the winter, but it's the first time I do a test like that to rethink about what we're doing and about what the car's doing during the middle of the season. I think it should be good for us.

Q. The season is half over. The fact that you're in Toronto now, and probably more so in Vancouver, there are all these events for the Greg Moore foundation. I just wonder now, it's going to come up because all these things are happening with the foundation, how you put Greg's death in perspective now? For everybody in Toronto and Vancouver, it's the first time --? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think it's going to be even more than what it is in Toronto. Greg is by far the fastest and most competitive driver I ever had beside me in a race car since I started racing. But it was just very sad that it happened, and it was really tough for the next few months. I didn't test until two, three months after that. We're trying to put that behind. The team is trying to move forward. We're trying to build the team, rebuild the team, in a better way than it was. One thing I can say, I think the cars we have this year are better cars than what we had last year. I just wish he could have had a chance to sit in one of those. But I think he enjoyed life a lot when he was there. He did whatever he wants when he wanted to. He had one of the nicest life. If he'd be here, if I would be the one that would be gone, he would be enjoying it and racing over the weekend of the. For sure, it's still sad. It's always sad. We've got to put that behind.

Q. Max told me recently, "It's time to quit crying on everybody's shoulders, that Greg would be upset if he saw everybody walking around feeling sad." Is that kind of how you feel? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think so, because I know Greg. I know if he would be here, he wouldn't be walking as sad. I think he would, for sure, keep that in the corner of his mind. He'd keep on racing and be looking forward to get a win this weekend. He was always having fun and going out with the guys and stuff. I think he'd just be enjoying himself because he always did when he was in the race car. That's why he kept doing it.

Q. Listening to some of the conversation earlier talking about the changes from '99 to 2000, I guess to get specific, not so much with your team or your car, have you personally done some things to change your style or the way you approach this season? Obviously it's affecting your positive performance on the track. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it is. Changed a lot. I go to Human Performance International, very good doctors, help you prepare mentally, physically. For some reason this year they seem to have given me more of an edge than the past years. What's different, too, now I focus on racing a lot more than before. All the risk I takes are a lot more on the racetrack than anything else. I trained really hard over the winter. I understand that during the season you cannot train as much, you have to do your homework during the winter. It seems to be paying off because I'm never tired at the end of the races. I really give everything I have. I just try to make every lap, every moment, every corner to the maximum, however the car is, however the situation is. This year it showed me even sometimes when it looks like it's not going to be good, we start towards the back of the pack, things haven't been good all weekend, if you keep plugging at it, working hard, the team does a good job, you may end up at the front. I don't know. It's just different for me. I'm more confident. The team gave me a lot more responsibility this year than they have in the past. I'm kind of responsible for helping and developing the car, doing thing that I've never done in the past. I really, really enjoyed that position.

Q. Sounds like you treat it more now than just a job, but almost a lifestyle? PATRICK CARPENTIER: It is, it is, a lifestyle that for some reason I got lost a little bit getting into the CART circuit, kind of stopped enjoying. Now that I've straightened up a lot of stuff in my life, that the team is investing more, the team is willing to do a lot more than that the past, it's different. I enjoy it so much. Every time I go on the racetrack, I'm pretty happy. If we can start at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, I'm in the car, we run till 6:00 at night, whereas before I was trying to be there a bit later, this and that. It's very different. The main thing I think what makes the difference is that I enjoy it. I have fun. I can't wait to be back in it Friday because I'm excited about it.

Q. Now you're the leader of the Player's team, where before you were pretty much on a co-leader status with your previous teammate. Do you feel any responsibility for making certain that Alex always gets a good run? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. Alex gets a good run. We share a lot of information, which we have not done in the past. We share everything. The engineers sit together. We going to have meetings. We're going to change our way of functioning, too, a little bit since Cleveland. We're going to have a lot of meetings, sit down together, see what we did like, what we didn't like, what the car does. We're going to get information from them and we're going to give them information. The team has me testing so many things on the car, different things that I've never been able to test before because Greg was doing most of the work most of the time, which was normal because he had more experience and, I've got to admit it, was more aggressive than I was at the time. The team, they were expecting him to do it. Now it's changed. I think it's giving me the opportunity to grow and really to give everything I have within myself. I got to make sure that I keep pushing every corner.

Q. As the leader of the team now, you get most of the responsibility for testing the new stuff. It's paying off with more seat time, being able to understand what's going on with the car. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it is. But me and Alex have exactly the same seat time. We just separate that half and half, except that when I'm going to go to a test, like when I went to Mid-Ohio, Alex will try to set up for that track and get some speed out of it, then we'll have a look at what he did. I'm going to be on a different testing. I'm going to have to test some brake systems, I'm going to test some shocks or some springs. For this time of day, we're going to do this and that. After that, I kind of have to give more of a report to the team on what I think it did and where I think it will be good, what I think we should do with it, then the team analyze it on the computer. It's a lot more in-depth than I've done in the past.

Q. You sound very confident. I hope you have a very good weekend. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you very much.

Q. At Chicago, while y'all didn't run very much, what about the aero package that's proposed for Road America? Do you have any thoughts about that? Do you think it's going to be a good package or would you like to have some testing on it? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, for sure we're going to test at Road America before the race. We're going to give that a try. Until we try it, it's pretty hard to say. Most of the package that we get always work when we're by ourselves. What the testing needs to be done is to schedule a day and make sure that the cars are running really close together because that's where the air gets disturbed and the air gets changed. When you test something and you're by yourself, I think for the engineers it's fairly easy to make something, build something to their characteristic, like they want to slow the cars down, do this, that, that. They can do that. But the thing is, when you come and ride with a lot of cars on the racetrack, it's a totally different package. Like, for example, at Fontana, I think we have a great package. It kind of slows the car down and lets the other guy behind catch up a little bit. But when you run in group, we reach speed on the straightaways that we never could even think of before. We would go up to 250 miles an hour, which is extremely fast. Most of the time when you're behind people, it's because you have no air, no aerodynamic pressure. But when you come into the corner, the car is a lot more slippery than it's been before. The chances of you losing it going into the corner is much greater. Since you have less air, the chance of slowing down before hitting the wall is a lot less. Most of the crash that happens on the short ovals is caused because we have smaller wings. The engine power keeps getting stronger and stronger and stronger. The Ford produces huge amount of power. Same thing for the other guys, the Honda, the Toyota, these guys. They're all really close to each other. You get to the corner at a much greater speed, but on short ovals, we got to hit the brakes and downshift gears to turn the corner, which we've never done in the past. All the big accident that happens to some of the guys happen going into the corner downshifting. When you have to do 200 laps or 250 laps, you've got to keep downshifting all the time, the chance of mechanical failure is much greater. I think they should have a look at many things, maybe minimize the power that the engine produces. I think we should run big wings, you know, big enough to slow us down on the straightaway and to keep everybody together. Then I think you see passing inside, outside. I think Firestone is doing the right thing right now by going to a stiffer compound tires which create less marble. But I think if they would go that direction, to me I think it would be a much safer and much better race.

Q. Speaking of high speeds, since it was announced that y'all would be running Texas next year, do you have any thoughts on that track? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. I've never even seen the racetrack. I don't even know how long it is or how tall it is.

Q. It's got 24-degree banking. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Wow, that should be interesting. Should be a bit more passing there. Everybody always wants to have more banking. That would be a good try, to see what it does.

Q. With the demise of the Player's development program, you as a successful graduate of that program, what advice do you have for young aspiring Canadian drivers? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I don't know. There's a lot to learn. You never stop learning. But the main thing, it's very tough to come up, especially if you don't have a major backing behind you. But I think the best way is to try to find a ride into the United States, in Formula 2000 or Formula Atlantic or Indy Lights, try to meet some people. The way I made it to CART, it was really hard work, took a lot of years to make it. I even stop for a couple of years sometimes because it looked like my career was getting nowhere. Even at those times, you always got to keep looking at your objective and where you want to go, try to work towards that. But I think in any sport right now, it's so competitive that there's only one word, and it's hard work. That's all that's going to bring you there.

Q. You mentioned HPI. Do you go back every year? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I make sure I go back every year. Missed a couple years before. But I've been there like I think six or seven times now.

Q. There's been some talk, some interest in Montreal of possibly having a CART race there someday. Your feelings on that? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, I think it's a great idea. I think people in Montreal for some reason always seems to eat racing, they love racing, whatever it is. They have a Formula Atlantic in Three Rivers. I think sometimes to get more people than a lot of major events. The people in Quebec, like in Toronto, it's growing every year. People seems to know about the drivers a lot more. I think to have a CART race in Montreal would give the people that are there the chance to really see what Indy car racing is, how exciting the sport is. I think the people would be delighted to see that series there.

Q. (Inaudible) David Rutledge. Do you still maintain contact with Jackie? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I never stop. In Toronto this weekend, I'll have a few people that help me when I was 15, 16, 17 years old, that are coming to the race. But, oh, yeah, I always talk to Peggy and Jackie and Steve Cameron. I went to talk to them in Milwaukee. Peggy came into the Player's tent. They helped me a lot. I still have a lynx racing on my Player's suit. Player's let me wear that match because I told, again, Jackie if they would bring me to Indy car racing, I'd keep the patch for them. They taught me a lot of stuff. For sure they gave me a huge boost in my career in that Atlantic year.

Q. You were talking about Montreal having a race. Would it be different to race on the F-1 circuit on Notre Dame Island? PATRICK CARPENTIER: I think Bernie Eccelstone gave his okay for that race, that we could use the circuit. I'm not sure if we can use exactly the same layout of the circuit or not. But I think it would be fantastic. I think people would enjoy all the pit stop and strategies, yellow flags, anything that can happen. Paul Tracy won a race starting 19 in Long Beach. We started 19 at Cleveland, finished fifth. Same thing at Homestead. It's very exciting sport. I don't think people in Quebec right now have any idea how much power an Indy car was, how fast it is. That's what's fun about coming to watch a CART race. These cars are unbelievably fast. When I watch them from the grandstand or I'm not in the practice session, like what we did at Cleveland, from outside I think it's a lot more impressive than it is from inside the car. I think people would love to see that.

Q. You raced that circuit. Would it be real different in the CART series? PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah. It's a circuit that's normally fairly slippery. For us it would be a really smooth circuit because it's really no bumps, really flat. But it would be tough on the CART cars because there's a lot of fast straightaways and a lot of hard braking areas. I know it would be a bit tough on the braking because the CART cars are a little bit heavier than the Formula 1 cars, plus they have more power. It would be an interesting circuit to find the setup. T.E. McHALE: Thank you. At this point we'll wrap it up for today. Thank you, Patrick Carpentier, for joining us this afternoon. Thanks for being with us. Best of luck in the Molson Indy and the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season. PATRICK CARPENTIER: Thank you.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , David Rutledge