CHAMPCAR/CART: Australia Pre Race Quotes

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on his pursuit of the FedEx Championship Series championship: "We're careful to not be overconfident heading into these final two races, because anything could happen, but it still amazes me that I actually...

JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on his pursuit of the FedEx Championship Series championship: "We're careful to not be overconfident heading into these final two races, because anything could happen, but it still amazes me that I actually have a chance to win the championship in Australia. Winning the championship wasn't even a wish at the beginning of the year. I would have been excited to win just one race. We're close now, so we just have to do what's gotten us to this point and we should be fine. We still don't talk about the championship much. We're trying to look at Australia like it's another race where we're going out to prove we're the best team on the track. We're not concentrating on the points. I've never seen the course in Australia, so that's always a fun challenge. I like to see how quickly I can learn a new course and get up to the top speeds. Australia was one of my favorite races on my CART video game, so we'll see if that helps. I told Chip [Ganassi, team owner] we should travel to Australia a few times during the season to practice, but he didn't agree."

JIMMY VASSER (Target Honda Reynard), Montoya's teammate and the 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion, on Montoya's pursuit of the title: "It's kind of like when a pitcher in baseball is throwing a no-hitter. We all know the situation, so there's no need to talk about it. If Juan wants advice, I'm here for him just like I have been all season, but he's gotten this far, so he obviously knows what he's doing. It's a thrill to be involved in another chase for the PPG Cup. I'd obviously love to be the one on the verge of winning it, but I've revised my goals throughout the season and I like how we've responded to adversity and how the car has been running lately. I've had some success in Australia before [winning in 1996] and I plan on finishing up the season with two strong races." DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his championship aspirations: "We're fighting for a championship at Team KOOL Green and that is more than enough to keep us focused on the job at hand, which is getting the most out of the car and the team every time we go out on track. I can't think of a better circuit to be heading to than Surfers Paradise. We ran very well there last year [finishing second] and we've only improved ourselves and the car since then. We'll be playing it pretty smart with our strategy, you can count on that. But, as well, I think we're in a position where we can go for it a little bit. We're not interested in finishing second in the race or the championship. I'm looking forward to the sun and sand of Surfers Paradise. Like a lot of drivers, it's my favorite city on the circuit. The organizers do an outstanding job of promoting the event and they arrange some pretty fun things for us to do."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), looking forward to his annual visit to Surfers Paradise: "I can't wait to get to Australia and get back in the KOOL car. When things are going as well as they are for us - especially on the street circuits - all you want to do is race, race, race. There's no reason we can't get another Team KOOL Green one-two [finish] on the streets of Surfers Paradise. It would be great to do that for Barry [Green, team owner], it being his home race and all. It would also mean that Dario would still be fighting for the championship going to Fontana. I won at Surfers in '95 and qualified fourth last year, so we're thinking about another win. I know that we have all the ingredients to do it. We've got a great team, a good baseline setup and the best technical package with Honda, Reynard and Firestone tires."

BARRY GREEN, Team KOOL Green owner and a native Australian, on the team's recent run of FedEx Championship Series success: "Team KOOL Green's drivers, as well as both crews, are on top of their games right now. I couldn't be happier or more confident at the moment. We're still in contention for the championship with Dario [Franchitti], Paul [Tracy] won the last race in Houston, and I'm heading home to Australia. Being an Australian and with several Team KOOL Green crew members from that part of the world, we like to think that we have a home field advantage at Surfers Paradise. Besides, it's another street course - the kind of circuit where Paul and Dario have been most dominant this season. Assuming all goes well, I wouldn't be surprised to have them both on the podium again."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on the three-week break between FedEx Championship Series events at Houston and Australia: "It was nice to have a little break before running the last two races. I was able to spend time with my new baby boy, Lucca, at home after testing in Fontana. Australia is a special place. I am hoping to score my first win there since 1994. I love racing there. This year, I am going to bring [son] Marco on his first trip to Australia. He's very excited. It is a great racetrack. The fans are great and it is a friendly country. When you travel that far you want to come home with results. The Ford engine has been very strong. It will be nice to race with a Ford there. My favorite part of the track is the curbs. That's what makes that place a little different. We are determined to run well in the last two races. I think we will have a shot at [winning] both because we have traditionally run well at each place. We need to do everything in our power to finish the season strong and finish in third place in the standings. Are we satisfied with third? No, but it is a step in the right direction from the past two seasons. [when Andretti finished eighth and seventh, respectively]"

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on how he spent the break between the Houston and Australia races: "I spent some time on my boat around my home in Florida and went to the Bahamas during the break. It was nice but I didn't appreciate it as much as I would have if I had competed in every race and needed a break. I think it is a big benefit going to Australia having already competed in Houston [after injury]. It's better to have a chance to run one race before Australia, especially since we were competitive in Houston. The best of all obviously would have been if I hadn't missed any races. There is no doubt that we would be challenging for a top finish in the standings. Todd [Bowland, engineer] and the entire team were doing a great job consistently. Surfers [Paradise] is definitely an important race for us. We have run strong there in the past so I am hoping to conquer the place and win in Australia. The track is challenging because it is so long and hard to put an entire good, quick lap together. The Ford/Swift combination has been working well for us this year and provided us with a consistently competitive car. Strong finishes in the last two races will put us in a good position to start the 2000 season even stronger."

MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Reynard), on the enthusiasm of the Australian race fans: "This race is a national event for Australia and the fan support of the Australians is unbelievable. Australians take a lot of pride in this event, and they should because it is first class with a superb facility. The course is very different than the traditional street course. The track has long straight aways and it isn't at all twisty like Houston or Long Beach. This is the track that other street courses should be modeled after. It is great that we are in the top five [in the FedEx Championship Series points race], but my attention is now on aiming for fourth place. We have been gaining ground and we are now chasing Michael [Andretti] for the next spot in the standings. It would give me a great deal of satisfaction if I can take fourth from an Andretti."

GREG MOORE (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on his previous successes at Australia: "Fortunately, I've been able to get to the podium at Surfers Paradise twice in the last three years. I think the key on this street course is to qualify near the front or work your way to the front early in the race, so that you can control the pace. I really enjoy the Australia race, not only because I've had some success there but it's just a beautiful setting for a race, and it gets your adrenaline flowing."

AL UNSER, JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Lola), on his enjoyment of racing in Australia: "I always look forward to returning to Surfer's Paradise. The atmosphere is great - the fans really embrace Champ Car racing, and it shows in their enthusiasm and support for this event. This street course is a lot of fun to drive. The keys will be qualifying well given how competitive the CART FedEx Series is, and bringing the Marlboro car home at the end. Last year, we had incidents in both qualifying and the race, so this year we're looking to keep our nose clean and run well all weekend."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard), on competing outside North America: "Australia is one of the three CART series races outside of North America, so as a driver you get excited about the opportunity to put on a good show for the growing number of racing fans on another continent. The whole week leading up to the race at Surfers Paradise is really a big 'happening,' almost like a festive atmosphere. But I don't think any of us lose our focus when it's time to get down to business. Surfers Paradise can be a tough track. There are some good passing spots, which worked to my advantage last year, when I managed to gain seven positions during the race. But you have to watch out for cars getting bottled up in some of the chicanes. You definitely need all your wits about you on this street course."

HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), on learning from last year's experience at Australia: "Last year in Australia was not the best of races for me [Castro-Neves finished 21st due to contact], but at least now I know where the car shouldn't go on the track. Throughout the entire season Hogan Racing has learned a lot about how the Lola works and responds to different changes and I feel we've made very good progress. Unfortunately, we've also had a lot of problems which have caused us to not finish races that were completely out of our control. We tested for two days at Sebring after Houston and gained some things that I think will be very useful in our set-up for Surfers [Paradise]. I know that the more information you come armed with to a track, the better off you'll be. I feel much more comfortable going into the race this year than last, because I know the circuit and won't have to worry about learning where to turn, brake, accelerate, etc. I'm eager to get on the track Friday! While you're racing, you have the great scenery that every once and awhile you can catch your breath and get a look at. I really like the beaches; the weather is always fantastic. They whole city gets behind the race and makes it a week of racing excitement rather than just the weekend. It's really great to see how enthusiastic the crowds are about Champ Car racing Down Under!"

MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on his enjoyment of Australia: "Surfers Paradise is a good place to go at the end of the season. It's great to go back to Australia, and there's always a very enthusiastic crowd. The course is quite demanding, with a lot of fast corners, and the curbs make it very tricky. We've run pretty well on street circuits this season and we've learned a lot that we'll apply to this track. I'm looking forward to coming out of the last street course event on a high note."

ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift), on the importance of putting together a strong effort at a street-course event: "I'd like to believe we can finally have a good run on the street courses before it's all done. We've taken our lumps between the concrete this year. Australia represents our last chance. We're bringing the Swift chassis 'Down Under,' and if I have to scrape, break, or destroy every bolt and body part on these cars this weekend, I'll do it to win. We do some serious curb-hopping on this course; it's not kind to the equipment by any means. But this is the last time we'll be running the Swift in 1999 before they become show cars for 2000, so there's no need to worry about bringing home a good car. Obviously, everyone is looking forward to this race because it's literally on the beach. Like a lot of the street courses, I've had success in the past at Australia. Back when I ran with AJ Foyt in 1993, my first trip to Australia, we qualified third, finished third and gave old Nigel [Mansell] a run for his money. Last year, we pitted for fuel in the closing stages of the race while running in the top ten. This year, I can guarantee you we will not be pitting with six laps to go if it's a timed race. The track in Surfers Paradise is one of the best street courses for sure. It's long, constantly changing with sharp corners, chicanes and fast combinations. Because it's so long, you need to be solid in qualifying and put together complete laps, similar to a place like Road America. I like Surfers; who wouldn't? Especially considering we're winding down a tough season this year. After the race, I've decided to keep the guys in Australia for a few days to have a little mini-vacation and regroup before we tackle Fontana and the Baja 1000. They've done a great job all year and deserve the time to sit in the sand and relax."


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