CHAMPCAR/CART: Bruno Junqueira and Mike Hull press conference, Part I

CART Media Teleconference Presented by Worldcom May 14, 2002 An Interview with Bruno Junqueira & Mike Hull Part 1 of 2 - Indy 500 Pole Winning Driver/Team Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this...

CART Media Teleconference Presented by Worldcom
May 14, 2002

An Interview with Bruno Junqueira & Mike Hull

Part 1 of 2 - Indy 500 Pole Winning Driver/Team

Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this week's CART Media Teleconference.

I am Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. We are privileged to be joined today by Bruno Junqueira of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the polesitter for the 86th Indianapolis 500 scheduled to be run on Sunday, May 26th. We'll also hear today from Mike Hull, managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who helped with Saturday's pole winning effort, and a man who also knows a little bit about bringing home a win at Indianapolis.

First off, welcome in Bruno. Thanks for joining us today. Congratulations on winning the pole at Indy on Sunday.

Bruno Junqueira: Thank you very much. It was awesome.

Merrill Cain: Definitely was awesome. Bruno is in his second year of competition in the CART FedEx Championship Series. He finished 16th in the Championship standings last season and finished as runner-up for the Jim Trueman CART Rookie of the Year Award. This season, however, Bruno has started off very strong, earning his second career CART pole at Motegi, Japan just a couple of weeks ago and capturing his second career CART FedEx Championship Series victory at the Twin Ring Motegi Bridgestone Potenza 500 also a couple of weeks ago. Bruno ranks fifth in the current season points standings with 23 points, through three rounds of competition.

He won the pole on Saturday with a winning speed of 231.342 miles per hour, and he's no stranger to Indianapolis, he finished fifth at Indy last year.

We'll also say hello to Mike Hull of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Thanks for joining us today.

Mike Hull: Thank you. It's good to be with you guys.

Merrill Cain: Mike is in his 10th year with the team and he's in his second season as managing director after many years as team manager at the very successful Ganassi team and has won four consecutive CART titles from 1996 through the 1999 season.

With introductions out of the way now we'd like to open it up to questions for both Bruno and Mike.

Q:   Mike, Ganassi Racing is sort of famous for "We share," everybody gets
the same information.  Explain Bruno's performance relative to the other
guys of Indianapolis; did the track change that much?  Did you guys try to
change the car to keep up with it and miss?  How do you explain it?

Mike Hull: Indianapolis is a unusual place, first of all, as you know. And I think in this case what happened at Indianapolis last Saturday was something that was very unusual, first of all, we had a driver who was ready to capture the pole and he did that. He had the same information that Jeff Ward and Kenny Brack had and all three guys had shared information all week with our cars, and I personally believe that the racetrack was closest to the warmup for Bruno, and he took full advantage of that. And as the day went on the track changed slightly and our other two guys, as well as a lot of other people, took an opportunity, took the opportunity to try to knock Bruno off the pole. Kenny and Jeff tried as hard as everybody else did and couldn't get it done. So I think that Bruno did something that is very difficult in racing. He did four laps consecutively better than anybody else did or anybody else in the world could do on that day, and he was fully supported by everybody on the team.

Q: Mike, first of all, the rest of the CART teams that are already in Indianapolis are spending a lot of May testing - not that it matters to you - but do you think that that will give them any sort of edge once June gets here? Bruno, you took to the ovals pretty quickly. You won the pole at Motegi last year, as I remember right, that might have been your first or one of yours first ovals. Anything about them that you like or that you were able to master them fairly quickly?

Mike Hull: We actually tested yesterday at Milwaukee with Bruno and Kenny. So we're trying to take advantage of the time that we have to use our resources. Each CART team gets, depending on the number of drivers you have on your team, you have a prescribed number of days that you can use during the year to test, and we had purposely run all but yesterday beforehand knowing that we were going to run at Indianapolis.

I think any time you get to run, if your team is capable of producing the product that you need so that you will be able to use that given day, you will learn something. So the teams that are testing now will have learned something although yesterday we did something that was unusual, we ran at Milwaukee under very nice weather conditions and the guys that all went to Mid-Ohio got rained out. (Laughs) So we were pretty happy about that choice, I think we owe that to the Farmer's Almanac, and we think we'll be ready for June.

Bruno Junqueira: I got the pole last year in Nazareth, my first oval race. About ovals, I have to thank Team Target, especially Mike. They gave me a lot of oval testing before the start of 2001 season. Then I had time to learn about it and Team Target gave me a good car. I think ovals are a lot about having a good car. And driving, I just love high speed corners and the oval is where you can find the highest speed corners, it's really fast, and I think I adapt quite well especially to run myself on the ovals. On my first oval I was on the pole, but I had to learn how to run the race, run in traffic with the oval rules; had to learn how to be patient; how to make a good setup for the car because it's really different, how is the car by yourself, and on the race, we felt traffic and turbulence. That thing you just experience that you can learn. I think during last year I started to improve. I started to do better oval races, and this year, I think I am capable with the experience I have to win some races or to get good results. I still have a lot to learn because just my second year racing oval I did like six or seven oval races last year, but now I have a reasonable experience to do well.

Q: Bruno, if you could talk about, I guess, that progression on ovals, being on a pole is not new for you but being a pole-winner of the Indy 500 and everything, have you already started mapping out in your mind how much different this is as opposed to other ovals that you have been on?

Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, Indy is a very unique place. First because it's the longest oval that you race - it's two and a half miles. It's four corners and it's pretty different from the other ones. It's really high speed and the corners is not too much banking and that made it really, really difficult. The weather and the wind plays a lot with the track as well and it's very difficult. On the race you must be really focused and patient to do a good race. Long, long -- last year I think it took four hours and 45 minutes and it was stopped because of the rain, then it is a really difficult race. On a long race like that the pole is not that important. It is more to win the poles to give the team a boost of confidence and to give myself. This is the important thing of the poles.

But for sure, I am going to try to win the race.  I won Motegi.  That was
not a long race like Indy, 300 miles, and Indy is 500.  I will try to use
the same strategy there I used in Motegi.  I hope it will do well for me.

Q: In terms of your speeds you have been saying pretty much all week that you thought that speeds could get over -- that the pole speeds could be 231 and 232. What did you kind of know about that? What kind of gave you that gut feeling besides, say, some of the testing? Was it just the way the track was -- with the regrinding and everything how that was working for you in testing, is that something that just kind of just carried over?

Bruno Junqueira: I think on testing I did some qualifying simulations and I knew the speed I could do. I think Friday I ran 231.5 as the fastest speed. Then I thought the pole would be something around 231 because I knew that I could improve a little bit and I don't know the other people, and Saturday morning improved the car a little bit. I think 231.6 in the morning practice and that's what I did in qualifying, my first lap was 231.6 and I got average 231.3. I did what was I expecting. Luckily nobody broke Helio's (Castroneves) 232. I saw on practice Helio doing 232, but I don't know with happened with him but he couldn't do this speed on qualifying, then the 231.3 was enough to be on the pole.

Q:   Wondering what kind of approach you will take to the start of race and
how important will it be to stay out in front?  You did mention it being a
long race.  How will your strategy play out for the start of the race?

Mike Hull: It's good to start from the front because you are not going to have much traffic some of the laps, but I know after some laps I don't know how many but like 15, 20 laps going to get the backmarkers; then it is going to be traffic until the end of the race.

One thing I know that I am not going to be leading out the 200 laps. I think it will be really difficult if I can lead out the 200 laps. When I stopped from the pole, it's difficult because you cannot go forward, you are already on the front. Then the only thing you have to try to do is keep on the front. But I don't have to worry or to be too much desperate if for any reason I lose the first place in one situation of the race, but I have to try to keep my car in a good shape and prepare my car for the end of the race to be in a good position. I would prefer to be leading the race after the last pit stop but to be in a good position. Then I can try to win the race.

Q: I guess for, Bruno, again last year you sort of came to grips with racing on ovals, both at Nazareth and with the pole and then I believe actually your two best finishes in CART, outside the win at Road America, were at ovals at Milwaukee and Fontana. Then obviously you -- a very strong run at Indianapolis. But the win at Motegi, I mean, did that -- was that sort of like the final sort of step in sort of really giving you confidence in terms of knowing how to manage not just get on the pole but how to manage and win a fairly long oval track race?

Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, I think winning Motegi was really good because in Nazareth I proved that I can be fast and be on the pole. I think Fontana, especially, I proved that I can keep it up. I think until 5 laps to go I was leading the race, I had a chance to win that race, I was close and then I knew that maybe I could win. But I think in Motegi I proved myself and I proved that, yes, I can win an oval race. And I think what -- I think the good thing for me, after Motegi, I realized that what I learned last year was really worth it because I learned how to set up the car; how to be patient, and how to race in ovals. That's something totally different from a road race, that you should do in the best years of my career. I was really pleased with that.

Q: Mike, you have obviously sort of worked with a lot of different drivers over your long and illustrious career. And again, looking at the starting grid for the 500, everybody and you know, rightfully so, was quick to jump on the fact that well, geez, four of the guys in the first two rows are from Brazil and obviously Castroneves, defending Champion there and (Gil) de Ferran, defending CART Champion and obviously there's certainly a Brazilian tone to the grid there, but another way to look at it too is that again you can kind of make it -- depends on how you -- what definitions you use, but by and large, again by my definitions I would say probably of the 24 people that qualified last weekend, probably 18, 19 of them really sort of came from a road racing background. That has kind of been the pattern over the years that road racing people have tended to adapt fairly well to oval track racing. I wondered if you could perhaps offer any explanations for that.

Mike Hull: Well, I don't know if it's stranger than fiction, David, or whether there's a pattern here - I think that generally first of all, Indianapolis 500 always brings out the best in everyone, and it always brings the best people to race here, historically over the years it has. I mean, if you look just at polesitters over the years, how many world champions or former world champions have been on the pole at Indianapolis, if you think about that. It always brings the best out, the best competition, the best competitors. A young guy that's an accomplished road racer that's really fast, escapable of driving a loose car, what we call a loose car. That's very difficult to drive on an oval.

And what normally happens with young guys in particular is they will hit the fence a lot learning how to drive on an oval, or they will be slowed down by their team until they figure it out. And it's much easier with modern rear engine open-wheel race cars today to tune that out of a fast guy, than it is to start the other way around where a guy is comfortable with steering the front of the car. And I think that is probably the thread that's in common these days, between all of these race drivers wherever they come from, you know, starting in go-karts or intermediate or small Formula cars, 3000, Indy Lights, and so on. Look at Robbie Buhl. He's qualified next to Bruno. He did a heck of a job on Saturday. Where did he come from? You know, he obviously is a very accomplished oval racer.

Q: Sure.

Mike Hull: But his roots were in American road racing. Look at Bruno, he's a very accomplished road racer, from a very similar background, with no oval experience or until what he referred to a few minutes ago, what we did last year was we spent an awful lot of time in the preseason, we spent more of our time on ovals than we did on road tracks because we knew that he could road race. We just wanted him to help him understand what it meant to run an oval car on a full load of fuel as opposed to a light load. That's really the difference.

But if you look historically over the years I think that that's the common thread and probably the ultimate definition of that's -- what Jim Clark did - the people that are older who have read anything - realize what Jim Clark did when he came here and particularly th year that he ran here and the next weekend he ran in Milwaukee. So I think that a road racer is capable of driving on an oval and I think we had an oval racer last year driving our car that would be capable of running at Long Beach.

So, you know, it's just a matter of the ability the guy has and how much he wants to apply himself toward winning for the race team that supports him.

Q: Hopefully I think we would all look forward to seeing that oval racer racing at Long Beach sometime soon?

Mike Hull: Yeah, okay (laughs).

-cart-

Racing at Indy and development work Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Bruno Junqueira , Kenny Brack , Jim Clark , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing