Bryan Herta, driver of the Shell Ford-Cosworth, has had the seventeenth stop on the FedEx Championship Series schedule marked on his calendar for a year. It was at Laguna Seca Raceway last year that Herta held off a hard charging Alex Zanardi...
Bryan Herta, driver of the Shell Ford-Cosworth, has had the seventeenth stop on the FedEx Championship Series schedule marked on his calendar for a year. It was at Laguna Seca Raceway last year that Herta held off a hard charging Alex Zanardi to capture his first career CART Champ Car win.
Herta, who has been successful at Laguna Seca in every form of racing he has competed in, describes a lap around the track, discusses who he sees as his chief competition, and what he and the Shell team need to do to find their way back to victory lane this weekend.
BRYAN HERTA --8-- Shell Ford Cosworth --WHEN SOMEBODY SAYS, "WE'RE GOING TO LAGUNA SECA," WHAT COMES TO YOUR MIND? "I tell you, something just clicks for me at that track. There is something about me and my driving style at that track, in these cars, that just clicks. It's very easy for me. It's kind of like falling out of bed."
YOU HAVE NEVER QUALIFIED OFF OF THE FRONT ROW AT LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY IN YOUR RACING CAREER. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THAT TRACK THAT SUITS YOUR STYLE? "I'd rather not get into specifics. You know, I have my own ideas about what helps me there. But really, you see that quite a bit in our series. There are certain tracks that seem to suit certain guys. DeFerran is always fast at Cleveland, Franchitti is always fast at Toronto, Michael is always fast at Nazareth - there are certain tracks that you know who you need keep pace with. Sure, there are five or six other guys in the mix on any given weekend, but there is always one guy who seems to be the leader of that pack."
WHO DO YOU THINK YOUR BIGGEST COMPETITION IS GOING TO BE THIS WEEKEND? YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE MAX PAPIS TESTED THERE PRIOR TO THE SEASON AND MAX WENT OUT AND LAPPED THE TRACK UNDER THE RECORD PACE. THEN YOU GOT IN THE CAR AND BESTED HIS BEST LAP BY OVER A SECOND. MIGHT IT BE A TEAM RAHAL BATTLE AT LAGUNA SECA? "I hope so. That would be great. That would be ideal. But, I am not that naive to think that the guys with the hot hands right now - Franchitti, Montoya, Tracy - all those guys who are running well right now won't be there, too. You can't take anything for granted. We can't afford to go into the race weekend expecting to be fast just because it's Laguna."
AFTER YOU WON YOUR FIRST CAREER RACE AT LAGUNA LAST YEAR, MANY PEOPLE SAID THAT WIN WAS GOING TO BE A SPRINGBOARD FOR YOUR CAREER. HOWEVER, SUCCESS AFTER THAT WIN HAD ELUDED YOU. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? "Well, the performance of the team has not been that good this year. That has been a frustration for me. We have not been able to achieve what we have hoped and we have not achieved our expectations yet. The way I look at it is that we still have three races left and if you win a couple of those at the end of the season, suddenly it's not such a bad year. So there is no point in letting disappointment enter into your mind. Every race is a new day and a new chance."
WHAT MAKES UP A FAST LAP AT LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY? CAN YOU DESCRIBE ONE? "As you cross the start/finish line you crest the hill, and the car gets pretty light at that point, and you continue to go through the gears up through sixth. Then you are really, really hard on the brakes into turn two, which is the heaviest braking of any corner at any track on the series, and we downshift down to second gear. It's a real bear of a corner. It's very slippery and the car is always edgy there. It's very tough to get through and it's hard to get the power down coming off of it. You get on the power, upshift two gears into fourth, go through the short-chute and back down to third for the right hand turn. That's the start of what we call the infield section of the course. There is a right turn and then another right, which I believe they call turn four. That is one of the most important turns on the track because turn three builds into turn four and there is a lot of speed and a lot of lap time in that turn. If you can carry a lot of speed through there you can really make up a lot of time on guys. That leads you up to turn five, which is a left-hander heading back up the hill, which joins up with the old circuit. It's a third gear corner and as you transition into the old track the pavement changes and the track gets slippery again. So there is a grip level change you have to anticipate. You then head up the hill to the fast left-hand kink, which is probably the most enjoyable turn on the track. It's a quick little fourth gear flick to the left and you need to carry a lot of speed up through there and slid the car as you head up the hill. Then you get on the brakes as you approach the Corkscrew and downshift to second. As you turn in to the Corkscrew, you are totally blind. It's like driving off of a cliff. It's the steepest drop off of any part of any track on the circuit. As you go through that turn, your right front wheel is usually completely off of the ground. As I go through there I aim for a point on the horizon that kind of helps me line the car up so I get through the corner properly. As you finally drop out of the corner and squirt down the hill, you downshift up to third and then into fourth and under the bridge. At the end of that straight you approach a left-hander that is really fast with a really high curb on the right side. You have to be really careful not to touch that curb. Still in fourth, you go through a right-hander which leads to turn eleven which is the last turn on the track and the tightest turn on the track. It's a second gear left-hand corner. It's almost tight enough to call a hairpin but not quite, you can use the curbing on that turn a little bit, and then you head back up the front straight to the finish line."