CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland Pre Race Quotes

BOBBY RAHAL (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), on his final competitive appearance at Cleveland, site of his first CART career victory in 1982: "Cleveland is a special place for me. I used to spend the summer there with my grandparents and I won my...

BOBBY RAHAL (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), on his final competitive appearance at Cleveland, site of his first CART career victory in 1982: "Cleveland is a special place for me. I used to spend the summer there with my grandparents and I won my first CART race there. I'll have great memories at the Burke [Lakefront] Airport and I'd love to finish my career at Cleveland the way I started it. Plus, Cleveland is one of the best road circuits we have. I really enjoy driving on that circuit. Artistically speaking, it's not the most beautiful track in the world it's not an Elkhart Lake by any stretch of the imagination and yet just about every driver I know loves driving at Cleveland because it's so wide. It's so racy. It produces fantastic races, a lot of action. The hairiest starting corner in motor racing is there, Turn One. It looks like the Oklahoma Land Rush going in there. And generally, everybody gets through it okay. It's just a tough, great race track. Cleveland, the city, was a lot like Long Beach when we first went to Cleveland in 1982. It was "The Mistake on the Lake." You compare what it was then to what it is today, with The Flats, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jacobs Field and Gund Arena. Cleveland is a rocking place. My family is from the Cleveland area. There's a lot of local backing. My morale is always up at Cleveland because everybody's always cheering for you."

(On the search for his successor as Team Rahal driver) "We've talked to some guys from Formula One, some guys from CART, some guys from Formula 3000 and some from Indy Lights, just a lot of different areas of racing. No one from the IRL has contacted me about the ride, though. For all the talk about people not getting opportunities, I'll bet I get 99 per cent of my letters and calls from guys in Europe, South America and other international racing. Americans are as good as anyone else but it comes down to desire and if a guy really wants it. You hear all of this criticism about Brazilians and international drivers, but they work hard and they live away from home in a strange country. They're here because they want to race. For our team, it doesn't have to be an American. We want someone who is capable of running up front."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), on racing at Burke Lakefront Airport: "The Cleveland track is fun and unlike any other track we race on. The versatility of our racing venues is what makes the FedEx Championship Series so great. You drive the Cleveland race track totally different from any other race, and it's one of the events that I really enjoy. It's one of a kind."

(On his recent misfortunes at Cleveland) "We need to change our luck in Cleveland this year. I basically had one good year [winning in 1991] and the rest have been disappointing. We want to not only change our luck at Cleveland around, but also our luck for this season. We need to finish the race, and if we do, I think we'll be in good shape."

GIL de FERRAN (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), on the unique challenges of racing at Burke Lakefront Airport: "It's a great track for racing. You can go inside, outside, it's as close to an oval race as a road race can become. You typically associate temporary circuits with tight corners, like in Detroit, Toronto and Vancouver. Cleveland is not at all like that. Cleveland is super wide and it has a lot of runoff area, which is unusual for a temporary circuit. Because of the width, a driver has many more options in terms of the racing line than the great majority of circuits. It's so wide and the corners are medium-to-high speed, so you can pretty much choose one of a hundred different lines to go through them, particularly the esses. You can go in tight, exit wide, carry a lot of speed through the middle, stop the car in the middle. You can do whatever you want. That makes blocking virtually impossible. The circuit's so wide that if you block a guy on the entrance, he'll get you on the exit. So this track promotes what I call 'fluid' racing: He passes you, you pass him back, and you have some brilliant racing."

BRYAN HERTA (Shell Reynard Ford), on his past successes at Cleveland: "It's strange how coming to Cleveland gets us going in the right direction. It seems to be the place where we always find our groove. I'm going to have to talk to CART and [race promoter] IMG about scheduling this race earlier in the season!"

(On his road-course qualifying success, which includes four pole positions in the past seven events, all at track-record speed) "Our qualifying efforts have been good on the road courses, but it's time to transfer those poles into wins. And Cleveland would be the perfect place to do it. I don't even think about the [$265,000 Marlboro Pole Award] money. I just want to win my first CART race. That is what's important."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Swift Ford), on competing at Burke Lakefront Airport: "Cleveland provides a lot of excitement because there are many passing opportunities. I would say most drivers take more risks at the Cleveland event, and that provides the fans with a great race. Everyone hangs it out in Cleveland. Because the competition is so close this year, I'm sure there will be a lot of exciting things going on."

(On last year's fateful pit stop which cost him the lead at Cleveland) "The race went pretty well until the last pit stop when an air jack failed, causing the car to collapse onto the ground before the new tires were on. I thought the car handled awesome, but because of the air jack failure the pit stop took about 40 seconds. The delay dropped me to 12th and I eventually finished sixth."

MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on his enjoyment of Cleveland: "I'm really looking forward to heading to Cleveland. We ran a very strong race last year, but it was what you could call a tough day at the office. We were at a bit of a disadvantage because of our pit-stop strategy, but we had one of the fastest cars on the track. Cleveland is a fun place to race, because it's wide open and you can be creative with your lines. It's a physical race last year I had a blister the size of a 50 pence coin [equivalent to a U.S. silver dollar] on my left palm. But that's all part of the job."

(On the PacWest Racing Group's improved performance at Portland) "The team has been working very hard. At Portland, I had a car that was much more to my liking. I'm very encouraged about the recent development of the car, and I think we have the opportunity to get back to where we were in 1997."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on overcoming the PacWest team's early struggles: "We've had some problems, but it looks like we're overcoming them. At Portland, it felt like we had a real race car for the first time this year. The team has been working very hard in testing, and we're starting to see positive results. I'm pretty optimistic. There are still plenty of wins and poles out there for the taking. Cleveland would be a great place to turn things around. It's one of my favorite tracks to race on. If it was a bit smoother, it would be one of the best places we run, period. You have to think a lot. The first lap is always wild you choose a place, and if you're wrong, you can lose 10 places. If you get it right, you can move up five."

Source: CART Online

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