CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Top three qualifiers press conference, part I

An interview with Cristiano da Matta Patrick Carpentier Dario Franchitti Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our top three press conference today. We'll start with Dario Franchitti, as we await...

An interview with
Cristiano da Matta
Patrick Carpentier
Dario Franchitti

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our top three press conference today. We'll start with Dario Franchitti, as we await Patrick Carpentier and Cristiano da Matta, your pole sitter for tomorrow's race.

Dario Franchitti qualified third this afternoon in the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone with a best lap of 58.515 seconds, that's a speed of 131.895 miles per hour. Dario of course is the defending champion of the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. He claimed his best road course starting spot since he gridded second in the season-opening race in Monterrey, Mexico.

Dario, if you would, talk a little bit about your afternoon. You spent some time at the top of the charts before Mr. Da Matta came along. Seems like Team KOOL Green has its qualifying setup down pat.

Dario Franchitti: The car was good today. The car has been good all weekend. We just had various dramas with me going off the track this morning and the fire yesterday. So we've had various dramas going on all weekend.

The car has been strong. I actually felt there was more in the car than I got out of it, which is kind of frustrating. When you're not on pole, you're frustrated because you got the maximum out of the car and the car wasn't good enough There's a fine margin between pushing too hard and going off.

I was just a bit too conservative in a couple of corners.  I'm kind of
upset about that.  I've got lots and lots of time to make up for it
tomorrow.  115 laps?  I think I'll go for long distance races, it would
appear.  Going for value for money here (laughter).

Merrill Cain: Patrick Carpentier joins us now. He qualified second this afternoon in the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone. He starts on the outside of the front row after putting up a best lap of 57.470 seconds, a speed of 131.923 miles per hour. Patrick made his best lap just a minute before going off course late in the session, but the lap would stand up to give him his best starting position of the season and his best since he started second at Vancouver, which came last season, as well.

Patrick, talk about your qualifying run today. As we said, you're one of the first few people to go out in the session, but, of course, you turned your quick lap very late.

Patrick Carpentier: The team did a fantastic job this weekend. Every time we changed the car, we made a lot of improvements. Again on the second set of tires, we changed just a couple of things. The car was really comfortable. It's my engineer's birthday today, so it works out well for him. So I'm really happy for him. He's been working hard. We seem to have a lot of problems. The Ford-Cosworth ran really smoothly. And we improved the traction control coming out of corner one a little bit and we made a lot of changes for that last run, and it seems like it paid off.

So I'm really happy now. I'm going to find out tomorrow if I can hold that for 115 laps. We'll see what it is. But to start second up here is fantastic.

Merrill Cain: Let's open it up for questions for both Dario and Patrick as we await Cristiano da Matta.

Q. You went out with a second engine. Was that a concern to you?

Patrick Carpentier:  No.  It was at the end of the session this
morning so it didn't really cost me any time.  But we're actually lucky
because I didn't want to go back out.  My engineer said, "No, we have to try
something.  You have to go back out." There was like a minute and a half
left.  So finally we went.
And on that lap, the engine gave away.  So it was a good thing because it
would have happened this afternoon early in the session.  They put another
engine in.  This one ran really, really well.  I had no problems.
Everything was good.  Everything has to be good to be up in second place.

Compared to the weekend we had in Toronto, it's been a pretty quiet weekend. We seemed to have run into troubles every 15 minutes out there. But this weekend we haven't had any. I lift my hat to the team. They did a wonderful job. It's good for them, too, because it's been a while.

Q.   Both you guys kind of hinted at 115 laps.  Can you talk about your
feelings on that?  Is that too much?

Dario Franchitti: I think it's pretty long. I would rather it wasn't quite that long. I was quite happy with the distance it was before. But it's the same for everybody. But it is going to be physical tomorrow. I'm kind of glad I've been working out as much otherwise I think tomorrow would come as a bit of a shock. It's a pretty physical track.

Patrick Carpentier:  I think it's a bit long, too.  12 laps for me
would be enough (laughter).  No, I think it's a bit long.  But we'll see.
Like Dario said, it's a tough track.  It's bumpy.  It's going to be a long
race.  We just have to be there at the end.

Q. Do you feel anything about a numbers game? There are four guys with Reynard and 14 with Lolas. Are you a little bit behind the eight ball because of the small numbers of Reynards?

Patrick Carpentier: If you would have asked me that half an hour ago, I would have said, "Man, we're so far out, it's not even funny." Now I think it's not too bad. I think if we find the setup and we find a good combination, I think it's not that far off. I think it's more when we get to street circuits that we seem to be struggling a little bit more. On the road course, [teammate] Alex [Tagliani] did pretty well at Portland and was running up at the front. So we'll see what's going to happen in the future.

But on this these types of tracks, like Mid-Ohio, Elkhart Lake, it's very similar. It's on the street circuit that it's more of a difficult thing.

Q.   Dario, the first turn, do you remember what happened last year?
You won the race, so...  How do you see it for tomorrow?

Dario Franchitti: I don't know. I'm sure there's going to be endless discussions about it in the drivers' meeting tonight. Everybody is going to leave the drivers' meeting and forget completely what we discussed (laughter).

It's one of those things. It's like the first turn at any track. There's a lot of advantage to be made up - particularly somewhere like here. Overtaking is very difficult, so when you make a move, it counts for a lot.

From that point of view, you can make a lot of gain in that very first corner. People risk a lot. Particularly here, you can go so wide. You can go almost eight-plus wide, and then what happens is people lose their visual markers and their braking points. The next thing you know there's a big mess. Hopefully that will not happen tomorrow.

Q. Do you think it's possible again this year to do what you did last year or is it more difficult?

Dario Franchitti: Yeah, it would probably be more difficult. I think anything's possible. It would be much nicer to stay up front all day. And a lot easier. But I think every race is different. We just got to get through Turn 1 tomorrow and see where we go from there. I think the car is very good, so we'll see.

Merrill Cain: We want to bring up Cristiano da Matta, your pole sitter for tomorrow's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank. Driving the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he wins his fourth pole in the last five races, taking the stop spot with a lap of 57.040 seconds, that's a speed of 132.917 miles per hour. The pole is the fourth in a row for da Matta and gives him another championship point, giving him 120 on the season now and widens his lead now over second place Bruno Junqueira to an even 50 points in the overall points standing.

Cristiano, what else can you say? You had another great performance today. It was a matter of getting a clear lap and it was pretty much history after that.

Cristiano da Matta: Because everybody seems to be waiting longer and longer and longer to go out in those qualifying sessions, it's getting quite busy out there. I think it goes for all of us because everybody was out there. At the same time I had some laps in traffic, but I had some decent clear laps too. That was all we needed.

I was able to get everything out of my car.  I'm very happy the way the
car's working.  I've been saying that the whole year.  The car is just
awesome.  We were able to get a clear lap.

The car of course was really very good and it ran very well in the morning session, so we didn't do anything crazy with the car, we just tuned it a little bit. We had some understeer so we dialed a little bit more understeer out. The car responded.

The track was maybe a tiny little bit more difficult than this morning with the wind - at least it was for me. But everything worked. I have only good things to say and nothing to complain about.

Merrill Cain: Couple more notes here. Cristiano is currently on pace to eclipse the CART record for points in a season, that's held by Alex Zanardi with 285 points. He'll be looking to set a CART record tomorrow by taking his fifth straight win in the series. It also marks the second time in the last three events that all three engine manufacturers have started in the top-three spots in the grid. That also came in Chicago. That was the other time that happened in the last three events.

We'll open it back up for questions.

Q. You said you were conservative today. You couldn't afford to do that last year. How is the track different than when you won it last year?

Dario Franchitti: The guys have shaved a lot of the bumps out of the track. They've ground the bumps out in Turns 3, 4, 5 and 6, as well. It's been repaved in Turn 7. So it's a little bit smoother, in particular, the transitions between the runways and taxiways. From that point of view, the track is quicker in those points, which I think is quite interesting. The times are pretty close to last year even with a lot less horsepower. But as for the straightaway, it's still pretty bumpy.

Q.   What is the thinking behind waiting for the half hour before you go
out?  Can you explain that?

Dario Franchitti: We're just lazy. We're all chatting and stuff up in pit lane like it's coffee morning with the drivers.

I think everybody is waiting- the more cars you get out on the track before you go out, the more rubber goes down and the faster the track gets.

Patrick Carpentier: There's more rubber and gives you a chance to see what the other guy's are doing for time, too.

Dario Franchitti: There are a lot of different reasons for it. Also traffic-wise, as well. If you go out early, with a hot lap, there are guys coming out on cold tires. There's many different thought processes behind it.

Cristiano da Matta: So we decided all to go out at the same time and make sure everybody gets traffic at the same (laughter).


Cleveland qualifying press conference part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Cristiano da Matta