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

An interview with Cristiano da Matta Patrick Carpentier Dario Franchitti Part 2 of 2 Q. Cristiano, other guys go out, they improve their times. Yesterday you had four tenths Today you got the same. Do you feel you have a comfort cushion...

An interview with
Cristiano da Matta
Patrick Carpentier
Dario Franchitti

Part 2 of 2

Q. Cristiano, other guys go out, they improve their times. Yesterday you had four tenths Today you got the same. Do you feel you have a comfort cushion in that?

Cristiano da Matta: Of course, four tenths on this track is a very good difference. I feel comfortable. But it's two different stories. Tomorrow in the race, everybody is together. On performance, my car had an edge on the other cars so far this weekend. But how many times have you seen a race that whoever had the fastest car didn't win the race? This year, because it's so competitive, sometimes it's up to yellow flags, pit stops and so many other things. So it's the same thing. It's a pretty tense start here, especially because of the first turn. It's a long race. Since I started racing CART, I think will be the longest road course race I've ever done

It's going to be hard on the cars and on the drivers. This track is pretty physical. We've been getting a little bit of a break because the weather has been cooler, so it's been a little easier. But it's bumpy and it's hard on the equipment. So I think, more than anything, I think whoever is there at the end is going to be able to get a good result.

Q. Dario, I missed the first few minutes, I don't know if you covered this, but yesterday in the morning session you started off going pretty well, then you had a problem, sort of maybe put you a little behind for the rest of the weekend. Obviously, you've caught up. Do you get a sense the team is really starting to get a handle on the Lola in terms of road course setup or not?

Dario Franchitti: At each track you take each track as it comes. Cleveland has its own peculiarities and stuff you have to work towards fixing.

The car unloaded very well from the transporter. We've had problems. We had the big fire yesterday. I hit the wall this morning. That cost us a lot of time, plus the engine this morning. The guys had to change engines between sessions. I've been keeping my guys very busy this weekend.

I think if we had a little more track time, we'd be even in better shape. But like I said, I think the car was good enough to go as quick as Cristiano. I don't know if he was on the limit or not. I think it was my fault because I didn't get the most out of what I was given today.

Q.   Cristiano, you touched on it a little bit.  How do you feel
about such a long race?  Does it bother you one way or another?

Cristiano Da Matta: The longer the race is, the more concerned you are, because it's more difficult to get to the end of it. Everything is about performance when the cars are built. There's just so much. The longer you race, the more distance, the more reliability issues you're going to have.

I don't think I'm going to have a problem physically, but it's going to be a tough race. It's not going to be an easy one. I think it's pretty difficult track physically. It's one of the most difficult, at least in my opinion, I think this is one of the harder places.

Q. Cristiano, everybody says that Toyota/Lola is the best package, followed by Honda/Lola. Are you surprised to see a Ford-Cosworth/Reynard customer on the front row?

Cristiano da Matta: Yeah, I was very surprised. When I came out of the car, I was looking at the times and I saw Pat there. Especially in the previous sessions, he wasn't doing that well. I thought, knowing the guy, I knew he had put on a hell of a lap (laughter).

But, yes, I was a little surprised just because, as you said, the equipment. The Reynard is definitely a little bit behind the Lola these days, at least that's the feeling we have.

Patrick Carpentier: Do you think four tenths (laughter)?

Q. Cristiano, what happened in front of you as you were coming out?

Cristiano Da Matta: I don't know. [Mario] Dominguez spun. He was coming right in my direction, so I had to just avoid him. It was a pretty big moment for me because as you're coming out of the pits, you don't expect to see a car spinning (laughter). Dario said he paid him.

Dario Franchitti: I'm not giving him the rest of his money because he didn't complete the job (laughter).

Q. Dario, can you talk about Cristiano's dominance? Is it demoralizing when you're seeing him putting up lap after lap as quick as he is?

Dario Franchitti: Tony [Kanaan], Cristiano and I flew back from Portland together and I threatened to throw him out of the plane without a parachute. Then in Indianapolis, our housekeeper threatened to break his legs. One of us should have made good on our promises (laughter).

Joking aside, Cristiano and his whole team are doing a great job. They've got the car working well. He's driving well. Everything is quick for him. You can do two things: You can give up or you can fight and you can try and beat them. And that's what we're doing.

And we fully intend to close the gap. I think we did that today. Like I said, I think we had the car today, and today I didn't do my job properly. We'll see tomorrow if we've made any gains.

Q. Dario, in '99 you had a pretty good year and it was a good battle. Things were going pretty good for you in stretches. What's going through a driver's mind when things are going well over a course of months?

Dario Franchitti: I've forgotten. I think you'll have to ask Cristiano that.

When everything is clicking, I remember in Toronto in '99 when I won the race thinking, "What was everybody else doing today?" We were cruising. I felt like I was cruising because everything was working well.

When you get into that rhythm, the car is working well, you're driving the car well and everything just clicks together, it feels easy. The trick is, and the thing is, to do it week-in and week-out. I think Cristiano has done a good job. That's why we're working hard to stop him.

Q. Friday morning Pat said the car looks very good and it was easy to drive, but the times were not there at all. Then you were talking about having a good time because the car is so easy to drive. Is it the kind of car you have to be very smooth or very aggressive with?

Patrick Carpentier: I'd say smooth and aggressive (laughter).

Dario Franchitti:  It depends on the corner.  You've always got to be
smooth, but at the same time there's a bit of an aggression.  You have to
fight.  It depends on each individual corner at this course.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I feel the same. I think on the two corners at the very far end, it's very important to be aggressive and push it to the very edge, because they are two high-speed corners. On the low-speed corners and the chicanes, if you get sideways or anything, you see the lap time going away. On the faster corners, you can actually get a bit upset and not lose a lot of time. But I think it depends a lot on the corner.

Q. Last week Cristiano was able to cruise without much pressure behind him. Is this the kind of place where you can be more aggressive and put the kind of pressure on the leader to force him into a mistake, or can you take more chances at a place like this as opposed to one of the regular street courses?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: No (laughter).

Patrick Carpentier: I was really aggressive last week and it felt like I was going backwards. I think I'm just trying hard every lap, every time. If he [da Matta] starts to go away, you're pretty much at the limit right there, and trying to catch him is very difficult because he's probably not at the limit. He's driving hard, but if you're right up against him, he probably has another notch to go.

We'll see tomorrow. Sometimes in the race it's different. But if you can follow and it goes well, you can challenge, but sometimes it's difficult.

Dario Franchitti: Your teammate was pretty aggressive last week, too.

Patrick Carpentier: So that was you?

Dario Franchitti: It's always somebody else's fault with [Carpentier's teammate, Alex] Tag [Tagliani].

Patrick Carpentier: I have no comment.

Dario Franchitti: It depends on any track because if your car is working well, you can put the guy under pressure. If you have things working your way, then good. In Toronto last weekend, Cristiano was quicker than everybody, therefore nobody could challenge him. But that's all it comes down to.

Q. Historically this track has had accidents in the very first turn on the start. Being up front, do you look in your mirrors at all to see if anybody is coming up to hit you or do you look ahead in that first turn?

Patrick Carpentier: Nobody's looking (laughter).

Dario Franchitti: You've seen what happens in years past. You're just trying to survive really a lot of the time. If you're in the front row, you only got to worry about where you brake, then see what happens behind you. But anything can happen really.

If you're on pole you think, "Great, I made the first turn," then somebody spins into you. There's a heck of a lot of luck involved in the first turn.

Merrill Cain:  Gentlemen, thank you very much.  Congratulations on a good
performance.  Good luck in tomorrow's race.


Cleveland qualifying press conference part I

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