Rockingham 500 "Quoteboard" CRISTIANO DA MATTA ( ...
Rockingham 500 "Quoteboard"
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "We made lots of improvements on our oval setup. Our car ran better on the mile ovals but this is the first time since Japan that we are going back to a 1.5 mile oval so we are a little bit concerned because we were just so slow in Japan. We hope that we will have a better car and I believe we will because we did a lot of testing in May when everybody else was testing for the Indy 500 and we were testing for the CART championship. There are still a couple of areas where we have question marks but with our improved performance in Milwaukee and Chicago, where we won, we are more optimistic that we will be okay. To finish third in England (in 2001) was not quite like winning a race but it was very rewarding for the team and important for the Championship because that is where we started to get our momentum up again before the two wins at the end of the season. The Rockingham 500 is a pretty important event. This year we are going there with the same mindset - to finish in the top-three again -- and, of course score some important points for the Championship."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Last weekend was great for this team. Now, we have to keep the momentum going in England. We're still in the championship if we can keep performing like we did in Denver. Team Target is capable of that every week. I used to live in England, so it's almost like going home for me. I can't wait to get over there and run on that fast oval. It's going to be fun. I always like going back to England. I lived there for a few years when I raced in F3000. I have a lot of friends there and it's a great place to visit. It is going to be even nicer this year since I won last week in Denver. We didn't have a good race there last year, when I was taken out on the first lap of the race. It's important for us to do well in England. We're still in the championship if we can keep performing like we did in Denver. Team Target is capable of that every week."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Last year the crowd at Rockingham got their first look at Champ Car racing and it was great to be able to put on a good show for them. The British are extremely passionate and knowledgeable race fans and they were very supportive last year. I'm really looking forward to racing for Team KOOL Green in the UK again. It's the only opportunity for my friends and family to have a chance to go out and see me race without having to journey overseas. It's great to be able to get back to where it all started for me. It feels like I'm getting back to my roots. Paul (Tracy) talks about how good it is every time he gets a chance to race in Canada and I think if you ask any non-American driver what its like to race in their home country, they'll tell you that it feels extraordinarily special."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "As we saw last year, weather can definitely be a factor at Rockingham, and not just the rain. It can get quite cool in England in September and that can make it difficult to get your tires heated quickly. Last year, I remember we had a difficult time early in the race and the Team Player's car got better as the race went along. In fact, it was on the 134th lap that we were able to run the fastest race lap (210.859 mph/339 km/h). It was great to get into the Rockingham record book, but I would have traded the fastest time for a race win. Although we didn't have our best day in the first visit to Rockingham, I'm convinced we can do well there this year. It's really a unique oval in that it is more like a square with the turns practically at right angles. The straights aren't very long, so there aren't as many passing opportunities that you would find on a more conventional oval. You need to be very calculated with your passing maneuvers. Having the week off before making the trip to England is going to help, especially since we had the stretch of four race weekends in a row."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Racing is a different game on an oval. It is more mental than physical. You have to get a good balance in your car and then just be ready for anything in the race. Things happen very quickly on an oval and you have to be mentally sharp to react to your surroundings quickly. It is a different mindset, racing on ovals. Last year, we raced here with almost no testing and the fastest lap in practice was 24.7 seconds, 215 mph. We've got better wing set-ups and aerodynamics this year so we'll be way quicker than that, maybe 218, even 220 mph. During Friday qualifying, with a perfect set-up, we may be able to do the whole lap wide-open, on full throttle. It's going to be very quick. That would be awesome. For 2003 we'll have lower turbo boost and maybe changes to the wings, so whoever sets a track record this year, may have the record for all time. Even then we'd still be looking at racing at over 200 mph. It's definitely going to be an exciting race for the fans because they can watch the whole lap. If we can put on the type of show we had last year, the fans will love it. I think the fans in general responded very well last year. You just have to hop in your car and do the best job you can whether you are racing in front of your home crowd in Brazil or in Miami, Europe or any of the other races."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "We haven't had our best races on the ovals this season so hopefully we have addressed the problems so we will be more competitive in England. Rockingham is a very, very fast track and one where you can find yourself down a lap pretty quickly. Therefore we need to qualify better than we did at Milwaukee and Chicago. Team Rahal has had a lot of success on the ovals over the last couple of years and I have spent a lot of time talking with my engineers preparing for this race. We have had a pretty good season and certainly finishing every race and scoring points in every race is something of which we are proud. However, I started the season wanting to win my first race and to get several podium finishes. We have been very close to the podium on several occasions and hopefully the win will come soon."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm ready to be heading back to an oval. Team KOOL Green has had some success on the ovals this year with my win in Milwaukee and Dario's pole in Chicago, and we've run strong on other events like Motegi. Rockingham is a tight track that is very fast. It will be nice to get some good track time there. Last year we had almost no time on the track before the race and what a race it was. The fans in England left last year's race ready for more and hopefully we can put on another great show."
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "Once it got to race day, it was one of the more exciting races of the season, and I believe the British fans were impressed by their first exposure to CART racing. This year should be even better, if the weather cooperates and allows us to get in full practice and qualifying sessions so that we'll have a better idea of what to expect on race day. It's been a couple of months since we've raced on an oval, and Team Player's has consistently had a fast car for this type of track. We managed to get on the podium with a second place on the 1.5-mile oval in Japan, so that adds to our confidence for the race at Rockingham. It could come down to a big battle at the finish, the way it was last year, because Rockingham is the type of track where you just try to hang back until that final sprint to the checkered flag."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am looking forward to a change of pace. It will be nice to be racing on an oval again and hopefully we can have a change of luck to go along with the change of circuit. I think we will have a pretty decent race car in England. We had a good car at Motegi and it was the first time we had run the Lola chassis, ever. Now that we've had a half-season working with this chassis I am anticipating a pretty good weekend in Rockingham because we understand so much more about this race car now. I hope that we have good weather and that we're able to put on a good show for the fans. Last year, they were so enthusiastic about CART coming to England and they were all so patient so let's hope Mother Nature cooperates this time around."
SCOTT DIXON (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It was great to finally get a good result last weekend in Denver. It's been a while since I was on the podium and it felt great. We've got some momentum now heading to England. It should be a great race for the fans...as long as it doesn't rain. We have five races left this season and I want to win at least one race before the year is over. Team Target has given me good cars this year, especially on the ovals. I qualified 4th and finished 6th in my first race with the team at Milwaukee. But I was running in second for a good portion of that race. I also finished 6th in Chicago this year, so I'm confident that I'll have a fast car when we get overseas."
KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "My European tour last year was very successful as I won in Germany and finished second in England. I hope that England will be a success for me once again. Last year I led a lot of the laps in Rockingham, but was barely edged out in the last corner to finish second. It's a very demanding and fast track and the racing will be very close. We are going there to show the European fans oval racing at its best and I think there will be quite a few Swedish fans there which is always nice."
JIMMY VASSER (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The Rockingham track is very fast. It's flat out except for a slight lift off the throttle in turn four. You really have to get a rhythm going at that place. The laps go so quickly in the race. Last year, it was a weird race since we had no real practice or qualifying. It was a green track for everyone. I had to start towards the back since we lined up by points, so it was tough getting through the field. But we got seventh. I'm hoping we get some more time on the track this year. I'd like to start towards the front of the field this time. I think the fans in England were excited to see our cars in person last year and the show was very good for them. Those fans are very knowledgeable and they were very friendly towards us. I think it will be another close and exciting race this time."
TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Well, we're going back to Rockingham, where we had a very, very good car last year but were never really able to do anything with it. We have every reason to believe we can be fast there. Our car has been very good on the small ovals, especially in Japan, where we qualified on the front row and led the most laps. I guess my biggest concern will be that we actually will be able to qualify our car. Last year, we had the fastest car every time we were on the track for practice. But we had to grid the cars based on points, and that put us 10th, and it was nearly impossible to pass on that track. So, first things first, let's hope for good weather when it's time to qualify and we'll be off to a good start ... I hope! We had a rough start to the season, but we're slowing creeping toward the top 10 in points. That's my goal ... to get into the top 10 by the end of the season. That, and to get (team owner) Morris (Nunn) his first CART win. Wouldn't it be great to do it right there in his homeland with his family and friends there to see it? That's motivation enough for me to do well. We've been getting into a groove in the last several races ... top six in four of our last five races, with two podiums. Now, it's time to move up a step or two on the podium. Let's 'Rock!"
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am looking forward to Rockingham. The fans there are great and really know their racing. I had a good car last year, but unfortunately our day ended with a mechanical problem during the race. Obviously we hope to finish the job this year -- and hopefully on the podium. As a team, we were strong in Denver all weekend and that was really a turning point for us. We need to carry this through the rest of the season. I have spent a lot of time in England over the years and it will be nice to be back. Several members of Fernández Racing have ties to England and I think everyone is looking forward to the trip. Bringing a trophy home would be a great souvenir."
SHINJI NAKANO (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "We have been away from the oval tracks for a long time and basically we have to get used to driving on the ovals again. As usual, the most important thing on this type of track is to have a good car in order to be quick because the car really drives you on the ovals. Rockingham is a high-speed track and we are running flat-out. I think we have a good setup for the ovals and I'm looking forward to next weekend. With a two-day event, we don't have much time to work on setting up the car. If we can have a good baseline car at the start, we can do well for sure. I used to live in England and I know the country very well. It will be great to be back."
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone): "Rockingham is like a home race for me because it is the closest circuit to Catalonia where the FedEx Championship Series competes. I have a lot of friends and family coming to the race, so it would be very special for me if the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team had a strong performance and broke through to the next level with all of them in attendance. The team has worked very hard to make the car competitive the last five races, but we have run into some bad luck. Now we have to make the adjustment to an oval and try and achieve the results we know we are capable of. The Visteon/Patrick Racing engineering staff has some excellent ideas on how to setup the car for Rockingham and I am curious to see how the Reynard chassis reacts. Because of the strong working relationship we have established over the last five races I am very confident that we can be successful this weekend. We just have to keep working hard and things will start going our way."
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm really looking forward to the race on the Rockingham oval. Our Chief Engineer Tom Brown really knows how to prepare a car for an oval track! So I'm expecting we'll be fast. But it is going to be hard, no matter how good my car is. We have only one day to get the car set up properly so it will be a challenge. I'm also looking forward to this race because in many ways it's like our second "home" race. We have so many people involved with our team from the UK (Managing Director Keith Wiggins, Business Manager Kevin Lee, Brown, Development Engineer Bill Trowbridge and Chief Mechanic Mark Mason) - so we really want to do a great job for them as well."
DARREN MANNING (#19 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm used to fast cars obviously, just not on an oval track. It's difficult to say what my expectations are. I want to win as much as the next guy but we have to be realistic, we know with oval racing you can win from anywhere on the grid like we've seen with Paul Tracy. I would like to be competitive and obviously finish the race but hopefully we could get lucky and score some points."