CHAMPCAR/CART: Cristiano da Matta press conference, part I

CART FedEx Championship Series Cristiano Da Matta press conference 11 june 2002 Part 1 of 2: The race Merrill Cain: Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining us in this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain, with CART ...

CART FedEx Championship Series
Cristiano Da Matta press conference 11 june 2002

Part 1 of 2: The race

Merrill Cain: Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining us in this week's CART media teleconference. I'm Merrill Cain, with CART public relations, and we have a full slate this afternoon. We'll hear from the current CART FedEx Championship points leader Cristiano de Matta; and later, we'll be joined by Bobby Rahal, and Danica Patrick, a promising young driver entering the CART ladder system. First up, we'll talk to the man who conquered the corkscrew this weekend, Cristiano da Matta, Newman/Haas Racing joins us. Thanks for being on today's call, Cristiano.

Cristiano da Matta: My pleasure.

Merrill Cain: This past weekend, he became the first driver this season to claim two victories in the CART FedEx Championship Series. He won the season opener in Monterrey, Mexico and decided to make it a sweep this past weekend, dominating the Bridgestone Grand Prix of Monterey, featuring the Shell 300 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He led all but five laps of the race en route to his sixth career Champ Car victory; and dating back to last season, he has won four of the past seven events in the CART schedule. He recaptured the points lead with Sunday's victory, and heads to Portland this weekend with a 51-46 lead in the standings over Michel Jourdain, Jr., of Team Rahal. Let's open up and take some questions for Cristiano as we get rolling and we'll go first to Portland. Jerry Boone with the Oregonian is out there, and I believe you have a question for Cristiano today.

Q. Yes I do. There's been a lot of controversy going back three and four years about the weight difference and what it makes in a Champ Car particularly, on road courses and street courses. And I know that this beginning midsummer, they will be requiring ballast to sort of even that out. Can you talk to me a little bit about what advantage you feel that you have, and what you think carrying ballast is going to do to the way the car handles and your performance?

Cristiano da Matta: Well I don't think it's going to make any difference for me. I think it's just going to -- I don't know the problem is a lot of drivers crying about those things. A lot of people, they haven't had good performance over the last couple of years, just very easy to blame on the weight. I don't think you have to be a scientist or a genius to find out that the weight is not that big of a difference for 800 horsepower car. If we were racing maybe a 150 horsepower car, maybe I would say, yeah, maybe, you know the weight will hurt a little bit, or indoor go-karts will hurt a little bit too, but not in a Champ Car. I think it's not going to make any difference for me. Actually I was one of the guys that sign the thing to actually approve the driver weight rules because people coming to me and talking about those things as an excuse. So I want to not to have this excuse anymore.

Q. Thank you, Cristiano.

Cristiano da Matta: No problem.

Q. Back in Long Beach, you were talking about how well the road and street course program was coming, but you were really concerned about the oval.

Cristiano da Matta: Uh-huh.

Q. And a lot of times, we journalists, we think okay, well they're just saying it's almost like poppycock, a smokescreen, but the team has struggled with the oval program. Where is that standing?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, that's actually one of the reasons why this Championship is so tough, because the oval, everybody sometimes says how come you guys can be so good in the road courses, and you struggle so bad on the ovals. That's the difference. Like the ovals, they have nothing to do with the road course as far as the type of racing it is. So it's a completely, completely different thing. And I mean as far as the approach for the race, the preparation, everything from the suspension geometry settings to the aerodynamics setting, the -- settings, everything, I'm not exaggerating, it's just really everything, and we haven't been able to find what is good for the ovals yet. So it's been a tough, tough call for us. I mean not tough call, but a tough business for us not being able to adjust to our -- you know, to this oval situation. But although we got a lot better throughout the month of May when everybody was practicing for Indy, you know, we were trying hard on the racetrack and trying to make our oval car better. I did a couple of days test in Milwaukee, Christian did a couple of days of testing in Homestead, and we are doing a lot better. If you look at our race in Milwaukee, we were probably 10 times better than we were in Motegi, let's say. But it's -- we were so far away that it takes a little while to come together. Probably I say now we are at 70 percent from where we can perform, you know, oval to be in very good shape, and we have to another 3/30 percent to go. But I think Milwaukee already reflects that we are getting better. We finished fourth over there. So we are not doing great, but right now we are not doing so bad, and it's coming quick to us. So I'm not as worried when we talked in Long Beach, for example.

Q. This past weekend, it would be hard as to write a script as a better weekend of racing, at least that's the way we look at it. Inside the team itself, was it as easy as it looked?

Cristiano da Matta: Well I have never, ever participated in a race that was easy, no matter the result. This one was definitely one race that we didn't have any, any kind of trouble. I mean I had the engine problem in qualifying, but it wasn't a big, big problem for us. But, no, I think if you picture a perfect race weekend, it would be pretty close to what we had in Laguna. It was a very, very good weekend for the whole team, for the cars, the race, everything just was as a dream.

Q. Is it one of those things that when you walk away, you say I wish I could bottle that magic?

Cristiano da Matta: Well, I don't know if that's the best way to put it, but it's like one of those race weekends that when it's over, you think well, I really wish this race weekend wasn't over yet because I know how difficult it is to get the race weekend like that. So it's something that you know when you finally achieve the result, you, for example, we finish the race as a team, so we know it. So let's enjoy this moment because it's not -- we know that how hard racing is, and is not like every day that we can get a race weekend like that.

Q. Right. Thanks and congratulations.

Cristiano da Matta: Thank you.

Q. Congratulations. I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about the oil down incident in qualifying a number of the teams. Namely Chip was a little hot about that. You got back into your pit areas as fast as you could, you didn't want to create a red flag and lose your best time. But do you think perhaps they maybe need to relook at that rule and readdress it so we don't have a similar incident somewhere down the line?

Cristiano da Matta: No. I think what happened CART has already looked at that rule. I think that rule is right. What they've done now, they're going to create three or four safe spots on the racetrack that if you have a problem such -- mine, for example, during the Laguna weekend, you can park in one of those safe spots and they're not going to bring a red flag out. So I think that was a great solution. It was actually Christian's idea on the driver's meeting, and it was just I think the best thing they could have done because I'm very happy with the qualifying rules and the way they been written and the way they are, I think it's all good. They don't have to worry about that.

Q. Yeah, safety zone is another bad idea. I was listening to an interview the other day with Christian and he was answering a question about the Lola, and it used to be understood a while ago that the Newman/Haas guys used to get all the Lola bits and all the latest Lola innovations, and he said that's not really the case now. You guys seem to have these figured out the road courses. And even though Team Green did a lot of testing, they were out to lunch. Do you have any advantage being on the team with the new Lolas with the new bits on these things?

Cristiano da Matta: No. Right now, the policies, they treat everybody the same, every team, they treat the same. So it's a matter of Lola comes out with some new parts, and sometimes they have to have a team to try those new parts on the racetrack, and sometimes they use us, sometimes they use Ganassi, sometimes they use any other Lola team. It's not -- we don't get anything before anybody. We don't get any benefit, definitely not. The performance we have on the road course is just the fruit of all hard work, and the struggle we have on the ovals is just our fruit of our not understanding of what is happening to the car right now but we're getting better.

-cart-

da Matta, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Danica Patrick , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain