CHAMPCAR/CART: Ford Drivers look at Long Beach

The Grand Prix of Long Beach is considered by many to be the premier event on the CART FedEx Championship Series schedule. Located in downtown Long Beach, California, in close proximity to Hollywood, the Grand Prix draws thousands of race fans and...

The Grand Prix of Long Beach is considered by many to be the premier event on the CART FedEx Championship Series schedule. Located in downtown Long Beach, California, in close proximity to Hollywood, the Grand Prix draws thousands of race fans and attracts celebrities from movies, sports and music each year. With a CART heritage that stretches back more than 15 years, the Champ Car race in Long Beach is one of the longest, most successful events on the CART calendar. With that in mind, several of Ford-Cosworth's 2001 CART drivers shared their impressions of the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

What is it that makes racing at Long Beach different from the other downtown temporary street events in the series?

MAX PAPIS - #7 Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth - "Long Beach is maybe THE street course for excellence in American racing. It is a very special track, particularly because of its very tight hairpin that leads onto the long, main straight. It also has a back straight that is pretty fast as well, so it's a combination of very tight turns and pretty long straights that make it very exciting."

KENNY BRACK - #8 Shell Ford-Cosworth - "It's a nice setting above all, and it's a nice area with a lot of racing history. The track itself is not too spectacular, but it's got a very long straightaway so it's very important to get off the hairpin good because that's where most of the overtaking happens. Although you can overtake on the rest of the track, mostly you just try to produce a good lap time because it's a street course it's very difficult to pass."

PATRICK CARPENTIER - #32 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "One of the things that has always impressed me about Long Beach is how they are able to do such a great job turning the city streets into a race-course setting that is a treat for both the drivers and the fans. Some people have said that the event in Long Beach is like one big beach party. I know for sure that it's a very festive atmosphere and I always get a special feeling when I race in Long Beach. Being a person who is into music, it's great to be able to come to Long Beach and see all the entertainment that's been lined up for race weekend."

ALEX TAGLIANI - #33 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "They've been racing at Long Beach for almost 30 years, so the track has a certain tradition to it. Even before I started racing in Long Beach in the Atlantic series I had heard a lot about it, and once I had the opportunity of racing on this street course, I realized what people were talking about. It's more than just a race. There are so many activities going on. I get a kick out of just walking around and visiting the expositions, where they have the latest in high-tech racing and video games."

BRYAN HERTA - #77 Zakspeed/Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "Long Beach is definitely my favorite event of the year. Growing up, I used to dream about racing in the Long Beach Grand Prix, and it is the race that made me want to become a Champ Car driver. I also consider this event my home race, so that also makes it a little more significant for me."

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. - #16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth - "For sure, Long Beach is the biggest event of the year on the CART schedule. All of the street circuits have a great atmosphere about them but Long Beach has so much tradition and there are so many activities around the race that it just makes it a huge event."

What is your most memorable experience from driving at Long Beach?

PATRICK CARPENTIER - #32 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "My best finish at Long Beach was second place in 1996 in the Atlantic series. Since then, however, I haven't had too much luck there but I guess what I remember the most is my first time on the Long Beach starting grid and thinking what a thrill it was to be driving in such a great racing environment."

ALEX TAGLIANI - #33 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "I've had a couple of memorable moments. The first was in 1997 when I had the first race of my Atlantic career in Long Beach and I won the race. I thought going into the race that I would be a little nervous about the whole situation, but once we got started I put everything out of my mind and just focused on driving the car as well as I could for as long as I could. The other big moment was charging from 11th place last year to finish fourth in my first Long Beach race as a CART driver."

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. - #16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth - "My first race was at Long Beach when I was only 19 years old, so for me that was just amazing because two weeks before that race I was still planning on racing in Mexico for the season. It was such a big shock to all of a sudden be racing against the guys I had been watching as I grew up - Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti and the others. Just to be there on the same track with them was a moment that I'll never forget."

What do you as a driver, and the team in regards to the car, have to do in order to perform well at Long Beach?

PATRICK CARPENTIER - #32 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "It's a long race and there's plenty that can happen, so I think it's important as a driver that I be tenacious, while at the same time being patient enough to wait for the opportunities that will occur. Pit stop strategy has been very important in Long Beach in the past. Depending on the circumstances, it's been three or four pit stops, so as a team we're going to have to maintain our usual efficiency in the pits.

ALEX TAGLIANI - #33 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "Avoid some of the rookie mistakes that I made last year and not try to be overly aggressive. I gained a lot of experience last year and now it's a matter of applying what I've learned. With Tony Cicale and Bruce Ashmore joining Team Player's in the off-season, we've developed a real strong rapport between driver and crew and we have to make sure we stay on the same wavelength to get through what figures to be a long, tough race."

BRYAN HERTA - #77 Zakspeed/Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "This race is not that much different from other street courses in terms of preparation. This circuit is really bumpy, as are all street courses, because they are not designed to be racetracks, so things like the manhole covers make it a little more difficult. I guess the best way to describe it from a drivers standpoint would be driving Champ Car on a street circuit is as much about wrestling the car as it is about driving it. Forget about rhythm because you are basically wrestling a 1500-pound car around corners and over manholes while the whole time trying to avoid walls and fountains!"

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. - #16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth - "Really for us, Long Beach requires the same preparation as everywhere else. We're looking first to have a car with good balance. Specifically for Long Beach though, we are always looking to get the power down, to have good traction and to be fast coming out of the hairpin."

What did you learn from your performance, and that of the team, car, etc., in the first race of the season in Monterrey that will help you in Long Beach?

PATRICK CARPENTIER - #32 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "Despite the bad luck we had with an electronics problem, we showed that we can be right in contention because we were looking at a top five finish. We struggled in qualifying on road courses last season but winter testing went really well, so qualifying fifth in Mexico was encouraging. Monterrey is a street course that's somewhat like the course in Long Beach, so we're expecting good things."

ALEX TAGLIANI - #33 Player's Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "I was pretty happy with the way things went for most of the race in Monterrey, especially the way the car handled and the power that it had. I was able to climb several positions during the race, until the electronic problem put us out. That was simply one of those things. It can be frustrating, but in my own mind I believe there were many more positives than negatives coming out of the performance in Monterrey."

BRYAN HERTA - #77 Zakspeed/Forsythe Ford-Cosworth - "I learned that we are a new team, so everything we experience now is new as a group. We made several mistakes from a lack of working together, but we will take those lessons we learned and improve upon them for Long Beach. I am lucky enough to have worked with my engineer, Lee Dykstra, for quite a while, and we have worked together in the past as well, so I feel we have a good read on one another. The mistakes we have made are part of the teething process, and that is how everyone learns to work together in the most effective and efficient way possible. I am very happy with the performance of the team so far this season, and the goal is to get some results under our belt."

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. - #16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth - "What we learned as a team in Monterrey is that our basic set up for the car is quite good. Each track is different, but at Monterrey because the track was new, we learned a lot about running with low levels of grip. Because Long Beach is also a street circuit, we think this will help us get a good start on our set up there."

-Ford Racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Emerson Fittipaldi , Bruce Ashmore
Teams Team Zakspeed