CHAMPCAR/CART: Houston Ford Racing Friday Qualifying Notes

FITTIPALDI AS STRONG AS EVER; POSTS SECOND QUICK QUALIFYING TIME It didn't take Ford driver Christian Fittipaldi long to shake any cob webs out of his system before climbing back into a Champ Car after a five race hiatus. Fittipaldi, who was...


It didn't take Ford driver Christian Fittipaldi long to shake any cob webs out of his system before climbing back into a Champ Car after a five race hiatus. Fittipaldi, who was fast since rolling off the truck, was one of two drivers to post sub-minute times around the 1.527-mile downtown Houston street circuit.

Fellow Ford driver Bryan Herta picked up where he left off after winning at Laguna Seca two weeks ago by posting the third quickest time of the session.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI -11- Big K Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 2nd - "It took a little while to get back in the swing of driving the car. I tested earlier this week and ran about 20 laps in the wet at Sebring so today it was a little bit different. I had to shake-off the cob webs a bit today. I am happy with where we ended up today and I feel pretty good that we can improve on out time tomorrow and go for the pole. The track is going to be a lot quicker and you are going to have to be out there at just the right time to put together a pole winning lap." IT HAS TO BE A LITTLE FRUSTRATING TO COME BACK AFTER BEING OFF FOR FIVE WEEKS AND BE QUICK IMMEDIATELY AND KNOWING IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND AND WONDERING WHERE YOU MAY BE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP IF YOU HAD NOT HAD YOUR ACCIDENT . . . "I am just happy to be here talking to you today. That's the way I prefer to look at it. I am still a young guy and have may more years of racing ahead of me. I realize that I was a little bit lucky and that's the way it went. But I also agree with you. We were having a great season and if it were not for the accident we would have been up there." YOU SEEM HAVE COME BACK WITH AS MUCH CONFIDENCE AS EVER . . . "Well, I think that confidence is just carrying on from before. I think we made some improvements before the accident and we have been able to continue to carry on and build o that work. I realize that the race is not going to be easy for me. I have been gone for a reasonably long period of time and it's going to be tough. It's very competitive out there and I am going to have to focus even harder." YOU WERE TESTING FORD'S NEW ENGINE WHEN YOU HAD YOUR ACCIDENT. CAN YOU TELL YOUR THOUGHTS ON NEXT YEAR'S ENGINE? "Well we have done two tests with Ford and Cosworth and the both went very well. Unfortunately during my test I destroyed half of the engine so I was really testing with a four-cylinder engine when I was done. Performance wise, I was very happy with the engine. Bob (Moreno) tested it again and ran a few long stints. Power-wise we are looking very good for next year. It's hard to say before the beginning of the season what you have, but we are very optimistic right now."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI -6- K Mart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 12th - "SOME OF THE OTHER DRIVERS ARE SAYING THAT THE TRACK IS A BIT BUMPIER, FORM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, IS IT? "I don't think so. And I am not just saying that because Carl Haas is promoting the race." CAN YOU TAKE ME THROUGH YOUR FAST LAP? HOW MUCH CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR TIME? "Well, I caught traffic on my fast lap, and up until that point our time was third quick. We made a change and it improved the car at the end and I think that there is even more in it. Right at the end of qualifying the track really started to come in, so I expect the times to continue to improve."

BRYAN HERTA -8- Shell Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 3rd - YOU SEEM TO BE PICKING UP RIGHT WHERE YOU LEFT OFF AT LAGUNA SECA TWO WEEKS AGO . . . "Well the win at Laguna was a little tainted because of what happened on Saturday. You know, we have struggled a little this year, that's no secret, but the guys have stuck with me and we seem to have found what we were missing. We are back where we wanted to be." WAS IT A PERFECT LAP? "No, there is little more left. I am pretty excited." SOME OF THE DRIVERS ARE SAYING THAT THE TRACK IS A BIT BUMPIER THAN IT WAS LAST YEAR, IS IT? "It's definitely bumpier. It's hard to get good grip out there right now. I said that at Cleveland too but, the bumps are the same for everybody." NOW THAT YOU HAVE A WIN BEHIND YOU THIS YEAR, IS THE SPEED COMING EASIER? HOW MUCH HAS IT HELPED YOUR CONFIDENCE? "Yeah, it feels good, but it's about seventeen races too late. It doesn't matter though, I am just happy that we are running well again. The guys are excited to show up again on race weekend, I am excited again to show up on race weekend, and we are competitive again and it feels good." MAX PAPIS -7- Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 13th - "I was driving a little too hard and loosing the rear grip in the car. But we are working on it and I think we see what we missed. I hope we can just hang on so we are in the fast group tomorrow. That's what counts."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 14th - HOW IS YOUR ARM? YOU MADE IT THROUGH LAGUNA WITH LITTLE TROUBLE, BUT YOU MENTIONED THAT EVEN WITH THE EXTRA WEEK TO HEAL, THIS TRACK IS GOING TO BE EVEN HARDER ON YOUR ARM. WHY IS THAT? "This track is very bumpy so it hard on my arm. It is going to be harder to drive than Laguna for sure. My arm feels better, but this is going to be much more of a test for it. It is going to be a challenge to get through this race." YOU SEEMED A BIT DISAPPOINTED WITH YOUR FRIDAY QUALIFYING TIME . . . "The car doesn't have the grip for the conditions. It was a little hard to get through the bumps on the apex where you have the drainage run-off for the streets." THIS IS THE CLOSEST THAT THE SERIES GETS TO YOUR HOMELAND OF MEXICO. DO YOU FEEL ANY HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE WITH THE INCREASED NUMBER FANS IN THE STAND WAVING THE MEXICAN FLAG? "It's definitely a nice feeling. But, I am not going to have enough time to sign all of the autographs for all of them. But it is going to be fun having them here."

JAN MAGNUSSEN -20- Visteon Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 11th - "The car feels good. It's hard to know what the limits of the car are so far because it's my first time here, but we are going in the right direction. I like the track. It's so simple it is difficult because of the bumps. Generally I like street circuits. The walls don't allow you to make any mistakes. For my first time here, we are off to a good start."

MEMO GIDLEY -71- Herdez/Viva Mexico Ford-Cosworth - Qualified 20th - "We struggled all morning but I think we made the improvements we needed. The engine is running real well after the shifting problems we had this morning. I think we are in good shape." HOW DO YOU LIKE THE TRACK? "I like it. I don't hear too many positive things said about it, but I think it's great. I raced here in Atlantics, I didn't too particularly well, but I like the track. It's setup a lot like a go-kart track. I like it."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Bryan Herta , Carl Haas