CHAMPCAR/CART: Lexington: Top three qualifiers press conference, part I

An interview with Patrick Carpentier Christian Fittipaldi Cristiano Da Matta Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Let's get started with our top-three press conference for tomorrow's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, following a very exciting qualifying ...

An interview with Patrick Carpentier Christian Fittipaldi Cristiano Da Matta

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: Let's get started with our top-three press conference for tomorrow's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, following a very exciting qualifying session at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. We are joined by Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi.

We'll begin our press conference today with the CART series point leader, Cristiano da Matta, driver of the #6 Havoline/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. He will start third Sunday after posting a best lap of 1:06.934 seconds, that's a speed of 122.433 miles per hour. It marks his best ever starting spot in Mid-Ohio. Cristiano has not started lower than third since the Round 4 event in Milwaukee.

Cristiano, talk about your qualifying effort today. It was quite an exciting session. I think all three of you guys, including Patrick Carpentier, were at the top of the charts within the final two minutes of qualifying. Excellent effort for you today.

Cristiano Da Matta: Thank you. I had a pretty good session. I got a little bit tense because nobody would go out. I thought it was going to be just like yesterday. So with 20 minutes to go, there were just a few cars on the track. I was thinking, "All right, here we go, try to find a clear spot."

But it actually worked fine for me. I had clear laps both runs. The tires are peaking a little earlier here than last year. I got my best lap on the third lap on the second set of tires. After that I kept on trying, but just didn't have enough grip there.

We need to make a couple little changes for tomorrow to find the 2/10ths we are behind, and go from there because I can't complain about traffic and complain about anything, just performance. We need to tune it a little bit more about two and a half 10ths so Patrick doesn't disappear from us tomorrow.

Merrill Cain: Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the #11 Lilly/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone outqualified his Newman/Haas teammate Cristiano for the first time since Milwaukee. He takes the outside spot on the front row with a lap of 1:06.263 seconds, that's a speed of 122.675 miles per hour. This is Christian's best starting spot of the season and best at Mid-Ohio. It also marks his best starting spot since last year, coming at Nazareth.

Christian, I think you had a little bit of a problem with grip early on, as a lot of drivers did. Obviously, you got it together, and for part of the closing minutes you were at the top of the charts.

Christian Fittipaldi:  Actually, my car was better than yesterday, and a
lot better than this morning.  Everyone had problems with grip because it
was hotter.  But my car was very good.

Actually, when I went out on my second set of tires, on my first lap, by the start/finish, I did a [1:00] 6.6, so I knew there was a lot in the car. I thought we had a shot at the pole.

After that, I only got traffic like one lap after the other. I had to keep waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. I posted my best lap on my sixth or seventh lap into the run. So obviously the tires were not at their best, the same way they would have been on the second or third lap. If we had a shot at it on the second or third lap, maybe things would have been different. But it didn't go that way.

Nevertheless, I'm still happy. We have a big shot at the race tomorrow. Tomorrow is more important for me than anything else.

Pat did a great job yesterday, did a great job today. He put it together; we didn't.

Merrill Cain: Your pole sitter for tomorrow's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio is Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone, who took the top spot with the best lap of 1:06.128 seconds, that's a speed of 122.925 miles per hour. Patrick gives Reynard its first pole of the season and earns the second of the season for Ford-Cosworth. The championship point he earned for winning the pole this afternoon moves Patrick into a three-way tie for third place, giving him 74 points on the season. That knots him with Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain, Jr.

Patrick, you proved yesterday was no fluke. No red flag today; you earned it.

Patrick Carpentier:  No, I'm extremely happy.    I thought it was a fluke
yesterday, too.  I thought I got lucky with the red flag (laughter).

I'm pretty surprised. The guys did a fantastic job. The tires came on right. The car was perfect. We had a good lap. A couple of times it went sideways. I stood on it and it just shot me forward exiting the corner. After that, I tried to redo it. I couldn't do it. But, hey, I just needed to do it once, and the team gave me the car to be able to do it today.

Ford did a really good job.  They came up with some new stuff.  It seems
to be helping quite a bit.  I just want to say thanks to the team and
everybody.  It's my first pole on a road course.  It's fantastic.  It's
my 100th race this weekend and it's my birthday on Tuesday.  So yesterday
was for the 100th race and today was for my birthday.  We'll see
tomorrow.  Hopefully I get another birthday or something (laughter).

But it's going to be a long race and a tough race. I think it's going to be tougher than Cleveland. I know these guys are going to be pushing really hard. So hopefully I'm there at the end. Hopefully we can battle it out.

Merrill Cain: Patrick, obviously you had the win in Cleveland a few weeks ago. Do you really feel like you're starting to hit your groove and the team is starting to click?

Patrick Carpentier: I feel like I'm starting to understand. I worked a little bit differently with the engineers. I'm starting to understand how to work with Michael [Cannon], Eric [Zeto] and Bruce [Ashmore], more than before. It seems to be paying off. But, hey, I'm saying this on this weekend. Next weekend I might be 18th on the grid. It's so competitive, you never know. At Vancouver, I was 15th, I won the week before, and now we're first. Every weekend is different, but I'll take this one.

Merrill Cain: Maybe it's the Ohio thing. You're a Buckeye at heart.

Let's open it up to questions.

Q: Because it's so tough to pass here, we've seen some ragged starts, what do you do to keep these two Brazilian guys behind at the start?

Patrick Carpentier: I learned a little bit from Cristiano at Cleveland (laughter). But, we'll see what the outcome of it is. Hopefully we get a good, clean start going into the corner on the back straight, and everybody gets through. I hope I come out of there in first and keep it.

But I don't know. It's hard to tell. It's different every race. We're going to try to get a good start.

Q: Are you surprised to see a Reynard/Ford up front? Everybody says that you have the best package [Toyota/Lola], but now you have more competition.

Cristiano Da Matta: This year we're racing on so many different tracks. When you say we have the best package, it's the consistency. If you look at the Lola /Toyota, this season has been a lot like what Patrick has been mentioning, qualifying first or 15th. We don't have this kind of oscillation. The car seems to be able to stay inside the window where you're able to qualify on the top five weekend in and weekend out. We know the Reynard can be very fast, too. But it's what Patrick was saying, the problem is make it go fast every weekend.

So, no, I'm not surprised.

Christian Fittipaldi:  I'm a little bit surprised to see them go that
well over here.  I think that the next race they're going to be even
tougher.  They're going to be even more competitive.

But to be quite honest, to go that well over here, I am a little bit surprised. Maybe Pat is also a little bit surprised. I know that in Elkhart Lake, I think they have a bigger shot at the pole than over here. I think they're going to be stronger over there. We'll have to come up with some new tricks for us to beat them.

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Top three press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams ART Grand Prix