Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach "Quoteboard" CRISTIANO DA MATTA ( ...
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach "Quoteboard"
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think one reason that the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is such a great event is the tradition. The race has been on the schedule for a long time. I think there is a lot of promotion for the race and I think promotion is the key. As with any other event, you need good promotion, and they really know how to do it. It is the only race where all the drivers have to arrive in town on Wednesday because we have a lot of events. There is a build-up of drama until we get to the race time. We have many things going on. I think it's one of the most challenging street tracks we go to. Maybe together with Surfer's Paradise, which is another long, challenging course. I think the Long Beach track is a big challenge. You have some hard braking areas and fast straightaways. You have to be fast on the straights, but you can't take too much downforce away from the car or you will struggle in the twisty parts. It's a challenge to set up the cars there. It's quite different than other street courses where you can just go, you don't even have to think about it, you just put the maximum level of downforce in the car, and that's it. The Long Beach track has something particular about it that you cannot do this."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone): "It's definitely time for me to win this race. I've been a runner-up here twice and given the way we've started the season, there's no reason to believe that we don't have a good chance here at Long Beach. I like the way things have gone so far, starting the season with a podium finish (Dario finished second in Monterrey, Mexico) and being in second place in the standings certainly works to Team KOOL Green's advantage going into the race. This track is not without its challenges though and you've got to stay out of trouble. There's not a lot of passing opportunities and we'll have to maximize all of our chances."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Eli Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I had an excellent test in Sebring (Fla.) about two weeks ago to prepare for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. We were very competitive in Mexico and ran well in the test at Sebring in so I definitely feel confident about the race. We will be strong in Long Beach. It would be good to win a race again not only for myself and the team but also for our new sponsor Eli Lilly. What I like about the track, believe it or not, is the tight hairpin area, especially during the race. You really need to be able to put the power down very well. If you can do that, you actually create a very good passing place at the end of the straight. Right after you leave the hairpin, you have a long straightaway ahead of you, so you need to exit that space as quick as you can. Then after that, I really think the new part of the track, the fountain area, and the two quick right-handers are also very nice. I like the parts of the track that were changed for the 2000 race. Those changes really improved the overall racing. As for the event, it is one of the best all season. It is a really important one for us to win because Toyota not only sponsors the race but the racing part of the company has their headquarters there."
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "My first race in CART was April 14, 1996 so Sunday will be the sixth anniversary to the day of my Champ Car debut. A lot has changed for me both personally and professionally since that first race. Back then my Uncle Bernard had to accompany me to the drivers meeting just so he could translate what was being said. I remember that just three weeks before that first race I had my sights set on racing in Formula 3000 in Mexico and then a tremendous opportunity presented itself. As I look back over the years I see all the changes and where they have led me. Coming to Long Beach this year is a completely different experience than six years ago. The last couple of months since I joined Team Rahal have been very busy but I feel like we are really coming together as a team. Certainly working with a great group of engineers and my Jimmy [Vasser} has made the transition to Team Rahal a lot easier. We had a pretty good run at Monterrey and that is encouraging when you think about how little testing we had done prior to that first race. I know that my crew will give me a competitive car and that we can have the Gigante car in contention week in and week out."
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "It's always a lot of fun racing in Long Beach because the fans are so into it and there are so many activities surrounding race weekend. As a driver, you really get caught up in the atmosphere and it gets into a racing mode. I've always had some good vibes in Long Beach. I can't explain why but there are some tracks on the CART circuit that you just feel more comfortable on, and for me, Long Beach is one of them. Maybe it's the fact I won two races here when I was in the Atlantic series and then just missed getting on the podium in my rookie season in CART two years ago.
"I know heading into the race this year that Team Player's has a fast car that is definitely capable of winning. We've been quick in every testing session and we were among the fastest in the season-opener in Mexico. I realize that in recent years, drivers have been able to come from far back on the starting grid to win the race but you really have to approach Long Beach with the idea that you need to go all out to qualify as close to the front as possible. That can certainly make the job a bit easier on race day."
SCOTT DIXON (#7 PWR Championship Racing Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "The atmosphere at Long Beach is great. They have so many racing fans, so you become very motivated. As a street circuit it's difficult and challenging - everybody wants to do well at this race, so you have to be extremely focused. After our Mexico run, I know our team believes we can win at Long Beach. The entire team has been working very hard and has a much better knowledge of the Lola chassis. We've tested a few times since Monterrey and the car continues to get better. With all the improvements and the progress we've made over the last month and the continued reliability of Toyota-power, I'm confident we'll do very well at this race. Toyota is headquartered in Torrance, so it would be great if we could get a good result for them."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "The testing that we did a few weeks ago in preparation for Long Beach was excellent, and Team Player's has every right to be confident going into the race. Long Beach is a track where some of the new rules are going to come into play, especially with all of us being able to go out as one group for qualifying and then, during the race, not having to be concerned about fuel consumption as we did in the past. On a track where passing is difficult, these things could be big factors in deciding the outcome. I can't say that I've had a lot of luck racing in Long Beach over the years. Team Player's has consistently had a competitive car for that street course but something always seems to happen to us. I remember two incidents where contact by other drivers ended our race, and then last year, I broke a bone in my wrist when another car cut me off and my hand ended up getting caught in the steering wheel, breaking a bone in my wrist. But this is another year and the approach I'm taking is to forget about what's happened in the past and just focus on this year's race. I'm confident, the team is confident, and we expect to have a good weekend of racing."
PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone): "It feels really good to be heading back into Long Beach. Physically I'm in peak condition and I'm thinking that the car will be too. Team KOOL Green prepared a great ride for me in Mexico, and I like my chances on the streets here. Long Beach is a marquee event and I've won here twice including from way back in the field (started 17th) in 2000. What's not to like about that? I was here two weeks ago and they were getting the track ready -- grandstands were going up and a lot of the barriers that line the track were already in place. It really got my heart pumping. It's Southern California, it's a party town, and a party weekend for the fans. The atmosphere is something you can't even describe unless you've been here."
MAX PAPIS (#22 ROCKWELL FIRST POINT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "Long Beach has been one of my "home" tracks as I used to live in nearby Newport Beach. As far as the race, I really haven't had a lot of luck, but I've qualified near the front and I believe we can do the same here. We will have to dig deep into our numbers and experience for us to produce at Long Beach as we have not been in the car since the Monterrey race. This is one of the few tracks that have a grand history to it and there have been a lot of great drivers who have won here. This race is a great spectacle not only for CART, but for racing fans and even casual fans who come for the event. It's a good track and one where we can do well. I believe we can have a great race here."
ORIOL SERVIA (#17 PWR Championship Racing Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "Long Beach has always been one of my favorite races. When I raced in Indy Lights I was always very quick at Long Beach. I'm confident this will be a good race for us. We were very competitive at Monterrey and I had a very good car. We've tested the car in between races and it's been a very reliable and strong car. I'm very excited about this race, but with those walls there is absolutely no room for a mistake."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think Long Beach will be a good race for us. I had a good race last year even though I started in last place. We had a problem in qualifying last year and we weren't able to get in a fast timed lap. I started 28th and was able to make it all the way up to 9th by the end of the race. My team gave me great pit stops and I had a fast car. This year the car is better and has a better balance. Both Toyota and Lola have worked very hard over the winter and we have a great car right now. I'm really looking forward to going back there this year. We ran really well at the street courses last year and I really feel that we have a good chance to win the first race of the year this weekend."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#39 Motorola Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I'm really looking forward to Long Beach. This race always holds a special place in my heart because it's where I scored the first Champ Car victory of my career and the whole race weekend is such an event. The fans and the city of Long Beach are so behind this race that it really makes the weekend exciting for everyone. Last year's race in Long Beach was truly a disappointment. We had such high expectations that it was very disappointing to only complete three laps because Long Beach is a great race and I felt we had a good race car. For this weekends race we used the California Speedway road course to work on set-ups for our Honda-Reynard-Bridgestone Champ Car and I think we got a lot of good information. So now the goal is to translate all that good information to a fast car for this weekend."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am looking forward to Long Beach, and to finishing the job we started in Mexico with our first pole position as a team. We have done a lot of things that should put us in a much better situation for this weekend, and I think we will be very competitive. I competed in my first Champ Car race at Long Beach, so this weekend always holds special memories for me. I am also looking forward to seeing a lot of our fans that come to this race. CART has put a lot of positive rule changes into place that make the competition even more exciting for the fans."
SHINJI NAKANO (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I really like this track, and the atmosphere throughout the race weekend is great. I scored the first [championship] point for the team at Long Beach last season, and this year I want to finish on the podium. We learned a lot about the car in Mexico, and I think we are going to learn a lot in Long Beach. We are still on a learning curve with the new equipment package, but my knowledge and my engineer's knowledge is much more now and I think we are going to have a good car."
TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I'm so ready to go racing, you wouldn't believe it. That month off since Monterrey was good in a sense that I'm sure everybody is itching to get back out there. I'm rested and relaxed. We tested a few weeks ago and had a little bit of a tough time, but we got a lot done. Then I went down to Brazil for a week and a half over Easter and I had a great time with some old friends that I hadn't seen in 15 years. It was a reunion for Maria Imaculada Junior High School in Sao Paolo, Class of 1988. It was very nostalgic and very emotional, and it put me in just the right frame of mind to get back to work. Long Beach is one of our favorite races all year. There's always a lot going on, but for me, this year, it's going to be the toughest race ever off the track. It's Honda Town, for one thing, and we do a lot for them while we're there. And it's Pioneer Town, which is one of my new sponsors along with WorldCom. And we'll be doing a lot for them, too. Pioneer is sponsoring the concert on Saturday night by one of my favorite bands - the Goo Goo Dolls - and I will get to introduce them on stage. I have all of their records and know all of their songs, so I'm really looking forward to it. Now, back to racing, I'm confident going into Long Beach. I 've had a lot of success there in the past, and I'm going there this year confident that I can win the race. Unless it turns out different than that, I'm acting like we're going to win the race. There has been a lot going on for all of us Reynard teams, but I'm not going to let it get me down. It's out of my control, so we're going out there and do our very best. I was on the pole there three years ago but crashed while I was leading. I qualified third there last year but had problems in the Sunday morning warmup that hurt us in the race, so we finished only seventh. Now we have another year under our belt as a team and we're another year smarter and better. So, with all of that, we're feeling great and we are full of confidence."
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#16 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The Long Beach Grand Prix is one of my favorite races on the entire CART circuit - the track itself is very challenging and the atmosphere of the entire event is fantastic. There is always a huge contingent of Mexican-American fans who come out to the track which is fun for me. No matter what their background is, the fans that come to the Long Beach Grand Prix get really excited about the race and have a great time! From a technical standpoint, the nature of the track is that you can't make a single mistake. The walls are right next to you and you have to be concentrating 100% all the time. I really enjoy it though - I especially enjoyed it last year when I won the pole position in Indy Lights! It's very exciting!"
KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I qualified second last year in Long Beach and it's a track that I feel that we can do well on. I had a gearbox problem last year and wasn't able to finish the race. With the success that Team Target has had in Long Beach, I have a lot of confidence heading into this week's race. We've done some testing in preparation for this race and the car was really good. The Toyota engine has been bulletproof in testing so far this year, that's been a real benefit for us. We have been able to turn a lot of laps in testing, which is crucial when the testing days are limited. If we can unload with a good setup on the car, I think we have a great chance to win."
TOWNSEND BELL (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I really like the atmosphere at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It is a terrific event for the southern California community. Like any street circuit it is inherently bumpier than a permanent road course. That always presents some setup problems. Another factor is Turn #1 at the start of the race. Drivers are going over 175 mph and it funnels from being three to four cars wide down to one to two wide, so that keeps everyone on their toes. This is a very important race for me. It is the home event for Toyota, which is the Visteon/Patrick Racing team's engine supplier and as a southern California resident I will have lots of friends and family attending. Hopefully I can continue to enjoy the success I had last year when I won the Indy Lights event."
JIMMY VASSER (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I have a great deal of confidence coming to Long Beach this year. I have really a good feeling about this Shell team and working with my engineer Todd Bowland. We have made a strong combination with the Lola and Ford and our testing has been very strong. But I also have the Team Rahal mentality when we are testing - 'We don't want to win tests, we want race wins.' Many teams get excited about their speed at testing. Yes, speed is good but we have components to test and other parts. We want to be ready on Friday morning at each race. I believe we'll be ready at Long Beach. Long Beach is such a great event, not just on the track but off it too. This event represents the California lifestyle and the rite of spring attitude. It's fun for the drivers, the teams, the fans and everyone who attends the race. I know I look forward to Long Beach every year. It's not just a race, it's a happening! This is one of the best testing programs I have ever been involved with in my CART career. Team Rahal showed me how they won all of those races last year. This team is one of the best in open-wheel racing and I'd like to continue the success of the Shell car at Long Beach."