CART Manufacturer's Forum Burke Lakefront Airport Cleveland, OH June 30, 2000 Participants: Roberto Moreno (Ford) Jimmy Vasser (Toyota) Mauricio Gugelmin - ...
CART Manufacturer's Forum Burke Lakefront Airport Cleveland, OH June 30, 2000
Roberto Moreno (Ford)
Jimmy Vasser (Toyota)
Mauricio Gugelmin - # 17 Nextel PacWest (Mercedes-Benz)
Gil de Ferran (Honda)
Moderator: Larry Henry
Q: ASSESS THE SEASON AND ITS COMPETITIVENESS...
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "We talked about this at a media lunch yesterday. It really says a lot for the series (that there has been only one repeat winner). Everybody knows that the series is very competitive, and everybody is working flat hard to make any gains on anybody. When you think you've made some strides, they move on a little bit. Our season... we've had highs and we've had lows, and I think that the majority of the teams have had that. I wish that we were a little bit more consistent than we have been in terms of finishing more races and running with the top pack. I think I'm right to say that the leader of the series right now hasn't won a race yet, but he has been the most consistent up there and that's the key. We've made a great improvement from last year, and I really confident that we're gonna have more podium finishes in the near future."
Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR FUEL MILEAGE IN THE MERCEDES AS OPPOSED TO THE FORD?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "Everybody wants to go as fast using the least amount of fuel. There is no secret about that. On top of that, Mercedes helped me to get my second place at Nazareth because of that. Then you point to different driving styles, and you know that some drivers are able to save more fuel than others simply because they learn to drive that way. I personally am really opposed to that kind of racing. That's the way the rules are right now. Unfortunately, we've gotten trapped into that type of situation. I've got some ideas that could change that. For example, eliminate the possibility of changing the (FUEL) mixture from inside the cockpit. If you want to run lean all day, then you have to do that in the pits. Go out and that's your problem... you decided to run like that all day. And I think that would be better for our series. It's something we can't change right now, but it's an idea for the future. I think racing should be like 'get out there and stand on (THE THROTTLE)' for the whole distance. Unfortunately, people start to find out that if you move your (FUEL) windows later and open them up and get yourself a better strategy and therefore, with less effort or maybe racing just at the end of the event, you can get a win easier than by just going flat out.
Q: DO YOU SEE A DISPARITY BETWEEN WHAT ROBERTO MORENO HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO AND WHAT EVERYONE ELSE HAS BEEN GETTING?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "To just refresh your mind to last weekend, I think before that (MORENO) didn't do that. I think that, going back to Milwaukee, Montoya was pretty impressive there. I think if you go further back, at Nazareth, we were pretty impressive. I don't think its one single individual. I think that what (MORENO) did in Portland, they made their mind up that they were going to use that strategy. If you decide to do that for the first 100 laps, then of course, you're going to get better fuel (MILEAGE). But it's when you make that decision that makes the difference. The engines are very comparable, it just depends when you decided to start saving fuel."
Q: PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE TRACK CONDITIONS?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "Well, it's just normal here, because it's dirty on course. For the first time I saw, we must have had a lot of rain and sun, because we have some weeds. It takes some time to get some rubber down and clear all that. We run at a unique place, but I think as you get more cars running out there and cleaning a little bit more it's gonna get better. I've seen a lot of places; I think this is great. If you just look at the rooster tails we're getting behind the cars, the dust and everything. The tires come back in and look like they haven't worked at all. But it'll get better."
THIS WAS AN ACTIVE AIRPORT UNTIL 6:00 THIS MORNING...
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "Let me say that on street courses, there's not much difference. These cars, we suck all the dirt from the track. We need to get the rubber down. It's not a big deal, it's just that everybody's anxious to go fast."
Q: HAVE OTHER ENGINES IMPROVED MORE OR LESS THAN YOUR MERCEDES HAS THIS YEAR?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "It's difficult to put a percentage on (THE IMPROVEMENT), because it's a moving target. Compared to what I had last year, there is no comparison. I wouldn't show you data, but I think, just prior to Nazareth, we made a huge gain in horsepower, driveability and everything. And we're still making them. These guys are working 24 hours a day, and I'm sure that everyone else is. I'm sure there's more room for improvement, and I'm sure that we'll always feel that way. And I'm confident that pretty soon, we're gonna be right at the top."
Q: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE AREAS THAT YOU NEED TO IMPROVE FOR TEAM CONSISTENCY?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "Our business is quite simple. People tend to make it more complicated, but if every single individual is really concentrating on what he's supposed to do, and you have a team that is really working well together, then the results come. We have the majority of the people who were working with us in 1997 when we were quite successful are still there, so we know how to do it. It's just that it's a very competitive series."
Q: HAS THE DRIVEABILITY OF THE MERCEDES ENGINE IMPROVED?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "It's improved a lot. Drivers are very competitive; We're never happy. It's a natural thing. I remember when the Honda first came and Toyota first came, it was the same thing. And don't forget, every year everybody makes a new engine. So you have to get that baby working well."
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TIRE SITUATION?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "It's getting a little better, but I would favor to go to a harder compound so that everybody has the same grip and less marbles out there. I think that would create better racing. And you don't have to have longer yellows when they have to go out and clean the circuit. Having said that, we have to be careful. I'm sure that Firestone doesn't want to go to away too much from the optimum rubber. If (ANOTHER TIRE MANUFACTURER) decides to come in, you have to be close to what peak performance is. If you go too far away, they may lose the recipe of how to get back there."
Q: WOULD YOU FAVOR CART CONTRACTING WITH A TIRE MANUFACTURER FOR A SPECIFIED NUMBER OF YEARS?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "For me, that would be easier. It's one less thing for me to worry about. It's something that sticks. For the drivers, it's easier that way, but this is a democracy so, whoever wants to play should be able to come in if they want."
Q: ARE THE TIRES LASTING A LOT LONGER DURING THE SESSIONS HERE?
Gugelmin ( Mercedes-Benz) - "You're gonna see a lot more laps this year (DURING QUALIFYING) for sure. I think you can run for quite a while without losing performance. I know people who did quick laps this morning who had more than 12 or 13 laps on the tires." HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE HANS DEVICE (HEAD AND NECK SYSTEM)? HAVE YOU TRIED IT? WILL IT BE MANDATORY FOR NEXT YEAR? "I have not tried it, unfortunately. We didn't get the chance to try it. But I really think that it's one of the best steps forward we have seen, in terms of safety. I wish they would make it mandatory for next year. I know that Dr. Steve Olvey is really behind it. And also Mercedes-Benz has done a lot of work with it in Formula One. We all want to have a safe, clean sport. Anytime you find something like this, you have to implement it as soon as possible."
Q: WOULD YOU PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE FUEL MILEAGE ISSUE?
De Ferran (Honda) - "I think getting good fuel mileage, or having an engine that's fuel efficient, is of primary importance to our racing. The way that you can get an advantage by pitting under a yellow flag dictates that you do everything that you can to get to that yellow. Last week, for example, it was the difference of making the race in two stops or making the race in three stops. Now, one of the things that make the biggest difference on fuel mileage is driving style. The way one drives and applies the throttle and everything else really has a lot to do it. Especially one's weight, like this guy over here (MORENO), who weighs nothing. Obviously, the driver has a big influence on the fuel mileage."
Q: WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WHEN YOU SAY THAT DRIVING STYLE AFFECTS FUEL MILEAGE?
De Ferran (Honda) - "It's not miles per hour, it's the way you apply the throttle, the way you stop the throttle, the way you go from the throttle to the brakes. Everybody drives a little bit different. Those small differences really make a change in the fuel mileage number. And you don't need a big change, just a few percent, to give you an advantage. It's not like you're looking for 10 or 15%, any percent... 1, 2, 3% makes a difference and can give you an advantage on the race track."
Q: YOUR DRIVING STYLE DOES NOT ALWAYS LEND ITSELF TO GETTING GOOD FUEL MIELAGE...
Vasser (Toyota) - "I left foot brake, so one of the advantages that I've found on the track with that is to brake very deep. If you do that, you're on the throttle quite a bit later down the straightaway and then it's a quicker transition from throttle to braking. And sometimes the brake pedal overlaps the throttle as far as the throttle coming up while the brake is going down... that's terrible on fuel mileage. The way these races have transpired, I've had to, over the years, develop with my left foot braking (A ROUTINE OF) lifting off the throttle and giving myself a two-count and then go to the brakes. Another thing that lends to good fuel mileage, and I'm not that great with fuel mileage, but at times I do have good fuel mileage, is when I have a good handling race car. If the car is not working really well, you do a lot of things with the throttle to help change the attitude of the car to the mid-corner and stab the throttle here and there to get (THE CAR) to rotate. That wastes a lot of fuel, too. So when the car is working very well, you tend to get a lot better fuel mileage. Also a bigger fuel cell seems to help out <laugh>."
Q: HERE'S THE KING OF FUEL MILEAGE FROM PORTLAND...
Moreno (Ford) - "Yeah, we used (A BIGGER FUEL CELL) <laugh>. That was a joke, guys. Well, I guess you guys made everybody think about it. We tried to save as much as we can, and as Jimmy says, left foot braking doesn't help. We see that often between Adrian (FERNANDEZ, teammate) and me, between me and Michael (ANDRETTI), the difference in driving style. And I think that it's all in that. Also, very, very important, is when you have a good car that you can back off and flow through the corner, it helps a lot. I had a tendency to set up cars that way... always did. It's always been there for a couple of years, and we seen other teams as well. It used to drive Michael crazy. It's just the way my set-up is top flow the car through the corner, and a way to back off." WOULD YOU LIKE CART TO FIND A WAY TO MAKE YOU RUN FULL-THROTTLE? "Not every race works that way. Only some places work that way. You've got to take advantage of that. If you remember last year in Portland, Gil took a completely different strategy than everybody else, and it paid off dividends to him big time and he won the race easily. For me to finish that race that year, I had to do extra not to do a third pit stop. Other people who were in the same ballpark as I was had to do a pitstop and lost three or four positions toward the end of the race on the same kind of a deal. It's only some places, like Portland, where you can do that."
Q: IS THERE SOME VALUE IN GETTING AWAY FROM HAVING TO SAVE FUEL?
De Ferran (Honda) - "There's no way to get away from it. Unless you completely abolish the yellows. That's what creates that need to save fuel most of the time. In auto races, it's a fact that sometimes the fuel allotment is tight, and sometimes that plays an influence on that. But most of the time it's just because of the yellows."
Q: THERE'S SOME TALK ABOUT REDUCING HORSEPOWER NEXT YEAR. HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THAT AND ITS EFFECT ON YOUR RACING?
Vasser (Toyota) - "I don't think the cars will be any easier to drive, because you're always, no matter what you're driving, you'll take it to the limit and it still gets very exciting. I personally like the horsepower. I saw the difference between the IRL configuration and the CART (CONFIGURATION), and the biggest difference that was enjoyable about the CART Champ Car was the horsepower. But I think the question isn't about is it fun for (DRIVERS), it's probably about whether there's a logical way to try to bring the speeds down. I think that CART has been trying to react to the speeds and to try to bring them down, and one of the things they've been doing over time is majorly focusing on the aerodynamics. In my opinion, since they've started with tunnel blockers and reducing the size of the underbody of the car, the racing has been getting worse and worse and worse and worse. When you get into a traffic situation, the air is disturbed but the underbody was the one piece that was most efficient. That was the first thing that they pretty much took away from us. Then they started monkeying with the wings. But I think that maybe (WE GET) a horsepower reduction, and then we can bring some of the aerodynamic things back, maybe the undertray, and make the racing better."
De Ferran (Honda) - "I think there are maybe two parts to that answer. I think that on most road courses and street circuits, I do not believe that our horsepower is actually a problem. I think it separates a driver with more skill against a driver with less skill. I think the more horsepower, the faster the car, the more difficult it is to control and extract the maximum out of it. At least I take a great deal of enjoyment from having 900 horsepower under my foot. I'll be sorry that day that 200 horsepower disappears. I really would. However, on most of the ovals, we're in a Catch-22 situation. Trying to slow down the cars to safer speeds by trying to tackle a variety of aerodynamic situations with varying degrees of success. I think if we lose some power on the ovals, it will be easier to arrive at a compromise between speed and safety."
Moreno (Ford) - "I kind of agree with Gil when he says that it's good to have power and it's up to the driver to control it. Unfortunately not all of us can enjoy that. The time it plays the biggest role is on restarts when the tires are colder. Whenever you bring a rule to slow the cars down, it has diminished the racing between us. We need to find a way we can reduce grip but no jeopardize the good racing between the cars, and I think engineers are cracking their heads to try and do that. The best solution so far is to try and reduce power and downforce at the same time."
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TAKING THE WINGS OFF OF CHAMP CARS?
Moreno (Ford) - "You couldn't drive a car without a wing today. This is ridiculous, you couldn't drive the car without a rear wing.