CHAMPCAR/CART: Manufacturer's Friday Forum - Elkhart Lake - Rookies

CART FedEx Championship Series Engine Manufacturer's Friday Forum Friday, July 9, 1999 Road America - Elkhart Lake, Wisc. ROOKIES Participants: Cristiano da Matta - Arciero Wells Racing - Toyota Luiz Garcia, Jr. - Payton...

CART FedEx Championship Series Engine Manufacturer's Friday Forum Friday, July 9, 1999 Road America - Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

ROOKIES Participants: Cristiano da Matta - Arciero Wells Racing - Toyota Luiz Garcia, Jr. - Payton Coyne Racing - Ford Memo Gidley - Walker Racing - Honda

QUESTION: CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF HOW THE SEASON HAS BEEN GOING FOR YOU AND TELL US ABOUT YOUR HIGHS AND LOWS AND WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED TO THIS POINT.

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "If I tried to tell you what I have learned so far this season we would be spending the whole day here. I think this season everything is going well for me. I am working and learning with the team and Toyota and it is good to be with a manufacturer and work with them and grow with them and see the results of your hard work and their hard work. That makes me feel good. It shows me that I am not working hard for nothing. I am beginning to see the results of my hard work. The engine keeps getting better. Every time I get in the racecar it just continues to get better. So right now I think we are in a position that we can start to put solid runs together. In Rio we did it and in St. Louis we did it. A few places we have not had the luck but everywhere else we are in the top ten. That makes me feel good. Also I see a lot of places that we have improved and I know how hard the guys at Arciero-Wells are pushing and how hard I am pushing inside the car. So I think the second half of the season is going to be better for sure. The only thing I think we are missing a little bit is getting all of the results we deserve. But I am happy the way everything is going and I am looking forward to the second half of the season."

GARCIA (FORD) - "It has been quite an amazing season so far. We still have a lot to learn. We have been struggling a bit since we have not had a lot of time to test. We are struggling with the setup of the car because we have had limited time testing. Sometimes that hurts us a bit. But the way I am looking at it is every lap I can run will help us next year. I was supposed to compete in all of the races this season but because of the limited number of test days we decided to focus on testing a bit during the middle of the season. From now on though we are supposed to be at every race. I think that is going to be good for me because I am going o be driving the car a lot. I think that is going to help us with the setup and over the next couple of months you will start to see that improvement."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "The opportunity I got to race was huge. There are not a lot of teams, sponsors or manufacturers who would take a chance and stick someone in the car who doesn't have experience in the car to show what they can do. The bottom line is that it is so expensive that the average person or the average driver, if the don't have the budget, it is difficult to get into the top level. It's a great feeling when I look back to the first time I went to a CART race in 1992 to see where I am now and see what I have accomplished at this level. I definitely owe a lot to Honda and Walker Racing. As far a differences between the Champ Cars and the Atlantic cars the main one is horsepower. The Atlantics put out about 260 hp and the Champ Cars are putting out about 930. So that's 600-plus horsepower difference. But the engines are actually really smooth. The first time I got into one I was really surprised because I expected them to be a wild beast and it is actually really smooth and it felt real natural. I come from a karting background so this is really the first time that you have that kind of level of grip and you can really lean on the car hard in the turns. So for me it is more natural, probably more natural than any car I have driven. I am having a lot of fun driving them. There is definitely a learning curve coming in halfway through the season because everyone else is raring to go and I am just trying to learn."

ALL THREE OF YOU HAVE VETERAN TEAMMATES. CAN EACH OF YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM THEM?

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "For me it is a very good situation just being aside Scott (Pruett) and being able to watch his work from a distance and beside him in the engineering room. I see him debriefing and even if he didn't say anything to me I would still learn a lot because just seeing how he discusses things with his engineers based on the experience he has had in the past. So it is a huge opportunity to have him beside me. Plus he is a nice guy and he helps me so I get another extra mode of information and some extra experience he can translate to me. But there are certain things that you can only learn on the racetrack. I think that a good part of the results I have had I have to thank Scott for that because he has been with the series for more than ten years and just being aside a guy like that helps and it teaches me a lot. I think I am going through my learning curve much faster than I would if I didn't have him beside me."

GARCIA (FORD) - "For me it is also helpful to have Michel (Jourdain) as a teammate because I am running his old car from last year. He knows that car a lot better than I do right now. He helps me a lot with the car and it's also nice because we get along great off the track which is very helpful too. We are always talking about setups and how to improve the car which is helpful. The ideal right now thought would be for both of us to be running the same chassis. Now I am in the Reynard and Michel is running a Lola. So a lot of things that we try don't work with both cars for obvious reasons. He can still help me with certain things but we cannot compare everything and I think that is not very good for me. If we were driving the same chassis and the same car we could compare setup and everything. We don't have the ideal situation but it still helps."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "For me it is very good. Gil (de Ferran) is a really good, decent person to be around. He helps me out when he can. We compare data which helps because the last few races I would kind of go off on the setup and think it is good but then the track changes and you just don't know. So sometimes we got Gil's setup and it helps me out and shows me a few things. He has a lot of experience and it is a great opportunity whenever you can have someone helping you like that. In Champ Cars as compared to the Atlantic series you don't have quite as many people to deal with so that's a challenge too."

THIS IS SUCH A COMPETITIVE SERIES THAT WHEN YOU GET AN OPPORTUNITY YOU CERTAINLY HAVE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE PRESSURES OF BEING ROOKIES WHO ARE STILL LEARNING BUT NEED TO PERFORM?

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "It's kind of like being thrown into a lion's cage for me. Over the last few races I have not made a lot of friends out on the track. You don't intentionally try to make the other drivers mad but you are out there trying to learn as quickly as you can and not get in the way of anyone else."

GARCIA (FORD) - "You really have to put pressure on yourself and make the best out of the situation. I don't think I have had the best run of my like yet. But we are picking up the pace and that's good. We are always trying to do things to improve and the bottom line is that you have to make the best out of the opportunity when you have it."

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "I think you have to look at it as if you are capable of getting to this level then that means you are capable to compete with guys as good as you. So, I think the way you have to look at is nobody can do more than you can. If you start looking around and notice that you are competing against Al Unser, Jr and Michael Andretti you are not going to fight on the race track against them the way you should. You have to know that the best you can do is good enough to be here."

MEMO, YOU HAVE BEEN CRITICIZED OVER THE FIRST FEW RACES AND THERE HAVE BEEN A COUPLE OF DRIVERS WHO HAVE GOTTEN MAD AT YOU BUT OBVIOUSLY IT IS A BIG JUMP TO GO FROM THE ATLANTIC CARS TO CHAMP CARS.

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "When you are talking about a second separating the field it is not a lot. But I just want to get out there and race. I know I am behind the eight ball but I think things are going to improve and start to turn around. I feel real comfortable in the car and the more drive time I get the better I feel. I am committed to the deal. Every minute of the day I am doing something to improve my ability. I know it is just going to get better from here on out. For me this is just a short opportunity but hopefully it will turn into something else."

GARCIA (FORD) - "After the race in Portland I had a conversation with Bryan Herta regarding a situation with a yellow flag. That was fine. It's the only way your learn out there. It was not an angry exchange but rather a discussion where he taught me some how to approach things. It was not a big deal but just a conversation."

WHAT ABOUT THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF DRIVING THE CAR. HAS THE CAR EVER BEEN JUST RIGHT FOR YOU WHERE YOU DIDN'T WANT IT CHANGED?

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "There is never a chase where you have a perfect car that you don't want changed."

GARCIA (FORD) - "Not in a Champ Car."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "I think if you are running comfortably it is a good position to be in. There may be situations where you feel the car is the best its ever felt but you are still down on the grid. I don't think there is ever a perfect car."

I HEAR THE DRIVEABILITY OF ENGINE "A" IS BETTER THAN THE DRIVEABILITY OF ENGINE "B". WHAT IS DRIVEABILITY?

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "When you have 900 horsepower you need to put it on the ground in a nice way. Some engines when you start to put the power down you get too much in a single moment. Some others you get it like in a more smooth and gradual way. I think Toyota has made a big gain this year because at the beginning of the year back at Long Beach we had some problems with driveability. Today I don't think you can ask for any more driveability than we have now. When I put the power down now I can control it. It's not that bad right now."

GARCIA (FORD) - "The Ford engine is very powerful. They have worked a lot on the driveability of the engine and I think they have a good balance. It's important because you have to be able to put the power down and move the car forward without wheel spin. If you don't put the power down smoothly you loose time."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "I was really surprised when I got into a Champ Car for the first time at Putnam. I think the biggest thing is that in the old days you had turbo lag, which is basically when the motor stops making power on its own and then the turbo kicks in. It's like switching on a light switch. It would instantly light up the tires. They tried to smooth that over and they have done a real good job at that. That is one of the most surprising things that I felt when I got into the car."

DO YOUR ENGINE SUSTAIN THEIR VITALITY FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE TO THE END OF THE RACE OR ARE THEY WEAKER AT THE END?

GARCIA (FORD) - "My engines are as good at the beginning as at the end of the race."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "I think they have to loose a little. The rings probably soften up a little, you know there is metal contacting metal. The motors only go X amount of miles anyway so I would say if you put a fresh one in it is probably faster because it's new. It is hard to feel though."

HAS THERE BEEN ANYTHING THIS YEAR THAT HAS SURPRISED YOU IN TERMS OF RACING OF ANYTHING YOU DIDN'T EXPECT?

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "When you get into the series there is so much to do it's amazing. You get here at eight in the morning until you leave at 7 at night you are doing something be it meeting with your engineer, or sponsor or whatever. So when you see a driver running to their trailer you think 'that guy is kind of a jerk, he is not taking the time with fans,' but I tell you there is just not a lot of time. You are expected to do well and you have to run up front and it's just hectic. It's great to see he people out here and give them something to watch and try to make contact somehow but you are very limited on time out there."

GARCIA (FORD) - "What I expected that I didn't get so far this season was testing. We tested at Homestead and Mid-Ohio where we had a good car but I was hoping for a lot more time."

THEY DROPPED FIVE LAPS FROM THIS RACE AT ROAD AMERICA IN AN ATTEMPT TO STOP THIS RACE FROM BECOMING A FUEL ECONOMY RUN. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

DA MATTA (TOYOTA) - "I think that is very good. The engine manufacturers work so hard to give us all of the horsepower they can and to not be able to use it in the race is very frustrating. All you have to do is look at Portland. It was very frustrating, you are racing but not going as fast as you can. When you are racing you are not saving energy. Sometimes you are saving tires here or there but it is not a situation like we had in Portland where I had to go half throttle on a straight line and you are doing lap time closer to what I was doing in my Lights car last year. I think this decision is good for the series and good for the spectators. They want to see racing and the cars going fast."

GARCIA (FORD) - "We are racers and we want to be able to go as fast as we can all the time."

GIDLEY (HONDA) - "Getting blown away down the straightaway is no fun."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Bryan Herta , Al Unser Sr. , Cristiano da Matta , Luiz Garcia Jr.