An interview with Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi, and Dario Franchitti. Merrill Cain: Welcome to our top three press conference following provisional qualifying today in Mexico City. We're joined Dario Franchitti and Christian...
An interview with Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi, and Dario Franchitti.
Merrill Cain: Welcome to our top three press conference following provisional qualifying today in Mexico City. We're joined Dario Franchitti and Christian Fittipaldi. We'll be joined by Bruno Junqueira in just a second. We start out today with Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, posting a lap of 1:26.147 seconds, that's a speed of 116.424 miles per hour.
Dario, if he remains third, will be his best starting position since he started second in round 13 of the CART FedEx Championship Series earlier this season in Montreal, a race he would go on to win. He's also looking for his first pole position since Round 7 in Chicago. Dario, talk about your effort today. Seems like your car came off the truck pretty quick this morning. You were fastest in the 15-minute warm-up prior to qualifying. Talk about the new track here in Mexico City.
Dario Franchitti: First of all, we'll start with the track. It's an awesome place. Christian and I were just talking about it. It's a real challenge. It's such different sections from the Turn 1, 2, 3 area, then the Turn 6 and 7 area, a bit tight, then you have this fabulous S Section, then the stadium. Really a challenge for the engineers and the drivers. I love driving it. The S Section, I don't know what the name of it is at the back, the Turn 9 area, is getting faster and faster all the time, getting more and more fun. Yeah, really having a good time out there.
As far as the car, yeah, it was quick this morning straightaway. At the end of the session this morning, I spun. We decided not to put new tires on. But I was reasonably happy. We made some changes. Looked good in the 15-minute warm-up. In qualifying, I think my lap was the limit of the car. I think the track got faster towards the end.
But we expected a big downpour, expected it to rain very hard. We did our time in the middle of the session as opposed to the end. Maybe that was the wrong decision, but we chose to do it that way. We're going to make some changes on the car tonight and try to fight for the pole position tomorrow.
Merrill Cain: Dario has performed and qualified well in his previous visits to Mexico. He was seventh at Monterrey last year, and qualified second earlier this year in our visit to Monterrey. We're joined also by Christian Fittipaldi, driver of the #11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, posting a best lap of 1:26.027, a speed of 116.587 miles per hour. If he remains second on the grid, it will be his best starting position since he started second in round 11 at Mid-Ohio earlier this season. He's also looking forward to the second pole position of his career, the first one coming in Rio de Janeiro, his hometown, in 1999.
Christian, a little frustrating for you, you had a great run, looked like you were on the provisional pole, until Bruno jumped up and bit you on the last lap. Are you happy with the car's performance? Obviously your last CART race, you want to have a good performance.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think my story is very similar to Dario's. Apart from the fact that I didn't spin this morning, the rest is exactly the same. My car was very, very good. We only ran like really old tires this morning, so I knew there was more in the car. Then we went out on the 15-minute session. The car continued good. We went qualifying, we thought it was going to rain also, so I went out very early with my second set. Like Dario, maybe we made a small mistake, maybe we didn't. Only God knows right now.
I was speaking to the SPEED guys about three minutes ago, and I said, that was it, my lap was everything I could get out of the car. If someone beats me, tough luck, it's because they really went quicker, because I couldn't go any quicker than that. Then right at the very end of the session, Bruno comes down from the skies and he nailed my butt, so what can I say? Just good job. I'll try to get it back tomorrow.
Merrill Cain: Great effort by Christian nonetheless. Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, his best lap earned the provisional pole today, 1:25.941 seconds, a speed of 116.703 miles per hour. He is looking for his fourth pole position of the season, and the first since he started from the pole in Denver earlier this year. He took the qualifying pole position on the final qualifying lap today. Also he was fastest in the morning session.
Bruno, does this track really appeal to your skills? Talk about the track itself. It seemed like you were quick all day today. Also your strategy there kind of holding back a little bit and coming out at the end while these guys sat around, talk about your strategy.
Bruno Junqueira: I mean, I like road courses. This is a very good road course. I just like this track, high-speed corners. I think it's where I feel more comfortable. I have a very good car, as well. That helps. This morning I was really good. I went straight out, the car was really fast. I didn't even need to run new tires. With old tires, I was still really fast. But I knew that everybody improved their car, and it would be much tougher in qualifying. My car was fast straightaway, didn't make any change from qualifying.
On the first set of tires, I think I was on the pole. But I wasn't that happy because I ran completely by myself. I know if you see a car in front of you, you have more to gain. On the second set, I think I waited until 11 minutes to go. I did one lap. When I was on the second lap, that was really, really good. There was a red flag. Then I went the last minute. The track was really great in (Turns) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I was slower than my previous lap, but my car was so good in the end that I improved the chicanes and the rest of the track. I was very lucky to get the pole. I thought I couldn't do it today.
Merrill Cain: Let's open it up for questions for our top three qualifiers today.
Q: Dario made some comments about the track, how much he liked it. I wondered if Christian and Bruno could talk to the same question.
Christian Fittipaldi: I'm on maybe Dario's side. I think he's right on everything he said. Maybe there's only one track that's a little bit more challenging than this one, which is Elkhart Lake, although it's a little bit more dangerous over there. Apart from that, this track is awesome. The Mexican people, they did a great job.
I came here in '92. I tell you, it was a big difference. They really stepped it up. It's still a little bit too bumpy, but in '92 it was a lot more bumpy than what it is right now. It's a shame we don't have the very quick corner right at the very end because that would have been very good. For safety reasons, what they did going through the stadium is also very nice. I'm pretty sure when we have that packed on Sunday, it's going to be great for the fans. We'll see what happens. But I'm really happy to be able to be here and race at such a good track, especially because it's my last CART race.
Bruno Junqueira: I agree with what Christian says. I think that this is the second best track of the year, just behind Road America. I think me and Christian and Dario always started racing road courses. I think it's where we like it more. This is a pretty nice road course. I'm quite happy with the track. It's a shame it's so high because you lose a lot of downforce. If you had like 1200 more (pounds of) downforce, those Esses would be even greater.
Q: Speaking of road racing, you aren't going to be doing too much next year. Is this just another weekend for you or do you have any kind of mixed emotions or feelings? You know what I mean.
Bruno Junqueira: They're going to do go-karts with me in Miami (laughter).
Dario Franchitti: Yeah, I'm pretty sad this is going to be my last road course for a while. I'm sad this is going to be my last CART race. Things move on. At the same time, I'm going to miss a lot of things about this series. The fact is it's definitely not lost on me this weekend.
Merrill Cain: Christian?
Christian Fittipaldi: I'm together with Dario. There's no doubt about it, I'm also very sad. I definitely want to try to do my very best here this weekend. I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of other drivers out here that aren't going to be racing any more that are thinking exactly the same way.
I'm not as bad as they are, because I at least race twice on the road courses next year, but it's with a complete different car. There's like no comparison. I really enjoyed all my time here. A couple of things could have been different, but unfortunately they weren't. This is where I stand right now. I just need to make the best of what I have right now, go through this weekend and go on to my next new challenge, which is definitely going to be a very big one.
Q: Your result today will have an impact Sunday on your fight for second place on the championship. Can you tell us about that?
Bruno Junqueira: I'm here to try to win the race. If I can finish second in the championship, it's better than finishing third or fourth. I'll try to win the race first. If I win the race, I will be second in the championship. For sure I'm not going to take big gambles. I know that I need to finish in front of Carpentier, if Dario can even finish one or two positions behind him. But I'm here to try to win the race. If not, I will try to finish the championship in second. That's going to be good.
Q: What about the difference in the track, the slow corners and high-speed corners?
Bruno Junqueira: I think this track is going to be really physical, one of the most difficult of the year. Apart of the long straightaway where you can relax, the rest of the track, you are turning right, left, right, left. Because the outskirts, you don't have much oxygen to breathe. Denver was high. Denver, the steering was very light, you had no grip. Here you'll have a good grip. The race will be very difficult physically.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think it's going to be a little bit hard because of the bumps. Apart from that you're not very, very quick on the quick corners. Like if you take the track like Mid-Ohio, it's a lot more physical. Also Portland, it's also pretty hard.
On the physical side, it's a little bit tougher because we're really high here. All the Mexican people are used to living over here. We're not used to that. I live on the beach. He lives on the beach. Dario lives on a farm. We live in low altitudes. I think it's going to be okay on Sunday.
Bruno Junqueira: One thing that's very strange, I think the average speed here is not that fast, 116 miles per hour. Some street courses you can get that as an average speed. I think we have some really slow corners here that put the average speed down. The chicane, it's fast, but it's not too fast. Sometimes in Road America you have much faster corners than here.
Q: What about the setup, was it difficult to make a good setup?
Bruno Junqueira: Not for me, because my car just took off on the track, the car was already fast. This morning I changed two things on the car, for the qualifying really. For the second set of tires, just made a small change. I mean, my car was right away very good. I don't know about Dario and Christian.
Christian Fittipaldi: For us, we basically tried two cars this morning. They were set up completely differently. I think I went out with my X car first, or my other car first. I ran a couple of laps, then we changed cars. I hopped into the other car. The only thing that was similar was the paint scheme. Apart from that, the setup was completely different.
Then once we picked up a setup, we stuck with that for qualifying. This is what we have. Like on my lap, as I said before, I was basically maxed out. Maybe tomorrow we can still improve the car a little bit. If it doesn't rain, I'm pretty sure the track is going to be quicker and a bunch of cars are going to go quicker tomorrow. We'll try our very best tomorrow. It could be good, interesting.
Dario Franchitti: I agree with Christian. I think the track is going to get faster tomorrow, so that's probably going to necessitate some changes in the setup. We made a couple of changes today between sessions, some small changes in the sessions themselves. I'm on the limit with the car the way it is now, so we have to find some new directions and some answers this evening to move us forward.
Q: Is it bothersome going from the asphalt to the concrete at the stadium?
Christian Fittipaldi: When you go from asphalt to concrete going into the stadium, it's a little bit bumpy, but it's bumpy for everyone. Believe me, this series races sometimes on some very wild tracks. This over here is a great track.
Bruno Junqueira: It's paradise.
Christian Fittipaldi: Exactly. It seems we're on a huge vacation over here and we're just enjoying ourselves.
Dario Franchitti: That's right.
Q: This track is very special because a lot of drivers raced here, (Jimmy) Clark, (Nigel) Mansell. Is this a special race for you because of that?
Bruno Junqueira: For me, for sure it's nice. But being at so many tracks, all these drivers raced there, as well. In Europe, or maybe Indy 500, I think that's the most special one because everybody raced there. I don't know. What is special for me is because the racetrack is very, very nice. I'm enjoying every lap that I do here. That's the most important for me.
Christian Fittipaldi: I can't remember that far away, but I think you forgot about the Rodriguez brothers also raced here. I think that's more important than anything because the whole track is named after them. That goes maybe a long time ago, I wasn't even born. I think Dario was born; maybe he can comment on that.
Dario Franchitti: 1992? My second year racing cars, granddad. I saw the monument to the Rodriguez brothers on the way to the press conference here. I read some books about their history, exploits, some of the drives they did. They were pretty incredible. I think it's very nice the circuit is named in their memory.
Merrill Cain: Thank you, gentlemen.