CART Provisional Qualifying Press Conference October 4, 2002 TONY KANAAN SCOTT DIXON TORA TAKAGI MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started with our top-three press conference following today's provisional qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix...
CART Provisional Qualifying Press Conference
October 4, 2002
MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started with our top-three press conference following today's provisional qualifying for Sunday's Grand Prix Americas here in Miami.
We're joined first off today by Scott Dixon who qualified second in the # 44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. He was second on the day with a lap of 1:01.444 seconds, a speed of 81.264 miles per hour. If Scott can match that outcome tomorrow in final qualifying here in Miami, he would earn his first front row starting spot of the season.
Scott, obviously temporary street course circuits have been successful for you. You did well in Denver. First-time events seem to do well for you. Can you tell us about the track layout and how it was for you in qualifying today?
SCOTT DIXON: Obviously, this year has been kind of strange, but I think our street course setup is one of the ones we have sorted out the most. We're still struggling on the road courses and ovals.
Generally this circuit is very tight. Not much for straights. I think it's going to be pretty much where we qualify is where we're going to end up. It's pretty much going to be where most of your time is spent this weekend, on trying to, you know, finish well in qualifying.
But the track, it seems to be doing pretty good, apart from turns four, five or six. We were getting to warm up pretty good there. I think you can see toward the end of the session, I think the times are probably getting a little slower just because it was getting a lot of marbles there.
CAIN: Talk about your setup. You're comfortable with what you have going on. You were quickest in the morning session today, on top of the charts in the afternoon. What do you expect to see tomorrow?
DIXON: You know, we had quite a few good laps out there, one on the first set [of tires] when one of my teammates sort of helped me out there nicely, but not really. Then I think our second set, we probably didn't have quite enough laps left. We went a lot faster on one lap, then we got in a counter coming out of the pits. It pretty much eliminated the second set.
I think the car had another three- or four-tenths in it. If we can keep it going in that direction tomorrow, we should be all right.
CAIN: We're joined by Toranosuke Takagi, driver of the #5 Pioneer/Denso Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone. He was third in provisional qualifying today with a lap of 1:02.039 seconds, a speed of 80.485 miles per hour. This is the best qualifying performance of the 2002 season for Tora, and his time was the fastest of the Reynard crew today.
Tora, talk about your morning session, how the day developed for you, what you were able to get out of the car in the afternoon session.
TORA TAKAGI: Today I qualified fastest, with good traffic, no traffic. On the second set [of tires], the track was slick especially turns four, five and six. Maybe today [was my] best. I will try my best for qualifying tomorrow.
CAIN: We're joined by your provisional polesitter, Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, with a best lap of 1:01.264 seconds, a speed of 81.503 miles per hour. It gives him one championship point for leading qualifying for the first time this season. It also gives him 66 points on the year now and guarantees his second front row starting spot of the season, matching his effort from Motegi, Japan.
Tony, talk to us about your effort. You have a big old smile on your face. I know you were happy with the way the car performed in the morning session. I guess you couldn't have asked for a better car this afternoon.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, it's nice to be home and be on the pole. It couldn't be better.
But in the morning, we had a good car. I had a good lap going. I got traffic in the last two corners. When I came to the pits, we were looking at the data between the morning session and qualifying. One of my guys said, "Your lap was a second quicker." [Team owner] Morris [Nunn] started to laugh really hard in the truck. He said, "Yeah, yeah, come on." I was at 62.2, one second quicker would be 61.2. I guess I had to do it again to show him I could.
Obviously, in the 15-minute session prior to the qualifying, we put on a new set of tires, which was my qualifying set, to scuff them. It was terrible. I mean, it was just a lack of grip. The tires took a lot to come up to speed. Being a brand-new track, the grip level wasn't high. I didn't see anybody doing that. So I kept the same set for the whole qualifying.
Obviously, when the track went green, I went out right away, me and Scott [Dixon] and Michael [Andretti]. Michael crashed, then we went out again. I was able to do my lap right there. After that, I was just waiting. I knew I couldn't do it again better than that. I mean, I could've matched it. But I got two laps I could guarantee. If I made a mistake or something, I had two laps in my pocket. That was it.
I think it's great to be in Miami. I think CART did a great job putting this track together. I was here a month ago and there was not a single brick in the track. It's amazing. I think obviously we're drivers, we're always going to complain about something. But I need to say CART did a great job putting this event together.
Everybody makes mistakes. If the track is not as good as we want, they can make it better for next year.
CAIN: We appreciate those comments, Tony. Let's open it up for questions from the media.
Q: Tony, how did you prepare for this track, never seeing it before? What did you do?
KANAAN: Honestly, I was in Brazil until Wednesday. I think that's the secret, you don't think too much, you just come in (laughter). I went to watch the track the first time Thursday morning.
Q: Gary Long showed you how to do it?
KANAAN: Exactly, that's true (laughter). He said, "Tony, be careful here, be careful there."
I knew the track. I saw the layout, I did a couple laps. I remember Mid-Ohio, they showed me the layout. I came and I started to look. I said to [engineer] Iain [Watt], "Hey, it's not going to be smooth. It's going to be like Denver." Obviously Denver, I told him that. We came with a similar setup as Denver. We start from there.
This morning, honestly, I only changed a setup spring, and I came back because it didn't work. After that, the grip level was so low because nobody ran. It was just a matter of getting the lap time together and putting the right lap.
I think obviously we had a good baseline. My Denver car was good. We had a problem in qualifying. If you look at the morning session, I was strong, and in the race I was strong. I think we had a good setup to start with. That's the way we prepared actually.
I mean, Morris always used to say, "Tony, one day you'll be on the pole, you're going to win the race, people are going to ask you what you done different." Obviously, nothing. It sounds really difficult when you don't have a good car. But when you have a good car, you just do the same thing I did two weeks ago, four weeks ago, we just got the pole.
Q: Scott, I saw on one of the sheets, it suggested on a fast lap this morning that you brushed concrete twice. Tony, I noticed you were in a runoff area. Can you address the survival aspect of going as long as you'll go on Sunday?
DIXON: You know, I think that was one of the big issues at Denver, too. Everybody thought nobody was going to finish there, just with how the surface was and the heat.
Here I think obviously it's not so much the runoff, but I think everybody in qualifying tends to hit a wall or two. I know I hit quite a few out there that time.
I think if the track holds up pretty well through that black paved area, it should be pretty good. There's always going to be accidents. I think you should see most of the cars finish.
Q: Tony, did you hit a runoff area at some point?
KANAAN: In the 15-minute session, I had new tires on, and I missed a braking point going into turn one. Obviously, I can say, yeah, I was trying to see my braking point. That's the easier excuse. The tires were cold, I locked the rears, to not hit the tires, and I chose to go straight.
Right there I felt that that's when I made a decision not to put the second set of tires in qualifying. I knew it would take too long for the tires to come up. I think that was in my favor actually. I said, "Ian, we can't put another set in. We're going to lose too much time trying to warm these tires up. We have too much risk to hit the wall, cause a red flag and lose our fast lap. Let's keep these on, see what we can do."
Q: Would you agree Sunday's race is a survival of the fittest deal, being careful enough to make the distance?
KANAAN: Every race is like that. Obviously, street courses are more difficult. Everybody was expecting a huge mess in Denver, and nothing happened. I guess when situations are difficult, everybody is more cautious about it.
Accidents can happen anywhere. Obviously, when you have a wall right beside you in a street course, it's more likely that you have a tendency to probably have more accidents. But I don't see a problem. I think it's a race like any other one. Yeah, you're going to have to be careful, but that's racing.
Q: It looked like four, five and six were breaking up, the sealant part of the track. Nobody went fast on their second set of tires. Do you think the track will be even slower tomorrow? Is it possible the fastest part of the track today was the first 15 minutes?
KANAAN: I think so. If you look at this morning, Scott did a little bit better, and I improved a little bit, but I never got the lap in the morning. I would say it depends what they do to fix the track.
In the beginning of the session, it was not that good. It depends what they do. It can be slower, but you never know. I mean, I hope it's slower (laughter).
DIXON: I think obviously the tar seal on [turns] four, five, six is going to be slower. Most of the circuit is in pretty good shape, pretty grippy. From this morning, I thought it gained a little bit on the other part of the circuit. I don't know. It may be or may not be. It may rain tomorrow, too (laughter).
Q: Are there any areas out there where you're going to be able to pass or is it going to be pretty much follow the leader?
KANAAN: I think there's one area at the end of the front straightaway, I passed a couple cars this morning. Obviously, in the morning, nobody's trying too hard so people saw me and maybe let me by.
I think it's going to be pretty difficult. You're probably going to force the guy to make a mistake or just be on the top of his gearbox. But the only place I think it's possible, it's over there, unless something extraordinary happen somewhere else. I think you can do it over there.
CAIN: Scott, you second that?
DIXON: Yeah. That's about the only place.
KANAAN: I think you have something else on your mind (laughter). I think he has another place.
CAIN: Any final questions?
KANAAN: Can I go to the beach (laughter)?
CAIN: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great provisional qualifying. Good luck in the second round of qualifying tomorrow.