CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Champ Car press conference, part III

Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference Transcript with: Adrian Fernandez, Jerome Fynaardt, Terry Haskel and Emerson Fittipaldi Part 3 of 3 Q: Adrian, explain, if you will, for those of us who will never drive on a track like Milwaukee,...

Champ Car World Series Media Teleconference Transcript with:
Adrian Fernandez, Jerome Fynaardt, Terry Haskel and Emerson Fittipaldi

Part 3 of 3

Q: Adrian, explain, if you will, for those of us who will never drive on a track like Milwaukee, what it's like to be on this one-mile track? I've heard some drivers say it's almost driving inside of a basketball arena.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: In terms of what, the speed?

Q: The closeness of everything.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To be honest, Milwaukee is one of the nicest drives to drive. It is a track that it doesn't have much banking. In the past, the way the configuration we had allowed a lot of passing and side-by-side racing. It's always been one of the best tracks in that respect. For a few years we went away from that, we had different configurations that we had with the wings and all that. And now with this new configuration of high downforce and the power controlled by Ford, we are going to go back to the old days. Just driving this track at the high downforce, it's fantastic. As a driver, that's what you are always looking for. The way we had it before, the cars were very fast on this straight with the low downforce and you have to break a lot into the corner and you cannot see the speed on the corner. But now, we have close to 2,000 pounds of downforce more than before. We are probably going to go flat-out through turns 1 and 2 and that's that really makes an exciting race. If we can add some side-by-side racing, it's going to make great racing.

Q: You mentioned consistency. Talk about what you think the team needs in order to get over the hump and find that most important word in racing, and that is "consistency."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: We have developed a very strong team, but we are still very, we have a lack of experience in our engineering department, and that's where mistakes and attention to details has been left aside and that's where we have been focusing. The mistakes we did in Germany and England cannot happen if you want to challenge for the championship.

So that's where what has been hard for us to be strong on the engineering side, and basically that's where most of the teams, they always work harder in trying to get that side strong. But you have to get the people to be able to work together and to understand each other, etc. That has been one of our problems, so we have made some changes in the way we are going to work and make things happening.

So, we can be more consistent. We know we can be fast, but we need to be fast consistently if you want to be a challenger for the championship. So sometimes it's frustrating. And I can't blame the owner; I am the owner, and these things are sometimes hard to understand. There's more pressure and all that. But also at the same time, the challenge of these things, that's what makes it exciting and I know we are going to get over the hump and be competitive again.

Q: You mention the fact that you can't say anything to the owner because you are the owner, but do you find yourself sometimes as a driver telling yourself the owner, "What the heck are you doing, I need some more help here?"

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: To be honest, it's been harder than I thought to do both things. It's hard to be a driver and knowing that there are problems and just not do anything. So it's been harder because you have the whole pressure, you have pressure in terms of the results of the driver and as an owner.

I think the hardest part of being an owner/driver has been already done and now we have to get over these problems - the hardest part is done. The thing is we have a group of mechanics and now we just have to put it together correctly and work. You can never give up because sometimes it can be around the corner, or the answers. If you give up, you may give up big things for the future. So we have fallen under tough times and we are just hoping that good times will start coming. I think it's more difficult being a race car driver than an owner and hope all of the things we are doing will turn into results.

ADAM SAAL: Emerson is no stranger to the owner/driver concept. He has reserved his role now restricted to owner, retiring from competition. What's been your biggest eye-opening experience as a Champ Car owner for the first time this year?

EMERSON FITTIPALDI: I think what Adrian said is correct. To put a team together with good people motivated and I think I was very fortunate that the last minute organization, because we were very close to the race, we were able to put a very good team of people together. We are all very motivated. I think that's changed the whole synergy, the whole effort on the team.

My partner, James Dingman is doing a very good job with sponsors and bringing new people to motor racing that had never been involved. I think one thing we need to bring in more of these people to get involved in motor racing. It's a tough time for everybody. That's been our biggest challenge so far this year. And I have a very good relationship with Eric Thatcher. He is doing a great job. He has been a very tough situation for him to put a team together under his roof, so we work on the same roof but he's been doing a great job with us and I'm very, very pleased. It's a new situation that we've put together but if we can be working a little faster, we can be competitive this year. I think there's a lot of challenge and you always have new experiences.

Q: You've had quite a bit of success at Milwaukee in the low downforce configuration. Do you think you have a handle on preparation for the higher downforce?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I hope so. Our basic setup in some respects; should always work when you go back to the same rack track. It is a setup that has worked for us on different occasions. Now the car has a lot more downforce. Before, you have to make the car work more mechanically and aerodynamically. Now the car is basically aerodynamically setup because of the amount of downforce you have on the wings.

So there is going to be some changes, but I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to get to the setup that we need, the car in the configuration and hopefully be as fast as we were last year.

Q: Most of us are familiar with the permanent facilities that use a reflective system on the in-field. How much different will it look to the spectators and the drivers?

JEROME FYNAARDT: There really won't be any noticeable difference. The one thing that has been done a lot - I guess the biggest difference between the permanent systems that are currently installed, a lot of the NASCAR tracks and things, a good chunk of that is a lot of it is two-directional lighting. The poles and stuff that are used on a permanent installation in the fixtures, there's more poles, more locations for lighting and the lights are not as high as wattage, where we are using less locations and higher wattage. The levels and stuff that are going to be on the track are going to be real comparable to those on other tracks around, so there shouldn't be a lot of noticeable difference as far as the spectators and fans go.

Q: Jerome, how did you arrive at a figure for Milwaukee and Cleveland when the NASCAR tracks are lit?

JEROME FYNAARDT: The way that we have lit for the Milwaukee and the Cleveland tracks, the major difference is going to Cleveland first. It's more of a road course and we have a lot of two-directional lighting at that.

I guess as far as the difference in the levels, when we arrived at speaking with CART and Chris, the main objective was to have a safely-lit facility for the drivers. That was obviously the number-one key for the whole thing. Both putting packages together for both the cars, for both the CART races that were going to be decent levels for the drivers, as well as the spectators, and also for television was taken into consideration when we put everything together. The light levels that we're looking at, I was going to shoot for a 50-foot candle level at most of them at both tracks. What we are getting out of the guys up in Milwaukee right now, we are actually going to be above those levels.

Q: Not so much more Milwaukee but Cleveland, what are the contingency plans if you find that you don't have enough lighting, especially on that road course, specifically since it is a road course and since it is so large?

JEROME FYNAARDT: The one good thing that we have here at our engineering facilities at Musco is we are able to actually know what the output of the lamps and stuff are and we know where our lighting locations are going to be and with putting that in together on engineering drawings with the tracks themselves, we get a very accountable light level that we are going to end up having at both facilities.

Q: Especially the sharp-right-hand turn at 1, I know we spoke back in November and December, and I mentioned there would be enough spill-over on it. Perhaps Adrian can also address this. What happens when they do run-off and all of a sudden they are in the lead at 170 miles an hour with very little light?

JEROME FYNAARDT: There is going to be plenty of light everywhere. I don't think there's going to be a problem for anybody. The driver standpoint is when they run off the track itself as far as enough light to see where they are going. I think once everybody sees how much these units - 14 of these units up in Milwaukee is going to light up just the infield. When there's nothing actually aimed in the infield, you are going to be very surprised to realize what we can do with these units and how much spill light, so to speak, is going to be off of the track.

Q: In case there is a problem in Cleveland, given what happened at Surfer's Paradise last year with the rain delay and not having the track for the next day, are there contingency plans where the race can be run on the Sunday if indeed they find they cannot run on Saturday night?

ADAM SAAL: We have contingencies in place to get the race in on Saturday. We are dealing with the best people in the business here and we'll have plenty of time to test these lights and make sure they work adequately. If you just look at their credentials, we know we have what it takes.

Q: The weather forecast for this weekend looks a little iffy. What are the plans if it should happen to rain Saturday night?

ADAM SAAL: Well, our general rain policy is to run the next available opportunity, which is generally the following morning of the race. Would that mean we wouldn't use the lights? In this case, obviously we wouldn't if it was a day race. But then the objective becomes in the event of a rain out on Saturday night to get the race in the next available opportunity.

Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time out of your schedules, as well as your travels today to join us, and we look forward to a great event in Milwaukee, as well as a great event in Cleveland under the powered Musco lights coming up this weekend for Milwaukee and a couple weeks from now in Cleveland.

Part I


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Adrian Fernandez