An interview with Kenny Brack, Cristiano da Matta and Patrick Carpentier MERRILL CAIN: Let's begin our top-three press conference after today's first qualifying session. We're joined by Patrick Carpentier who had the third-fastest time in ...
An interview with Kenny Brack, Cristiano da Matta and Patrick Carpentier
MERRILL CAIN: Let's begin our top-three press conference after today's first qualifying session. We're joined by Patrick Carpentier who had the third-fastest time in qualifying. Patrick is looking for his third Laguna Seca top-10 start of his career after posting two ninth place finishes in 1999 and 2000. He had a third place qualifying effort last week at Milwaukee and is looking for a career best spot in Laguna Seca, starting ninth one year ago.
Patrick, talk about your day. Tell us a little about your afternoon. It was an interesting session to say the least, a little bit of standing around at the beginning, but you came out like gang busters after that.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was not too bad. We made some changes on the car and it was a little bit looser, but it was very good. I went out a little bit, I think in turn four, just a couple of wheels but our time was pretty good. And coming down the last corner, just before the turn, they said that we were still in it. So I tried to go a little bit harder on that corner, but it didn't work. Traction control was pretty good off the track, but once you're backward, that's about it. I slid for a long time and hit the wall and filled up the car with brown dirt, but not the kind you guys think.
MERRILL CAIN: Cristiano da Matta qualified second in provisional qualifying today in the #6 Chevron Toyota/Lola Bridgestone at the speed of 114.961 mph he took the second spot, and Cristiano is looking for his best ever pole at Laguna Seca.
Great start here having taken a green flag from the second spot a year ago. You've been quick in every session here at Laguna Seca, with you and Kenny Brack towards the end, but you fell a little short but still a great effort.
CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, all of the guys have been working fine on the road courses. I was very happy to be back on the road courses. But I'll be a lot happier and finally at home on the ovals. We know we are going in the right way, and I feel very positive about that. A lot better than what we had in Motegi, for example, which is not very difficult, but it's an improvement anyways.
The times were very close, between all of the top-five cars, especially between Kenny and me. I think it's going to be very interesting tomorrow. We have a good car. We tested well here all the time. So we have a couple more things to do and try it again tomorrow.
MERRILL CAIN: Some notes on Cristiano before we get on to Kenny. As we pointed out, he has been in the top two on every road course session except for qualifying at Monterrey the first race of the year. Obviously, still a pretty good performance on the road courses this year. He qualified second at Long Beach, as well.
Now we move on to Kenny Brack who is our provisional qualifier today. Driver of the #12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he won the provisional pole and secured a front row starting spot for Sunday's with a lap of 1:10.066 seconds - a speed of 114.989 miles per hour. It will be the first provisional pole of 2002 season for Kenny. He started the previous season with a fourth in Long Beach and Motegi as well.
We talked immediately after the qualifying session, and I know it's been a frustrating season for you. I know you had a big smile a mile wide when you were able to grab that starting spot. It is only provisional qualifying, but it has to mean a lot to you at this point.
KENNY BRACK: I like the new qualifying rules because that means I can get in the front row. But I'm very surprised, actually, to beat Cristiano. Because if you remember in spring testing here, he was so fast and was unbelievable. Even this morning he proved to be the same way. We made a good change to the car, and we really worked hard this year to get up to a competitive level.
I could not be happier because we have been faster this season, but we have not really been able to capitalize on it. We were fast in Milwaukee, but still finished eighth. Stuff like that has been with us for this season so far.
To be on the provisional, it feels great for me, the car, and for my crew and engineers, everybody. Hopefully for tomorrow, we can keep improving and I'm very happy right now.
MERRILL CAIN: A couple other quick notes. The championship point that Kenny earned for the provisional pole moves him into tie for the 13th spot in the standings and he now has 18 points in the year.
KENNY BRACK: I have not even looked at the standings. (Laughter).
MERRILL CAIN: We also want to point out that four of the Top-6 spots today Toyotas.
Q: Pat, when you damage your car like that, how confident are you that the crew can get it to exactly the way was for tomorrow, or are there always some problems?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Actually, there was not a lot of damage on it. It was just the back suspension and a little bit of body work. It's easily fixable. No, it should be okay for tomorrow. But there are plenty of Reynards lying around. (Laughter).
Q: Kenny, this morning you were on the pace, but the car looked to be a little nervous in turn four, the second right-hander, and I just wonder if you can talk specifically about how you got the car better.
KENNY BRACK: Well, I think that everybody was a little nervous this morning. I don't know about everybody else, it's hard to say, maybe you have a better idea about that. But from the amount of red flags this morning, I think a lot of drivers were having problems with the balance because there were certainly a lot of cars off the track. But we do it like everybody else and analyze what's going on and try to make improvements.
Laguna Seca has been a track that we've tested a couple of times. Last year at spring training we weren't that good in testing, so we came back here with some knowledge and a lot of ideas to try, so I think we are on the right track. But it's a little early to say because we have another day tomorrow and the track could change all that. So we will have to wait and see.
Q: I realize it's early still, but can you talk about how the three-car team is working with Scott [Dixon] now? Is it helpful having the additional information?
KENNY BRACK: I don't think it has changed a whole lot for me because we added people to run the third car, and Scott's such a nice guy and a very good driver. I think that he adds depth to the team and more information. As long as he stays behind me, he's going to be fine. (Laughter).
I can say that there have not been any negatives, anyway. We have one of the teams that have the resources and capabilities to do a thing like that in the middle of the season because we have a big shop and a lot of people, and our team is structured so that we can add cars quite easily at least.
Q: Talk about the frustration that you had this year up until now and how you are able to stay positive and knowing that things might turn around eventually with so much expected.
KENNY BRACK: Racing is what it is. To be honest with you, the year we had last year, although we didn't win the championship, it's kind of hard to beat because we took the most laps and took the most poles and won the most races. Seasons like that are not easy to have. Certainly, this year, it's been different because it's a different crew working together, and it takes time to get to know each other and develop an understanding of what the driver needs in the car.
Basically, what you have to have happen is that the engineer has to understand what the driver is saying and translate that into one pound of tire pressure or whatever, and that's what you need to get to and that takes a little time to develop. I think that on the road courses this year, with the exception of maybe Mexico, we have been fairly competitive. If you look at Long Beach, we were very competitive. Not quite as good as Cristiano, of course.
But we are pretty competitive here. We will have to wait and see tomorrow. I feel it is starting to go in the right direction.
On the ovals, we had a good showing in the race in Milwaukee, but other than that we have been pretty bland this year. Last year was the opposite. It's good that it is that way because we have more road courses. So if you're going to be better in one area, it's going to be on the road courses.
Q: Can you just talk about dominating the ovals, and how road courses are where you got your education, do you feel like people have forgotten you on the road courses a little bit?
KENNY BRACK: I would rather be dominating in one aspect. That's good because we were really good on the ovals and that really brought us the championship. Had we had a little bit more go right for us it would have been, or it would have been even better, I should say.
But, you know that's the way it goes. People look at it from the outside and they don't really know the ins and outs. It comes with the racing. It doesn't bother me at all. Whatever race you win, you win. It's all wins in the end.
Q: For Pat, do you feel like you're giving away so much, as much as you've got all of these other guys with Lolas, or do you like that situation?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, actually I think it's very good. I think the Reynard is still pretty much as good as the Lola at the moment. If we have a setup where we were at the back and when we find it we are at the front. So there are still possibilities.
The difference today between Kenny and I just two-tenths of a second, so I don't think there is a difference in the car at the moment. Hopefully they are going to freeze the rules pretty soon and Lola is going to come out with a huge package change before they do it. I don't know what they are going to do, maybe huge aerodynamics change. But our team has been working pretty hard. We have a couple of things coming around and a few things during our test at Mid-Ohio that helped us quite a bit and carried over here, so we are pretty happy. It is just setup more than anything. I think the Reynard is a good car.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much and good luck in qualifying second rounds tomorrow.