CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterey: This Week in Ford Racing - Max Papis

CART FedEx Championship Series Max Papis and Sigma Autosport have been one of the surprise stories of the 2002 CART season. Papis finished third at Milwaukee last weekend to score his second top-five of the season, ande is currently tied for ...

CART FedEx Championship Series

Max Papis and Sigma Autosport have been one of the surprise stories of the 2002 CART season. Papis finished third at Milwaukee last weekend to score his second top-five of the season, ande is currently tied for third in the championship standings while driving for the small, one-car team. based out of Chicago, Sigma Autosport is contending for the championship despite having no backup car, and a limited amount of spares and technological resourses.

MAX PAPIS - #22 Sigma Autosport Ford:

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT HOW YOUR SEASON HAS PROGRESSED TO THIS POINT?

"You know we've only had four races, but I think we are achieving much more than what people were expecting. Already we have two podium finishes and maybe we could've had another podium finish in Japan. We're working with very little, but we're trying to be as efficient as we can. I think the experience of everyone in the crew and the self-confidence that's between me and the engineering department at Sigma is paying off quite good."

AFTER SCORING YOUR FIRST CAREER VICTORY ON AN OVAL, YOU MANAGED TO SCORE TWO ROAD COURSE VICTORIES LAST SEASON AT PORTLAND AND LAGUNA SECA. HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING YOUR BACKGROUND IN ROAD RACING?

"I'm still the king of Laguna (Seca) and Portland so people are going to have to fight to take the crown away. I'm with a different team, but we're going to go there and approach the race to maintain what we did in the past and to try and bring home something good. You cannot always win - that's something I have learned in my career, but it's good if you give 100 percent and if you can do that and score a podium finish, I'll take that. If not, we're going to see what happens, but we have a very, very good group of people."

"Most of all, I'm really proud that I gave the Cosworth XF engine its first victory at Homestead and I continue a very special relationship with everyone at Cosworth that goes beyond motor racing. I have a great respect for the engineers and managers at Cosworth and I think they have the same respect for me, and that's how you build and maintain good relationships. Looking at the new engine formula that's coming into the series next year, I would be really proud to help develop and work on the new technologies that CART will have for 2003."

LOOKING AT YOUR WINS LAST SEASON IN PORTLAND AND LAGUNA SECA, BOTH WERE MARKEDLY DIFFERENT. IN LAGUNA, YOU DIDN'T HAVE A GOOD CAR BUT MANAGED TO WIN WITH FUEL STRATEGY, WHILE IN PORTLAND YOU DOMINTATED THE RACE AND WON FROM THE POLE.

"Yeah, they were two completely different wins. We didn't start too good in Portland, but we improved the car, we dominated qualifying and then we dominated the race, which gave me great personal satisfaction. When the race is in the rain a lot is left up to the driver and the team to develop a good setup. But you can make so many more mistakes because the margin of error goes down to almost zero and I was very proud of what I accomplished there. And in Laguna the win was 50-50 between the team and me. I drove as hard as I could with what I had in my hands and the team made a perfect call, so the two victories had two different tastes, but in the end they were still victories and that's what counts in the end."

WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU HAD A DIFFICULT 2001 SEASON FROM SEVERAL PERSPECTIVES? SAYING THAT, WHAT WAS YOUR APPROACH HEADING INTO THIS SEASON?

"Honestly, I don't think I had a difficult year last year. Actually, I thought we had a very positive year. We won two races, finished on the podium a couple of other times, so I don't really have any complaints about it. Of course, what was difficult was that in the wintertime I was still without a ride, and that was the difficult part if you want to say that, but through the season itself I felt very comfortable. Of course everybody would've loved to drive for or be involved in an operation that in paper has more experience than Sigma, but I think that the job of a race-car driver is to make what you have in your hand better. We are lucky because we have a very good group of mechanics and a good group of engineers and in the end that's what counts."

"I just hope that Sigma will evolve to where what we want, which is a stronger team with more support and more parts and things that we need for racing. But on my side we are working with the engineers, I go to the race track with the same will that I would have if I would go fighting for the championship every race. I feel that my goal is to improve the sixth position I had last year in the championship and that's possible."

WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THIS TEAM THAT HAS HELPED THEM TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS SO FAR THIS SEASON? OTHER THAN BEING THE DRIVER, DO YOU FULFILL ANY OTHER ROLES?

"I think Sigma is definitely the smallest team in CART at this stage. It's small in terms of resources, but it's not small in terms of will, the talent of the people and what it's capable of achieving. Other than driving, I think my job is also being the coach and together with everybody here, create a group of people that will go through the good and bad times united. I think what I can do is be opportunistic, know when it's time to go fast and take chances while also knowing when it's time to look a little bit at what we're doing, and I think that's where my experience comes into play."

"I feel that you have to be cautious of knowing that we only have one car - we don't have spares so you can't be too adventurous a lot of times. But if an opportunity comes into play like it did in Long Beach or when we were in Japan, it doesn't matter. You go for it and you go for it like you had five cars in the garage waiting for you to go."

HAVE YOU DERIVED ANY MORE SATISFACTION FROM THE SUCCESS YOU'VE ENJOYED THIS SEASON BECAUSE YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE WORKING WITH LESS THAN THE OTHER GUYS ARE?

"No, you cannot count things out. As I've always said, even if we have only one car you cannot count us out because we are determined and we have a good technical background. Of course we would like to work with more, but maybe it's more of a worry for other teams because every time we're in front of them they should look back a little bit at their operation and question why we are doing better than most of the other guys. I don't complain; we work hard and this is what we have. At the moment the goal is to make the most of what we've got and that's what I'm working on."

HAS WORKING WITH SIGMA THIS SEASON BEEN ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES AS A DRIVER? YOU HAVEN'T DONE ANY TESTING AND YOU DON'T HAVE A TEAMMATE WITH WHICH TO COMPARE DATA.

"To tell you the truth my biggest challenge was coming up through the rankings to Formula 3 and Formula 1 and being able to break that barrier where you could prove that you had certain skills, and for me this is a different kind of challenge. This is a challenge more towards my maturity, towards my will to succeed, my patience and being a leader."

"I feel that I'm learning and experimenting new things in my life that are going to make me a better, more complete driver. As I said, you cannot always have everything perfect. Sometimes you have to work and make it better and I think that's what I'm doing here by taking what we have and maximizing them knowing that sometimes we're going to be competitive and sometimes we are not. The important thing is to not become frustrated when we are not competitive, but instead learning from it."

HOW HAVE YOU MATURED AND CHANGED AS A DRIVER?

"I think I definitely have improved through the years. First of all, I had never driven on an oval before coming to the United States and now I have quite a lot of experience in oval racing. Most of all, I have built a background on technical details and technical expertise developing both the Toyota engine and the Cosworth XF engine that I think will pay off, especially in the near future because when we're going to have a new normally aspirated engine to develop. You're going to have to rely on people that have been driving normally aspirated engines like I've done in my past in Formula One."

"I've been able to drive in the IRL so I have a first-hand feeling of what it's going to be for us next year. I feel that overall you have to be humble, but at the same time determined. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past with maybe excess will to win, but now I'm controlling that will to win and adding more technical expertise to it because I think I've developed into a more technical driver, even if I still have my engineer doing his job. Now I convert numbers to feeling in a much better way than what I was doing before so I can find myself understanding better what the situation is."

DO YOU THINK YOU'VE MATURED EMOTIONALLY AS A DRIVER?

"I think especially when I left Formula 1 and came over here to the United States that was the biggest change for me in my career and my way of controlling my will to succeed. I felt that I learned that if you are nervous it can have a negative effect on what you're doing. Racing is a sport and I kind of forgot it when I was back in Europe trying to look for my break. I went back and I really understood that auto racing is really a sport, and it's still a sport for me at 110 percent, and I kind of lost track of that before."

"So I think it's these things that have put everything back in perspective for me and give me even more will to succeed. The doctor didn't tell me to go racing so I am determined to achieve my goals, but at the same time you can't have everything now and then. You need to build it and even if you could look at the worst situation possible, what would it be? Driving a Champ Car on a track between 20 other professional drivers is so special and I don't think that's bad at all."

YOU HAVE GARNERED A GREAT DEAL OF DRIVING EXPERIENCE IN VARIOUS TYPES OF CARS AT HIGH LEVELS OF COMPETITION. HOW HAS THAT MOLDED YOU INTO THE DRIVER YOU ARE TODAY?

"I think that being able to be eclectic and drive different cars in different series make you a better driver. It definitely made me a better driver and I'm very proud to have won the Daytona 24 Hours, drive Champ Cars and then be able to go race an IRL car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A driver should be someone that is like Mario Andretti - someone who is capable of jumping into any car and being successful. Definitely it does increase your knowledge of working with different people, working in different environments and sometimes it makes you appreciate more what you have in your hand when you see other things at a level that's inferior to the one that you're used to."

DO YOU ASPIRE TO TRY RACING IN ANY OTHER FORMS OF MOTORSPORTS?

"I think that one of the things I would like to try in my future would be NASCAR. It's a very American series and it's something that I would like to try and see how I feel with it to be a complete driver. If I were to be given a chance I would have no hesitation to go there and learn with patience and prove my point."

-ford-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Mario Andretti