CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey pre-event quotes

TECATE TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY HERDEZ "QUOTEBOARD" ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), on competing in his home country: "I am very excited about Mexico. We have been waiting a long time for this race,...

TECATE TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY HERDEZ "QUOTEBOARD"

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda Reynard), on competing in his home country: "I am very excited about Mexico. We have been waiting a long time for this race, and now it is coming at a time when I am at the peak of my career and have just announced the creation of Fernandez Racing. It is a dream come true and it is going to be a very special moment for me in my career. At the same time, obviously there is a lot of pressure because we are a new team and it's the first race of the season and it's in Mexico. We have accomplished a lot as a team in these past four months, and that gives me confidence. I will approach this race like any other and try to do the best that I can."

MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (Herdez Bettenhausen Ford Lola), on his impressions of the road course at Fundidora Park: "I drove the Monterrey track in a rental car a few weeks ago when we held the official opening. I think the track is going to be very technical for the drivers and a big challenge for the teams and drivers to get the cars set up right. To race in Mexico is just huge for me and for Herdez. We have been dreaming of this for a long time and now the dream is coming true. The response from people has been fantastic and I think it will be the biggest race of the entire year. With regard to performance, everything has been going really well in testing. The car and the engine have been working great and we're pretty confident right now that we'll be able to put on a good show for everyone."

GIL de FERRAN (Marlboro Honda Reynard), on beginning the defense of his FedEx Championship Series Championship: "I am looking forward to getting the 2001 CART FedEx Series season under way.  I'm going to Monterrey, Mexico on Wednesday so I can spend time there and get a chance to see the new circuit before we start running on Friday.  I've heard good things about it and expect we will put on a good show for the fans.  Marlboro Team Penske's off-season preparation has gone relatively well - even though I personally did not do a lot of testing - so I'm hopeful that we will have a competitive weekend."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Motorola Honda Reynard), on his fresh start with Team Motorola: "There have been a number of new things to get used to during the off-season but I have to admit Team Motorola has come together like we have been around for years. Change can be really good sometimes. For this season, I'm in the best physical shape of my career and I'm excited about all the changes. I'm excited about the Honda power behind me; I'm excited about the way Team Motorola has taken shape and most importantly, I'm excited to race. We were very focused and successful in our testing this winter and now the key is to carry that same intensity into the race weekend. [General Manager] Kim Green and [Team Manager] Tony Cotman have done a tremendous job organizing this team and I believe we're capable of winning the first time out. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of competition on the grid, but you can definitely throw Team Motorola in the hat as a contender."

ALEX ZANARDI (Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda Reynard), on his optimistic return to the FedEx Championship Series: "I have total belief in the potential of this team. But look at the reality: Last December 3, this [second Mo Nunn] team did not exist. On December 4, this team was built on paper. Today, this means that we were very fortunate to put together a team with people who are so talented. But still, it'll take some action together to mix all these talents and make them work as a team. Therefore, it's not that we're not prepared, not that we're not strong, but compared to other people, who are members of other organizations, we have a bigger margin of improvement that will happen during the season. Having said that, I was very delighted that our winter testing program concluded with two very good days [February 21-22 at Homestead] where we seemed to be very immune to any sort of problems. The car ran extremely well and we got a lot of work done. And we were able to go very, very fast. This last thing we did will still work in everybody's mind, including mine, to motivate everybody. I'm pumped. I'm going to Mexico thinking we can do well despite the fact we are a very young organization. I'm not thinking I'm not going to win the race. But I'm not going there to finish second or to just be happy with a top-10 result. I'm going there anxious to see what our effort will turn into in terms of results. I'm anxious to see where we are compared to our opponents, bearing in mind that we have a big margin of improvement.

"It's going to be fantastic racing in Monterrey. There is no doubt that our series is popular in that country. Adrian [Fernandez] and Michel [Jourdain Jr.] have done a lot to increase that popularity. I really hope we can get a good result behind us. I think all the people in Mexico have been very supportive of me, in particular, whenever their heroes had problems. I've always heard they had the sympathy for me, maybe because our flags look very, very similar. I hope we can all have a good race. But certainly I hope I have a good race. Yes, we are all racing at a track we have never been before, but by the end of the first day of practice, it'll be old news. The first day, the circuit will be really green. So it'll be very easy to come in and want to make changes to the car that really aren't necessary because the track is going to change continuously. So the key will be to take everything very slowly, very patiently."

ROBERTO MORENO (Visteon Toyota Reynard), on translating last year's successes into this year's results: "I could only achieve the results I did last year because of the Visteon/ Patrick Racing team.  The team was very consistent.  We finished races, always had a very good race car and had extremely good race strategy.  I think being consistent; finishing races, will be a strong point for the team again this year.  We have a new engine, Toyota, and it has been strong and very reliable in pre-season testing.  I am looking forward to another strong year for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. It is always challenging when you go to a new track.  From what I have seen and heard the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix circuit seems to be very wide with several passing areas.  It seems to be one of those places where you need to make the line clean and be on the limit.  I'm going to fly there on Monday to start walking and cycling around the track to learn everything I can before I drive there. (On new Patrick Racing teammate Jimmy Vasser) From the first day, I felt very positive about Jimmy joining Patrick Racing because he brings a lot of experience.  Jimmy is very easygoing and we've been working together extremely well.  We have developed a great relationship and I think it's only going to get better.  I think a key thing is that with the in-season testing rules changes, having experienced drivers is going to be very important." 

JIMMY VASSER (Patrick Racing Toyota Reynard), on beginning a new phase of his Champ Car career with Patrick Racing: "I am very excited about joining Patrick Racing and the start of the season.  Basically, I break the season in[to] three parts.  The first part is the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.  Then we have a long break before the second part, which is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Texas and Nazareth.  At this point, I am making the rest of the season the third part.  We have to see how things develop after the first two parts.   It's going to be a long season, a long journey, but my focus right now is on Mexico.  We have a good team and a good package with the Toyota engine and Reynard chassis, so we just need to get down to business and start on the road toward the championship. I think the Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Herdez will be a very festive opening to the season.  The track is very challenging and fun for the drivers.  It is wide and there are some good places for passing.  It is very similar to the Homestead road course.  I think the fact that we just tested at Homestead for two days will really help the Patrick Racing team get off to a good start."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (Marlboro Honda Reynard), looking forward to opening the FedEx Championship Series season in Mexico: "I've been to the city of Monterrey and it's going to be great for CART and for Mexico to have us race there.  The fans are very enthusiastic and it should be a fun event for everyone.  I think Marlboro Team Penske will be able to carry the momentum from last year into 2001.  For me, I've got a year of experience with the Team and driving the car, so I hope to kick off the season with a good performance."

PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on the success of his off-season preparations for the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season: "We're ready to rock at Team KOOL Green.  Testing and development of the new car has gone really well, and we're as prepared as we can be to start the season.  I've been around this game long enough to know that there's no sense in making predictions about the championship before the first race has been run.  But, you've got to like our chances at Team KOOL Green.  We've got a great crew and we're working with a proven package in the Honda-Reynard.

"Everyone on the team is hungry for a championship, both on my crew and Dario's {Franchitti].  We've won races and been serious contenders for the title the past two years.  But now it's time to close the deal and bring home a championship for Team KOOL. Green. I like starting the season in Mexico and at a new track where no one has really tested.   It should level the playing field and allow the better-prepared teams to rise to the top of the time sheets.  Hopefully, that's where you'll find Team KOOL Green."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his anticipation of starting a new FedEx Championship Series season: "I always look forward to the start of a season, but I honestly can't recall being this anxious to get back in the KOOL car and go racing.  The intensive testing schedule over the winter has really allowed this team to jell and I feel like we should hit the track in Mexico in full stride, ready to challenge for the pole and the race win. This is a very important season for myself and everyone at Team KOOL Green.  I worked very hard in the off-season to get prepared both mentally and physically.  And there are a lot of people who've worked very hard to put this team in a position to win races and the championship.  Together, I think we can do it. It's going to be fun starting the season in Mexico and at a new racetrack.  The Mexican fans are pretty fanatical about their drivers and Adrian [Fernandez] in particular.  It should make for a great atmosphere to start the new season."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Kmart Newman/Haas Racing Toyota Lola):  "It is really important for the series to go to a new race in Mexico. We have a new track and my understanding is that we have a huge bunch of fans waiting for us, not only because the series is interesting, but also because of [Adrian] Fernandez and [Michel] Jourdain. It should be nice and I am looking forward to the season opener.  We should have a great car to get out there and start the season in 100% fashion. [On how to prepare for a new race] Since we have not tested on the track yet, we get the data from the track maps and try to come up with a good setup for the race car and hopefully are quick from the first practice session on. We also look at the layout of the track and the measurements of the long straightaways and the angles of the corners.  Then we try to simulate a lap around the track and which set-up we need to use on the car, but there is nothing as good as being out there and running the race car.  It is one thing to simulate it and completely another to have the experience for yourself. We are reasonably comfortable with the amount we learned from pre-season testing but we won't know for sure how we stack up until we get on the track in Mexico.  I think we are looking good heading into Mexico.  It's been great to extend the "most recent CART winner" tag but you're only as good as your last race.  I've been able to hold onto that winning feeling for a while now, which is good for the team and me until we get to Mexico. Then we will want another fix, of course."

MAX PAPIS (Miller Lite Ford Lola), "That win last year at Homestead [Papis' first career FedEx Championship Series victory] was very special because it had many meanings for me. My parents were there from Italy, as well as many friends, and it was in Miami, my hometown. But it was also the race my good friend Greg Moore had won the year before. And it was the first race after Greg had died [at Fontana in October, 1999]. It was a day I will never forget. I would love to win the season opener again but I will not predict something like that. Last year at Homestead, the Miller Lite car got better as the race went on. You can do that on an oval. But on a road circuit, you need a good car almost from the start. Passing is not as easy on a road circuit. But that doesn't mean we can't come back and win again. I'm very excited about the new Lola car. I have always driven a Reynard in CART [for four and a half years] and that was a good car. But the new Lola has been strong on both the ovals and the roads. Our engineers have spent a lot of time developing the new car. I'm just ready to go out and race after all of the testing. I like the new rules since it is equal for everybody [CART has eliminated in-season testing for 2001 and designated Friday as a "practice only" day for all events]. The teams have the same amount of time on the track during the season. It's now a total team effort. The engineers and crew make up a big part of the results. Plus, the driver is important in his feedback to the team. The competition is so strong in CART right now that I would say that between 12 to 15 drivers are capable of winning at every race. And sometimes it is even more contenders. You cannot give less than 110 per cent at all times."

KENNY BRACK (Shell Ford Lola), on continuing his FedEx Championship Series "learning curve": "It is back to another new track for me, just like last year. But it's new for everyone and I like that idea. It's the same for everybody and the Friday practice will be important to the teams. With no qualifying on Friday, it puts a lot of pressure of drivers and the teams. Now, you have one short [30-minute] qualifying session on Saturday to determine your starting spot. So you have to get your chassis working well almost immediately. This new procedure means that the engineers and drivers will have to be working together quickly to get a proper set-up. We get more time on Fridays than before, but without in-season testing, you better come to the track ready to go. I think we'll have the preparation needed to be competitive nearly everywhere. I'm impressed with the new Ford engine and the Lola is a strong car. We were able to get the Lola up to speed very quickly on the ovals. It took us a little longer to adjust to the road circuits. But our engineering staff is very experienced and I'm confident we'll have a contending car on the roads when the season starts. I think we had a pretty good first year in CART. But I wanted to win a race or two. We were in position several times last year but we came up short. I hope to win races this year. That is my goal."

TONY KANAAN (Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda Reynard), on the excitement surrounding the beginning of his FedEx Championship Series season: "I can't say how excited I am to start another season. It's a whole new deal for me, a whole new challenge, especially with Alex [Zanardi] coming on board and all the new people we've brought on board. With Alex, I have somebody to share information with, and someone to push me to the limit. We have a very reliable engine and a very strong team that is ready to go. People are expecting a lot from us, I think. So am I. I'm expecting the best. I'm going to Mexico with one thing in my head ... to do my best. My motto for the season is M&M ... `Minimize Mistakes.' I learned that from my old big boss, Steve Horne. That's how I won the Indy Lights championship in 1997. That's what's going to have to happen for us to get the most out of our opportunities. I am very excited."

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (Texaco/Havoline Newman/Haas Racing Toyota Lola), on his first race with Newman/Haas Racing: "I am going to approach it like any race weekend and work as hard as I can.  I will think about the significance of my first race with the team after the race and hopefully we will all be celebrating.  The team has a winning tradition and I plan to work hard to add to their wins.  It has been a busy winter for sure.  I have gotten to know a lot of new people at the team over the winter and we have all worked hard to learn how to work together well.  I think we have made a lot of progress over the winter but we are all looking forward to doing what we know best and that is racing. The team and I are going to treat the [Mexico] race like a street course race more than a road course track because it is wider. Qualifying is going to be important as well as fuel mileage, pit stops, and of course being there at the end is the most important component in the race. Going outside of the U.S. is very important to CART because they have always been an international series and because of that, it gets us to show our competitive series and having more fans will add to the importance of the new races.  It helps with going to a big city like Monterrey and Mexico is a big Texaco market, so it is important to our team as well as the series. [On how to prepare the car for the first session on the new track] It is more difficult to race on a new track for the first time not only because you are learning a new track but also because you have to set up the car at the same time even though you don't know the track well yet.  You have no idea what you will find out there.  The engineers and I will go to Mexico, talk and talk and the first day we will get it wrong, but it will be the same for everybody.  Some teams will figure it out, some will luck into a set-up but no one will still have it completely figured out.  It will be hard to not have a simulation and will be a lot of work. From a driver's standpoint, you have to pick up as much detail as possible and pass it on to the crew."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on how off-season personnel additions will strengthen Player's Forsythe Racing: "Our off-season testing sessions have gone really well and we are well-prepared for the start of the new season, which looks to be as competitive as ever. Team Player's has added some key personnel from a technical standpoint - highly regarded people like Bruce Ashmore and Tony Cicale. We've spent the off-season getting used to each other and I think a great chemistry has developed. I'm expecting some big things this year.

"I'm looking forward to racing in Mexico. It's an opportunity to take the CART series to another country and show racing fans there the high calibre of our sport. I wouldn't mind going into the record books as the first driver to win a CART race in Monterrey."

ALEX TAGLIANI (Player's/Indeck Ford Reynard), on heading into his sophomore season in the FedEx Championship Series: "We've been building momentum in our testing sessions over the last few weeks and I think we're at just the right level going into the season. My rookie year is a thing of the past and my focus now is on taking what I learned last year and use that experience to constantly improve as a driver. I know that with the talent in the CART series, this season is going to be quite a battle. But I've always been a battler and I'm going to be out there giving everything I have in every race. [Technical Advisor] Tony [Cicale] and I spent a lot of time over the winter talking about every aspect of racing. He's already helped me a lot and I'm sure he will be a major asset for the entire team this season. It's been a long off-season. I can't wait to be back out there in a competitive racing situation."

MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Nextel PacWest Toyota), on being competitive in his return to Mexico: "I am pleased that our off-season testing program has been so successful and I think we are right where we need to be heading into the season. With our new package for 2001, we are optimistic that PacWest can return to our winning ways and remain competitive at every circuit this season. I'm looking forward to returning to Mexico, where I raced while in F1. It should be a great show with wheel-to-wheel action for the avid fans of Mexico."

BRYAN HERTA (Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard), on his full-time return to the FedEx Championship Series: "It is great to be back.  Everyone at Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing has done an excellent job preparing for the new season.  My tests have gone very well.  We've logged a lot of miles the past couple of months, and everything has gone exceptionally well.  My engineer Lee [Dykstra] and I work very well together, and we are pleased with the progress we have made during testing.  We feel we have come up with some strong developments that we will benefit from when it comes to race time.  It is exciting to start the season at a new race track.  I think the track looks good; it should be challenging.  The competition will be tough this year, I am not sure I can remember a season where so many drivers will contend for the championship, but I am definitely ready for it, and more than anything, I look forward to it."

SCOTT DIXON (Powerware Panasonic PacWest Toyota), on beginning his rookie season in the FedEx Championship Series: "I'm happy with the crew and the car and feel extremely competitive going into Mexico. We've had a very productive off-season and my times have been quick, which gives me a lot of confidence. I've heard the track is very competitive and there should be a lot of passing making for a good show. I'm ready to get in my car and race."

SHINJI NAKANO (Alpine Honda Reynard), on launching his sophomore FedEx Championship Series season with Fernandez Racing: "I am looking forward to Mexico. This first race is very important for the team and for me as well. I hope that Adrian and I have good results, and I will do all that I can. This will be my second time to visit Mexico. I was there in February with Adrian for the launch of the team. Everyone was very nice and very friendly. I am looking forward to returning."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (Target Toyota-Lola), on his fast familiarity with his teammates at Target Chip Ganassi Racing: "In the short period of time I've been with this team, it feels like I've been here for years. The team chemistry here is excellent. With the success that Alex [Zanardi], Jimmy [Vasser] and Juan [Montoya] have had here in the past, there are some big shoes to fill, but I want to continue the winning tradition. I am very happy to be a part of a first-class organization here at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. We had some great tests in the off-season, and I learned a lot about the Toyota-Lola, about my teammates and about racing. I've heard great things about the track in Monterrey. I can't wait to get the season started."

NICOLAS MINASSIAN (Target Toyota Lola), on his early education in the FedEx Championship Series: "The last few months have been an excellent learning opportunity for me. I've learned a lot about how these cars react in different conditions, and, hopefully, I will be able to translate that knowledge into winning on the track. It is great to have Bruno as a teammate rather than as a rival, like we were last year in F3000. We can now exchange ideas, and help each other learn. This series is very competitive, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's good for us to start our CART careers on a track like Monterrey. It seems to be very similar to tracks Bruno and I competed on in Europe."

TORA TAKAGI (Pioneer/DENSO Special Toyota Reynard), on the need to learn quickly in the FedEx Championship Series: "The Monterrey track will be new to me as well as the other Champ Car drivers. It will all be new wherever I go this year, except for Laguna Seca and Texas, since I have already tested at both. The most important thing is to work hard to address the problem of the car set-up together with the team as quickly as possible. On the other hand, I already have some pit stop experience and yellow flag situations in F1 and Formula Nippon, so those situations will be familiar to me. But with the good advice of my crew and the TRD [Toyota Racing Development] people, I hope to prove my speed right from the beginning."

MAX WILSON (winner B2B.com/ Arciero/Brooke Racing Phoenix Lola), on his objectives for his first-ever FedEx Championship Series race: "Monterrey is a track that nobody has been to before and I think it's going to help me a little bit. My goal for this race is to find a good balance for the car during the practices, in order to have a good pace for the race. It would be very nice if we could finish the race in a good position, despite not having very much test time prior to this event. This race is very important for us, not only because it's the opener, also, because it's our debut in the Series as driver and as team."

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruce Ashmore , Kim Green , Chip Ganassi , Steve Horne , Greg Moore , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Toyota Racing , Team Zakspeed