CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Top three press conference, part I

An interview with Dario Franchitti Cristiano da Matta Tony Kanaan Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: We are joined by Tony Kanaan, driver of the ...

An interview with
Dario Franchitti
Cristiano da Matta
Tony Kanaan

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: We are joined by Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. He places third in today's event, and for the second time this season, and continues his turn around. After failing to score in the first four races of the year, Tony's year has certainly turned around. His podium is the sixth of his career and marks his third top four in the last four events here in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

Tony, I guess you had a few situations to thank for finishing third, but things seemed to go right and you had some bad breaks earlier in the year. So getting a good one is not a bad thing.

Tony Kanaan: I'm happy after struggling in qualifying the last two weekends. Last weekend, we had so many problems and we had a good race, so we tried to carry the momentum here. This weekend we had a clean weekend and we could not figure out the setup. I said 'Jesus, not again, not another terrible weekend.'

Obviously, I was not that confident going into the race. I knew what I could do, but we changed the car completely. The car that we ran in the race was a car that I never ran all weekend: The setups, the shocks, the springs and the suspension were different, but I told [team owner] Morris [Nunn] and [race engineer] Iain [Watt], "look, guys, I'm not here to be 13th, and to be 13th or 18th to me doesn't matter, so let's try to go the front." And obviously, we're not just going to throw a setup in the car. We thought about it, and Morris gave his input. Ian worked out the springs, I worked out what I needed to be doing to have a consistent car, and we knew that we were not going to have the fastest car out there, but we wanted a consistent one. And we had one. The strategy paid off. We definitely had a fast car. I had to push really hard the whole race. I mean, I basically qualified every lap because we went out of sequence. Obviously, if the car was not fast, I wouldn't be finishing third.

We had a problem in the middle of the race. We broke a header and I could hear in the engine, and I'm like, "My God, again, what's going to happen." And I started to burn the whole sidepod, I lost the clutch with 15 laps to go, and I didn't want to see the yellow flag. I was afraid I would overheat, that was my thought. Actually my team said, no, Tony, running slower is going to cool you down a little bit so you can push the last six laps.

We crossed the finish line and the car started to burn. We came in burning, (Laughter) so yeah, I guess I was on fire, not myself, but my car.

Merrill Cain: Hottest driver in the circuit. That's right.

Tony Kanaan: It looks like luck played on my side today, finally.

We've been really strong since Mid-Ohio. Mid-Ohio was another third place. It was easy. We've had ups and downs. We ran the first part of the season in the first six races and I had five DNFs when I was in the top four. I never gave up, and here I am. I'm pretty happy. It was unbelievable. I mean, people should think about running a championship in Canada...

Q: You made a comment on the track that it's new and I think it's a little difficult, too.

Tony Kanaan:  Yeah, the track is really simple, but it's really fast and
it takes a toll on the car.  The gear box and brakes are a big problem
here.  My brakes were going down in the race a lot, and then gear box, so
I needed to save the car.  You need to save the car a lot here.

The track is fun. It looks kind of like Australia, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't having any fun until the race. As soon as we got the setup together, it was fun. I like being able to race the same tracks that F-1 does. People talk about us having problems on our racetracks and stuff, but I don't see that when we have racetracks as good as Montreal. We just need to bring the crowds in the way they do here.

Merrill Cain: We have Cristiano da Matta, who finished second. Driver of the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola Bridgestone, he earned his seventh podium of the year and it is his fourth of his career. He widens his point lead in the series to 55 points over Dario Franchitti.

Talk about a good run for you today. Obviously second is probably one off from where you wanted to finish but you got to share of the wealth a little bit. Talk about what threw off your pit strategy; you took an early pit stop.

Cristiano da Matta: Well, yes, we were thinking a lot about that before the race, but it was a very similar situation from those few races that we had last year. When you have a yellow and you are running half-speed or on a half-tank, you usually pit and it's better because if you have any yellows during the race apart from the last ten laps, you would be ahead, because basically everybody is going to have to stop and we would have already done that stop.

So, it didn't work. We didn't have the yellow in the position we wanted to. Fortunately, we had a fast enough car that was able to make up positions. I think the strategy I had, and Tony as well, was to just drive the car hard. Not that the other guys didn't, but we had to drive extremely hard to make up the positions. I'm not 100% sure if it was the best strategy today.

But it was definitely the one that had the best percentage of working, but today, it didn't. With the position we are in, we're thinking a lot about the championship and trying to make everything as conservative as we can. We always have to bet on the safest or most likely strategy to be the right one.

When you open such a big gap on the first couple of laps, I'm pretty sure everybody started thinking that the only way to beat us was going to be to do the opposite of what we were doing. So I'm pretty sure if we had not stopped, everybody else was going to stop because I'm sure that's what they were thinking. So I'm not sure if we are going to have a way to defend ourselves from that or not.

But I'm very happy with second place. Thanks for the help, Tony (Laughter). A day like today was extremely important for me. Especially because I had two points for pole - the pole Friday and the pole Saturday. Somebody told me I led most laps, so I made a 19th-place second place. So it's not too bad. It's almost like a win.

Merrill Cain: We are joined by Dario Franchitti, the champion of today's Molson Indy Montreal, driving the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, he takes the second win of the season and the ninth of his CART career. He also earns another championship point for leading the most laps. Sorry about putting that down on you, Cristiano, but that one is going to Dario. It gives him 106 points on the season and moves him into a second place in the series points standings, which marks the first year that Dario has won multiple races since 1999. He finished second in the championship that year.

Each of his nine wins has come on road courses. Four of them have come in the country of Canada. So I guess there's something about Canada Dario likes a little bit. All of those statistics mean a lot. The win means a lot, but there is something else we have to point out. This is the first win I think that your mom has seen in the CART FedEx Championship.

Dario Franchitti: That's not true. She was there in 1984 when I won my first Scottish championship.

Merrill Cain: Your mom disagrees with that. It's your first CART win, let's put it that way.

Dario Franchitti: Oh, definitely. Yeah, I banned her, actually, a couple years ago because she was so much bad luck. Every time she came to the race, we crashed (Laughter).

Merrill Cain: Just talk about the effort today. It's a great win for you.

Dario Franchitti: Yeah, races like today are always fun because Cristiano and I were on different parts of the track all day because of strategy, but yet we were sort of fighting towards the end. I didn't know if Cristiano was ever going to come out of the pits in front of me or behind me, so you just have to attack every lap. I was attacking him for every lap for every tenth of a second I could find, and for me, that's what the racing is all about.

When Cristiano went into the pits it gave me a clear track and I could push, and I knew it. I think we were going to have a bit of help because I thought our strategy was better than his. But in situations like that where it's yellow at the wrong time, it was right back in Cristiano's hands again. Luckily, all went our way. Like I said, it was all going well until that last yellow that bunched us all back up. Cristiano was struck in traffic, so it gave me a chance to get a gap and I just ran as hard as could I until the end.

But, yeah, it was pretty cool.

Merrill Cain: Quickly, let's go over the top-five standings after 13 rounds of the CART FedEx Championship Series unofficially. Cristiano da Matta, with 161 points still leads the championship. Dario Franchitti moves into second place with 106 points. Patrick Carpentier and Bruno Junqueira are tied for third with 101 points. Christian Fittipaldi and Michel Jourdain Jr. are tied for fourth with 88 points.


Tope three press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain