CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Post Race Notes and Press Conference

FORD RACING NOTES POST RACE NOTES Saturday, April 10, 1999 -- Twin Ring Motegi, Japan FORD-COSWORTH WINS IN JAPAN FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - Finished 1st - "It was so close at the...

FORD RACING NOTES POST RACE NOTES Saturday, April 10, 1999 -- Twin Ring Motegi, Japan


ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - Finished 1st - "It was so close at the end. During the last two laps I was half throttle on the straights and I just saw the number (fuel meter) getting closer to the end. I didn't think we were going to make it to the end. You know, we were so strong all day and all week and I am just so happy for my team."

DID YOU HAVE ANY CLOSE CALLS AT ALL TODAY? "Not really. (Juan) Montoya was really strong at one stage but we were saving so much fuel that I knew I had the car but because I was saving fuel I told the guys that if you want me to keep him behind you have to give me some help here. In general the track was great, the conditions were great and everything just worked out for us."

P.J. JONES -20- Visteon Ford-Cosworth - Finished 15th - "We just couldn't find the setup. We had the same car as Adrian but it just was not as good during the race. In practice we ran well and we qualified decent. I thought we could have done a lot better but it just didn't happen."

ON GIL DE FERRAN'S FIRST LAP SPIN . . . "I was right there.  I went down
low and missed everybody.  I was lucky."

MAX PAPIS -7- Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth - Finished 16th - "We had a right tire blow as we were leaving the pits on our last stop. I tried to make it back to the pits but the car spun as I entered pit lane. I was trying to get back to the pits quickly but the tire was flat. I think that happened to a couple of cars today. We also had bad timing on our third stop. Right when I pitted the yellow flag came out. I was in fifth place then fell back to eighth. The car had a little understeer but we fixed it early. I think we may have run a little too much down force on the car because we were not as fast on the straightaways as the leaders. But we are still learning, both myself and the team. We will have some learning pains. But we were still in the top-five at the end of the race and that's our goal - to race with the leaders."

BRYAN HERTA -8- Shell Ford-Cosworth - Finished 23rd/Electrical - "We had some electrical problems that we chased all day. Since the start of the race the car kept cutting out. We finally came in and changed the ECU and the coil but that didn't seem to help. The lower the fuel got the worse the problem got."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI -6- K Mart/Texaco/Havoline Ford-Cosworth - Finished 5th -"First gear broke on us on that last pit stop and it cost us second. As it ended up we could have won if the race would have gone all green at the end. It's not often that you break a gearbox. At least this time it was not my fault."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI -11- Big K Ford-Cosworth - Finished 3rd - "I am very happy with today's outcome. We ran pretty strong all day and the team did a great job. The car worked pretty good but there are still a few areas that we have to improve and I am really looking forward to Long Beach and the rest of the season right now."

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. -19- Herdez/Viva Mexico Ford-Cosworth - Finished 18th - "We ran out of fuel once. In traffic the car was very good. At times the car was as fast as anyone else out there. This could have been a much better result if a few other things would have gone our way.




ADRIAN FERNANDEZ -40- Tecate/Quaker State Ford-Cosworth - Finished 1st - FERNANDEZ' VICTORY IS THE FOURTH OF HIS CAREER. THREE OF HIS FOUR VICTORIES HAVE COME OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES (JAPAN '98, JAPAN '99, TORONTO AND MID-OHIO). IN THE TWO YEARS THAT CART HAS RACED AT TWIN RING MOTEGI FERNANDEZ HAS LED 255 OF THE 402 LAPS RUN AT THE SPEEDWAY. "All day we were saving fuel. I wanted to be at the front early and not spend much time(in the back). I was really trying to push had in the beginning. Gil's (de Ferran) spin really got my attention but after that Papis got a little loose going into turns one and two and I managed to make the pass on him and stay there in third place for quite a while.

As the race went on, Gil was getting loose and I knew that it was just a matter of time until he got even looser. After that I was basically saving fuel and stretching my window for the first pit stop. My guys did a tremendous job on the pit stops. We were not very good in Homestead but we came back for this race. After that I think the strongest challenge I had all day was from (Juan) Montoya and I think it was clearly because he was not saving fuel because my Ford engine was extremely strong all day. I don't think anyone could challenge me. The reason (Montoya) was so strong was because I was extremely lean trying to stretch my pit window again. I told my team that if they wanted me to stay here you have to give me a little break on the fuel. I managed to stay ahead of him and after that he ran out of fuel.

The most difficult part of the race was at the end trying to decide whether or not we should stay out. It was John Ward and Steve Newey's call at the end and they made the right call. I didn't want to see my (fuel) numbers at the end. It was terrible. It was just bad. I didn't think there was any way we were going to make it. Eventually with three laps to go they told me to back off and I was running at half throttle and just coasting through the corners and when I saw the yellows I thought that was it, we are going to make it. I think that regardless we were going to make it, barely, but we were going to make it."

WHAT WAS YOUR PIT STRATEGY GOING IN? "I needed to stretch my fuel window because I had to get to a certain number of laps that's why I was running lean all day, extremely lean. Especially the second run. We needed to stretch is very far so we wouldn't have to make the extra pit stop everyone else had to do. We only had to make three pit stops today and we managed to make it and it was good for us."

YOU AND JUAN MONTOYA HAD QUITE A BATTLE BREWING RIGHT BEFORE HE RAN OUT OF FUEL. WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHT ON THAT? "I didn't think he was going to get by me, but he was close. I didn't see any of the debris (that brought out the yellow) I didn't know what was happening. The car was so well balanced all day. The only thing I had to do all day was turn up my front wing at the last pit stop. Apart from that my Firestone tires were so consistent. If you look at my lap times I could not believe it, they were exactly the same as the laps before. A few times I was a little bit loose behind traffic. The lap time I was running today with the amount of fuel I was using was incredible. I could defend Montoya at any time if I could use more fuel. He was full fuel and you could see that. I could see that because if the consistency in my laps and suddenly he was charging. You could see he was using more fuel. In the corners I could defend him. When you are leading the most difficult part of it is coming out of the corners strong with the power."

HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW THAT YOU HAVE DEFENDED YOUR 1998 WIN? IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THE MOTEGI TRACK THAT SUITS YOUR DRIVING STYLE? "That's hard to say. As a driver I want to say my style should be good at any track I go to. But there is something here that makes me quick here. I am very happy because the Japanese people have been very warm with us. I came out here a bit early and managed to see come of the culture of Japan and spend some time with the fans of Japan."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI -11- Big K Ford-Cosworth - Finished 3rd - "We had a pretty good day. Our first pit stop was not very good and I think it dropped me from fourth to seventh or eighth. At one stage when I came out of the pits there was a strange noise in my engine and I thought there was a very big problem and everyone started shouting. But, it turned out that everything was okay. Behind traffic it was exciting, nothing special, I was just hanging in there. The last yellow came at the right time for me. I came in with Michael (Andretti), we actually managed to stay out, the other cars were having very poor fuel mileage and we managed to stay out an extra few laps and then the last yellow came out and again I came in with Michael. The last fifteen laps were quite a rush. We were really going for everything. I tried to make my car as neutral as possible and moved a lot of weight to the front wheels. Gil (de Ferran) was really pushing me. He was pretty strong down the straights. I think Honda must have given him a special engine for this race. We managed to be very good in turn three and four and right at the very end I had problems with Tarso (Marques) coming right out on to the pits and I had to pass him right on the outside and Gil had a good run on me and managed to pass me. But apart from that I am very happy. I am more happy for the points and there are still 18 more races to go and I think we are going to be very strong the rest of the season."

HELIO CASTRO NEVES SEEMED TO BE VERY QUICK AT TIMES DURING THE RACE, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WAS? "He was pretty quick. But it was like a racing situation where you used too much fuel all the time you had to pit like two of three laps before all the other cars. We also ran very lean that's why during our stops we were the last ones to come in. On the other hand you don't go quite as quick in a lean situation as some of the other cars. You loose at lease 40 to 50 horsepower and you are trying to save fuel in order to finish very well. At the same time Helio was very strong in the turns. He could tun close to anyone and like in Homestead he was strong. That new car seems to be pretty good. Now we are off to s street course so we will see how he does there."

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