Last year's runner-up in the Molson Indy Vancouver, Patrick Carpentier, driver of the ...
Last year's runner-up in the Molson Indy Vancouver, Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth, has endured a season of highs and lows. Despite five top-five and eight top-10 finishes, Carpentier missed three races due to a broken wrist (Long Beach, Rio de Janiero and Motegi) and has been the subject of the "silly season" rumor mill for much of the season. Currently 12th in the CART FedEx Championship Series' driver's championship with six races remaining, Carpentier discusses his season, his relationship with teammate, Alex Tagliani, his thoughts on winning a race in his native Canada and looks forward to this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver.
PATRICK CARPENTIER -- 32 -- PLAYER'S/INDECK FORD-COSWORTH WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SEASON TO THIS POINT? "(I'm) pretty happy, just disappointed that we missed a few races and disappointed that we didn't finish at Chicago because I think we could've been in the top five right now in the points. But it's all bunched together and if we get one good race we'll be right up there. We haven't qualified as well as we would've liked to sometimes, but we usually have very good cars for the race and have been able to come back, so I'm pretty happy about that. I'm happy because I've given everything I have so far and I've trained very hard, so, besides that, the outside things I cannot control."
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CAR YOU'RE RUNNING THIS SEASON AND THE CAR YOU DROVE DURING THE '99 CAMPAIGN? "I think the team has improved from last year. The new Ford engine has helped us quite a bit to get the cars up to the front - it's a little bit easier to pass during the races, but I still think we need to work to start more up front. If we can stay up in the top five, top 10 to start the races it'll be much better for us and the chance of winning a race would be greater."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BE IN THE "FAST" QUALIFYING GROUP FOR THE RACE IN VANCOUVER? "I think it's more important for Vancouver because street courses are usually pretty dirty and on Friday everybody that's in the fast group stays in the fast group and the other guys are behind." IT'S TOUGH TO PASS AS WELL. "Yeah, it is. On a street circuit you need to start towards the front as much as you can. Yeah, it's always tough to pass."
IN THE LAST STREET RACE IN TORONTO, YOU HAD A POOR QUALIFYING EFFORT BUT MANAGED TO FINISH THE RACE IN SEVENTH PLACE. WHAT WILL YOU AND THE TEAM DO DIFFERENTLY FOR THE RACE IN VANCOUVER SO THAT YOU ARE STRONG ALL WEEKEND LONG? "We've got to be strong all weekend, (so) we're going to try different packages. The package we had in Toronto was not very good. The platform was moving too much (and) creating a lot if instability in the car, so we're going to try stabilize that. If we can do that for qualifying, I think we have a good chance to qualify up in the top 10 and (then) see what happens for the race. Normally we have a really good car for the race, plus in Toronto we lost the brakes, which I don't think is going to happen in Vancouver. It was a good weekend for us last year, so hopefully it will be a good one this year."
YOU SEEM TO HAVE A FASTER CAR WITH FULL TANKS DURING THE RACE AS OPPOSED TO WHEN THE CAR IS LIGHTER DURING QUALIFYING. "On full tanks we seem to be better on that, but obviously it's a sign that we've got to run fairly differently when the fuel tank is empty than when it's full, (so) that's what we've go to do for the race."
ARE YOU ENCOURAGED BY THE FACT THAT YOU'VE FINISHED WELL AT VANCOUVER IN THE PAST? "It's always been good to me, even in (Toyota) Atlantic, but you never know. This series is so competitive that until you get to the weekend and put the cars on the track - sometimes you might have one of the best cars right from the get go, sometimes you may have one of the not-so-good cars. I'm going to wait and see when we put it on the track, but I'm really encouraged. Even to the end of the season I think we can have really good results with the team. It's going to take a lot of work, but I think the team is getting there."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GOALS YOU'D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH THE REST OF THIS SEASON? "I want to win a race. If I can keep finishing in the top five, top seven all the time and better the points at the end of the season, I'd like to be in the top five in the (driver's) championship. I think that would be a good accomplishment for the team this year. If I can finish in the top five, I'll be happy. Outside that I'll be so-so, but if we get top five that'll be good."
YOUR NAME HAS BEEN MENTIONED IN MANY RUMORS REGARDING YOUR STATUS WITH THE TEAM AND WHAT YOUR PLANS ARE FOR THE 2001 SEASON. HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO FOCUS ON JUST DRIVING THE CAR? "It doesn't matter to me. I used to worry about it quite a bit - it's the same every year. I give everything I have in the car, I think I bring everything I can out of the car when I'm driving, I take a lot of risks and I enjoy it. That's all I can do. Whatever they decide or whatever happens or wherever I'm going to go next year I cannot tell because that's next year. The only thing I can tell is tomorrow or today I'm going to be in the car, and that's it. I even asked the team not to talk to me about anything yet - I'm not interested. I'll just drive the car and we'll see from there."
YOU'RE JUST SHUTTING OUT THE GOSSIP? "Yeah, that's it. Because I don't think it changes anything, even if we start talking about it. I think it can wait - there's still races to go, so we'll do those and then we'll see."
WHEN ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO FINALIZE YOUR PLANS FOR 2001? "I've got no contract with anyone, so I've talked with different teams, and talked with Player's and they've probably talked to different drivers too, so I just do what I have to do and make sure that I've got a couple of opportunities or one, at least, for next year."
ARE YOU LOOKING TO REMAIN IN CART OR IS JUMPING TO THE IRL AN OPTION? "No, I'll stay in CART. I'd be very surprised if I jumped to the IRL."
NOT INTERESTED IN JUST TURNING LEFT? "No. I like it, but ... There's some stuff I'm not finished with in CART and I think CART is still pretty competitive. Until I achieve what I would like to achieve I'll be in CART."
HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE WITH YOUR TEAMMATE ALEX TAGLIANI? "It's okay. I've always been of the opinion that I'm not a guy that's going to get into deep relationships with other drivers that I have to race on Sunday because one day I'm going to have to cut him off because a win or positions on the grid are going to depend on it. It's a single-seater sport and when you're on the track you try to respect everybody, but you also try to win and everybody is the same. Relationships and friends - I've got some at home and I'm pretty happy when I go back. When I come to the track it's more to work and to put the car up at the front, and sometimes you have to step over a competitor or close the door on him and it won't make him happy. But if you're not that close of a friend with him, it doesn't matter as much - you just do what you have to do."
DO YOU AND ALEX SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT THE TRACKS AND/OR THE CARS OR DO YOU BOTH DO YOUR OWN THING? "It was the same with Greg (Moore) - I did my things and he did his. He never came up to me and showed me things and I never went up to him. When we want to know something with the technology we have, we share information about the car and things like that. Alex gave me some pointers this year and I gave him a few too, but we're so focused with our engineers to make our cars go up to the front. I think the engineers share more information than the drivers, and we just do our own things. It's not a hockey team, it's a single-seater, and you do what you have to do to bring it (the car) up to the front."
YOU AND ALEX BOTH HAVE SIMILAR RACING BACKROUNDS. DO YOU BOTH APPROACH A RACE THE SAME WAY? "I think it's pretty similar. We're here pretty much the same times and we work hard, so I think we do pretty much the same things. We just want to bring those cars up to the front so much (and) we work very hard. I know he trains and works hard and I work hard too, but I don't know. I've never really tried to find out what he does or how he prepares for a race. Right from the get go, he's fast. He's a fast driver, so right from the beginning he does his things and tries to win."
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO A RACE WEEKEND IN TERMS OF SETTING UP THE CAR AND ATTACKING THE RACE COURSE? DO YOU AND ALEX RUN THE SAME SET UP? "Yeah, we can pretty much run the same cars. We tested at Road America and Tag was faster so I took his set up and did pretty much the same time and vice versa. If it happens the other way and I'm faster he takes my set up and it's pretty close, maybe one-tenth faster, one-tenth slower, depending on the place. We've been liking pretty much the same things, (but) it's just that we both don't like being 16th and 18th, so that's been a little bit tough."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING IN CANADA? "I like it. There's a little bit more pressure, especially being with Player's - a lot of PR stuff to do and a lot of media stuff. It's like non-stop. I was so drained after Toronto that I didn't even have time to sit with my engineers. Through the whole weekend I think I sat with them for about 20 minutes (and talked) about what the car was doing. Usually I can sit with them for seven or eight hours on any other race weekend, like two or three hours a night. It's very different and a very tough weekend because it's so important to set the car up on the technical side. In the last few races we've been trying to put even more into it. I've been taping what we do and trying to study (so) we can get out of that bad qualifying deal, and I've been trying to put in more time. It's always tough, but sponsors are in racing to get visibility so you have to do it - it's part of it. They (Player's) do in two weeks (Toronto and Vancouver race weekends) what most teams do in one year. They condense everything into two weeks - everything PR-wise. There's so much to do that I get out of the car, talk to them (the engineers) for five minutes and that's it - I've gotta do the other stuff."
DO YOU FEEL THAT A HECTIC SCHEDULE LIKE THAT COULD AFFECT YOUR PERFORMANCE ON THE TRACK AT VANCOUVER? "It's tough because we've never found the right, perfect set up for that track, and it's so difficult to go there and find it when all you have is 20 minutes with your engineers."
AND YOU CAN'T TEST THERE. "No you cannot because it's a street normally, so it's very difficult. But it's part of the business."
THERE'S BEEN SOME TALK OF ADDING ANOTHER RACE IN CANADA, POSSIBLY IN MONTREAL. "I think it would be great. I think the fans would go crazy watching a champ car race in Montreal. I don't think they have any idea what it is. I think a lot of people think they're not very powerful, maybe similar to an Atlantic car, so I think they'd be very surprised. Plus it's very exciting with the pit stops and things like that, so I think we'd have a good show. But if you're talking about PR stuff (laughter), it would really be tough on us, but I think it would be good."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY TO RACE IN MONTREAL? "That would be great. It would be great, but if we started up at the front or had a top-10 finish it would be even better. That would be exciting. I don't even know where the race would be. They've talked about the Formula One circuit or a street circuit, but downtown - man, that would be a blast! It would be like Australia - one big party in Montreal. I would enjoy that."
TORONTO HAD A LOT OF THINGS GOING ON FOR THE RACE EARLIER THIS YEAR. "Toronto is getting to be a huge, huge race and it would be hard to top Toronto."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO RACE ON A STREET CIRCUIT? "Pretty difficult. I think the street circuits for anybody are difficult tracks. You need to be able to put the power down and have a good set-up to put it down and turn the corners, so you need to be driving really, really aggressively on those circuits. I usually enjoy those circuits and I've had pretty good luck - last year I finished second (in Vancouver) as it started raining, and I enjoyed that, so Vancouver has always been good to me."
HOW DO YOU SET UP THE CAR AND WHAT DO YOU AS A DRIVER NEED TO DO IN ORDER TO FINISH WELL IN VANCOUVER? "I have to have a car that will let me enter the corners at a higher speed and work my way out of it. I have to be able to carry a lot of speed going in and not lose too much going out. I think that's very important because on street courses straightaways are normally not very long so the speed across the corner is more important than the exit sometimes. You still need a very good exit, but you need to be able to attack the course because you have to drive aggressively."
SO YOU'LL USE A LITTLE BIT MORE DOWNFORCE THAN USUAL? "Most of the time we use as much downforce as the series will let us use at the back and then we just dial in the front to match the back end. We're allowed to put as much (downforce) as we want in the front but we're limited at the back, so if you put too much the car gets really loose. We put a lot more to qualify and less during the race so the car will be more stable, but I think on those circuits because the speed in the corner is so low, it doesn't have much to do with downforce. It's a lot more mechanical - the shocks and things like that, so that the tire grips a lot more to the asphalt, and that's going to be important."
WHAT THINGS DO YOU NEED TO EMPHASIZE IN THE WAY YOU DRIVE THE CAR AT VANCOUVER? "Quite a few things. I found a couple of things at Mid-Ohio that seem to give me a better time. You have to drive very aggressively, but it has to be very smooth in order to be fast. Too much sideways all the time ends up being slower most of the time."
YOUR MARGIN OF ERROR ON A STREET COURSE IS ALSO MUCH LOWER THAN IT IS ON A PERMANENT ROAD COURSE. "It's so slippery with the marbles and the dust, especially if you lose the rubber patches and go off of them. To do a lap without any mistakes or very few mistakes and be on the rubber is important because it can mean as much as five miles per hour in the corners."
SO YOU HAVE TO DRIVE WITH CONTROLLED AGGRESSION. YOU CAN'T JUST DRIVE ALL OUT THE ENTIRE TIME BECAUSE YOU HAVE OTHER GUYS TRYING TO PASS YOU WHILE YOU TRY AND PASS THEM. "Exactly. You have to find a gap when it's qualifying, and during the race, you better be on it all the time. As soon as somebody makes a mistake you see one or two guys go by. It was the same in Chicago - when a guy misses where he's supposed to go and gets off line, he just slows down and you go by.
WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO WIN A RACE IN YOUR NATIVE CANADA? "Oh man, that would be amazing. I'd stand on the podium for the next three days (laughter). I'd be happy, I'd be very happy. It doesn't matter where it happens now, but in Canada? Wow."
WOULD IT MEAN MORE TO YOU PERSONALLY IN CANADA? "In Canada, whew, oh, it'd be big. It would be huge for me. Last year's second (in Vancouver) for me was a big thing, so first place would be the biggest gift. If I won first place in Vancouver I don't need any Christmas gifts or anything."