GP Telemar Rio 200 "QUOTEBOARD" JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on his recent run of back-to-back FedEx Championship Series victories at Long Beach and Nazareth: "I'm having a lot of fun and learning a lot. I'm very happy with the wins ...
GP Telemar Rio 200 "QUOTEBOARD"
JUAN MONTOYA (Target Honda Reynard), on his recent run of back-to-back FedEx Championship Series victories at Long Beach and Nazareth: "I'm having a lot of fun and learning a lot. I'm very happy with the wins in Long Beach and Nazareth, but I know I still have a lot to learn and a lot of room for improvement. I'm looking forward to the Rio race, where I hope to earn a few more points and prove that the past two races weren't accidents."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Honda Reynard), on turning his luck in Rio: "We've had some bad luck so far this year, but I think we made progress during our recent tests. I haven't had a lot of luck in Rio over the years, but I'm due for some good luck pretty soon. There are still a lot of races left and I'm confident I'll be on the podium again soon."
GREG MOORE (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), on his success in Rio de Janeiro: "I've always performed well in Rio de Janeiro, especially the last two years, when I finished second and then won last year. I really like the degree of difficulty on this oval, with its combination of slow corners and long straights. I'm sure the fans are going to be in for a race that's just as exciting as the one last year, when there were five different leaders in the 133-lap race. It was a great feeling, making the passing move on Alex Zanardi on one of the final laps, to win the race. I think we can be successful here again this year because the Player's team excels at being able to make the proper adjustments for this oval. I'm hoping that I can continue to race well here and regain the lead in the drivers' standings."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Honda Reynard), on maintaining the momentum he generated with a third-place finish at Nazareth: "We're into my favorite part of the season. My last two wins were at the next two tracks (Brazil, Gateway), and the chemistry at Team KOOL Green is the best I've ever seen. We're always moving forward, making the car better and faster. Of course, so are all the other good teams. That's part of what drives us. But I'm cautiously optimistic that our podium-finish at Nazareth won't be the last. Being up there only made me more hungry and determined to win - and the sooner the better. I really enjoy the (Rio) track. Winning there in 1997 probably helps. Now, I'm really looking forward to getting back to the bigger wings. The track is conducive for racing and I'm eager to draft and pass again. We're looking good for Brazil."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Honda Reynard), on his commitment to victory at Rio de Janeiro: "Everyone at Team KOOL Green is really focused at the moment, and though we've had a couple of good finishes this year [third at Miami & second at Long Beach), we need to get back to the top of the podium. We were on the pole in Brazil last year, and I think without the [electrical] problems, we could have won. So, we're going down there to try and win the race, that's what we want to do - no messing around - we want the most points we can get. It's a good track to race on because you can pass. It was designed very well, but it's simple because basically there are only two corners [Turns 1 and 4] to worry about. The setup can be difficult to get right and because of the uniqueness of the track, cars can run very close. Finding an advantage is going to be incredibly difficult. The Brazilian fans are very enthusiastic. They've got a big history in motor racing, a very successful history. Look at the world champions Brazil has produced from Emerson [Fittipaldi] to Nelson Piquet and obviously Ayrton Senna, who's regarded as the greatest driver the world has ever seen. And now, they've got some strong up-and-coming Brazilian drivers like Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta and Helio Castro-Neves."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), on last year's travel problems getting to Brazil: "The race was the easy part last year. Getting to the race was the stressful part. I got to the airport for my flight from New York. When they asked me for my passport at the gate I discovered that I had [wife] Leslie's passport and not mine. I called back to Nazareth and they tore my place up looking for the right passport. I missed my flight and had to take one in the morning. I didn't arrive until 3 a.m. the morning I had to practice. You can bet I will have the right passport this year. "I really like the Rio course. It's basically a roval - or road course oval. You have to brake going into one of the corners, which adds a new dimension to driving on ovals. It's a really good show in Rio. The Brazilians are so excited about their racing. The pressure increases on the Brazilian drivers. Any driver wants to win any race but it is more special if you only race in your home country once a year. As any country would be, they are really happy to see their own do good in the series. From a competition standpoint, we really need to win one soon. It's important to consistently score points toward the championship, but, it would be nice to win one."
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Big Kmart Ford Swift), on performing well in front of the home fans: "I'm really excited about racing in my home country. It's obviously every driver's dream to do well in your own country. Most of the drivers in the series race in their home country (U.S.) for the majority of the year, but, as a Brazilian, I only have one chance to do well at home. Beyond that, it's a family thing. My mother [Suzy] has been involved with the race since it started in 1996 and my uncle [Emerson] is now the promoter. Above all, I would like to do well for my myself and my team. It would make it even nicer to do well because of the involvement of my family in the race. I think Emerson will provide us with a great race. The starting procedure [the command to start engines will be given live from MIR space station by a Russian cosmonaut] or the race indicates the amount of thought and work he has put into the event."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola), heading optimistically to his homeland: "To win my first race in CART would be a dream come true. To win my first race in Rio would be the icing on the cake! It would be so special to have all of my family and friends with me at the track to enjoy and celebrate with me and the team. Based on what we've done on the ovals up to this point in the season I have every reason to believe that we will continue producing the same strong results. Being in Brazil I don't think adds any more pressure than any other race. Being a race car driver is stressful enough, I don't need to worry about where I am and let that influence my mood. If anything being at home in Brazil is a calming factor for me. I've got my family and friends around and I feel very supported."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on the demands of Rio de Janeiro's Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway: "The Rio track is really different - we call it a "roval", because it's a combination of a road course and an oval. It's pretty tight in Turns 1 and 3. You have to brake hard and downshift a few gears - three gears, actually. It makes for excellent passing zones on both ends of the circuit. On the long straights you can draft people, and the layout of the track always produces a great race. It's a totally different way to set up the car, however. You have to mix your road course set-up with your oval set-up. It's also a circuit where fuel consumption is really important, and Mercedes-Benz is very good at that. I'm looking forward to the race. Racing in Brazil, even if you're not a Brazilian, is pretty special. The people really like cars and anything that goes faster than 120 mph, so to see a Champ Car going more than 200 mph is very exciting."
ROBBY GORDON (Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Reynard), on the learning process during his first year as a FedEx Championship Series owner/driver: "I've got my passport ready and we're ready to roll. We keep learning things every time we take to the track, and this weekend will be no different. The greatest lesson has been the reality that you have to have patience when you're a first-year team. You take a little time to celebrate your successes along the way, and try to get something positive out of even the negative situations. As for Rio, they call it an oval, but it's not your typical oval, you have to have a very well-balanced package. It's got a combination of long straightaways and very tight left-hand turns, mixed with some high-speed left-handers. It's a real driver's track."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (Player's/Indeck Mercedes Reynard), on Player's Forsythe Racing's preparation for the GP Telemar Rio 200: "With [teammate] Greg's [Moore's] win at Rio last year, the Player's team has a solid information base that will help in our race strategy on this oval. Also, the fact that the new wings don't come into play on this oval should enable us to quickly come up with the proper setups for the weekend. We've had a few problems since the season began, but that's in the past, and I'm looking at Rio as the race where I can start turning things around and produce the kind of results that are reflective of the tremendous speed of the Player's team on ovals."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on racing in his native country: "Rio is one of the races I'm most excited about, because it will be the first time I will race a Champ Car in my home country. The town I grew up in, Belo Horizonte, is not far from Rio. All my friends and family will be at the race, so I really want to do well for them. The momentum of the MCI WorldCom team going into Rio is better than ever. After finishing fourth in Nazareth and qualifying sixth in Miami, we know we have what it takes from the beginning to the end of a race. Rio will be a challenge for me because I have never raced there. It looks like the kind of track I like, though, because it requires a lot of skill on the part of the driver. Turn One and Turn Four are hard turns at the end of the long front straight, so we'll be doing a lot of shifting before and after the fastest part of the track. I like tracks that make you work hard behind the wheel. They are much more interesting, and there are more chances for the guy in front of you to make a mistake."
SCOTT PRUETT (Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota Reynard), on the challenges of the Rio de Janeiro layout: "Rio is a driver's oval. You can't really compare it to Nazareth, because neither of them are true ovals. Rio has one long straight where we'll find the most speed, and very different corners. It's not really round at all. Set-up is usually key on ovals, but it's trickier in Rio because you have to prepare the car in a very segmented way. Rather than focusing on one sweeping, flat-out run, we have to look at the car's performance through decreasing and increasing radius turns and down one long straightaway."
ALEX BARRON (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle), on building upon the career-best ninth-place finish he recorded at Nazareth: "It was terrific to get the four valuable points at Nazareth but it doesn't stop there - it's just beginning. Things are finally starting to come together for us, with the whole combination of the team, the Eagle 997 chassis, the Toyota engine and the Goodyear tires. I'm looking forward to continuing our new success at Rio as it's where I scored my first two points of the '98 season for AAR."
TARSO MARQUES (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on making his third career FedEx Championship Series start, and his first in his native Brazil: "For sure, it will be extra special to be able to race in my home country. I haven't raced there since 1996 in Formula One. I've never been to the track in Rio, so once again everything will be new for me, but I hope that I can learn the circuit quickly and do my best to help the team. I enjoyed racing in Japan and I look forward to starting my second oval race; at least now I have a better feel for oval racing, especially the re-starts and working the traffic."
AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Mercedes Penske), on competing with a teammate for the first time in 1999: "I'm looking forward to running with Tarso [Marques] for the first time. He did a good job for the team in Japan and Long Beach [filling in for Unser Jr., who was recovering from a broken ankle], and it's great that he gets to run in his home country of Brazil for Marlboro Team Penske. The fans in Rio are great. They love open-wheel racing and it shows in their support for this event. I hope some of their positive energy comes our way and we're able to run a good race."