An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee Part 1 of 3 INDIANAPOLIS (September 17, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Oriol Servia and...
An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee
Part 1 of 3
INDIANAPOLIS (September 17, 2002) - What follows is the transcript of the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART FedEx Championship Series driver Oriol Servia and Patrick Racing General Manager Jim McGee.
Merrill Cain: Thank you for joining us today. We're delighted to welcome to the call this afternoon two gentleman who had a very good race for Patrick Racing in England last week. We are joined by Oriol Servia, driver of the #20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone, and Jim McGee, one of most well-respected men in motor sports and the general manager of Patrick Racing. Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us this afternoon.
Oriol Servia: Thank you.
Merrill Cain: A little background on each of you gentlemen. Oriol, after running the first three races of the season with PWR Racing, returned to the track with Patrick Racing in Round 10 of the CART FedEx Championship Series this season in Vancouver. He has scored points in six of his nine starts this season, and Sunday's fourth place effort marked both his and Patrick Racing's top finish of the season.
Oriol, congratulations on a great effort at Rockingham this weekend. Oriol is 28 years old, a native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain, joining us from Spain today. We appreciate you calling in. You make your home in Miami, which is the site of next CART event in just a couple of weeks. Before you headed to Europe it was announced that your deal with Patrick Racing was extended through the 2002 season. Can you talk about the comfort level that you felt with the team, what it's like to work with such a group headed up by Jim McGee and [team owner] Pat Patrick? Could you also touch on the race this weekend?
Oriol Servia: Yeah, it's going to be a long answer.
To start with, I was happy at the beginning of the year signing with PacWest. And after a few races they shut the doors down. That was extremely bad news for me and the whole team. But I remember [CART driver] Jimmy Vasser told me: "Don't worry, things happen for a reason, doors close, doors open." And at that point, I thought, yeah, right, it's probably an American saying - but I'm here with no job, blah, blah, blah. And finally, I have to say that he was right.
That was probably a good thing to happen for me because I end up with a great team, Patrick Racing, with all of the good people that works there and all of the motivation that I find there. You know, at the end, it's been obviously a good thing. We started in Vancouver, and since then it has been a progression, five races, which is the original deal. We all decided to go to the end of the season and I think it's going better each race. It should get better from now on, also.
Merrill Cain: Talk about the performance in England this past weekend. You had a very good car, you had some great pit work that allowed you to move up in the course of the race. Your third and fourth pit stops really did the work for you that allowed you to ultimately wind up in fourth place.
Oriol Servia: Exactly. All weekend long, we had a great car. Every time I would come back to the pits and say "the car feels great." We just felt we were lacking some speed. We can't know exactly from where at that point, but we went out in qualifying, we knew we were not going to be very quick, and that was it, we were 14th, which was not great.
But in the race, the car felt good and we knew that if we would have good mileage and playing a little bit with a good strategy that usually Mr. McGee is able to do, we would be at the front at the end, and that's the way it worked.
The first two pit stops we went a little bit backwards, but I think that was because we put a lot of fuel in. I think probably that was the key that allowed us at the end to put less fuel where we move forward. It was obviously a good strategy and gave me a good car that allowed me to pass people.
I think nowadays, if you finish at the top, it's because everything went right. The competition is so high, you have to do everything right, and I think it's what we did this weekend.
Merrill Cain: Jim McGee joins us, widely recognized as one of the most successful team managers in Champ Car history with 89 victories, four Indy 500 titles and nine National Championships to his credit. You have worked with a lot of talented drivers throughout your distinguished career. You first began racing in 1959, I believe. Talk about what Oriol brings to the table with Patrick Racing. Do you think the team has found it's rhythm as of late, and are you guys ready to make a strong finish for the rest of the season?
Jim McGee: Well, Oriol brings us really what we were looking for. We needed some consistency and we needed some feedback. Certainly, over the last couple of three years, Oriol has had some good experience with [former Champ Car team] PPI and last year with Sigma [AutoSport].
Oriol and I have been talking to each other probably for the last couple - three years, and he was convinced that I was just kind of whispering in his ear and telling him what he wanted to hear; but that nothing was really going to happen.
I watched him over the last couple years, and even since he started in Indy Lights, I always liked what I saw and I told him, some day you're going to drive for us. And he still didn't believe me until he signed with us here six races ago.
He brings the kind of consistency and the information that we need. We need the feedback from him to improve the car. And you know, it takes a few races. We have done no testing at all. With the rules, you can't test in-season.
So we have been kind of doing our testing in the qualifying and practice sessions. And it's tough again with a single-car team, you don't have the luxury of having another driver in there with you to accomplish more when you go to these tracks. We've got an hour and a half of warm-up, and then you go right straight into qualifying on the road courses.
And of course, in England, it was basically the same thing. So you have very few times to get a feel for what the car is doing and improve it.
But Oriol, he's done a good job, and we've had decent cars and we really just haven't had very many breaks, let's say. In Montreal, he was very competitive. We should have qualified well but we blew the engine in the last qualifying session; that put us back in the pack. And we broke an axle on the first pit stop which is something we never have had. We got through these little things.
I think now we are ready to improve our qualifying. If we just start a little bit closer to the front, I think we can get on that podium real quick.
Merrill Cain: You bring up a good point there. You talk about the fact that you didn't have a whole lot of data to go off of, not a lot of testing time with the new driver, and the situation you guys were put in this weekend in England, with having the condensed track time because of the two-day event, I imagine that puts you even further behind the 8-ball. Talk about the accomplishment of the team and the ability to have the strong performance with all of those things going against you this weekend.
Jim McGee: We do. We have a great team. A lot of us have been together a long time. We have good data. [Technical Director] Ed Nathman and his team of engineers and [Crew Chief] Mark Shambarger with his mechanical group, these guys do a good job. They are well experienced.
I think Oriol kind of pulls us all together. He's a good team leader. He's very easy to work with, and very determined, and, you know, this thing is starting to come together.
I just see little twinkles here and there, and you know once you get that confidence in each other, it's not only us getting the confidence in him, it's him getting the confidence in us. Then the thing starts to gel and it kind of snowballs. Hopefully here in the last four races, we can have some good results and move forward into next year.
Q: Did you, as Jim had said, believe that over the years he was blowing smoke in your year?
Oriol Servia: Well, I don't know exactly like that, but while we were talking - I think he won the championship in '99, we've been talking every year. At the end, most of the time it wasn't my choice that they went some other way. So, you kind of got the feeling that this man just likes to feel the water, he must call all of the drivers, which he probably does, and then I would do, too.
I felt that some day probably, things would come together for both of us, and it just took a little longer than what I wanted at the beginning, but I think it's working pretty well now.
Q: You kind of highlighted what it was that you saw about Oriol that you thought would make a great driver. Was it something that you saw more than an instinct that not only did he race a good car, but he talked a good car?
Jim McGee: Well, you know, you talk to different mechanics and different people, engineers and so forth involved in racing, and everybody that I talk to that had been involved with Oriol always gave him a real thumbs up.
Watching him on the racetrack, he's aggressive, seems to be able to bring a car home. He's able to keep the wheels on the thing and that's a big important part of it.
I just thought that if he was in the right atmosphere with the right group and we gave him the support that he needed, that he could run up front. I think that he can. I think he's got a great future ahead of him. Hopefully, it's with us and we're looking forward to many, many more podiums.
Q: Jim, why did you go with Townsend [Bell] instead of Oriol to begin with?
Jim McGee: Originally when the season started out, Patrick Racing was going to be a two-car team. You know, that was really one of the reasons that we decided we would go with Townsend.
Then Townsend's sponsor that was with him in Indy Lights, the deal fell through and Mr. Patrick decided that he had made a commitment to Townsend; and that he did very well in Indy Lights, and he thought he would take a gamble. I mean, Pat is a wildcatter. He's drilled a lot of dry oil wells, too. He felt, well, maybe this guy was a diamond in the rough.
Townsend I think is the - had it been a two-car team, he would have had a much better chance of being successful. But being on his own and trying to call the shots as far as what he wanted and what the car needed and everything, he just did not have that much experience in these cars. You know, the end result was that it really didn't work out.
Servia, McGee press conference, part II