An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee Part 2 of 3 Q: And Oriol, when you got the call from Jim or whomever it was with Patrick Racing that they wanted you to come over to the team, as you were taking the deal, were you thinking, you...
An interview with Oriol Servia and Jim McGee
Part 2 of 3
Q: And Oriol, when you got the call from Jim or whomever it was with Patrick Racing that they wanted you to come over to the team, as you were taking the deal, were you thinking, you know, "I have got to make this work?" In other words, was there pressure?
Oriol Servia: You know, in a way there was pressure, but I was really happy to have that kind of pressure. Finally, you know. After Motegi, I came to every race and I was really, really getting tired of being there and not having this kind of pressure.
So when suddenly I had the chance to be in a car and have all of the problems that you have when you want to win a race and you're not doing it, and you want to set up the car, and you're pissed with your engineer and pissed with yourself because you are not able to go flat or go quicker or whatever, I was really missing these kind of problems. So in a way, I have been really very relieved, to finally having this pressure back.
Q: Finally, have you walked up to Jimmy Vasser and said, you know, you were right?
Oriol Servia: Oh, yes, yes, I told him many times. Jimmy knows, yes.
Merrill Cain: What did you do, how do you keep yourself fresh during that down time after PWR shut it's doors? I'm sure you had a lot of conversations with a lot of different teams, and I know the media is curious how do you keep yourself fresh? What do you do to keep yourself motivated and sharp knowing you may be in a car at the drop of a hat?
Oriol Servia: I think in a way, I was lucky that I was out of a job, but at that point, I was out of a job not because I did something wrong or I was not performing. I was performing well in every race. The team decided to stop, but it was nothing concerning me or my engineer or anything. It was more related to political or money issues.
So, in a way I wasn't feeling depressed that it was not fair, that I was going to be given another chance. I was confident at some point there was going to be another chance, also, I would go to every race and I had a lot, a lot, a lot of people giving me support, telling me that I should go to the race, that an opportunity would open. Toyota was really trying to create a new deal for me, trying to put a second car in some other team.
So I could see every weekend that it was possible that something could happen. So I never really got depressed, thinking I had no more future. I just tried to be patient, and in a way, I hoped that the door would open soon.
Q: Jim, I remember watching you back at Trenton Speedway, so you go back a long way. Given your history in the sport, what do you make of what's happening today, with this CART/IRL situation? Where do you think it might all play out in the end, based on all of the changes you've seen over the years, decades, in Indy car racing?
Jim McGee: Well, you know, it's a tough period that open-wheel racing is going through right now.
You know, certainly, the direction is still pretty unclear, whether it's ovals, road courses. There's a demand for both, and I don't know whether or not by combining or everybody going one way, what is going to happen to some of the venues.
I think that one of the things over the years that usually happens in our type of racing, it's either where they get the tire manufacturers or the engine manufacturers that put a lot of money in the sport, and usually the money goes to the bigger teams; that they feel like they are going to have the most success with. It hurts the little guy.
The IRL was kind of formed with a kind of basis that they were going to try and have a level playing field that was going to be equal and smaller teams could start up, and that they could grow the series. It seems like that's all turned around now. You know, the big automotive companies are pumping money into that series now; and therefore, the big teams follow that way.
Now, what happens to the little guys over there, I don't know. And it's just whichever one is going to survive, or is it just going to flip positions and they were going to go through the same thing all over again? It's a hard scenario to figure out, because I'm sure some of the real supporters in the IRL, you know, over the past six years are going to be kind of left by the wayside because the cost there is going to escalate similar to what it was in CART. By the same token, the CART cars are going to go down.
It's not a healthy situation, I don't think, for open-wheel racing, but where it all ends up is still, I think, far from being determined.
Q: That's an interesting perspective. Do you feel that if CART would just focus on being a road course, street course series and let the IRL be the oval series that both can thrive in the long run, and do you feel eventually there has to be some consolidation?
Jim McGee: Well, I think somehow - the thing about CART versus the IRL, the IRL needs a lot more car count. They need 38 or 39 or 40 cars, because otherwise, in Indianapolis especially, you don't have your pole day or your bumping day and so forth like that.
The CART series can more or less get along with a lot fewer cars, similar to what Formula 1 is, where they have 20 or 22 or 18 cars. With the street circuits and a lot of the courses that we run, actually space is a big problem and the fewer cars you have, the better off you are.
So whether or not you can gather that many cars for both series, I mean, they need 38 in the IRL and they need 20 or so in CART; that's a lot of cars. Where is the money going to come from for all of these cars? I think that's the biggest problem with open-wheel racing today because it is divisioned; that does become an issue with both series.
Q: There's been some speculation that Pat Patrick might want a second car next year as a teammate for Oriol. Do you think we might see that, and if so, are you looking more American or have you even gone to look?
Jim McGee: We definitely would like to run a second car next year. We have the capacity here and the equipment and everything. It's a matter of dollars and cents and whether or not from a business standpoint we can find the sponsorship and the money to run a second car.
You know, I'd love to have Jimmy Vasser as a teammate with Oriol. I think Jimmy drove for us last year, did a great job, but we had his typical bad luck in a lot of issues, but I think he and Oriol would be a great combination.
Again, you know, there's a lot of talent out there right now, and a lot of great guys looking for rides. The driver issue isn't the problem, but we would always want to make sure that we had a good fit between Oriol and whoever else.
Q: What do you know about the track in Miami? Do you know what it's like or walked around it enough to understand what it's like?
Oriol Servia: I've been around it a little bit. I was around when they started working. I think it's a very good race there. I've been living there for the last three years, and it's a great city with a lot of tourists. There's always something happening, so people are used to having shows to go to and people - even if there are people vacationing there, people that live there all the time, they are always ready to go and do and see something. So I think it will be a great venue from a spectator point of view.
For us, the drivers, I don't think it will be the best track in the season, at least the way it looked to me looking around. Sometimes you have a very different view when the track is there than when the normal street is there.
I don't think it will be the best track or the track I'd love to be on. Like Surfer's Paradise [Australia] to me is the best street race we go to, and I think this will be actually smaller and tighter. It's not what I really like. I prefer fast corners rather than slow corners, but maybe some other drivers will prefer otherwise.
As far as I know, the asphalt will be pretty smooth, and the racing - it's hard to say. I mean, there are a couple of good braking downs, but until we go and run there, it's hard to say how it's going to be, really.
Q: Did you ever see the old track that was downtown?
Oriol Servia: No. I'm younger than that. (Laughs).
Q: Do you think from living there that the fans are going to support this event more than they were supporting the other one?
Oriol Servia: For sure, for sure. Because as I say, downtown in Miami or South Beach, there's always a lot of people that just go there to have a good time, to have a vacation. It's hard, I think, to pull those people down to Homestead. It's not even that far, it's 45 minutes and people are there to enjoy the beach, they don't even rent a car sometimes, and having the event downtown will be great.
Q: Jim, you're old enough to remember the old street course downtown. How do you compare the old Miami street course with the new one?
Jim McGee: Well, I think from what I've seen of the new one, as Oriol said, the layout is a little more confining than what the last track was that we had down there.
I think the cars today from when we ran then, aren't quite as good as far as we don't have as much downforce as we had in those days. Plus now with traction control, it makes it even more difficult to pass. I think with what we are looking at for next year, with the elimination of traction control and being able to drop the power, 150 horsepower, I think it will make some of the street races that we run at a lot more competitive and there will be more passing.
Even as I look at over the last couple of years at Long Beach, when we ran there a couple of years ago before traction control, what we have had to do with the cars to try to slow them down by taking some of the aero out of them and so forth, we had pretty good passing at Long Beach. But over the last year, especially this year, there's been none. The cars are so equal now that if you qualify up front, that's usually where you're going to finish or vice versa. I think that not only the tracks have the problem or so, but also the cars are a problem.
But I think we go to certain tracks that are better racetracks and then we have certain tracks that are better events. I think as Oriol was saying, that, you know, Miami is going to be an event. People are going to come there, the ambiance, where it is, the people, it's just the mingling and stuff that really is what some of these races are about.
I think after this year, I think they are looking at doing some changing in the track and having a good look at it. But it's kind of been one of those ram-and-cram deals from the outset because it was on, it was off, it was on, it was off. I think that next year after we get one of these under our belt, they will improve the track and the cars I think next year will be better as far as being able to put on a better show on these street courses.
Q: Looks like you all are enjoying it. It will be a nice comfortable weekend down there, I hope.
Jim McGee: We will enjoy it if we can start up front. (Laughs).
Oriol Servia: In the end, I prefer more one kind of track to the other or whatever. But in the end, you know, still 20 cars out there with great horsepower and hopefully great drivers trying to beat each other, so it's always a good show and it's a big challenge if you want to beat them. It's still going to be a great race. It's the same as the Monaco race in Formula 1; it's a great event because you always have those cars that are not really designed to go around those grids, but they do, and they want to beat each other. That's what makes it a great show even in Monaco, where I don't think many drivers really like it as a track, but they obviously do as an event.
Servia, McGee press conference, part III