CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Pre-event Quoteboard

Honda Indy 300 "Quoteboard" CRISTIANO DA MATTA ( ...

Honda Indy 300 "Quoteboard"

CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Caltex/Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I feel that the race in Australia last year was one of my best performances because it was very competitive between myself, (Roberto) Moreno and Gil (de Ferran). We drove full throttle from the beginning of the race until the end. It was a race I really enjoyed driving because it was such as fast pace because we were pushing 100 percent lap after lap, the pit stops were all great, the conditions were difficult because it was hot last year and I just really enjoy driving on the track.  I was very pleased with the race I drove last year and I'm looking forward to getting back on track.  I think we stand a good chance to repeat our win last year.  Now that we have the pressure of winning the Championship off of our backs we can concentrate on winning a few more races rather than having to be conservative in order to make sure we score a few points each race.  Racing is goal oriented and our new goal is to beat the season win record. 

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I like Australia so much, I'm going over there a week early.  It's a fantastic location for a race.  It's disappointing not to win the championship this year, but I'm happy for Cristiano.  He deserved to win it, I just wish that we could have made the battle last a little longer.  We had a few bad races during the season that hurt our chances.  Now we have a good chance to finish second and hopefully we can win the last few races."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I can't wait to get to Surfers and start enjoying the Australian beaches and lifestyle. This race is definitely one of the highlights of the year both on and off the track. The street course is well laid out with a couple of long straights with good passing opportunities at the end. Team KOOL Green has traditionally done well there. I earned the pole in '98 and won from the pole in '99. I could use another weekend like that to keep the pressure on to finish second in the championship. (Dario scored the maximum points available that weekend for pole, laps led and race win.) I was able to claim the victory in my home race and hopefully I can score another win for Barry (Green) in his home race. The atmosphere around the event is incredible and rivals any in the series. The Australian fans are very knowledgeable and they pack the grandstands all weekend."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone):  "With the season winding down and the drivers' championship already clinched, some people might feel that these last three races on the schedule will be a letdown for drivers. But I'm still very motivated. Whenever I get on a race track, my competitive instincts take over. It's always been that way, and I hope it will always be like that because that's what makes racing so much fun. And it won't be difficult to get into the racing mood in Australia, with as many as 130,000 fans in the stands on race day. There certainly isn't a clear favorite for the race in Australia because in the 11 years that the CART series has raced on that street circuit there have been 11 different winners. I guess you can call that parity. It also goes to show that just because you may have had success on that track one year, it doesn't mean you can use the same formula the next year. You need to have everything going in your favor. I know that last year, the Team Player's car was working well but my race was seriously affected by what I felt was an undeserved penalty for a pit infraction. But this is another year, and as we've seen with past history in Australia, it could be our turn to have a big day.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#11 Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "The race in Australia will always stand out in my mind for a variety of reasons.  It was one of the more difficult times in my CART career because of my accident in 1997 but it is also one of the best races in the series because of the following we have in Australia.  I've been able to do a lot of memorable things in Australia while I was there for the races including proposing to Andrea. There are three more races this season and we are really trying to win one or two before the year is up.  We have had five podium finishes so far this season including two second place finishes so we've come close but we really want to win.  The Lilly car was good in Miami, the strategy worked and the crew made some quick stops and we were able to finish second.  We want to carry over the momentum. Our car has been performing well on the street courses and hopefully the Surfer's Paradise course will be no different.  Since Shorty clinched the Championship, everyone is now shooting for second place including us.  A good finish in Australia will help us get both cars in the top-three of the standings which is our goal."

MICHEL JOURDAIN (#9 Office Depot Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "Surfers Paradise is in my opinion the best street course that we run on in CART. It is a fun course and one that rewards a driver for being aggressive.  I have done well at Australia in the past and I hope we can continue with the success that we have had this season in the Office Depot/Gigante car. The race in Surfers is one that traditionally features a lot of attrition and the track tends to be hard on equipment but hopefully we can go there and get a good result.  The fans are fantastic in Australia.  They are very knowledgeable and they always have a great turn out for the race weekend.  It is a long trip to Australia for the race, but every year it is one of the highlights of the season, so it is well worth the long flight."

ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I'm heading to Australia a week ahead of time, not only to get adjusted to the time change after about a 20-hour flight but also because I enjoy being in Australia. The country and the people are fantastic and they have been such great supporters of CART racing. I also consider Surfers Paradise the nicest street circuit in the series. We had a great time there last year when Team Player's made it to the podium with the third-place finish. It was the start of a string of podiums to finish off my season, and I'm going to try to do the same thing this year. Racing in Australia is a bit like being on the street circuits in Vancouver and Toronto, although I find that you have more passing at Surfers Paradise because there's some room as you get near the end of the straights. And some of these straights are quite long. I've always felt that my driving skills are well suited to Surfers Paradise. Like anywhere else, though, it's sometimes the little things that mean the difference between first and second or second and third place. I know that last year, I picked up some rubber on one of the turns and I was passed. Being slowed down for a fraction of a second cost me a higher spot on the podium."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "I love coming to Surfers and I've done pretty well here in the past. The city and all the fans really get excited about the Honda Indy 300 and it just makes it a great week.  I do feel like there is more pressure on us because it is a home race for Team Green and both Barry [Green, team owner] and Kim's family come out to the event, but it's certainly an added incentive to have a good weekend.  Right now we need to focus on getting points. Team Motorola can finish in the top five but we need to stay on track and come away with as many points as we can from the last three races."

JIMMY VASSER (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The Surfers event is always one of the biggest races on the CART series and winning it (1996) was very special. I would love to win that race again. We need a good qualifying run down in Australia. The track is pretty tough to pass on and you need to start at the front. Qualifying will be a race in itself, just like most of the street races. We are coming off a good run at Miami (3rd) in the streets so I think we can be competitive again. But we need to improve qualifying. I have always loved racing in Australia. The crowds are great and the Australia people are big racing fans. Winning my second CART race and being pretty competitive over the years has made the Surfers race a good one for me. So I'm anxious to go back Down Under."

PAUL TRACY (#26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Right now we have to focus on moving up in the points and Australia is a good place to start the charge. I was running well there last year and there's no reason Team KOOL Green can't contend for the win again this year. I've always qualified well "down under" (including seven top-four starts) and I've won in Australia before (1995.) I'm also looking forward to visiting the Gold Coast, it is an amazing place for this event and I really enjoy going there every year."

SCOTT DIXON (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's really exciting to be racing in Australia next week. I look forward to this event all year long.  I love racing in Australia. It's my home track, and it's always great to race in front of your family and friends.  A lot of my family comes out to the race, so it should be fun. We have really refined our street course setup. The car has a good balance on it right now, in fact we didn't change much from Denver to Miami.  We pretty much ran the same setup.  We should be pretty strong down under next week."

KENNY BRACK (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "It goes without saying that we've had a tough season so far.  But we need to put that behind us and have a strong finish to the season.  We've had a lot more downs than ups this year, but that will happen in racing.  Luckily, next week we're racing on a street circuit down in Australia and we've had a lot of success on street courses.  We've qualified in the top-10 on every street course, and our average starting position is about 5th. We have what it takes to be fast, we just need a little bit of luck and we'll be fine.  I'm going down to Australia early to enjoy some rest and relaxation before we hit the track.  It's probably my favorite trip of the season."

TONY KANAAN (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "It was great to race right in my hometown at Miami, although the result turned out to be not so great for our team.  But now we go to the other race on the circuit where I have felt very much at home since the first time I raced there.  Australia is just great.  It's a big party.  Everybody has such a great time.  I think that atmosphere makes for some good racing because all the pressures of the real world seem a million miles away.  It was a shame what happened at Miami.  We had a great car, and so did Scott Dixon.  We were definitely the cars to beat from the first practice session on.  I felt really bad for Scott, and I felt really bad for my Pioneer sponsors and for Honda and all my guys.  I had a great car and it looked like maybe it was finally going to be our day after almost three full seasons together.  But I guess it was meant to wait until later.  If that's the case, I'll be patient and hope that maybe Australia will be the place."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "Australia is a fantastic event, one which all of us look forward to each year. The fans are great and the atmosphere, coupled with the backdrop of Surfers Paradise, is incredible. My last win was at Surfers two years ago. There hasn't been a two-time winner in Australia, and hopefully we can work on changing that this weekend. We had a difficult time last year, starting 17th after only one clean lap in qualifying due to red flags. Our race strategy didn't pay off and we ended up 19th. We have had strong runs on the street circuits this season, and we are looking forward to showing what Fernández Racing can do this weekend."

SHINJI NAKANO (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): ""I love the Surfers Paradise circuit and, with the atmosphere around the race and the weather, it is one of our best events. It is a long track - the longest street circuit that we race on - and it is challenging with the long straights and the chicanes. We have had good cars on the street circuits this year, but the last three races have not been very good for us. [Nakano did not finish the past three events after suffering a mechanical problem in Denver, contact during the Rockingham race and a fuel fire in Miami.] Hopefully, things will turn around for us and we can finish the season with strong results. The three-week break in the schedule has been good for me and my hands are much better now. [Nakano suffered first and second-degree burns on his hands following a fuel fire during the Grand Prix Americas race in Miami, Florida, on October 6.] I am looking forward to the race this weekend."

ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone): "There are just three races left in the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season and I am looking forward to producing some very good results for the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team in these final races. We have been working hard and gotten close a couple of times, but we haven't been able to finish where we wanted. The layouts of all three of these tracks are good for the Reynard chassis. It is just of matter of putting everything we have learned together so we can go for a win or a least a podium finish. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team is looking forward to racing in Australia. This is always one of the best races of the season. The atmosphere is fantastic...lots of fans and excitment and it is always a good race. I am going to Australia early with some of the other drivers to enjoy the country for a couple of days, do some site seeing and prepare for the race."

MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "All the drivers have been telling me since the beginning of the season what a wonderful event they put on in Surfers Paradise. I know it draws big crowds and, from what I hear, the fans are quite enthusiastic! It's a lot of fun to participate in races like this where CART is so greatly appreciated. As for the race, we're hoping we can build on what we learned at Miami a couple of weeks ago. We tried a couple of different things that seemed to work for us and though we were a bit disappointed with 11th place, the car was great. The track at Surfers Paradise is a lot longer than Miami but I'm sure we can apply what we learned there. So I'm looking forward to the race and the whole event in Australia."

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