CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Rahal's Max Papis' Pre-Season Thoughts

Tuesday, February 16, 1999 - Hungry for his first career CART FedEx Championship Series win in 1999, Max Papis, driver of the -7- Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth for Team Rahal, is banking on the professionalism of Team Rahal, the experience of Bobby...

Tuesday, February 16, 1999 - Hungry for his first career CART FedEx Championship Series win in 1999, Max Papis, driver of the -7- Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth for Team Rahal, is banking on the professionalism of Team Rahal, the experience of Bobby Rahal, the support of Bryan Herta, and the past success of the Ford-Cosworth engine to propel him to victory lane.

Papis, who has high expectations of himself, considers a season of consistent strong showings more impressive than one of sporadic successes and relishes the opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to be a champion.

He has also employed a personal trainer whose resume reads as a who's who of European sport celebrities to help him train physically for the rigorous twenty race season that spans three continents.

MAX PAPIS -7- Miller Lite Ford-Cosworth -- YOU RAISED QUITE A FEW EYEBROWS WITH THE TIMES YOU TURNED IN SPRING TRAINING. NOT MANY PEOPLE PICKED YOU TO BE THE FASTEST FORD? "I was excited to be back in the car in a competitive environment. I am glad we raised some attention for ourselves by people who may not have thought we would have shown as much as we did. This is just the beginning and there is a lot more to come. We are going to surprise a lot of people this year in the Miller Lite car. We have a good package with the team, my engineer and Bobby (Rahal) supporting us. But, we are not even close to our potential. We still have to find the right chemistry. If you looked at the times in Spring Training, I was the only guy in the top-five with a new car, a new team and a new environment. If I surprised some people, just wait a while. We are going to surprise many."

THE ONLY VARIABLE THAT HAS CHANGED IN THE "PACKAGE" YOU RAN LAST YEAR IS THE ENGINE. HOW DOES THE FORD COMPARE TO THE TOYOTA? "It is difficult to compare the two programs. The Toyota was a development program and I was very pleased with the progress we made over the last two-and-a-half years. Now, with Ford, I have a winning package. The Ford engine has been developed and has won races before, it's a proven package."

HOW DID THE RAHAL GUYS WELCOME YOU TO THE TEAM? "What makes me the most proud of the ride I have now is that Bobby welcomed me to the team by giving me his seat. This was a great honor for me. It shows me that he has great faith in my abilities. Everyone at Team Rahal is hungry for success and hopefully I can lead them to that success very shortly."

HOW IS BOBBY AS A TEAM OWNER? "It's difficult to answer that question. I don't think he knows himself as a team owner yet. He is still experimenting and feeling out the new position he has on the team. Up until now he has been very, very, patient. I think he is trying to get a better understanding of what is happening within the team and in the ways the team operates while still offering up valuable input as a driver in order to improve car setups. He is still learning his new position with the team."

IN WHAT WAYS CAN TEAM RAHAL HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER DRIVER? "By giving me winning equipment and believing in my hunger to win. I think that is one of the reasons Bobby employed me. When I am in the car I am giving 110-percent. Bobby has assembled a great group of people that all have the same desire and will to win as I do and that is important."

WHAT DO YOU BRING TO TEAM RAHAL? "I bring the will to succeed. I have only one gear in the way I think, all-out 110-percent in any situation. Both on the team side and on the engine side because first I push myself to the next limit."

HOW IS BRYAN HERTA AS A TEAMMATE? "What I really appreciate with Bryan as a teammate is up until now he has been a very honest person. Of course he is working for himself just like everyone else, but, he does not forget that his success and my success are tied together. He realizes that we need to work to push Team Rahal forward, not the Miller Lite car or the Shell car, but Team Rahal. If we fail to work together the atmosphere within the team will not move forward. What I appreciate of him is that up until now he has been a very honest person. I have no problem working with people who are sincere and honest and that what he is. But, every time I hear people ask how Bryan feels in the new lead role at Team Rahal, I have to remind them that before they give the lead role to Bryan they better take a look at the Miller Lite car."

WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER A SUCCESSFUL FIRST SEASON WITH TEAM RAHAL? "For me it would be being a consistent front runner rather than a sporadic winner. I want to be racing up front all the time. I know we have the tools to be successful so I put no limits on what we can achieve this year, but, what I feel is that we have great potential in our hand. Realistically I would like to see Team Rahal consistently up front, hopefully that will be with the Miller Lite car. The goal will be to build the right confidence in the team to become a consistent winner very shortly."

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE PICKING YOU TO MAKE A BIG IMPACT THIS YEAR. IS THIS YOUR BREAKOUT YEAR? I am really happy to know people think highly of me. People are always asking me what we have changed or what I am doing differently when I have success and I have to remind them that this has always been me, I have not changed. I am proud of our accomplishments over the last three years. We took Toyota from being last on the grid to qualifying in the top-ten to finishing the race in the top-five. That was a great accomplishment for me. So now, I will drive with the same will to succeed but with a different package and I think the finishes will come out much better because the Ford is a winning package."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED PRIOR TO THE FIRST RACE IN MIAMI? ANY LAST MINUTE VACATIONS YOU WANT TO GET IN? "Actually, I have no vacations planned. What I am planning to do is train real hard prior to the first race both physically and mentally. I am going to have my trainer and good friend come out from Europe. He trains some of the best athletes in the world from world-champion skier Alberto Tomba, Formula One driver Jean Alesi and the soccer team, Milan AC."

YOU MENTIONED TRAINING MENTALLY, HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DOING THAT? "It's funny. I think I train mentally everyday. Every time I am relaxing I am thinking about motor racing. For example, on a plane trip to West Palm Beach, Ca., on Sunday I had a clear picture in my mind of going through turns one and two at Homestead during Spring Training on my fast lap and thinking of how I could have improved it. I am also consistently thinking of my weaknesses and how I can improve them. But, I am not going to tell you what they are."

I HEAR YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME, PERHAPS CLOSER TO RAHAL'S SHOP IN HILLARY, OHIO? "I have not decided yet. I think I am defintely going to come to the East coast, perhaps Miami. I had a house in California, but right now I am living in Los Angeles with a friend of mine."

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM MAX IN THE SEASON OPENER IN MIAMI? "I am very happy to be linked with such big names like Bobby Rahal, Ford and Miller. I think the combination of the professionalism and the will to succeed by all of us will make us consistent winners. You will see me in Miami stronger than ever. Hungry to kick everyone else in the butt."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta