CHAMPCAR/CART: This Week in Ford Racing 2003-06-25

This Week in Ford Racing June 25, 2003 CART Champ Car World Series Next weekend, CART Champ Car will run the 22nd annual Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport. The 2003 Grand Prix of Cleveland will feature a major difference: for...

This Week in Ford Racing
June 25, 2003

CART Champ Car World Series

Next weekend, CART Champ Car will run the 22nd annual Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport. The 2003 Grand Prix of Cleveland will feature a major difference: for the first time the race will be run at night. This will be the first time in series history that a road course will be run under the lights, and it will become the largest temporary lighting project in history. Earlier this year, CART Champ Car tested the night racing waters on an oval at The Milwaukee Mile with great success. Few drivers around the Champ Car paddock have experienced night racing on a road course, but those who have are confident that Champ Car's efforts to light the course will provide a safe and challenging circuit. Rookie driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and veteran Max Papis shared past night racing experiences and their thoughts on this year's race.

MAX PAPIS - driver No. 27 PK Racing Ford

YOU JUST CAME OFF OF A 24 HOUR RACE IN LEMANS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CLEVELAND? "First of all, it was a great surprise for me to hear that we were going racing under the lights because I didn't know that we were racing at night in Cleveland. When I found out I said that this is pretty cool. I am one of the few guys that have experienced driving a car at night at speed having just came out to the 24 Hours of LeMans where you actually drive quite a long time at night."

HOW WILL THE LIGHTING EFFECT THE DRIVING CONDTIONS THERE? "I'm not so sure how the lighting will be at Cleveland, but that definitely will make a huge difference in terms of being able to drive around the circuit. The biggest difference for me will be not having any lights on the Champ Car, so it will be more of the same feeling that we have when we race at Daytona in the 24-hour race. Even though there is going to be good lightning at the track, it is still going to be very very difficult for a number of reasons. One thing that I've noticed is that you have reflections in the mirrors, and that's something that distracts you quit a bit because you are not use to seeing the car behind you in the way that you are going to see it at night time. The other big factor will be the depth perception; it's pretty different at night. Of course, the lights are going to be up and it will be as close as you can have it to daylight, but the difference that it makes is that everything seems farther away from you and I think that it makes things quite difficult."

WILL THE DEPTH PERCEPTION PLAY AN EVEN BIGGER ROLE AT SUCH A FLAT TRACK? "I think that it's already pretty difficult to drive at Cleveland during the daytime and actually understanding the lines and where you want to turn in or not. I'm sure that CART has done an excellent job in Cleveland to prepare the race track. Who knows? Maybe they'll use the lights of the airport as well the landing lights to define the race track a little bit better. Going into turn one during the daytime it looks like there are four or five lines, but at night, who knows? It may look like there are even more."

WHAT WILL YOU BE LOOKING FOR DURING TRACK OREINTATION AND YOUR FIRST PRACTICE SESSION? "First of all, it's going to be the first time for me running at night without headlamps on the car since we have lights on the sports cars. The headlamps make life a little bit easy, especially because the lights on the sports cars are mainly built to see the apexes of the turns; they really point out at the right and the left side of the car and that's something that I'm definitely going to miss. What I'm going to look for is actually to find the lines that I'll use in a situation that will be different than normal. I will be experimenting a little with other lines and other situations on the race track that you might not use very often but you might use for overtaking or coming out of the pits. It's going be a little bit more of the approach I take when I drive in the rain. In that, I'll actually go and experiment driving on different parts of the track, even if I don't actually need to because I want to see how the car does and how its going to react, or how my depth perception of the track will be if I have to turn in 10 feet more on the right than I should. You have to practice and cover all these different situations that you are not going to have time to cover when the race starts."

WHAT CAN THE FANS EXPECT FROM THE NIGHT RACE? "I think this is going to be awesome. It's going to be one of the greatest shows that the fans have ever seen at Cleveland. Just because of how the turbo is going to light up behind the car, the flames are going to come out of the car and the brake discs will be glowing, it's going to be amazing. There has always been a tremendous show and I have always waited for nighttime practice when I raced at LeMans and Daytona just to see the cars because they look a lot more beautiful at night then what they do in the daytime. I think its just going to enhance the show tremendously."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY - driver No. 31 American Spirit/Team Johansson Ford

YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW DRIVERS WITH ROAD COURSE NIGHT RACING EXPERIENCE. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE DRIVING IN THE 12 HOURS OF SEBRING? "The thing about racing at Sebring at night was the fact that there was no real help from lights, so it was different than what we are going to be doing at Cleveland next weekend. In the sports cars, you need to go off of memory a little more and you're forced to hold a little bit in the bag. The problem in the sports cars is that you can't really see the apexes and the exits too well until you get around them and your headlights get in that direction, so it's definitely a different deal. It was completely different than racing during the daytime, so that experience might be a bit of a help, although I have yet to see how many lights they are going to have up and how lit up it's going to be. Either way, racing the Champ Cars at night is going to be a huge difference than racing during the day."

WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS WITH THE FIRST RACE UNDER THE LIGHTS THIS YEAR? "Even though it was an oval, racing in Milwaukee at night compared to during the day was much different. When you're using your reflexes at the very last second it makes a difference for sure. Racing at night in Milwaukee compared to practice during the day in Milwaukee made a big difference; however, the lighting was right where I thought it'd be it was perfect."

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ADJUSTMENT THAT WEEKEND? "The biggest adjustment was the schedule. The night qualifying and night racing throws you off a little bit. You're still going to wake up when the sun comes up, the only difference is you end up staying up much later than normal. These night races are a bit tougher on the teams and a bit harder on the drivers as well because of the later nights."

WHAT WILL BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE AT BURKE LAKEFRONT? "Cleveland is so flat that even during the day it's hard to find your braking references and turn points at the apexes because there's nothing really there, so at night it might be more difficult. We'll just have to see. Actually, at night with the light poles up, it might provide more reference points for us to use. As far as sight goes we'll be all right and the light poles might actually help a little bit."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Ryan Hunter-Reay