CHAMPCAR/CART: This week in Ford Racing, Brack and Papis interview

This Week in Ford Racing June 12, 2001 CART FedEx Series The 2000 Jim Trueman CART Rookie of the Year, Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack's success has continued into this season. With two victories, three pole positions and four top-five finishes...

This Week in Ford Racing
June 12, 2001

CART FedEx Series

The 2000 Jim Trueman CART Rookie of the Year, Team Rahal driver Kenny Brack's success has continued into this season. With two victories, three pole positions and four top-five finishes in five races, Brack currently enjoys a 23-point lead in the drivers' championship. Brack took some time this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway, where he was competing in the IROC race, to speak about his season thus far, his relationship with Ford Racing and Cosworth, and the upcoming Detroit Grand Prix.

KENNY BRACK - #8 Shell Ford

COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT THE UPCOMING GRAND PRIX IN DETROIT?

"I have good feelings about Detroit because it's Ford's home race and we're a Ford team, so I hope that we can go there and put on a good show. I won a race there already in 1993 running Barber-Saab en route to winning the championship, but last year I had a rough time in Detroit. I spun off two or three times during the weekend and only managed to do eight or 10 laps in the race, so that wasn't one of my highlights of last year's season (laughing). It's a fun track, but it's very difficult to pass on so it's important to have a good qualifying effort."

THERE'S TALK THAT THIS MAY BE THE LAST RACE IN DETROIT. WOULD YOU CARE IF THAT RACE SUDDENLY DISAPPEARED OR WAS MOVED TO A DIFFERENT VENUE IN DETROIT? WOULD YOU MISS THIS RACE?

"To me I never really think about it that way. I think about where we're racing and I think about how to win that race, but if it's not on the schedule then I don't have to worry about winning it, so I don't have an opinion about that. Right now, we're racing there and I hope there's a lot of fans that turn up because it will be an exciting event. If they decide in the future to race somewhere else, we're going to go there and I hope all the fans turn out there because it's going to be an exciting event there too because all CART races bring a lot of excitement and action for the fans."

DID YOU HAVE ANY GOALS HEADING INTO THE SEASON ABOUT WHERE YOU'D LIKE TO BE AT A CERTAIN POINT? DID YOU THINK YOU'D BE LEADING THE CHAMPIONSHIP THROUGH THE FIRST QUARTER OF THE SCHEDULE?

"I never had any goals of leading the championship at any point except trying to be as high up as possible in the end. It's difficult to say you're going to win the championship because a lot of things can happen during the year, but my goal going into the season was to win races and that's all there is to it. If you win races, the other things will come. If you're fortunate enough to have things go your way even when you're not winning races you get good finishes. If you're not, you can win races and you may not win the championship anyway. For me, this has been a very successful season. We've been on the pace everywhere we've been and we've won two races, so it's great."

DOES LEADING THE POINTS CHAMPIONSHIP CHANGE THE WAY YOU MIGHT APPROACH FUTURE RACES? YOU SAID YOUR GOAL WAS TO WIN RACES, BUT MIGHT YOU LOOK TO JUST SCORE POINTS?

"No, I race the same way I always race and that's flat out. If I was in this situation with three races to go, yeah, then I would change it because it would be stupid not to, but until that point I'm going to race the way I've always raced and that's 100 percent."

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE FIRST TWO RACES AT MONTERREY AND LONG BEACH THAT YOU CAN USE IN THE UPCOMING STRETCH OF THREE CONSECUTIVE ROAD AND STREET RACES?

"We learned that we had some problems in the first one, and we've rectified those hopefully. In the second one we had some problems too, and we have rectified those too we think (laughing). Hopefully we're going to go to Detroit with all these problems rectified and finish! (laughing)

YOU'VE BEEN VERY PROACTIVE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COSWORTH XF ENGINE. COULD YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH COSWORTH AND THE WORK THEY'VE DONE TO IMPROVE THE DRIVEABILITY OF THE XF?

"I came on board last year having never seen or driven a Champ Car, but I felt that we could do more work when it came to the driveability of the engine and stuff like that. We started that process last fall, and we got a chance to do some work and immediately found some improvements. I worked with Bruce (Wood) and the guys in England and at (cell) 17G in Detroit, and they are a very responsive group of engineers that I have a very good relationship with. It's a lot of fun to develop these things, but it's not a one-way street. I feel what I need in the car and if I don't tell the engineers they can't make the change. I've been trying to be quite analytical about it to find what we can do to improve the engine, and we've had good communication between us. They've improved everything we talked about and that's the result that we are seeing. We sat on the pole in Mexico on a very slippery track, and I think it's safe to say that a year or two years ago that would've been very difficult with the way the engine had performed under those conditions. The ability has always been with the Ford, but they probably haven't had that information fed to them, and now, I believe that we have the best package out there. Ford's engine is more powerful than the others, and has shown better driveability so far this season. We're going to continue improving and pushing hard, but that's a major accomplishment when you look at the competition."

CAN YOU REALLY SENSE A DIFFERENCE FROM LAST SEASON WITH THE WORK THAT FORD HAS DONE AT 17G?

"It's night and day. They've done a tremendous amount of work at 17G, which is a fantastic facility to have available. You can see things on a rig like that that would be impossible to see on other dynos. It's just like having the engine in the car and testing it, which is invaluable, especially now when we don't have any testing in season."

CART IS PLANNING TO TEST A NEW CONFIGURATION AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY THAT'S DESIGNED TO SLOW THE CARS DOWN. DO YOU THINK THERE IS A NEED TO SLOW THE CARS?

"Well, that depends. If you want to be within (the speeds) that we were last year, then yeah, you need to slow them down because the developments over the winter have been tremendous and speeds have risen considerably. I think one of the reasons they're having the test is to see where we're at with speeds and try to make sure that we're not going over the limits."

ARE WE NEARING YOUR LIMIT? EVERY DRIVER HAS HIS OWN LIMIT DOESN'T HE?

"No, not really. I think it's fun when the cars go fast, but I mean ... if you look at the speeds and how fast we're going, it's not necessary to go that fast from a "show" standpoint. What CART's trying to do is keep speeds under control because it doesn't necessarily make for a better show. We're still the fastest racing in the world and we don't need to go any faster. All major series take steps to keep the speeds under control. It's done in CART, it's done in NASCAR, IRL, Formula One, they all try to keep the speeds at an acceptable level and that's what CART's trying to do."

COMING FROM THE IRL, DO YOU PREFER OVAL RACING COMPARED TO RACING ON ROAD OR STREET COURSES?

"I like both. I grew up on road racing and it wasn't until 1997 that I started driving ovals, so I have experience on both. I guess since I've won twice on ovals I like that better right now, but if I win in Detroit I think I'll switch back to liking street racing! (laughing) But they both require two different techniques. Road racing is so grueling when it comes to physical fitness, and you have to be so fit to drive on road courses, especially in a Champ Car because they're so fast and you have so many g-forces. I work out six times a week to increase my stamina and strength just to be able to physically drive the cars, that's how fit you have to be. When we race on the ovals, obviously we don't need all that fitness because that's not as physically grueling as racing on the road courses. But oval racing is hard in other ways. It's mentally tough because you're traveling at such high speeds all the time and you won't walk away from the smallest little mistake because you're going to be in the wall. It's a completely different mindset, but having had the opportunity to learn both really well, I like both. I came over into the IRL and I did only ovals for two-and-a-half years, and I think that's a better way of learning than trying to learn ovals while you're road racing, so I've got a good, solid base in both categories."

Max Papis heads into this weekend's Detroit Grand Prix 13th in the drivers' championship (14 points) following back-to-back points-paying finishes at Japan (6th) and Milwaukee (8th). Last year on Belle Isle, Papis qualified fifth en route to a second place finish, his second podium appearance of the season. Papis, who was one of five CART drivers asked to participate in the test at Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday, took some time to talk about the test and share his feelings on the season to date.

MAX PAPIS - #7 Miller Lite Ford

YOU HAD A STRONG RUN AT DETROIT LAST SEASON, QUALIFYING IN THE TOP FIVE AND FINISHING SECOND IN THE RACE. IT'S A TIGHT TRACK WHERE IT'S DIFFICULT TO PASS, BUT IS THIS A TRACK YOU LIKE TO RACE ON?

"There's not any particular reason why we've been good there or not. I feel that it's a very technical track, and a track that requires a lot of finesse, but at the same time you must attack it because it's a street course. I'm really anxious to go out there on Friday and Saturday for the qualifying to show everybody where we belong."

BECAUSE IT'S TOUGH TO PASS, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO QUALIFY AT THE FRONT?

"Nowadays it's important to qualify at the front everywhere we race. I would say maybe the only place where it's not so important (to qualify at the front) is on the superspeedways. With the cars so competitive these days, Saturday qualifying basically sets the tone for the weekend."

WITH NO PROVISIONAL QUALIFYING THIS SEASON, WHAT HAVE YOU SPENT YOUR FRIDAYS WORKING ON DURING THE RACE WEEKENDS?

"We work on a variety of things. What pays the big bucks is Sunday afternoon, so you need to perform your best at that time, especially on ovals because the oval race set up is particularly different from a road course set up. For us, every Friday we try to focus and experiment on what we need, especially on Friday afternoon when there is a lot of heat and a lot of cars on the track, so we try to work on our race set up. But the performance is what matters, and you're never happy if you're running the same pace as the leaders but are in 24th on the grid. Just working to set up the car on Saturday morning is not enough to produce a good qualifying effort. You need to start thinking from Friday morning, checking out your race set up on Friday during the day and afternoon, but always keeping in your mind that it's important to be up in the front."

COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE TEST AT MIS THAT YOU WERE ASKED TO PARTICIPATE IN?

"I know that one of the major reasons why we're going to test at Michigan is to try and reduce the speeds of the cars. My personal point of view is that taking downforce away from the cars is not the way to make the "show" better. I would say that the superspeedway show was already one of the best and I just think that the cars need downforce to be able to produce a good show. We need to be able to go side-by-side, and to achieve that both on the short ovals and on the superspeedways we need some downforce to produce good racing."

DO YOU THINK IT'S A MISTAKE TO CHANGE THE CURRENT SUPERSPEEDWAY SPEC?

"I'm not so sure what CART wants to achieve with the test, but from a driver's point of view it's not safer to drive around at 234 (miles per hour) than it is driving around at 241, but driving around at 220 can make a big difference. I believe that hitting the wall five miles per hour slower will not make a big difference, but driving around at Michigan at 220 miles per hour would be a very good speed to race while also leaving enough room for safety. But I don't believe that a two, three or four mile-per-hour difference will make any difference. What would make the car really bad would be taking away feeling from the driver."

WHAT KIND OF SEASON HAS THIS BEEN FOR YOU THUS FAR?

"Well, it's really just the beginning of the season. We've been collecting some points that are going to be important later on the in the season, especially in the last two races, and we are building our confidence so we can achieve even better things in the near future. I can't say that I'm happy with the results that we've had up to now, but we are building confidence for the rest of the season."

DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE GAINED SOME MOMENTUM AFTER SCORING TWO STRAIGHT POINTS-PAYING RESULTS?

"We are building the confidence and the spirit of the team and the knowledge of the car so we can continue to finish well. But it's just the beginning of the season. It's a really long season and we've only done five races, so there are many, many races still left to go."

HOW CHALLENGING HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO ADJUST TO THE LOLA CHASSIS?

"It's definitely a new car and a different concept, but from a driving standpoint you get used to it after a little while. The situation now is making the right adjustment at the right moment and building some background knowledge about the car, which is what my engineer and myself are doing at the moment. It's a new car that has some very good characteristics, but it's different from what we've worked with in the past, so we need to know what the difference adjustments are. Unfortunately with the limited amount of testing, most of the time we are doing these experiments while we're racing. Sometimes we've made them right, sometimes you don't, and that's why we are in the hunt for good results."

YOU SPENT ONE SEASON WORKING WITH THE COSWORTH XD ENGINE, AND YOU'RE NOW IN YOUR SECOND SEASON WORKING WITH THE COSWORTH XF ENGINE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE GAINS THAT COSWORTH HAS MADE TRYING TO IMPROVE THE POWER AND DRIVEABILITY OF THE ENGINE?

"I have to say that I saw the end of the XD engine and I was very proud to give the first win to the XF engine (Homestead - '99). I think that is something very special and I'm really, really proud of that accomplishment because it'll always be the first win for that engine. I am extremely confident in the work that all the people at Cosworth have been putting into the program over the last few years. It was proven last season when we took a brand new engine and won the first race with it, and from that point on they have never stopped working on the development of its driveability. The amount of effort and the amount of development that has gone into the XF engine from the beginning of last season until now is almost like having a new engine, or the second generation of the engine. We always have to look at each other and ask it we can do some of these things better, and the answer is always yes, but at the moment I am very pleased because the evolution of the engine up now has been just tremendous."

-Ford Racing-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis
Teams CIP