ALEX ZANARDI (Target Reynard Honda), on remaining focused in pursuit of his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title: "We are close to the championship, but I don't want to think about that yet. I just want to get out there and race to...
ALEX ZANARDI (Target Reynard Honda), on remaining focused in pursuit of his second consecutive FedEx Championship Series title: "We are close to the championship, but I don't want to think about that yet. I just want to get out there and race to a good finish. My team has been doing a great job this entire season, and I think that Vancouver will not be any different. We expect a challenge this year because it is a new circuit, but we have risen to challenges all along and hopefully we will come out with a strong performance again."
(On his enjoyment of Vancouver) "Vancouver is a wonderful place. I really like the city, and it's certainly one of the most beautiful places we visit each year. I haven't won there, even though I've been on the pole twice, so I guess I'm happy to be racing on a new circuit. Maybe it will bring me better luck. I'm sure the course is going to be better for all the drivers, because it's wider and has more opportunities for overtaking than the old course."
JIMMY VASSER (Target Reynard Honda), on the new Vancouver layout: "In terms of the track at Vancouver, it's been completely reconfigured since last season, so it's going to be like racing on a brand new course. They've added some new turns, there are a couple of new passing areas and I think the whole track is going to be a lot less bumpy. All of the changes are really positive and should make for faster and more exciting racing."
(On last year's runner-up showing at Vancouver) "I really had a good race at Vancouver last year and felt I could have won. We had a few problems, though. I hit the wall at one point and bent the suspension, and then we had gearbox problems for about 50 laps. Although we didn't win, that race gave us some pretty good momentum that we carried through to the final two races of the season. [Vasser won at Laguna Seca a week later, than finished second in the season finale at California Speedway.]"
BOBBY RAHAL (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), on the search for his successor in the Miller Lite Reynard Ford, which ended Monday with the announcement that Max Papis will fill the seat next year: "I guess I've had the best view of any car owner in a long time to look at a possible replacement. Most owners have to look from the outside at driver talent. I'm racing inches away from my possible future driver. I know one thing, though. I want to beat each guy to the next corner when I'm in the car. I don't care who is next to me. But I have been able to evaluate the talent better than any other team owner in our series. And that's good for the future of our team."
(On his record of success in Canada, which includes runner-up finishes at Vancouver in 1991, '93 and '96) "Canada in general, and Canadian fans in particular, have always been very supportive of me. I can't explain it. We've always just had this kind of kinship. With as much racing as I've done here during my career, maybe it's just familiarity. I don't know, but I really enjoy it."
(On his current streak of 11 consecutive finishes with PPG Cup points, the longest of his 17-year Champ Car career) "That's a pretty good record for an old guy. I've finished every race that the wheels were touching the ground. [The only race Rahal has not finished this season was at Japan, when his car flipped after making contact with the Turn Two wall, 15 laps from the checkered flag.] "
AL UNSER JR. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), owner of a series-best four career victories at Vancouver, on the challenges presented by a new layout: "I'm really looking forward to the race in Vancouver, because it's a brand new track. All of the drivers will have the same amount of time to learn it before the race on Sunday, which puts us on equal footing and equalized the field. I have had good fortune there, and it would be a great place to give Roger [Penske, team owner] his 100th win and get my 32nd win. I won my last Champ Car race for Marlboro Team Penske in Vancouver [in 1995] - it would be great to break the streak there."
MAURICIO GUGELMIN (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes), on defending his Molson Indy Vancouver victory on the new street-course layout: "The Molson Indy Vancouver organizers have done a tremendous job with the new circuit. People say to me, 'Don't you want to go back to the track you won on?' My reply is that the new track is such an improvement that everybody benefits."
(On the challenges of the 1998 FedEx Championship Series season) "I don't think anyone expected us to struggle like we have, but that's an indication of how competitive the CART series is. To win races at this level, absolutely everything has to work according to plan. There's no margin for error in any area, whether it's car setup, driving on the track, or pit stops. The whole package has to be absolutely right, and we haven't been able to say that for most of the season. We've had some encouraging things happening lately, and the key is to get back to that winning attitude."
BRYAN HERTA (Shell Reynard Ford), on his pursuit of his first career FedEx Championship Series victory during the upcoming stretch of West Coast events: "We're closer to the position we're looking for and that's the Winner's Circle. We haven't scored any points in the past two races, but we've been going for the wins. It hasn't paid off yet, but I'm still going to be aggressive and fight for each inch I can. I know that first win is just around the corner. Our team has put together some awesome cars lately and I think both [team owner] Bobby [Rahal] and I believe we're close to a victory."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (KOOL Reynard Honda), on recording his first career victory at Road America: "It feels fantastic to get that first win under my belt and I know it's made me and the rest of the Team KOOL Green guys hungry for more. We're at the point now where we expect to run up front and be in the position to win races. We've shown we can run well on the temporary street circuits, so Vancouver should be no exception."
GIL de FERRAN (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), on the international growth of the FedEx Championship Series: "Some of the internationalization you see now is what I call 'The Nigel Mansell Effect.' It certainly made me re-evaluate my opinion of CART. I'm sure the same happened to other drivers and sponsors and many millions of fans. One cannot underestimate the appeal of a world champion, especially a very popular world champion. Maybe the appeal inside America is varied, but not for motor racing fans around the world, and the motor racing media. Nigel didn't even defend his title in Formula One. When he came here in 1993, it was like someone turned on the spotlights onto the series. All of a sudden, CART was talked about all over Europe, and elsewhere."
PAUL TRACY (KOOL Reynard Honda), on his recent success at Mid-Ohio and Road America: "We've had a couple of decent races recently, but we haven't qualified well all season. I've driven my heart out the last two races, making up 16 positions at Mid-Ohio [from 21st to fifth] and 11 at Road America [from 17th to sixth]. If we can just qualify in the top 10 at Vancouver, I think we've got a shot at the podium."
MARK BLUNDELL (Motorola PacWest Mercedes), on maintaining team unity in the face of challenging times: "We've faced a number of challenges throughout the season and we've done a good job of sticking together as a team. It's been frustrating, because we make progress in on area and then fall behind in another. But you have to take the rough with the smooth, and I have a lot of confidence in our ability to compete again at the same level as we did in 1997."
(On turning the season around at Vancouver) "We've showed good form on street circuits I the past. I haven't seen the new circuit, but I've seen drawings and spoken to Mauricio [Gugelmin], who checked it out recently. I also enjoy the Canadian races because of the level of support we receive from Motorola Canada. Canadians in general are serious race fans, and that attitude definitely carries through at Motorola Canada. The really enjoy racing in general, and it's obvious they have a lot of pride in coming out and cheering for the Motorola car, driver and team. Let's hope we can give them something to really shout about."
RICHIE HEARN (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford) on the new look of the Vancouver course: "[The changes] can only make the track better. The track will be longer now, and the changes should allow for more passing areas. It's nice to have new challenges. I seem to be doing well this year at venues that have had changes from last year. That, coupled with the fact that we have a good street-course setup will hopefully make for a good race weekend."
(On his enjoyment of Vancouver) "It's a great city, an awesome place to visit. The people are great and really get into the race. It's fun to go there and have all those people cheer you on. I look forward to going back this year."
ANDRE RIBEIRO (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), on his continuing recovery from a fractured left fibula sustained during provisional qualifying at the Texaco/Havoline 200: "The recovery process on my leg has been going very well and I've been spending three hours a day on physical therapy so that I will be at my strongest when I race in Vancouver. Everything is proceeding on schedule and while I will be able to walk on the leg in Vancouver, I will still need some extra protection in the cockpit and on my leg during the race. My Marlboro Team Penske crew did a fantastic job of modifying the cockpit so that I could be as comfortable as possible at Elkhart Lake, and I'm sure they will help me again in Vancouver [In addition to extra padding in the cockpit, Ribeiro's crew also created two shin guards and a footrest on the clutch pedal to keep the left leg elevated].
(On the layout of the new Vancouver street circuit) "I'm very excited to see the new track in Vancouver. While it will be difficult for me to walk the circuit, I will definitely be taking a scooter or golf cart around it many times so that I can memorize the new configuration and familiarize myself with the layout. It will be like going to a completely new track, so it should be interesting to see how everyone competes there, since nobody has any previous data to base their set-up on."
HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (Alumax Aluminum Reynard Mercedes), on the new street-course layout at Vancouver: "Nobody has raced on this track. It's going to be tougher for everyone, but I believe that we have a good package for the street circuits. I really like street circuits. You cannot push the limit, so you have to be careful because of the walls. But I feel very comfortable on these tracks. I hope luck is on our side this time."
ARND MEIER (Hasseroder/J.A.G. Lola Ford), on his career-best 10th-place finish at Road America: "It's great to come to Vancouver with some momentum. I really think this new layout will be good for the drivers and fans. I didn't race here last year, but I saw what the course was all about. There should be better places for the drivers to pass and race on. >From what I understand, Turns One and Four will be very quick."
Source: CART Online