An interview with Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We'll go ahead and get started with our top-three press conference following today's final qualifying for...
An interview with Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We'll go ahead and get started with our top-three press conference following today's final qualifying for tomorrow's Molson Indy Vancouver.
We're joined by Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy. We'll await Cristiano da Matta, our polesitter today.
We'll start out first with Dario Franchitti, driver of the #27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone. He qualified third this afternoon with a time of 1:00.559, that's a speed of 105.874 miles per hour. It marks the second consecutive race that he's qualified in the third spot. Dario has qualified third or better four times this season, and he's finished on the podium in two of those races, that coming in Monterrey, Mexico, and in Chicago.
Dario, talk about your qualifying effort today. Team KOOL Green has obviously been fast all weekend. You seem to be pretty comfortable with the car setup.
Dario Franchitti: I think the guys at Team KOOL Green did a good job coming here. Paul [Tracy] was very, very fast in Toronto. I kind of struggled a bit. But we made some changes to my car in particular for this race, and all three cars, including Michael's [Andretti] came off the transporter. We're very happy with the balance and how the cars are performing.
Qualifying yesterday was pretty frustrating for me getting stuck in traffic all the time. And today we gave it a good shot on the first run. The second run we made some changes that made the car a bit slower. That was a bit of a pain. That was about it.
In the first run, we had a couple of good laps in there. The second run was just really catching the car all the time. We just lost the balance and the speed of the car. We had a problem with the valve blowing out also in the second run. Otherwise, I think we could have given Cristiano [da Matta] a run.
To start third, it's not too bad. It's certainly better than last year where we started 19th. I'm quite happy with that. Paul is in front. I think we've got a good car for the race tomorrow. I think we've got a good balance when on used tires. We'll see how it goes.
Merrill Cain: Canada's own Paul Tracy qualified second this afternoon, driver of the #26 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, he'll start on the outside f the front row for the third time this season. He takes the second spot with a top lap of 1:00.502, that's a speed of 105.973 miles per hour. It's the second time here in the last three seasons that Paul has started second in Vancouver. And he's converted that front row starting spot to a win, that came in the 2000 race.
Paul, it was a very exciting qualifying session toward the end there. You gave it your all gunning for Cristiano who eclipsed the track record. Talk about those last few laps.
Paul Tracy: We made a change right before the start of the session. And my first run wasn't fantastic. I think it was about sixth or seventh quick. We weren't very happy with that.
We made some other changes, and I went out. The car felt very good right away on the warm-up lap. So it was just a case of having a clear track. It was all up to me. And I just really kind of overdrove it a little bit. I tried a little bit too hard, and I was close, but lost a little bit of time in a couple of areas just from wanting to get that time. And that was it.
I mean, it doesn't take very much to lose a 10th here and a 10th there. I think we're only a 10th and a half behind. So I'm a little disappointed because the car was good. I didn't get the best out of the car, and I didn't get the best from myself. But to be second, we've had a great weekend.
The car's been working really well. The car is working well on old tires, which is fantastic. And we'll see what we can do on Sunday.
Merrill Cain: We'll be joined by Cristiano da Matta momentarily. Before we do, let's open it up for questions for both Paul and Dario.
Q. You guys are on the same team. Is there any way you can help each other out at the start to overcome Mr. da Matta?
Paul Tracy: Dario said we're going to try to tie him up, put him underneath this shaky table, jump up and down on it and try to collapse it on top of him.
You can be sure both Dario and myself would like to win this race. We're going to do everything we can.
Merrill Cain: We're joined now by Cristiano da Matta, today's record-setting polesitter. Driver of the #6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he wins the pole with a new track record time of 1:00.339 and a speed of 106.260 miles per hour. It eclipses the track record of 1:00.405 seconds that was held by Dario and Gil de Ferran. The run gives Cristiano his fifth pole of the 2002 season and his first on the streets of Vancouver. It's the fifth consecutive road course pole for a Toyota-powered machine and the sixth in the last eight road courses.
Cristiano, obviously a great run for you today. Congratulations on setting the track record and winning the pole. You took a little interesting tact to qualifying when you went out early. It's something we haven't seen much this season, Was that more of a situation were you wanted to get a clear track?
Cristiano da Matta: Oh, definitely, because yesterday I couldn't get one clear lap. It was just a zoo out there at the end of qualifying. And I'm pretty sure nobody really got a clear lap. I think that's why the lap times yesterday were so slow.
And today we knew that the only chance we could have to get a proper run would be if we went out right in the beginning of the session. So we went out. We thought it would be more important to get a couple of decent laps and get into a rhythm than to get on track on its very best at the end and get maybe only one lap or the other.
I think with the session the way it went yesterday, everybody played it different. So it was a pretty smooth qualifying session for everybody.
Merrill Cain: One quick note. Cristiano earns one championship point for winning the pole today. It gives him 121 points on the season and widens his lead over second place Bruno Junqueira to 51 points entering tomorrow's race.
We'll open it back up for questions.
Q. Cristiano, you have two teammates [Paul and Dario] behind you to start tomorrow. What kind of strategy are you going to apply?
Cristiano da Matta: Well, I don't know (laughter). You should ask those two guys what strategy they're going to apply so I can apply my strategy, too.
Paul Tracy: I already told them. We were going to tie you up and put you under the bench here, jump up and down until it breaks on you (laughter).
Cristiano da Matta: So I have to run away really (laughter). I'm smaller than these guys; I can't do anything about it.
Q. Cristiano, you were saying this morning, because of the problems you had yesterday, you really didn't have the time to kind of dial the car as well as you would like. You were saying it wasn't quite good in the middle of the corner. Were you able to get it really right for qualifying, or is it still maybe a touch off?
Cristiano da Matta: No, we made it quite better for qualifying. Of course, it's natural improvement from session to session. This morning we just got a little bit off. I went out with pretty good tires at the very start of the session. But then our laps started to drop off a little bit. Then we could see where the problems really were with the car.
So we made a couple of experiments during the session, and it was a very productive session. We were able to have a good look at everything, how the changes effects us and all the data we had between the morning session and qualifying.
The problem was definitely a lot smaller in qualifying. I think the race car will always have something to work on, but it was definitely a lot better.
Vancouver qualifying press conference Part II