An interview with Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti Part 2 of 2 Q. Cristiano, if you could talk about what a dramatic change it's been from yesterday to today with how everything went wrong, but by this afternoon's session,...
An interview with Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti
Part 2 of 2
Q. Cristiano, if you could talk about what a dramatic change it's been from yesterday to today with how everything went wrong, but by this afternoon's session, everything was going right for you.
Cristiano da Matta: Well, yesterday we just had all kinds of problems. It was strange. It was probably the first day in my whole racing career that I got back to the hotel on Friday night and I had no idea how my car was. I knew it wouldn't be bad because I saw that [teammate] Christian [Fittipaldi] was running pretty well, so that gave me a little bit of a peace of mind. But I couldn't feel it myself. So it was frustrating.
But today was extremely smooth, the morning session and the qualifying. So it paid off.
Merrill Cain: Cristiano, one of the secrets to your success we kind of unveiled in Toronto was the Canadian socks you were given here on a visit to Vancouver. I understand you're wearing those same socks today.
Cristiano da Matta: Not today. Just for race day.
Merrill Cain: That will be the secret tomorrow.
Cristiano da Matta: Yeah, I hope so (laughter).
Merrill Cain: We hope you washed them, too.
Cristiano da Matta: I'm not like my teammate. He uses the same bicycle socks from Thursday all the way to Sunday, and also practices with them. When he's changing into his racing shoes, you better leave the track (laughter). He's so nice, but he doesn't like those shower things and washing things very much.
Q. Paul, you were fastest this morning, then had some complications getting quick in the afternoon. Was it the rise in track temperature that threw everything off?
Paul Tracy: I don't think so. I think this morning the session went extremely smooth. Every time I went out I went quicker, quicker and quicker. It just seemed to come naturally. And I knew what time this afternoon Cristiano had done, and I was just trying very hard and overdrove the car. I left some time out there on the track.
It's just a situation when you're trying too hard, you actually go slower than just letting it happen.
Q. Paul, you said yesterday going out early might not be an advantage. Maybe after today, do you change your mind for the next weekend?
Paul Tracy: The one thing I can say is that they've done an excellent job preparing the track. They washed it thoroughly. The track has been very good all weekend. It was fast in the first session. There wasn't a lot of dust. And it seemed like today when Cristiano went out, there was quite a lot of rubber down and the track was clean, so he was able to do a time right away.
Hats off to the people that organized the track and prepared the track. The track is in really good shape.
Q. On the track, when this track was designed years ago, it drew pretty heavy criticism. Is it more user-friendly? Is it any better than it used to be? Are you used to it now?
Dario Franchitti:: I think the track was pretty good when it started. I was quite happy. I won the first race here. I was delighted quite frankly (laughter).
Paul Tracy: I think we both like the new track better than the old one. But I think there were some problems with tires and things like that, some construction issues. But I think everybody was happy with the layout. It was just some things, like fencing that we weren't generally satisfied with. But they've made every effort to improve it all the time.
Dario Franchitti:: I think[General Manager of Molson Indy Vancouver] Stu Ballantyne and all the guys here, have done a pretty good job. It's great to come and race in Vancouver. When you see the stands are full on Friday, it makes us all feel pretty good. I think the track is up to a standard where we enjoy coming to race here as well. It's not the easiest place to pass on, but no street circuit is. It's very unforgiving. You can't make a mistake, otherwise it kind of bites you a bit.
Cristiano da Matta: They've also repaired a couple places on the racetrack. There may be some places that were bumpy last year, but there are a little bit better this year. Like Paul and Dario said, I always enjoy it here. I never saw a problem. It's getting better every year.
Q. I know the fastest time Cristiano did was under the track record. Obviously, you're running with a little less boost, less power. Where have you made all the differences? Is that traction control?
Dario Franchitti:: I think it's a softer tire. I think Bridgestone really brought a softer tire in comparison to what we had here in 2000. That's what I see. Also the development in the chassis and traction control a bit. I think main thing is the softer tire that Bridgestone brought.
Merrill Cain: Cristiano, do you care to comment?
Cristiano da Matta: I think it's just tires and natural evolution of the race car. The setup for every team is a little bit better.
Q. The time of year when you as drivers are looking for your ride next year and negotiating contracts, if that's distracting to your action on the track, how much more distracting is it this year with rumors of the future of CART, teams going to IRL, all those rumors?
Paul Tracy: I'm hopeful that I can get a job driving da Matta's bus next year because he's going to make so much money (laughter).
I think for me, my standpoint, I believe in CART. I want to stay in CART. That's my future, short and long-term. I'm pushing forward. I'm sticking behind CART. So that's where I want to be.
Cristiano da Matta: I'm with Paul all the way.
Dario Franchitti:: I mean, I think I'll go with these guys (laughter). I think we all enjoy what we're doing here. We all love it. We love racing against the best guys, the best teams and all these great places we get to go and race at. None of us want to give that up, so hopefully we won't have to.
We have such a good series going here. The competition is so strong. We all have a great time all the same. As I said, hopefully that won't change.
Q. Paul addressed this yesterday. So Dario and Cristiano, can you answer this: Are we going to have a championship battle by the end of this year? Are you going to run away and hide?
Cristiano da Matta: Well, I really hope that there's not a championship battle (laughter). But I think it's too early to make any predictions. The season is only half way over.
I think Team KOOL Green has improved a lot. Of course, they changed chassis. They struggled a little bit in the first couple races with the Lola on the street courses and road courses, but now they're up to speed. [Target Chip] Ganassi [Racing] is always running strong. There are a couple other teams getting better, too.
We got a little bit of an advantage over the others at the beginning of the season, but it seems like everybody's just getting more and more equal now. So I think the battle is going to be all the way to the end, although I hope it's not.
Dario Franchitti: I've got a different outlook on that one. I think it's going to be very difficult to catch Cristiano. The guys at Newman/Haas and Cristiano have done a great job this year. It's not over by any means. I know I'm pushing 100 percent. Team KOOL Green is pushing 100 percent and the big guy [Paul] at the end there is pushing 100 percent. We all want it pretty badly.
But we'll see. We can only do our best.
Merrill Cain: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Vancouver qualifying press conference Part I