Continued from part 1 SULLIVAN: Got a question all the way in the back. I'm looking at a possible hamstring here. (Laughter) Q: Question for Ryan. How do you like being a test driver for Formula One and basically doing road courses, how have...
Continued from part 1
SULLIVAN: Got a question all the way in the back. I'm looking at a possible hamstring here. (Laughter)
Q: Question for Ryan. How do you like being a test driver for Formula One and basically doing road courses, how have you adapted to the ovals?
BRISCOE: Yeah, it's a very different sort of situation. I mean, you go from test driving high-performance car road courses all the time, but you're not in competition. Coming over here back into racing, it's a great feeling to be back in racing. Racing on ovals is very different to anything I've done in the past. It's certainly been a big help working with such an experienced team as Target Ganassi and having Scott and Darren as teammates; they've been helping a lot. But with the limited testing we have, it doesn't give us a whole lot of track time to adapt to the cars and feeling in traffic and so on before getting to the first race at Homestead this year. A lot of it is about just getting out there and racing and picking it up as you go along. It has been a bit of a challenge in the beginning. I've made a couple of mistakes, which has put me out of the first two races a little bit early. But I've been learning a hell of a lot, and I'm really looking forward to the next round in Japan where I'll have more experience and hopefully improve on what I've been picking up in the beginning.
Q: A lot of the drivers in the Indy Racing League have raced each other in the past such as in go-karts and things like that coming up. Do you have any experience racing against these guys, and are you surprised at the tenacity at which they race?
BRISCOE: Yeah, I guess it's not much of a surprise. I mean, you always have to expect at this level of racing that the competition is going to be top class, as good as it gets. But I've only raced I think against one or two of the guys in the series, and I think with the oval racing compared to road course racing, it is more about knowing your competitors. So that's something else I'm picking up at the moment.
Q: Chip, both you and Rahal Letterman increased your teams from two to three cars this year. Was it a case where a talent like Ryan was someone that you didn't really want to let go or was it also a situation of trying to support the series?
GANASSI: Well, I think, Bruce, that's an interesting question. I think, you know, as much as I like young drivers, I didn't do it strictly for Ryan's purpose; and as much as I love IndyCar racing, I didn't do it for the series. I think probably first and foremost is we sat down and, like you say, like Ryan was saying, you look at the rules. And testing is becoming so restricted now that when you can have another car out there, each weekend is effectively a test session for us in some sense. I would think it would be really hard to be a single-car team today. I think obviously two heads are better than one, and it follows that three are better than two in terms of input and what we're trying to accomplish here. It should speed up our development. You know, people forget, and it shouldn't -- you shouldn't forget how close these cars are, you know, competitively, whether it's a G Force or a Dallara, whether it's a Honda, Toyota or Chevrolet, whatever package you have, this series is very, very tight. Developments you make are very, very small. Incremental changes make a big difference at the end of a race. So small things are few and far between, but they're so valuable when you find them, small gains. So that's really the reason we wanted to increase the size of our force that we're entering each weekend, is really to speed the development.
Q: I have a question for Ryan. Can you speak to the situation Sunday with between you and Kanaan, did you feel like you were blocking him or can you talk about that?
BRISCOE: Yeah. (Laughter) Yeah, I mean what a race. We had a fantastic race and led 43 laps of the race. You know, it was coming down to the final few laps, you know, with nine laps to go we weren't leading by mistake. I certainly wasn't going to just pull over to the side and let Kanaan walk away with it, you know. At the time he had slightly better tires than me. Made a bit more of a difference on cold tires after restarts. And I had to defend my position. I certainly wasn't driving recklessly. I think after the restart down the couple of straights where he was a bit quicker, I defended my position just at the beginning of the straight, went to the middle of the track to make it more difficult for him to come past me. And then, you know, I don't know if that sort of flicked a switch on Tony Kanaan or whatever, but we got down to Turn 10 and before the braking zone I looked in the mirror and he was over a car length behind me and then got to the apex as I was turning in and he was coming through, you know. So it was unfortunate. He was lucky, he got away with it. I didn't. It's unfortunate. But all I can say is we had a fantastic race. Strategy was perfect from the team. Car was performing well. Everyone did a great job, Toyota, everyone. And I think we showed them that we're out there racing for wins, and we're not just going to pull over and let Tony Kanaan pass because he's reigning champion. We're out there to do well, as well.
Q: This is a question mostly for Scott, but I would like Mike to jump in. Maybe I'm throwing myself under the wheels on this one because I wanted to bring it up. You had a great championship year and the team dominated well. The next year, last year there was a lot of struggle with it. Could you explain a little bit about the greater challenges you had last year? How much of that, if any, is related to maybe Toyota not anticipating Honda's gains and the downsizing from three and a half to three and what are you looking for this year that can help put Scott back on top as well as the other guys?
DIXON: I think '04 was definitely a strange year. It started off not too bad; we were at least pretty competitive. We were leading at Homestead when we did crash, and Phoenix we got away with a second. In some ways I think I had too much going on in '04 with some of the Formula One testing, the IROC series and things like that, and I don't think I managed my time that well across the board. As far as the team went, I think once Indy hit, we did struggle a little with the 3-liter. We never really gained the momentum back. So we did struggle, we had some good runs occasionally, but most of the year we just didn't perform. There's always a lot of reasons once you look back on it why we didn't succeed. But sometimes when you're in the heat of the moment, it's sort of hard to look at those and get on top of them. Starting a new year, I think it was great to start a fresh one at least and try and attack it that way and start over again with a lot of the people coming, you know, back from the Grand Am Series. Obviously the third car addition, I think, is going to help this year a lot, back with Mike calling the races and things like that. So it started off a little slow, but I think the team has had some good momentum so far. Just looking forward to the '500,' I think, to hopefully kick off another good season.
HULL: I'm glad Scott gave me some time to think about the answer to that one. (Laughter) He could keep talking if he wants to. Racing is all about momentum. It's all about utilizing all the resource that you have each year that you race and starting anew each year. 2003 we had a great season; we actually had two really, really good drivers. If you recall, Tomas Scheckter was really fast in our other car, in fact he had a lot to do with the success of Scott Dixon in 2003. In 2004, we started off great and by the time we got to Indianapolis; we were working hard to try to figure out where it went. We just worked all year long to try to be ready for 2005, and we've got a good season going. Our results are going to improve. TRD's working really hard for us these days. To answer the question that was asked a few minutes ago, we're seeing marked improvement in the motor every race we go to. That's what it's all about. It's about utilizing the resources we have internally as well as externally. And it's all about working for guys like Chip because there's two ways that people think they win motor races. One is to find ways to win and, that's working for Chip; and one is working somewhere where people think they want to win, and that's what we're all about here is finding ways to win; and we're going to win again.
Q: Question for Darren, get you in here some way. How well do the three of you interact and exchange information and how much do the two of you maybe help Ryan?
MANNING: Well, the three of us hate each other terribly. We don't get along, we don't speak to each other, we don't play with each other, you know. (Laughter) Ryan steals all my toys; it's not a good deal at all. (Laughter) Does that answer your question? No, it's really good. Me and Scott built up a really good relationship during last year. We worked really well together at the tracks during the race weekend, which is the main, you know, point of us being racing drivers, is the race weekend. Like everybody's been saying about winning, so we worked hard together. Ryan has been a great addition to that. He's just like another one of us, really, which is really why I think Chip brought him on board. He works well with us. He's faster than us sometimes, the git. (Laughter) But that's always good in some spots. We're faster than him in some spots every now and then occasionally. So it's good for data. Like Chip said earlier, two heads are better than one, and three are better than two. When you're overlaying all those squiggly lines on the computers with the engineers, it's definitely better to have three than two. Is that good?
SULLIVAN: Let's make this our last question.
Q: Darren, you ran at St. Pete in both a Champ car and an IRL car. How surprised were you that this package -- it seemed to be much more competitive than the racer two years ago.
MANNING: Yeah, I don't think I was surprised really because of the testing we had done from December all the way up to the race at St. Petersburg. The car's actually been driving and cornering probably better than the Champ car. You know how many years of development they've had for putting them on a road course. This is exactly the same car, obviously the suspension is slightly different on the left side and the brakes are different. But the IRL, the IndyCar Series, they did a great job of seeing what we needed to put a competitive race out there. It was frustrating, everybody kept lasting the race, especially since I was a bit further back. Came around Lap 1, still in the same spot as I was when I qualified. But that's good, you want that as racing. It was just really close all the way through the race as you saw right up to the end with Ryan. So the cars are fun to drive. They move around a lot. They've got good grip. I think we're cornering probably faster than the Champ cars. The Toyota is really drivable. It's good through the corners, which was a bit surprising. We thought it was just a bit top-endy, peaky kind of motor which is designed for the ovals, but they're doing a good job changing over.
Q: But there seemed like there was a lot of passing through the field, and that's something you don't normally see at a street course like that.
MANNING: That's one good thing about St. Petersburg; it's got a good combination of corners. The downforce package on the IRL cars and I think a lot has to be said for the tires, as well, because Firestone, the tires didn't create a lot of marbles off the racing line, but they still created huge amount of grip. So you could change your line and overtake and get past people. So the whole package was second to none, really. So I'm looking forward to getting back out again later on in the year.
SULLIVAN: Very good. Just to reiterate, if you're going to do a shop tour, they're going to gather in the lobby. If you're here for a one-on-one, you can set up here with the drivers. Thank you all very much for coming. Thanks a lot to all of you for being such great hosts here. (Applause)