IRL: Panther Racing IMS Media Tour transcript, part 2

Continued from part 1 ENGE: Only a few words. I wouldn't be in the speed as I was if I wouldn't be in a Panther car at that time. So that's why. That's the reason why we were so quick. But it is -- I have to say it is very different to run...

Continued from part 1

ENGE: Only a few words. I wouldn't be in the speed as I was if I wouldn't be in a Panther car at that time. So that's why. That's the reason why we were so quick. But it is -- I have to say it is very different to run 200, 220 miles per hour side by side to the other cars than if you were run 100 miles per hour, obviously. But the driver wants always to drive as fast as possible. And I said, you know, after a few runs, after several laps, that I was asking, 'You know, can't we have more horsepower?' And they told me, 'Well, unfortunately, but we are working on it.' (Laughter)

SULLIVAN: Questions?

Q: The two Tomases, how do you interact? You mentioned that you haven't seen all these tracks that you're running on right now. Are you able -- Tomas, are you able to help him with some of these tracks?

SULLIVAN: Question is how the two teammates are working together. Is Tomas Scheckter able to help Tomas (Enge) learn the tracks.

SCHECKTER: Yeah, I think if there's information I can give to him, I'm willing to give it. I think that's the best way, is to be up front and open with your teammate. Hopefully he's up front and honest back to you, and that can build each other and also build the team up. So if there's anything he needs to know, he comes directly to me and ask about it and sometimes I will also go to him, a lot of times in St. Peter I was going to him and saying how does it feel here or what line do you use here and where do you brake; and so it works both ways.

SULLIVAN: Other questions?

Q: I would like to hear what you thought of the first experience of the IRL and a road course. We don't know, all we know is what you tell us. What were the feelings? How do you work with it from your standpoint?

SULLIVAN: Question is about the first IRL race on the street course, what was it like, experience and those things?

ENGE: The first time we run the car in Homestead on the road course track. I was really surprised how the car is braking, how it's responding, how it's actually fast, you know, around the track. I thought, you know, this car is built up for high speed ovals, and it never can be competitive on a road course track. But if you look at the times that we've done in St. Pete in qualifying compared to Champ Car two years ago, we were only probably one-and-a-half seconds off, which was less than -- or more than I think 100 or 150-horsepower less in the car. I think it's really good. So I think the car was very fast, and I was surprised. To drive the car on a road course track was a pleasure for me. It's obviously a bit different than F3000 or F1 because these cars are built up completely differently. You have different rules, and you have different things, engine, tires and whatever. But I tested the Champ Car, as well, two years ago and I would say that the car is maybe slightly better than, handling-wise, than Champ Car. It's good fun, and obviously I was really enjoying the track because road course tracks, street tracks, that's something for me and I would really appreciate if we would have some more races like that on the calendar.

SULLIVAN: John, why don't you answer that, tell us from your perspective.

BARNES: Well, it was what you expect from Barry Green. He's a class person. The place was fabulously laid out. We had great attendance. You know, it was an event. It had a feeling of Motegi or Long Beach or Indianapolis. And again, I think it's going to be our schedule for quite a while. I think you'll probably see in the future we'll have three or four more of these races, you know. But like I say, Barry did a tremendous job, he and his entire organization. Nice to see Kirk Russell back there, he helped quite a bit. But the facility was fabulous. It took a lot of pain and heartaches to build the place they did in the time they did, but we were very impressed with it.

SULLIVAN: Tomas, back on a road course after being with the IRL for a while. Tell us about that.

SCHECKTER: I still thought I was still getting into it toward the end of the weekend and really starting enjoying myself and finding a decent rhythm. For sure, they've done a good job on the cars and enjoy the drive. Again, what they did with the event was unbelievable. I think it's, you know, other than Indy, it's one of the best events that we go to. The fans loved it. I think the drivers loved it, and the teams liked it, as well. Like John said, I think it's going to be around for a while.

SULLIVAN: Other questions? Up front.

Q: How did you feel that the car handled? Problem in handling?

SCHECKTER: No, I thought the car handled well. It's all obviously in the tuning that we did. To be honest, I don't think, you know, like also John said, I think the important race that we discussed in the beginning of the year is here at Indianapolis, and we really focus a lot on that. I think we've got a lot of things that we're going to surprise people there with. But we didn't put, I would say, as much effort as we did or are going to put into Indianapolis. So I think maybe some of the other teams, they pushed a little more for it, so we were very happy with our performance. We learned a massive amount, and when we go back to a road track, we're going to be in a very strong position.

SULLIVAN: Questions? Where did Hattie go? You've got something for the folks? It's the 60th year for Tom at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the real institutions, of course. That's quite a while, I might add. So Hattie's got those. Any other questions for our trio here?

Q: (Inaudible).

SCHECKTER: For me, when the car is good, and then it's funny, I actually -- they did a program when I was racing in England on exactly what makes a race driver better than a normal driver, and they had a camera to my eye and they had a camera on the car spotted on the road. So I think when you're in a good rhythm, you don't know what's going on, you're driving on natural instincts, and you get lap after lap and let the car doing the work. But for me it's getting the car set up, and everything really comes natural.

SULLIVAN: The question is when you feel like in a rhythm when everything is working in the car, how do you get to that point, how do you know you've reached that? Where do you feel your comfort zone?

ENGE: I think you always try to drive as fast as possible, try to get everything out of the car even if the car is not good. If the car is good, you obviously know that because you are faster than the others. But if you are -- you can be also faster than the others if the car is not good. So I think, as Tomas said, I am about the same, in the same situation. First think you try to set up the car as best as possible in practices and in the rain you are just driving. Also in the practices, you are driving, you feel -- you have your feelings, you have your instincts, so you just go flat out.

BARNES: Give you an example. We were at Homestead in the first session, Tomas was quickest car there. He came in the pit after the thing, got out of the car and Andy Borne, who is his engineer, same one Helio had in his two Indy 500 wins, Andy was beating himself on the chest saying how great the car was. Tomas looked at him and said no, it isn't very good at all. So it's just a matter of learning how to drive what you have, and I think our guys here just did a tremendous job down at St. Pete doing that.

SULLIVAN: Other questions? All the way in the back.

Q: This is for Tomas Scheckter. Of all the racecourses you go through, is there a favorite for you?

SULLIVAN: Is there a favorite course?

SCHECKTER: One place that's always special ever since I ever practiced there the first time and raced there the first time has to be Indy. It just is. It's even when we were there today, it's sort of a special feeling. Even the night before, I go, I'm excited to go testing there. But I like Richmond, as well, because it's completely opposite, very tight, a lot, lot of G's, physically very hard. After they resurfaced it, there's a couple lines. But, for sure, my No. 1 track is Indianapolis.

SULLIVAN: We'll ask your favorite track. It could be anywhere.

ENGE: Yeah, because I haven't run on ovals so much yet, I think I would say Texas is very nice, Homestead, as well. Phoenix, I was surprised the most because it's a short track and you have to work with the car quite a lot, much more than on the other tracks, on the long ovals. But obviously I'm a road course kid, so I have to say Spa in Belgium, Monza, I like fast tracks. I like Brno in Czech Republic, it's a really nice track as well, challenging. And I could say some more, some more in Europe, but you can choose. You know, once you have success on the tracks, you like it as well. (Laughter) I tell you, I was in Monaco four times, and the first two times I was not able to qualify because I had an accident in qualifying and that was it. Third time, I qualified ninth but I had some technical problems in qualifying, so I was ninth. And then in the race I finish sixth or something like that. So I start to somehow like that track. (Laughter) The fourth year I was fastest or second fastest in free practice, then I had a gearbox problem in qualifying, so I was again seventh on the grid. I finished third and I said I love this track. (Laughter) But the first two years I said this is -- beep -- not nice. Not nice. (Laughter) I never want to come back. But then I did and I start to be successful there. Since that point I said to myself, OK, now I can be successful on street course tracks, as well. That's what happened in St. Petersburg until the point what happened at the end of the race. But maybe I would like to come back to St. Petersburg to talk about St. Petersburg a little bit more because I think we had the best car there. We had a car to win the race. But unfortunately I have to say that the rules, they are set up with the safety car, with the yellow flags and closed pits, when the yellow flags come on, it's not really great rules because you can fight like hell, you can drive your ass off, but once there is a safety car, everybody gets together, which is OK for spectators, I like it, as well, for challenge. But on the other hand, you have to be able to come into the pits when you like. So I think this sometimes helps the drivers that are not really fast, but they are consistent and they have a good strategy or they are just lucky, which happened in St. Petersburg. I know that the guy who won the race is fast, but he was more lucky than fast. So I have to say I had one of the fastest cars out there, but I was never able to get to the point to win the race because unfortunately the rules are set up like that. I think they should, might do something with it on the road course tracks to, you know, to help.

SULLIVAN: This will be our final question.

SULLIVAN: Question on the new qualifying format at Indianapolis.

BARNES: I love it. I think it's great, I think it's going to bring more people out. You know, I've been going to the 500 since 1957 or '8 and as a lot of you can remember, there was a lot more people there than what there is lately. But I think it's going to bring more people out, it gives more of an event feel. There's going to be a lot of scratching and clawing to get in those first 11 spots and then the next day the next 11. I think Brian or Tony, whoever came up with it, I think it was a brilliant idea.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having us. Really enjoyed it. Drivers, thanks for much, John, all your hospitality. Just great. Thank you very much. (Applause)

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Barry Green
Teams Panther Racing