Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript April 22, 2003 Marco Cioci K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing League teleconference for this week, Tuesday, April 22nd. Today we will visit with Infiniti Pro Series ...
Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript
April 22, 2003
K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing League teleconference for this week, Tuesday, April 22nd. Today we will visit with Infiniti Pro Series driver Marco Cioci and look back at the Infiniti Pro Series Open Test, which took place this past weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as look toward the upcoming Freedom 100. A native of Rome, Italy, Marco Cioci topped the speed charts at the Pro Series Open Test last weekend with the fastest speed of 188.133 mph in the No. 6 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. A veteran of European Formula 3000 competition, Cioci passed the speed phase of his IndyCar Series Rookie Test with Sam Schmidt Motorsports last December at Texas Motor Speedway. The Freedom 100 will represent his first outing in the Infiniti Pro Series. Marco, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
Marco Cioci: Hi to everybody, and it is my pleasure to be here.
K. Johnson: To start with, the Freedom 100 will be your first Pro Series race. Your background is in European F3000. Tell us how this ride came about.
M. Cioci: For sure, it is a big emotion. Indianapolis is special. And my experience in F3000 helped me only to get the job, how to work on the car and to be very quiet and do not give in too much to pressure. But the car is very difficult to drive fast. To go faster, you cannot forget anything. On the straight, you must be perfect because if you move to steer, the speed goes slower. On the corner, maybe you think 'Oh, I'm going unbelievably fast', and you slow down because you are steering too much. Or you feel the car is set up well, but it is not good enough. My car was perfect at the finish of the test. But during the test, I felt the car was light, but good, and my engineer, told me 'Marco, the car must be perfect'. So there is a big difference to being fast. Everything must be perfect, the car, your driving, everything.
K. Johnson: So you have had limited experience on the ovals prior to this?
M. Cioci: Yes. My experience is only in Dallas (at Texas Motor Speedway) for the rookie test with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and at Indianapolis. So I am not a real rookie because I did three laps with the tour bus. It is a big experience.
K. Johnson: So tell us, you get in the Pro Series car with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. You obviously developed a relationship with your engineers and your crew very quickly to get up to speed as quickly as you did.
M. Cioci: Yes, I am happy for this, for three things. The first thing is because in Sam Schmidt Motorsports I found very professional people, from the guys that drive the truck to my engineer, so it is easy work with them because everybody thinks the same way. We are here to work, not to have fun. Fun happens at night. After the race everybody can go have fun, and when everybody wants to win it is easy work together. The team helped me a lot. Now I understand my job here in America. For example, the car must be perfect, not just good. So I spent a lot of time in the shop with my mechanics and with my engineers to study my data and I will continue to do this because I think that is the way to win. Fortunately, I have two engineers, Tim Neff and Blair Perschbacher, that first are professional and secondly are very nice guys. So I spent a lot of time with them, and that has maybe helped me in this test.
K. Johnson: You have lived in the United States just over one month now. You are living here in Indianapolis. What were your impressions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a youngster growing up? And has it changed any now that you have driven around the track?
M. Cioci: Yes, for sure my first impression was that Indianapolis was so big. The Speedway is unbelievable. So you have these great grandstands all around and everything is big, and you cannot understand immediately that you are among the history inside this track. After the test, I've become very impatient to learn as much as I can. How does a driver go 230 mph? I want to understand how a driver can go that fast because it's a dream. I want understand how drivers drive that kind of speed because it is a dream. I think there is not another place like Indianapolis in the world. Like Spa-Francorchamps is a fantastic circuit, but you have two or three corners and you must be focused on that part. But Indianapolis, everywhere you can smell the history.
Q: Hi Marco. I saw that you were at the Speedway yesterday during Rookie Orientation Program. Are you learning anything from the people that you are watching out there who are obviously driving bigger and faster cars than you will be in the Freedom 100?
M. Cioci: Yes. Yesterday I went to the track, and for the first time I understood how the race driver works with the engineer, because an engineer with Kelley Racing, is also my engineer. So I want to understand how they explain the problems with cars in the IRL and the Infiniti Pro Series. Second, I was there to understand the line, if in IndyCar Series you must drive smoother or more aggressively. I think it was important, yesterday, because I saw for the first time the IndyCar Series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so everything went well to improve myself.
Q: Being Italian, years ago there were a lot of Italians that came to the Speedway and raced in the '500'. But the last one was Ascari in 1952. Is your goal one of these days to start in the 500?
M. Cioci: Yes, that is for sure my goal, and I am here because I want to learn more than possible because for me it is a big goal driving 500 miles at Indianapolis. But I do want only to drive at Indianapolis. I know that it is early to say this, but I want to win because I want to put my face on the (Borg-Warner) trophy.
Q: When you were growing up, did you think more of racing say at Monza or Imola than at Indianapolis?
M. Cioci: Yes, but it is different because here in America, I think, it is more difficult because when you arrive in Monza like at 180 mph, you can see the corner, and you know that must brake. So that helps the mind. Here, you know the speeds are faster, and you must go flat into the corner. So it is a real fight. So it is different. So Monza and Imola, for sure, are very interesting and difficult circuits. But here on the ovals it is a real fight.
Q: Did you dream of Monza or Indianapolis?
M. Cioci: No, no, no. I think that I am one of few Europeans that want to live here, to win here in America, in Indianapolis and the IRL championship. So I think that is the biggest fight, not to win in Europe, only America.
K. Johnson: Marco, tell us a little bit about, I mean, you were successful in the European Formula 3000, but you just packed up and said 'I want to go to the United States and race over there'. Why over here?
M. Cioci: Yes, after my test in Dallas, I understood that this is the real motorsport. Maybe a lot of race car drivers think like me in Europe. In Europe, if you are fast or you are not fast is important, but there are a lot of guys that drive only to say 'I am a race car driver,' and I do not like that. In America, everybody wishes to be the best driver in the world, you do not do this only to say 'I am a race car driver.' No, no. You drive because you have a big passion, because you are a real man. Because if you do make a mistake, you go into the wall. So only the best win. Those who do not do a mistake, who do not make a mistake, can win. And I want to be one of them. I want to stay here and drive here because I love driving here for the person, for the team, for everything. It is completely different. I am afraid to discover American motorsports too late for me because I am quite old, 27 years old. I am joking.
K. Johnson: Having come over here, you are now experiencing American motorsports but you are experiencing the American lifestyle for the first time. Tell us the adjustments or the hardships or the ease of acclimating yourself to the United States.
M. Cioci: Yes, that is my biggest problem because my English is not very good, and everything is quite difficult because it is different from Europe. I am here completely alone. Fortunately, I have Scott Cronk and his family that have helped me a lot, and the Sam Schmidt team is very close to my apartment. But normally I spend a lot of time in the gym to prepare myself for the race and spend a lot of time alone. This is my problem, because the people are very friendly to everybody. But maybe for me now is too early, because I do not feel ready to go out and then meet someone because it is quite hard, and I am much too focused on racing now, and I want to continue like this.
Q: Marco, did you have any idol when you were growing up? And number two, did you know Eddie Cheever at all when you were younger and know of him when he lived in Rome and raced?
M. Cioci: I know only the name but never have spoken with him, but I would like to know him because he is a lot like me and so it would be a pleasure to know him.
Q: And as a little boy did you look up to any race drivers and want to be like them?
M. Cioci: Yes. When I was young, for sure, I remember Eddie Cheever and Teo Fabi. Cheever was born in my hometown, and he won the 500 miles of Indianapolis. So it was a goal of my life to race like him, and now it would be nice to work with him. I am going to speak with him to improve my driving. It would be fantastic to speak with a man that I seen on television by his car when I was young. It is very emotional.
Q: You said Teo Fabi, too?
M. Cioci: Yes, yes. Teo Fabi, too. I remember Italian drivers that come here and then the last one Zampedri, too, and Vincenzo Sospiri. So every Italian driver that comes here I remember more than other Italian drivers that drive in Formula One because I am watching this kind of racing.
K. Johnson: Any more questions for Marco? Well Marco, as a final question, what would make the Freedom 100 a successful race for you?
M. Cioci: This is a very hard question because everybody wants to win the Freedom 100. But maybe I want it a little bit more than other drivers because a lot of drivers are thinking of this race as a part of the championship. For me, it is a great opportunity that Sam Schmidt and Scott Cronk have given me. And I know that a good finish in this race could be great. Maybe I must go back home or maybe I must stay here for another 10 years because someone decided to help me again. So for me it is only a win because I try. I know that it is very, very hard because the drivers are fast, and I have never driven in the Pro Series. But I am not worried because I do not think about other results. I give 100 percent to win, to win it, to be the first one to win this race.
K. Johnson: Well, Marco, we thank you for joining us today on our conference call and wish you the best of luck in the upcoming Freedom 100.
M. Cioci: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.