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June 23, 1998

Max Papis

T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks for taking the time to join us this afternoon, and welcome to our guest driver Max Papis of Arciero-Wells Racing. Max, welcome and thanks for being with us today.

MAX PAPIS: Thank you, and welcome to everybody.

T.E. McHALE: Max, driver of the No. 25 MCI Reynard Toyota, scored his first PPG Cup points of the season Sunday by finishing 11th in the Budweiser/GI Joe's 200 presented by Texaco/Havoline at Portland International Raceway. His finish represented another step forward for the Toyota engine program. For the first time in the engine manufacturer's three-year FedEx Championship Series history, all four of its cars, driven by Max, teammate Robby Gordon, PJ Jones, and Alex Barron, both of All-American Racers, have scored PPG Cup points at the midway point of the season. Max's finish Sunday was his best since eighth at last year's US 500 presented by Toyota, and matched his best on a road or street course since finishing ninth at Road America in 1996. He also finished 11th at Detroit last year, and earned Toyota's first ever provisional pole position, following first-day qualifying there earlier this month. Heading into Round 10 of the FedEx Championship Series, the July 12th Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by Star Bank, Max is 24th in the PPG Cup standings with two points. With that, we will open the floor to questions.

Q. If you keep sticking your nose up front, at one point, we're all going to start believing you can win in that car.

MAX PAPIS: Of course, that's what I want to do (laughter). This is my goal.

Q. What is different with the team this year, if anything?

MAX PAPIS: You know, the MCI Toyota team actually -- inside the team didn't change very much. We just got stronger and stronger as all the teams do every year. We changed. We got, you know, some person in Toyota that helped us, you know, what happen with the engine, and all the real abilities there, we finished the races. Now they can only concentrate and find the horsepower that we're missing. Where last year we were chasing all the time small problems here and there that didn't allow the people in Toyota to concentrate in finding the horsepower.

Q. Do you get the feeling now that you're one or two or three steps away from really challenging to at least finish on the podium?

MAX PAPIS: I tell you, we are making a lot of progress, and we're poking our nose there all the time. Because on Saturday morning, in Portland, we were 13 or 14 in practice. The day when we will make that Friday morning of Detroit, and that Saturday morning of Portland happening, or Saturday afternoon, you know, I tell you, we will be there. It's just a question -- last year we never had this opportunity. We always fought. We were always, you know, between 19 and 20 and 24th. So, you know, this year, you know, we show progress. And the results we're getting means that one day or another we will be there.

Q. On Friday, I think it was, came by the hospitality suite. I noticed that you were having lunch with a lot of kids from the local Portland area there. It was explained that you were helping out and meeting the kids there. Can you talk a bit more about that, and when you go to other tracks?

MAX PAPIS: Of course. First of all, you know, what was happening there on Friday was an event that MCI is doing, you know, basically inviting -- I don't know how to say it in English -- but it's like a charity, inviting kids that they haven't been as lucky as me when I was younger, to make them feel a little bit more part of the society and give them a day of enjoyment. To me, you know, I am 28 years old, but inside in my heart I'm still a kid. I love, you know, to spend time with young people, try to show the commitment. The will to succeed has always been with myself all my life, and maybe give them a little bit of extra strength, of a will to fight, to succeed, you know, just spending some time with them. I remember when I was a kid, you know, many times my dad, or myself with my motorbike, I was going there and looking at racing. For me, drivers were always -- I don't know, the athlete was always something that was really mysterious, difficult to talk to. Spending time with kids, you know, just I want to show them that fighting hard, you can achieve your goals. And MCI is doing something very special for them. I'm really proud, you know, for what MCI's doing. That shows that we all have a heart. Sometimes when you go to a motor racing event, it's pretty difficult to see people's personality, to see the heart that is in the people. All this technology, all this engines, fuel, things, sometimes prevail. You really need to see the heart of the people. Sometimes, you know, one hour, two hours a day, those moments really remind you -- reminds me, actually, you know, how lucky I was and how much I have to thank my dad when I was younger to help me out, put me in the position where I am at the moment.

Q. Down in Homestead when you were doing the announcement of the Fantasy Racing League, you made some comments in response to a question about how you and Robby Gordon get along. Now that we're midway through the season, how is the relationship coming between you two?

MAX PAPIS: I tell you, you know, I'm knowing Robby a little bit more. For sure, you know, there is still not enough time to really say, you know, exactly. I don't know exactly his personality. But what I can tell you, he contributed a lot to the team. He added another strong personality, not that the team was missing one. But, you know, he helped a little bit. You know, he is another -- he's another contender in the field. And as I want to beat everybody else, I want to beat him as well. I tell you, you know, I am pleased to work with him. And the things that I'm pleased the most, you know, he's a previous CART winner, you know, he won races before. In previous years' circumstances in CART, you couldn't really see my value, except when I drove for Ferrari, we basically been in the mid field all the time. Now with someone of his caliber on board, you can see that both the team and myself, we are ready to be winners one day. I tell you, I think we're going to be -- it will not be a very long time before we're going to go on the podium.

Q. So you still have a bit of a rivalry with him in the team itself?

MAX PAPIS: No, there is no. I mean, my friends are in Italy, that's what I say. My friends are in Italy. Everybody who is in motor racing, you can't -- everyone who say "Another driver is my friend," I do not believe that he tell the truth. You can have respect. That's what I have for Robby, respect. But you can't have friends when you want the same things. The rivalry is there because this is the sport. Everybody want to have the same things. You know, want to win. So, you know, there is rivalry. What I have, I have a lot of respect. I'm learning a lot of things out of Robby because he has been in the oval for many, many years, he has been in this business, you know, in CART racing, and he's American. Me, I come from completely different background. So I am trying to get maximum knowledge out of his experience. You know, things seems to work out quite right. We joke, we have some fun times.

Q. When you were talking earlier about meeting with the kids, it almost sounds as though in a sense you were honoring your dad for what he gave you as you passed it along to someone else.

MAX PAPIS: Yeah. You know, me and you, we talk a lot about these things in the past. You know to me my family and my dad is something that is most important than anything else. Of course, you know, what I do with the kids, I just try to remember when I was a kid myself, just try to remember what I was thinking when I was meeting drivers, when I was coming into this strange world, because it looked very cynic -- cynical. But it's a lot of athletes, a lot of people with a lot of commitment and heart, and will to succeed. Of course, you know, what I do, you know, all the time, every time I see kids that have been a little bit less lucky than me, you know, always make me come back to my mind. Thanks to my dad. Sometimes, you know, God is over you and protects you, to a direction. That was my direction, you know, the direction to become a race car driver. Definitely, you know, my family contributed supporting me, being with me, being my friends, number one, and you know, kicking me in my ass when I was not doing good, both in racing and in school. I'm a super lucky person.

Q. Earlier in the season, actually prior to the season getting underway, you and I were talking. You were saying, "This has got to be the year. This has got to be the year that we show some progress." Now that we're about halfway through the season, are you seeing the progress that you hoped you would see?

MAX PAPIS: I thought we would have been a little bit better than what we are at the moment. But, you know, you always hope that you can win 19 events or 19 races. But, you know, we were a little bit late to start. But we made in this first six months more progress than what we have done in the last couple of years. So I can't be unhappy. Of course, you know, I would like to get in the car and be in the Top 10 all the time. But we're working on that. I tell you, we are closer than ever because sometimes, you know, like I told you Saturday morning, eight-tenths from the leader. It shows the progress, so I am confident.

Q. A little bit of progress goes a long way.

MAX PAPIS: There is not a long, long way. We're there. We are seeing what we want. We can't actually get it. I believe the people in Toyota now knows exactly what is the goal and they're working on it.

Q. Italy did win today to go to the second round in World Cup.

MAX PAPIS: I woke up at 6:45 this morning. Me, I wear my Italian polo shirt, like the Italian player. I have Italian flags in the house, cheering up like crazy.

Q. You've raced in Formula 1. We've asked questions of other people in previous weeks. What do you think about Formula 1 these days?

MAX PAPIS: I still have a lot of friend there. You know, with European background, that's what I knew since I was, you know, six years old. What I knew about US racing were names like Al Unser, Jr., Mario Andretti, these names. What I can tell you, when I see F-1 at the moment, I see people are a little bit losing focus of what the sport of motor racing, you know. In the States, motor racing is still a true sport, athlete, competition, like relation with the people. Formula 1, it looks to me like people lost a little bit that. They believe that motor racing is like going to the church. You can't talk, you just need to be silent. Motor racing is, you know, enjoyment. It's a show for the spectator that come over and see us. I think that's what they've lost a little bit there in F-1. But they have a great leader in Bernie Ecclestone. I believe he knows that. He's trying to take it back. But, you know, it's difficult when CART is so high and so high level and so spectacular. I tell you, all my friends in Italy, since I join CART racing, they tell me, "Oh, Max, when we follow you, when we were going to see you in F-1, we didn't have even half of the fun that we have when we come over and watch you in CART racing."

Q. Do you ever think you might go back?

MAX PAPIS: My home country?

Q. No, to Formula 1.

MAX PAPIS: I don't know. What I tell you, me, I'm a racer. Only what I want to do is win. I'm trying to make MCI and Toyota successful and win here in the States. That's my goal at the moment. But if it will be a good opportunity, me, I'm open-minded. The things I want to do is winning. If I can win here, okay. If it will be an opportunity there, it will be okay as well. I obviously do enjoy and do love a lot the racing here in the States because there is still this passion that is like the passion I have inside of me, passion for small things. In F-1, you can't have cooked dinner for Greg Moore, like do here in the States. Greg can do the same thing for me. That's what I would miss a lot.

Q. How important was it for you that once Robby came over and your performance was equal or better than his, how important was it to you for the rest of the CART community to realize that, "Hey, see, it's not me, it's the motor, the total package is not there yet?" Similar to Scott Pruett, years ago with the TrueSports chassis, and then Rahal took it over, it was abominable, and everybody finally figured out, "Yeah, Scott did know how to drive."

MAX PAPIS: I would be a liar if I told you that was not important. That was number one. When I drove in Formula 1, when I drove for Ferrari, I always had teammates, really strong. Here, unfortunately, I didn't have the same opportunity. When Robby came on board, my goal was just do the same job I've done all the time, but show that we're there, show that. As you say, the package is getting stronger, the package is getting better, but it's still not up there where went it. That proved, with Robby coming on board, as well, that things have not changing. The only things is changing is that there are two people pushing for the same goal. That's the only things.

Q. How much during a race, either during qualifying or during a race, how much do you compete against Robby as opposed to competing against everybody else? Are you always aware of where Robby is?

MAX PAPIS: You know, I'm not very much interested in when I'm qualifying, Where is my teammate? My main interest is beating everybody else. I'm not focused on one person, you know. Because, you know, my goal is competing with my friend Alex Zanardi. That's my goal. That's what I want. If Robby is there, of course, he's another antagonist. But, you know, no more than another antagonist. That's it.

T.E. McHALE: We'll let Max get off to his flying lesson. Max, thanks very much for being with us this afternoon. We wish you continued luck over the rest of the season and hope that podium finish isn't too far away for you.

MAX PAPIS: Thanks everybody there and I hope you enjoy my racing very shortly. Maybe we make another teleconference when we go on the podium, maybe before the end of the season.

T.E. McHALE: We'll try to arrange that for you. Thanks for those joining us this afternoon. We will not have a teleconference next week, but we encourage you to join us two weeks from today when our guest will be Bobby Rahal. We'll talk to you then.

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