April 25, 2002
MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started. Dario Franchitti, driving the No. 27 KOOL Honda/Reynard Bridgestone. He had a best lap of 26.015 seconds, a speed of 214.174 miles per hour. He qualified second here last year. His best start in four career appearances. His best starting position of the season thus far was second at Monterrey, Mexico, about six weeks ago. Dario, if you could take us through your afternoon. Kind of an interesting thing. While Michael Andretti has a Lola chassis for both primary and backup cars this weekend, Paul Tracy has a Reynard and a Lola, Dario is in a Reynard for the entire weekend, and obviously you emerged as the quickest of the three teammates today. Take us through your day.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: This morning we started off working on the race setup. The track was surprisingly clean. We could go out and run pretty quickly straightaway. We just worked on getting the car right for the race, running in traffic, getting a good balance. The wings are slightly different than last year because we don't have the Hanford here anymore. Less power with the 34 inches of boost. We're just getting used to all these different variables and working on the car.
MERRILL CAIN: We're now joined by Patrick Carpentier, driving the No. 32 Player's Ford-Cosworth Bridgestone. Our second fastest practice driver today. He had a best lap of 26.015 seconds, a speed of 214.215 miles per hour. He's looking for his first pole position since taking the pole at Milwaukee in 1998. We'll get a quick comment from Patrick on his day. As Dario pointed out, I didn't let him finish his comment there. We'll go back to Dario. Patrick, if you would take us through your afternoon.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: It was very good. I'm very happy. We had to change a couple of gears in the pit lane and lost a bit of time there. But the car was very good. What I like about it, that we can seem to run pretty fast on the used tire, which will be important here for the race. But the guys did a good job. They made the changes that we ask, and the car was very good. It's good to be here today because the first two races have been a little bit rough for our team. So it's good to start the weekend like that.
MERRILL CAIN: Before we get to Bruno, Dario, do you have a comment you want to finish up on?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Nothing really interesting, but this afternoon we worked more on the same race setup, did a long run, 75 laps this afternoon. Just working on the race balance, working with the Honda guys to get everything set up. Then right at the end I think we did a thing that pretty much most people did, stick a new set of tires on and see what sort of lap time we could do, give us some sort of baseline to see where we have to go for qualifying tomorrow. And plus if it rains, we have a reasonably quick time in the bank. That wouldn't be too bad. That's it.
MERRILL CAIN: We now move to Bruno Junqueira, who had the fastest practice time today, driving the No. 4 Target Toyota/Lola Bridgestone. Had a best lap of 25.983 seconds, a speed of 214.479 miles per hour. He's looking for his second career pole position, first pole since taking the Nazareth pole almost one year ago today. His best starting position of the season was third at Long Beach, that came a couple of weeks ago. Take us through your afternoon, Bruno. You obviously are comfortable with the setup here, you qualified fifth here last year, and you seem to be pretty comfortable on the course today.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, sure. I'm just get out of the box, the car was really good this morning. We start to do some slight change just to adapt a little bit to the conditions of the track. But I think the car now has a very good balance. I think the morning I was third, and this afternoon I could be faster. But the car has a good balance. The Toyota engine is very good, plenty of power. As Patrick said, my car is very good with both tires, as well. I think Bridgestone started out very good I think last year. We have a big difference between new tires and old tires. This year, the difference is small. I think everything running pretty smooth for me. The balance of the car is good. But let's see tomorrow. I think today is really cold. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. It's really cloudy today. The tracks has one condition. Tomorrow can change, if it will be a little hotter or if when the rubber start to get lay down on the track. But is looking pretty good for this weekend.
MERRILL CAIN: We'll take questions in both English and Japanese.
Q. A couple of guys were quick coming off of turn four. Would you agree with that?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think you have to open the car to be fast all the way around, not just on the corners, but on the straight, as well. You have to be facing any conditions. I think my car today has been really good, same as last year. I can do whatever I want. For sure turn three and four are a little bit more difficult because one and two, when everything is right, you can do flat. Where you really going to make time is on two and four and on the straights. Is really important to have a good engine. I think Toyota going to give me tomorrow good engine for qualify. But I think that's it. Is really important to be good overall. I think one and two can lose time. If you steering too much the car, start to (inaudible) too much speed, is not good. Then you have to find a good balance for the two corners. That's not easy because they are different.
Q. The test for the oval track the end of March, do you think the engine has increased since the test, like in Long Beach the engine become more powerful?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think everybody, manufacturers are pushing pretty hard. I think we're going to find out exactly who has done the best job tomorrow. It's going to be important.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think for sure the engines improve a lot because this year have less boost and is still lapping at same speed as last year. As Dario said, they improve a little bit the engine for today, but today is not the most powerful. Tomorrow going to have the big (inaudible), then going to see who has more power.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Every year they change the rules to minimize the power of the cars. By the end of the season, we have basically the same power we had the previous year. I think all three manufacturers are extremely close to one another. Some are stronger in some areas. Some are stronger in other areas. Like you said, we'll find out tomorrow who's got the strong engine here. It changes every race and throughout the whole season. Hopefully Ford will be on top at the end, but it's very competitive at all levels.
Q. Do you think the Reynard chassis matches well with this oval track?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah. The car was very strong here last year. There's obviously been some development from both manufacturers. We're quite lucky. I think a lot of the development on the car, both Pat and I feel pretty similar, the development was done before Reynard closed its doors. For this track it seems to work pretty well. I think the horsepower is very, very important. So it's a balance of the two. After this weekend I think we'll have to wait and see about Lola, obviously because they're still in business, a lot of development is going on. We'll have to see where we go from there. We have pretty much all the bases covered this weekend. We have Lolas, Reynards. We can analyze and see which one we think is better.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: At the moment I don't think there's a lot of difference between both chassis. I think they're both very competitive. Doesn't matter what kind of circuit it's on. Obviously, Lola will keep bringing new technology into their chassis and keep improving the cars. We're going to try to do the same and follow that with the team. But obviously when you have 25 people working on one chassis, and you only have five after that, it's a lot more difficult. So we'll see what's going to happen. But we have a lot of tools on the team. So far we're going to stick to the Reynard chassis.
Q. Since the end of last year, this oval track has been under reconstruction between the first and second turn. Do you find anything different in the track? Has it been different?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, smoother for sure. One and two have been a lot smoother. They got rid of the bump, which means I think on Sunday, or Saturday, even the brave guys can go around the outside on one and two. You can run side by side, if you want to. Yeah, big improvement.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I agree.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: The same, I agree.
MERRILL CAIN: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time. Best of luck qualifying tomorrow.
End of FastScripts...