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Long Beach Driver Interviews

Long Beach, CA, April 13, 2003 ó Julie Andre scours the Long Beach pit lane and paddock looking for drivers to answer her questions on the competition level, whether CART should be an all street and road course series, and which rules they like and dislike. [We apologize for not being able to ask the questions readers sent in.]

JULIE: What are your thoughts about the level of competition this year?

FERNANDEZ: I would say that in the front it is the same as last year. It is not as tight from 1st to 19th but in the front the top 12 are very strong. The effort to win is no different from last year, plus if you remember Newman-Haas is a championship team, so you still have to beat those guys.

Jimmy Vasser Interview Photo VASSER: Itís competitive for sure especially when you are driving a Reynard. When you lose a lot of the competitors that we have had over the last couple of years it is hard to say whether it is more competitive this year or not. But I would say the competition is still pretty stiff.

HUNTER-REAY: It is very stiff. The only problem is the two chassis. Itís hard because itís kind of a battle between chassis Ė Reynard vs Reynard and Lola vs Lola. Until we get some help from CART on the Reynard side of it, we will be battling for fifth position and below.

CARPENTIER: Itís pretty good, let me tell you! At the beginning of the year it was not as good as it was last year, but as we get further into the race season you can see the level of competition increasing. I would have to say that right now it is more competitive than last year.

JOURDAIN: Itís pretty good! There were five cars within one tenth of each other. Itís very close because everyone has the same engine package and the chassis are the same as last year. I would say it is very competitive.

JUNQUEIRA: Itís very good because the difference between Paul and me was hundredths of a second. I think the level of competition is the same. I think last year it was tough as well, but I think to get top five or six this year is really difficult. There are many good teams and good drivers.

JULIE: Since CART has had success at the street and road course venues, should they become strictly a street and road course series?

FERNANDEZ: I like the combination we have Ė street courses, road courses, and two or three ovals. Itís a good combination. We have a little bit of everything and fantastic venues like Long Beach and Mexico. I think we have a great combination, and I like the balance we have right now.

VASSER: I donít really have opinions anymore on how they should run the series. I just get in the car and drive.

HUNTER-REAY: I love road racing, and I love street racing events like Long Beach. Itís better than going to an oval out in the middle of the country somewhere and running in circles all day. Grant it, I like oval racing and have had success at it in the past, but I prefer road and street courses.

Patrick Carpentier Interview Photo CARPENTIER: Yeah, I donít mind. For sure I would like to have a couple of ovals. I like the balance of all three types of circuits Ė road courses, street courses, and oval tracks . It adds to the diversity of the series.

JOURDAIN: I think it is good that this series has all variables Ė street courses, road courses, and ovals, but at the same time if you look at CARTís biggest races they are the street and road courses, so it has to be a balance. For sure if they find ovals that can be successful we have to be there.

JUNQUEIRA: That would be really bad. I think one of the nicest things about CART is that it races on all types of circuits Ė street courses, road courses, and ovals. I think they should have at least three ovals a year.

JULIE: Which rule(s) do you think have had a positive impact on the series, and which rule(s) do you think CART should remove?

FERNANDEZ: One that needs to be removed is the pit stop window. I think that it is going to be stopped at the England race. The rules I think were positive are removing the traction control, and having the same engine with no fuel consumption switch. I think that was a very positive change because the race pace is much stronger than last year. Removing traction control has increased the number of passing opportunities this year. For example, at the start of the race I made a mistake coming out of the hairpin and I spun my wheels too much and I gave an opportunity to Oriol Servia to get by me.

VASSER: I think the new engine configuration is a good rule, other than that I think they need to reconsider the maximum laps before you pit.

HUNTER-REAY: I am glad that they are getting rid of the mandatory pit stop window. Other than that I really love the whole format of the series, and I love how the series is run.

Quote Image CARPENTIER: Everything that they have done has had a positive impact for the series. So far the series is fantastic and everything has really been an improvement. The only thing that I can think of that should be removed is the number of laps before we have to pit. I think that is one rule that pretty much all the drivers want to get rid of.

JOURDAIN: I havenít seen any negative impact. I like the one engine rule, less electronics. We have basically the same chassis as last year, same aero package with a few modifications. I do think the mandatory pit stop can be improved, but I think they are going in the right direction.

JUNQUEIRA: I think CART is doing a good job with the rules. I would like to see them take action on some of the rules that they have implemented. For example, those blocking rules in the pit lane where you cannot go to the second lane in the pit lane. I would like to see them enforce that. Last year it happened to me two or three times with no consequences.

Copyright © 2003 by Julie Andre and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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