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The Inside Track

Detroit Meet-the-Press-Day
Dan Maldonado
June 15, 2000


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The straights look tight even at 70 mph
All photographs Copyright 2000 Dan Maldanado and AutoRacing1.com

After weeks of preparation, CART and IMG brings us the Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of Belle Isle with Tenneco as the title sponsor again for the second year. This year's race was preceded by an inordinate amount of rumors and political banter as to where the race will be held after the current contract runs out after next year's event. That is, I assure you, another story that will only get bigger as the year progresses. 


Roberto Moreno chats over a cool drink

Today's media activities were certainly more relaxed than the hustle of a race weekend. A handful of drivers were seen chatting and kidding eachother. Tracey and Andretti at the same table? Whoa that's a good one. Then of course there is Jimmy Vasser challenging Tracy to try to win this weekend's race from a 17th place starting position. Roberto Moreno who is always available for a few thoughts had these thoughts about his chances in this weekend's race and CART expanding to possibly a 22-race season and racing in Europe.  

Question: Give us some thoughts on this weekend's race.
Moreno: Basically, Detroit is a place I have always been fast here with the Newman/Haas team. And now with the Visteon Patrick Team I can continue to do well here. 

Question: With everyone on the Firestone tires do you think there will be more passing on these tight streets? 
Moreno: I don't think that helps much because what that does is brings the cars level up more so it becomes even harder. When you have the same tire, it makes it more competitive between the teams. More teams have the chance to do well. 

Question: We've heard reports that point to a 22-race schedule and the chance to race in Europe, what are your thoughts? 
Moreno: I think the more races we do the better. Our schedule is very tight though with 20 races especially racing overseas, whatever comes if it needs to we'll do that. It just becomes more challenging to all the teams. Myself, I have a European background. Most of my racing career in Europe and would love to go racing there also. It gives the series a more international level, which we are all trying to receive. 

I like Moreno's coolness with the public and media. His interaction is always genuine and animated. 


Cool Jimmy Vasser answers questions

I had a chance to talk with Jimmy Vasser about taking the Lola/Toyota racing on the street and road circuits. He had this to say:

Question: after the success on the streets of Long Beach, how do you feel about this weekend? 
Vasser: I feel good the package I have suits me for this type of circuit, I'm not taking anything for granted. We know we still have to make it happen, the grids are so tight these days.

Question: Speaking of tight grids, passing has always been a concern in Detroit. Will the one tire help with less marbles off the line to facilitate passing? 
Vasser: I don't think so. I think it will still be very difficult to pass and qualifying will be vary important. 

Question: How does the Lola shape up on the road courses? 
Vasser: So far, so good we've only had the one race at Long Beach but testing seems to have been successful. We're optimistic that it should be a good car for the street circuits. 

Question: How about the Toyota engine? Driveability, etc.
Vasser: So far, so good it continues to get better every weekend. We think we have a good enough package to win the race. 

Jimmy is cautious about his comments. While he exudes confidence, he is careful not to over do it. Jimmy offered a sentiment that he is sad to see this venue go away but is looking forward to a race downtown or elsewhere.

Coming off a terrific test at Mid-Ohio, Helio castroneves offered some thoughts on racing on the streets and his relationship with Gil de Ferran. 

Question: How does the testing information from Mid-Ohio translate to the street course in Detroit?
Answer: Set-ups are not the same, they are 2 different tracks. Some of the things we used will work. So far I am real happy especially with the Honda engines. In these kinds of circuits they seem to develop much better.

Question: Has the Honda come along in the last couple of races? In the beginning of the season there was some concern that they were down on power.
Answer: Honda has been working hard to achieve the best power especially on the end of the straightaway, which is where Ford's been strong even Toyota. We are going to try to also achieve these things. Definitely much better, it's a completely different engine from the start of the season this year.

Question: You seem to have come together real well with Marlboro Team Penske, how has that helped you develop along with your career being with Gil de Ferran? He has a lot of experience. Do you work together on your set-ups and during the weekend? 
Answer: My teammate Gil is a technical driver excellent, very fast. Which is good, (he) gives me a hard time, which is OK. It's good because everyone keep pushing eachother. If I go fast I'm sure he's thinking the same way. 

It's always a pleasure to speak with Helio.

Notable Quotable's:

Andrew Craig, Speaking about the Canadian GP - "There are 2 events in North America this weekend, theirs is an event ours is a race."

Castroneves, "It would be great to get number 101 this weekend."

Fittipaldi, "This race was going great for me in 96. Unfortunately, I handed the race to Michael. That's part of racing" "If we can finish 1-2 like 96 but the other way around would be a very good result"

Franchitti, "My friend Helio ran in the back of Juan at the yellow flag so Juan didn't score any points and we scored 20 points and took the lead in the championship. So, I owe a lot to my friend Helio.

Tracy, "For us at Team Kool Green, getting back to the street courses, I think that is where our strong point is. We're looking forward to getting on the Belle Isle circuit and getting another 1-2 finish. 

An interesting note about this weekend. Juan Montoya will be the last pit stall right at pit out, while his teammate is positioned in the middle of pit road. Hmmm…strategy for Juan to help get him some points?

Comments can be sent to the author at contacts@autoracing1.com.

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