We talk to Roberto Gonzalez about Laguna Seca

 by Jose Arrambide
September 14, 2004

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Once again I had the chance to talk to Roberto Gonzalez on behalf of AutoRacing1. To be honest, I wasn't sure if Roberto wanted to speak with us this week. This was the kind of weekend you want to put behind you as a driver, full of bad luck and a roller coaster of emotions. But to my surprise just 20 minutes after the checkered flag was waived, Roberto was talking to AutoRacing1 readers.

The first topic I wanted to discuss was the horrible accident he had on Saturday before qualifying that resulted in him starting in last place on the grid. Roberto explained it this way. "I went out like almost everyone else ten minutes before qualifying. I was just getting a rhythm going when I lost the traction on one of the curves. The back part of the car just went airborne and I hit the tires very hard. I damaged the car so bad that the mechanics had to work all night to fix it. They did a terrific job of fixing the car in time. You couldn't tell in the warm-up because of the times I was posting, but that was because I had to use the warm-up to try some different things and check the setup of the car. In fact we changed the brakes because of something we spotted in the warm-up. All in all, the car was ready for the race."

Next I talked to Roberto about the great beginning he had in the race, improving so much from his 18th starting place. He had this to say. "Right in the beginning I improved nine places. There were a few incidents that relegated some of the cars, and in the confusion a few drivers made some mistakes. I was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of them. That's exactly what you need to be prepared for when you start in the back of the grid. You need to take advantage of every chance you get. Unfortunately I had the incident with Sebastien Bourdais, and he ruined the race for me."

Since Roberto already mentioned the Bourdais incident (and he seemed upset), I asked him to explain it further. He said, "I don't feel it was a mistake. I feel that Bourdais was getting frustrated because I was defending my position so well. Even though he was glued to the back of my car, he couldn't pass me and he just went for my wheel. Bourdais made a typical Paul Tracy move. If you can't pass, then take the car out. He ruined the race for me, and especially all the hard work of the mechanics and crew members. They did a great pit stop for me changing my tires. I applaud them! After that pit stop I came out in 11th place and then climbed up to 8th place. But everything was ruined by the Bourdais contact and then the fuel problem."

I asked Roberto to explain the fuel problem. I was curious to know the main reason he ran out of fuel. Did the telemetry fail, or was there a mechanical problem? He explained it like this. "It was the pit window. After the incident with Sebastien I had to pit to change tires, so we also fueled the car hoping that we could make it on that fuel load to the pit window. It was horrible to run out of fuel just before the pit window opened. Just a few more seconds of fuel and I could have reached the pits with the momentum I had going." I told Roberto that they gambled and lost then. But he corrected me. He said, "It wasn't really a gamble. It was either that or an extra pit stop. We had to do that and pray for a yellow flag, but that's racing. I was sure to end up in 8th or 9th place, but I had a DNF."

Then I asked Roberto to talk about the good and the bad of the race. He said, "The good is that my sponsor, Nextel, had the chance to see I can compete with anyone. The proof was the way I drove against Bourdais. The bad is that I had a chance to score points in a race where AJ and Justin were already out. This is the third time I've been in a race where AJ and Justin were out of the race, and I also got a DNF."

I asked Roberto to look to the next race at Las Vegas, and this is what he had to say. "We did very good times at the test there. We will use a very different strategy. We want to do something similar to Milwaukee."

I ended the interview wishing Roberto better luck at the next race.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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