Interview with Helio Castroneves

 by Missy Behrendt
February 24, 2001

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Helio Castroneves

Q. What is your impression of Texas Motor Speedway? 

A. I'm really impressed. It's definitely high banking and you expect larger turns with the angle like a superspeedway. I don't think this is a superspeedway...but it FEELS like a superspeedway. But definitely the facilities are amazing. First thing when I came here last night I was like, are you sure it's this place? This is a stadium! I don't think I'm in the right place. Definitely, it's a beautiful place, no doubt about it. 

Q. How are the track conditions? 

A. It felt a little bumpy to be honest. Even the straightaway a little bit.. on the corners and with these high banks it's difficult to achieve a very smooth situation, but so far I feel pretty comfortable. 

Q. How much of the data that you acquire today in this test will you be able to use when you come back to race in late April, as it will be quite a bit warmer then? 

A. Racing cars are so sensitive and even ten degrees in Fahrenheit can make a lot of difference. But I believe we have at least a base setup. This is a point of start. 

Q. With so few cars here you haven't been able to run with any other cars to see how different it will be than running alone? 

Helio Castroneves

A. Not yet. I think that during the run today we have the opportunity of going long, and have nobody out there that at least we will get a fast car for qualifying and a fast car. Race simulation probably will be easier when you're having race weekend. At least you're going to have a long run, like 35 laps. It depends on how the fuel mileage works. But then you're going to have the traffic, and of course at that point is it vibrating the tires, no, it's not vibrating the tires, or is the car not feeling well? So I believe right now everybody wants to go as separate as possible to make sure to learn the track. At least myself, to learn the track, get a base setup. 

Q. You and Gil are running the Indy 500 this year. How excited are you about that? 

A. Oh my goodness. It's a dream come true. No doubt about that. It's just a great opportunity in my life and in my career. Of course the priority of our team will to be to win the CART championship but we're not going there to be just a number. 

Q. You have already tested the IRL car? 

A. Yes. Twice last year. This year we haven't had a chance yet because of the weather. But as soon as we have a break here in testing we will start working. We did some testing in Phoenix and got familiar with the cars and the competitors. We're looking ok. We're not there yet. It's not our priority to dominate, we just want to be as comfortable as possible. Different cars, different engines, and different race driving as well, so I'm sure it's going to be pretty good. 

Q. You are going with a Dallara? 

A. Yes. We are going with the Dallara Oldsmobile car/engine. I feel pretty confident. 

Q. Are you and Gil running the IRL race in Phoenix in preparation for the Indy 500? 

A. Yes, that's right. It's really good. I think it's a clever way to go because, I mean, at least you understand a little bit how the racing will go. Like here (CART) , you have a lot of power but less downforce, especially on the short ovals. There (IRL) you have less power but a LOT of downforce. So it's kind of wow! 

Q. It's an adjustment, yes? 

A. Yes, because if you lift off a LITTLE bit in their (IRL) cars it's "ooh" and you have like 3 or 4 laps to catch again and here believe (CART) it's like ok, just get back on the throttle and you will find them. 

Q. Do you think that you will go flat out here, or will you have to lift? 

A. I believe we are going to go flat out because of the high banks. I think we will go flat out. I hope. That's the way to go fast. 

Q. What did you do during the off-season? Did you go karting? 

A. To be honest, yes, I have had a lot of invitations to go out and race go-karts and everything, but I don't want to take a chance to hurt myself especially with everything looking so optimistic for this year. I want to make sure that I'm 100% every time I go to the track . So I try not to take a lot of chances. But of course I do a lot of exercise, working out, jogging, especially in the off season because during the season you don't have much free time, so you have to at least maintain the best of the way you have been treating yourself in the off season. So I try to push the limits right now. 

Q. What do you think the most physically demanding track is that you run on? 

A. Good question. I believe that the road courses are. Mid Ohio. With the elevation changes, and the sunshine hitting your helmet. It's very hot. That track is very tough. Also, Laguna Seca.  I believe it's more demanding in the high speed corners. So we have to work really hard. When your head starts turning in the opposite direction of the turn it's time to say "uh-oh" I'm getting tired. Elkhart Lake has long straightaways so you can rest. 

Q. How disappointed are you about the Rio race being canceled? And do you think that there's a chance that CART will be back there racing, if not in Rio but somewhere in Brazil in the next couple of years? 

A. I am hoping next years and the years to come. I'm very upset. It's a shame. I have lots of family and friends who watch the race so I feel very confident when I go there. But you can't be thinking about one race. It's not about only one race. There are 21 races this year. It's just a shame and let's hope it all works out. 

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