Q and A Rubens Barrichello and KV Racing team
MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. Earlier today KV Racing Technology announced that Brazilian race car drivers Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello will drive for the team this season in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
We're pleased to be joined by Rubens Barrichello, driver of the No. 8 BMC Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet; Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 GEICO Mouser Electronics KV Racing Technology Chevrolet; KV Racing Technology co‑owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser; and KV Racing Technology general manager Mark Johnson.
Q. Rubens, the first question is for you. Congratulations on today's announcement. What attracted you to the IZOD IndyCar Series and KV Racing Technology?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, first of all, I just want to say that I'm over the moon. It's been a few ‑‑ we can say a month, actually, where I went in to test at Sebring, we had no expectations. It was just a test. I was invited by my brother Tony, and I got to the track and I got a fantastic reception. I felt really at home, and I started testing the car, felt good, as well, put good times, and from there on, I got the invitation from Jimmy and Kevin to be racing, to be part of the team.
And you know, I felt that I wanted to do it straightaway, but what it really invited me to do is ‑‑ I love what I do. I love the sport, and I love the speed, so myself behind the steering wheel, I just feel at home. And to be able to compete with Tony Kanaan, which is my brother from a long time, on a team that he already put it up to a different level last year, and with me coming and obviously with EJ as our teammate, I think we're going to be able to put the team to a different level again.
So I love the challenge, and I hope that that's what's going to happen.
Q. Tony. First, congratulations on returning to KV Racing Technology. Talk a little bit about returning to the team, and how difficult was it to convince your brother Rubens to join you at KV Racing?
TONY KANAAN: I'm extremely happy. I feel bad it looks like I left, but I would not let Kevin and Jimmy let me leave anyway, so I was living in the shop for the past month to make sure that they wouldn't let me go. It's a pleasure. I think we had an eventful year last year. I can't thanks those guys enough for nearly rescuing me five days before the first race. If it wasn't for Kevin and Jimmy and Mark and everybody's effort on their part to make me ‑‑ find me before the first race last year, this would never have happened.
We had a great year. I understand that it's probably not the year that we wanted to have, but it was a lot better than the way we started it. And to be honest, that leads to the next thing, which is now Rubens is here. We definitely got great results last year. We got a huge responsibility on our plate now, not just with me and with the results that we had last year; now Rubens has joined it, and EJ just renewed. EJ has been quite fast in testing. So I would say nowadays it's a big responsibility.
And my part on Rubens's deal, I think Kevin was talking to me, and Rubens, but I think I set them up pretty bad. You know, when Rubens ‑‑ I was with Rubens when they kind of gave him the phone call that his deal was not going to happen at Formula 1, and I said, hey, why don't you test my car to help me out. It's a new car. With your experience, I think it's going to be great to have your feet back, and I go to Kevin and Jimmy, and I said, Hey, he wants to race. He has a full sponsorship. He's ready to go. He just wants to give a couple laps in the car, and he'll make his decision.
So obviously we didn't have any cars, so we had my car, and I said, I'll step out of my car, no problem, which I regretted until today because it was supposed to be one day and it became four and a half. And then after the test, obviously Jimmy, with what I told him, and Kevin, as well, they go talk to Rubens. They said, Did you like it? Rubens says, yeah, I enjoyed it a lot.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Actually we want to thank to Rubens' kids.
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, exactly, with Fernando and (Eduardo) Dudu. They said, oh, great. So now they're expecting Rubens to make his decision, and then Rubens says, yeah, yeah, let me think about it. Rubens asked, do you guys have a sponsorship. I said, no, I thought you had it. Then Jimmy kind of gave me a dirty look, and they realized it was a setup, but I think it was a good one. At the end of the day, we're all happy now.
Q.: Jimmy, Kevin, Tony mentioned kind of setting him up. Did you guys know that ‑‑ did you feel like you got set up? Did you know it was coming when it became apparent Rubens wasn't going to go back to F1?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Actually it was funny, about five minutes ago Mark Johnson and I were just talking and saying before the first test, we said it's a 10 percent chance that Rubens would ever dream of driving this car.
Q. Jimmy, just talk a little bit about adding Rubens to the lineup that had TK and EJ from last year.
JIMMY VASSER: It's awesome, absolutely awesome. The growth the team has had over the last few years, and culminating with this moment we're having here today, which is also a launch pad for our future and 2012 season, it's a great feeling. You know, it really puts more pressure on the team. Not that there isn't already enough built‑in pressure in motorsport, but to have a driver of Rubens' caliber, a solid team with EJ and Tony, and some new engineers that we have on board with fantastic - in Eric Cowdin with fantastic history coming from Penske and race wins, really, it's the kind of added pressure you want to have in motorsport, and if you don't feel that naturally, then you're probably not a real racer.
While this is a great, great moment for us, and then the beginning of a great future, there is a lot of hard work to be done, and we're going to begin that next week, spring training, Sebring.
Q. : And finally for Mark, the team is back to running three full‑time cars for 2012 after looking like having maybe fewer than three. Does this affect the team's preparation and next week's test at Sebring?
MARK JOHNSON: No, absolutely not. We've planned all along to run three cars for the season, and I'm reminded of it constantly with my buddy sitting to the right of me, Mr. Vasser, who I think his statement was we'll run three cars, come hell or high water. I didn't really know where he was figuring that out at, but he knew something I didn't apparently. I think he had an inside scoop on Rubens way before we did.
In the end, no, we've gone through the winter. We've prepared as we were going to run three cars, and we staffed as if we were going to run three cars, so frankly, we're right on our stride right now, and we'll have all three cars at Sebring next week ready to go.
Q. I know you haven't been in these cars, but you should have an advantage in car development. What you think you can bring to this team in that regard given the new DW 12?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, I mean, I think it's the right time for me to come in, a new car, carbon brakes, which I've been using for my past 19 years, so I think everybody is going to be learning there with the new car all through the season, so it's a good time.
Obviously I think I don't start from the 00 because I have a lot of experience, and I think I can help the team, as was the first plan. When we went to Sebring, that was the first plan, and I think after 20 laps I was able to do competitive times, and we moved on, and I could help the team to evaluate bits, and we just carried on, and I think the team got better from that and that experience.
I think I can help, obviously. I mean, that's - I love what I do. That's the most important thing. When you love what you do, you want to search for new things, you have an open mind, and you can do good things. So I look forward to working with the team, on a very intense level, and hopefully my experience will help everybody conquer better, and we can move to a different level.
Q. When Nigel Mansell came over here after winning the Formula 1 championship he was 40 years old, never been on an oval, crashed in a big test at Phoenix and went on to win five oval races in the next two years. Can you kind of set the record straight on there's all this talk about you promised your wife you wouldn't run an oval and, blah blah, blah. Can you tell us what really happened and what you've told her about ‑‑ what lies you've told her about how easy ovals are, please?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, to be very honest to you, what happened was that one day we were watching an oval race, and there was a crash, and she looked at me and said, "You're never going to do this, are you?" I said, "Well, I don't plan to, because I hope that I'll be racing Formula 1 forever, like 25 years, and then I'll probably stop."
With all my experience, I have no idea how to set up a car on an oval. But I had on Tony ‑‑ Tony always told me what is this, what is that, and how did I actually went through my wife's thing is that my kids helped big time. They went to see daddy racing on the oval, and we had fun together the one day when ‑‑ it was a setup. I briefed the boys, and then we went to mom and said, Eduardo asked her if it was true that she didn't want me to race on oval, and she said, well, I would rather have him racing on just normal circuits, and then we had ‑‑ like a quorum that we said all three of us at the same time, "Luckily mom doesn't tell us what to do." It was kind of funny.
Q. Now you've seen a bit of IndyCar racing and the series and met a lot of the people, do you think more Formula 1 drivers should consider racing in the U.S. after their F1 careers rather than just looking at sports cars or DTM?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, I mean, to be honest with you, I don't think we should say that IndyCars is an after‑Formula 1 thing. I think IndyCars are a great series, and everyone should consider trying that. I've always had in the back of my mind that the cars were good to drive as I could see on in‑car cameras from all the drivers, and I had the curiosity to do it.
So more and more drivers are going to U.S. instead of going into Europe because they want to do ovals and racing at IndyCar. I definitely think that the series are very, very competitive. It would be wrong to think, okay, we're going to do IndyCars after Formula 1. You can do it before in a way. Montoya did it that way, for example. I think the series are very good for that. It's a very competitive one.
Q. Rubens, over the course of your career you've raced in a lot of famous races and a lot of famous places. What does it mean to you to be able to have the opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500, one of the biggest races in the world?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I'm thrilled. It's been ‑‑ I've been there. '93, my first year in Formula 1 I actually went to see, to watch the Indy 500, and I had the possibility to race Formula 1 in Indianapolis, but it was not even close to what it is for the Indy 500. 60,000 people when we had Formula 1, and 600,000 people when the IndyCars are going around. I think it's going to be a great experience. I can't wait to get my car to the ovals and see what it is.
Q. Rubens and Tony, I was wondering what you think Rubens' realistic expectation of performance should be this year, given the fact that the rest of the IndyCar driver field isn't that far ahead in experience with this new car.
TONY KANAAN: Let me begin with ‑‑ if Rubens didn't believe that he could win, he wouldn't have come to the team. You know, we've got to be realistic about the experience that he's going to have on the ovals, but I have to say, I don't expect any less than for Rubens to be right on top of the game right away. With his experience and his talent and the way that IndyCar Series is competitive, giving equal equipment as far as chassis, and now this year we have different engines, but I believe that he has very good chances to be fighting for race wins and championships this year.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Yeah, on my side, I have my feet on the ground. I'm definitely not starting from zero because of all my experience. But the other day I was testing in Sonoma and left the pits, turned the pit limiter off, and I almost revved the engine higher than what it should rev because my mind was still set up for my 19 years that I was in Formula 1, so different revs, different everything. It's still not natural for me because I only had a few tests with Tony's car. I have another two days at Sebring and one day at Barber, and I don't know if I'm going to be well prepared for the first race, but what I can promise is that I will push to the very limits. I want to help myself, Tony, EJ and the team to get to the very top, and I'm excited. I'm really excited.
Q. Rubens, just give us a couple of impressions that you got from the car, the IndyCar, technology‑wise in your initial tests, what may have surprised you about the car.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: The first surprise was the fact that I didn't have the warmers on the tire. You know, I went out, it's a different technique to drive. Tony is very, very good at that, and he goes out, and he feels like he has new tires all the time. When I went out, Jesus, I didn't have the temperature on the tire, and I almost spun. So that's a new thing for me.
The gearbox was quite good, the engine was nice and drivable. The brakes were fine, as I had carbon brakes my whole life, and now it's there in IndyCars all the way.
That's pretty much it. The steering wheel is a little bit heavier, so I have to get used to that. But apart from that, I mean, the car gives you great feedback on the high speed corners and braking stability into one. It's just a different machine, and I need more time in it. But I had a lot of fun driving.
Q. Kevin, just talk a little bit about what Rubens' addition to the series does for the international appeal of IndyCar racing.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Well, let's just put it this way: After the first three days of testing at Sebring when he hadn't even confirmed that he was coming to the series, there were over 200 million impressions. And I believe after the second test at Sonoma, that had gone to half a billion. So the impact around the world is pretty significant. The impact on the team I think is remarkable. Everyone is really behind our three drivers and working very well together as a team.
I believe that there will be far greater worldwide attention on the series now that Rubens is here.
Q. Jimmy, with the addition of Rubens to the team, you now are what's considered a superteam. What are your feelings in that area?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, I wouldn't go that far. I'm a little more modest. I think we've got a super team of drivers and personnel, but we certainly don't have a super team of results and trophies in our trophy case yet. We'll try to attack those one race at a time.
I'm proud of the job that our general manager, Mark Johnson, has done to put the people in place to do the job, the kind of people we've been attracting, and it goes unsaid that this is huge news for us at KV Racing Technology, but like I said earlier, it's going to be time when we leave here today to get our heads down and show some superteam form. But I would be a little bit reserved in a term like that.
Q. Rubens, what's your feelings about coming over here?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I'm over the moon. I think that the reception from inside and outside the team has been great. At Sonoma we had like a thousand fans on the track, 1,500 there, and it was great. It was a great reception. It was a good mood all over, and I'm thrilled. I'm going to be 40 on Wednesday the 23rd, just before Indianapolis, and I can't be any happier. I think it's a chance that has been given to me after all the years of competitive racing that I had that I still have a lot of speed in myself. I want to do this for so much. I love really to be driving the cars, and I'm happy. I'm truly happy. I'm excited about the season.
Q. Rubens, you'll be 40 in May. Mario Andretti won an IndyCar race when he was 50 or 51, Bobby Unser in his late 40s, Dario was almost 40 and won the championship three years in a row. Just talk about still having the drive and the desire to do this despite all your accomplishments.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Yeah, well, after three, four years in Formula 1, I never thought I could go that long. I mean, I saw Nigel, for example, Mansell, doing F1 and Indy and coming back to Formula 1. There are people that just love what they do, and I'm one of them. I really thank God every day I wake up to be working with something that I just love so much.
You know, I can do different things, but I know that I can drive well. So to be able to become an IndyCar driver at almost age 40 and still be so competitive and physically so well, as well. I mean, I haven't reached the peak of my performance just yet. So I think that's a great chance for me. And like I said, I'm over the moon.
Q. Rubens, can you compare in the short time that you've been with this new team with what it was like to be with Ferrari and how they do things? And number two, a rookie almost won the race last May, so that should give you some thought that maybe you can win right away.
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: Well, thank you for the question. I have no intention of comparing teams and Formula 1 to Indy. I think it would be unfair to. There are so many positives on both of them. The thing that I found about the team is that within one minute I felt at home. It was a big family. They work really well together. Good bunch of engineers and mechanics, all willing to help.
I didn't have a single, single problem in trying to deal with different things, and obviously I have a big help in Tony because even flights, for example, how do I get myself into this place or this or that. I mean, it's obviously great to have him with me.
If I can win Indy the first year? I don't think we know. I don't think we know. I mean, you had a rookie, but for sure he's done oval before. So it was ‑‑ guys come a little bit more prepared than myself. I've just been told that my first oval experience is going to be in Texas before I actually go to Indy, and I have all my tests through the rookies. I'm loving the idea that I'm going to be a rookie. That makes me young, and I'm really enjoying that.
Q. My question is how are you expecting to handle the difference in fan interaction at IndyCar where the fans have a much greater access level to the drivers whereas in F1 the drivers are much more isolated from the fans?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: I like the idea. I like the fact that we're going to be closer. I'm actually ‑‑ even though you say that, I have been very close to my fans all over the world. You can see from my Twitter, I'm so happy that I have almost 1.5 million followers. Obviously most of them are Brazilian, but I hope that America becomes quite big, not just myself, but with TK's Twitter and KV, as well, and Jimmy, we hope that we have a lot of followers. I have a great relationship to the fans. I want to ‑‑ I think it's a great thing for me to be even more.
Q. Rubens, usually, or at least for the past few years at this time of year, you're going into the season kind of knowing that you didn't have a chance to win a race unless everything broke right. How important for you is it to be in IndyCar where things are a bit more even and equal, at least going into the season, as opposed to F1?
RUBENS BARRICHELLO: You know, it's funny you say that because it's ‑‑ at first, everybody knew that I was fighting for a position at Williams, and we didn't know if the car was going to be good or not, but it was just the fact that I wanted to be racing.
When I heard the news that I wasn't going to be there, of course I was disappointed with everything, but it took me two hours to figure it out, that I had a different message, because Tony was inviting me to test the car for a long time. I think that the hard times in life are there to teach us how to behave and just become better.
I'm enjoying. I think that's a good chance for myself after such a long time competing. The last time I had a competitive car was with Brawn in '09 where I won races, and I'm really happy that I'm going to have a competitive car right now. Jimmy has already promised me a really good car, Kevin, as well, so I'm going to push with that good car.
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