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Select quotes from drivers transitioning IRL
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing): “Since I came to America in 2001, all the drivers really wanted to get both series together, so I’m very happy about that. I’m delighted. That’s the way to go, that’s the way people can recognize us better as IndyCar Series drivers and the series can start to grow again. We have a full field of 26 cars. For the Champ Car teams, it was really hard. We got the cars three weeks ago. It’s a completely different car. You had to not just build the car for the ovals or the road courses, you had to build for both for the test at Sebring and for Homestead. Our guys did a good job to prepare the cars. At Sebring, we were very competitive. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much track time here. We lost Monday and just went on the track at 8:30 on Tuesday. I did just over 50 laps, so I didn’t get much experience with the car, but I certainly have some experience on ovals. I try to adapt myself and try to find a good setup tomorrow so we can be reasonable. I don’t think any Champ Car teams are going to be competitive this year, especially on the ovals. We are competing against very good (IndyCar Series) teams that have had this car for five years. So to have three weeks with the car we’re going to be behind. I think we’ll catch up and be really close the second half of the season. On the road courses, I was very surprised. Oriol’s time, even Will Power and my time, we were competitive to the (IndyCar Series) teams. So, let’s see what happens in St. Pete. We’ll still be a little bit behind, but closer.”
FRANCK PERERA (No. 34 Ares/Opes Prime): “For me, it’s an experience. I’ve never raced on ovals. In Europe, it’s not what we do and what we learn for. It’s not even something we see on TV. I don’t even have any experience in Champ Car. I just had a test two months ago. It was my first time with Conquest. When I heard about the merger, it’s very good for the series. I’m also going to be the only French driver this year in this series. The team did a very good job to bring the car.”
WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia): “It’s all come together very late. It’s like Oriol says, it’s going to be a test session for the first half of the year on ovals for us. We’re going to try and be really strong on all the road courses and get as many points as we can. On the ovals, my plan is just to finish the race, get as many miles and understand the car as much as possible. It became quite evident at the end of the two days of testing here that we’re lacking quite a bit of speed in comparison to the (IndyCar Series) guys. We’re learning, and we’ve got a few more things to put on the car. By the time we get to the Indy 500, we’ll be starting to get up there a little bit.”
(About working with Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “I don’t know the extent that they’ve helped us, because that’s Jimmy’s deal, but we went straight out at Sebring and seemed to be reasonably competitive. The car had a nice balance. We came here and we had a pretty safe car, and easy to drive. I can’t thank them enough.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps): “For us at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, it’s been very busy, especially after I crashed on Tuesday. The unification was a great thing for us. I think everybody here is looking forward to it, but certainly the situation wasn’t really ideal because of how quickly we had to get ready for this weekend. We missed last week’s test at Sebring. Obviously going into this weekend and also St. Pete, it was going to be quite the challenge. I think out of the box on Monday things went pretty well, we were running pretty quick, and also on Tuesday until my shunt. Unfortunately, I won’t be racing this weekend, but overall I think the team has done a great job preparing these cars. We’re looking forward to next week and building the car for St. Pete. I think we all have a shot at winning one of the first two races it was going to be St. Pete. So, we’re going to work on that now.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology): “I’m excited to get back on the ovals. I was missing them a little bit the late years in Champ Car when we didn’t have any. This was actually my first oval ever in 1998. I liked it right away. These last couple of days were very helpful to be on the oval. We had two full days to learn the car and to fight against the other teams that have had these cars for five years. We have a great group of engineers that did a great job figuring the setup for Sebring – the car worked really well. It was quite good here. We’re just missing speed that will come with time. Hopefully, we’ll finish the race and add more miles to our testing, because this is the way it is for all of us here – the first few races are actually testing, learning the cars.”
(About perspective of Indy car racing overseas): “I think the Indianapolis 500 is great around the world. It’s well regarded everywhere as a race. It’s one of the top three races ever with Monaco and Le Mans. They respect ovals, but you don’t get to see it that much on TV. Hopefully now they’ll be showing it in Spain. Oval racing is something you don’t really appreciate until you come and you see it live. Then you have fans for life. I’ve found people from Spain have come in the past when I was doing Indy Lights. They saw and they realized it’s a good show, good driving, a lot of skill. But it takes for them to come and watch.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team): “I’m very grateful for the team and the effort they’ve put in over the last four weeks to get the cars prepared and to get them to a standard that is very high and the usual Newman/Haas/Lanigan standard. It’s going to be a tough season. The main thing is being realistic, staying calm and trying not to rush things. We’ll see what happens, but I’m very excited about being one series, the merger. It gives everybody a good opportunity for the future.”
(About weight rules) “I think it’s very important. I feel it’s the first step in making things fair. In every form of motorsport I’ve come across, especially Formula One, the weight is so critical. The combined package of the car and driver, usually on a road course 10 pounds equals one-tenth of a second, so if you’re 100 pounds heavier than somebody it’s a second a lap you’re giving away. I’m fortunate, and quite a lot of the drivers here are fortunate, that the IRL has seen that and made some adjustments to help make it equal. They haven’t gone all the way, but it definitely it gets closer in line with the rest of the world on weight.”
ERNESTO VISO (No. 33 HVM Racing): “Everything happened in a very strange way in the last two or three weeks. My plan was almost done with Minardi, but then the merger came on and everything changed. On the 19th, it was my birthday and I wasn’t driving. Everything came together that day. I was in Barcelona and spoke with my manager. He told me I needed to fly the next day, to do a seat and go racing the next weekend. It’s my first time in an oval, and it’s amazing. I never expected it to be that way. It’s just a different mentality of racing, you have to think a different way than what you do in normal racing. You need to depend on the other cars. You have to have a long plan. I’m very excited.”
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