An interview with Pablo Donoso and Bruno Junqueira
THE MODERATOR: We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call with us is Firestone Indy Lights driver Pablo Donoso, and joining us in a few minutes will be Indy Car Series driver Bruno Junqueira.
Pablo is a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights driving for Team Moore Racing and is riding a string of seven consecutive top‑10 finishes starting at Milwaukee. Three of those finishes were fifths, and last weekend Pablo finished third at Mid‑Ohio, which moved him up to eighth in the points.
Pablo, congratulations on your strong runs recently. Seems like the season got off to a bit of a slow start, but now you're really on a roll. Can you tell us a little bit about how the season has gone for you so far?
PABLO DONOSO: Yeah, like you said, the beginning was really hard. I was without a team with the last moment but was supposed to run IndyCar with Foyt but we had some problems, and we couldn't do that, but we started in IndyCar in Indy Lights with another team, and now I moved to Team Moore Racing, and on the last few races we had really good results. Not perfect, because I would like to be on the podium all the time, but this series is so hard, so competitive, so finishing in the top five is really, really good. We are learning, and we are going up, and we are having good results on the last race, and I hope to have the same result on the next four races and move up a little bit more in the championship.
THE MODERATOR: You're teammates with Jeff Simmons, a guy who has a lot of experience both in the Indy Lights cars and also some IndyCar Series experience. How much has Jeff helped you this season?
PABLO DONOSO: It's really good to have Jeff like a teammate or have some driver with a lot of experience. Like in my career, I had Enrique Bernoldi, who is running in IndyCar now, and now I have Jeff Simmons. And in USAC I had J.J. Yeley. So it's good when you have some teammates with a lot of experience who can drive fast, because that pushes you to be better and to be faster.
With Jeff, we are doing a really good job together, and we talk a lot about the car, and I think it's good for the team to have two competitive drivers. So I think it's pretty cool to have Jeff on the team.
THE MODERATOR: A lot of drivers that come over to Firestone Indy Lights, they have never competed on ovals before, and you had a little different background by competing in the Silver Crowns the last couple of years. How much has it helped you to have the previous experience on the ovals?
PABLO DONOSO: Well, it's really good because I think when I moved to Silver Crown in 2006, I learned a lot. On Silver Crown cars, it's a little bit different, you have to brake and use normal lines like coming on the outside and being on the apex and going again to the outside. And in the Indy Lights, sometimes you run on the line, or on the inside, you know what I mean, trying to go for the front of the track like in Homestead.
It's a little bit different but some good experience for me to run on the Silver Crown and learn about the ovals, and that's good because I can become competitive in ovals, like in Ohio, I was one of the fastest cars on the race and being competitive in road courses, that's what IndyCar is looking for, drivers who can be fast on road courses and ovals here.
THE MODERATOR: Last year you raced for A.J. Foyt Racing. How much did you actually get to know A.J. and what was it like racing for him?
PABLO DONOSO: Driving for A.J. Foyt was great. If somebody can teach you a lot, it's A.J. He's one of the best drivers in history, by far the best driver in IndyCar, so for me it was great last year. And I hope to run again with him, you know, the future maybe next year, in 2010. But what I learned with A.J. Foyt last year was awesome. I really enjoyed to be with him every week, and it was great.
THE MODERATOR: What led you in the off‑season to decide to come over to Firestone Indy Lights for this season?
PABLO DONOSO: Because I love IndyCars. For me, IndyCar is the best thing in the world, it's better than Formula 1, and what I really want to do. So when I moved to Silver Crown, it was just to learn about ovals, and that's what I really want to do in 2005 when I came to the USA the first time. I was running World Series in Europe, and so it was something pretty similar to the Indy Lights car but I didn't have the backing. So this year, we did some good deals with the sponsors and everything, and we couldn't run for a couple of races in the series anyway, but this is where you have to be, nice (prize) money and everything.
THE MODERATOR: There's only four races left in the season. What would you like to accomplish in those four races?
PABLO DONOSO: I'm looking forward for Sonoma because I won my first race in the USA there, and I think I'm going to be really competitive in Infineon. But anyway, I know Kentucky. I ran in Silver Crown in Kentucky; I ran in Chicago, so the next four races I've got experience on the tracks. So I think we can be really competitive, but I'm looking forward for Sonoma.
Q. What do you know about the race course in Edmonton? Have you asked anybody about it?
PABLO DONOSO: I watched the race, and I think it's a great track, and so I'm pretty happy the series is running in Edmonton and it's running in Canada. So I hope next year we will go to there maybe with the IndyCar or the Indy Lights. I'm going to watch the race this weekend, and I'm pretty happy about the racetrack. It's a really fast racetrack, so I think it's great for the series to be running there.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you so much for joining us, and again, congratulations on a great run recently and good luck the rest of the way.
We are joined by Bruno Junqueira. Bruno is in his first full season in the IndyCar Series driving for Dale Coyne Racing. He finished sixth at Watkins Glen and was running second late in the race at Mid‑Ohio before pitting for fuel. Prior to this season, Bruno competed in Champ Car for six years, earning eight victories and nine poles and raced in Edmonton each of the last two seasons, finishing seventh last year.
Bruno, first of all, we talked to you on the teleconference shortly after the unification announcement right before the season started. Now that we are past the halfway part of the season on the home stretch, give us your impressions of how things have gone so far in 2008.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Things have been good. It's been very difficult for the transition teams, because they don't have much time to prepare the cars or see the car before the first race, they are just on the road all the time, but they are getting better every race. Especially the road courses have been very competitive, something that gives us some motivation to keep going.
I think the quality of the racing has been great and it's been much better than before. The TV ratings have been better. We have 26, 28 cars every race, and so a full field. The races are more exciting, so there are good things happening.
THE MODERATOR: You had a very strong race at Mid‑Ohio, running second for quite a while, especially near the end. Tell us a bit about the race and really how many yellow laps would you have needed to stay out there and stay in second?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I needed like three laps on the yellow, an extra three laps on the yellow; or, if the race was going to be by time and not laps, I could have finished. But, that's OK. You play a big gamble and you win some and you lose some. I was sixth, and then the first pit stop for slick tires, we lost position and went to 19th. So we gambled, and my car was good. I was able to run by myself and save fuel and keep Helio (Castroneves) and all of the other guys behind me and on a good pace. So it was good to be running in front again.
THE MODERATOR: And you qualified ninth at Mid‑Ohio and 11th at Watkins Glen much how much confidence does that give you heading into Edmonton?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: A lot. I know the track. In Edmonton, I had a good race last year, but I finished seventh because I had a problem with the pit stop.
We were very competitive last year, and I was racing with Paul Tracy all the time. So, I think it's going to be good. For sure, Watkins Glen, to qualify in the top six, and Mid‑Ohio was good, and hopefully get another top 10 qualifying in Edmonton, and I hope I can get the points in this race and we can do it.
THE MODERATOR: You've raced at Edmonton twice and obviously the transition guys have been here two or even three times. Do you think this is a track that will be a place where the transition drivers have a distinct advantage over the guys who have not raced here before?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Maybe you're going to have a little bit of an advantage but not more so than any other place. We know the track, but I'm sure the good (IndyCar Series) teams, they already know the track, as well. And the drivers need like five laps to learn the track. Going to a new track, they need five laps to learn about the track. So the thing is about the setups, and it's a different car, so I don't think the same setups are going to work. So let's see how it goes, and I hope we do really well.
THE MODERATOR: There's five races remaining in 2008. What would you like to accomplish in those five races?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I hope I can get the podium. If I can get the podium, that would be great.
Q. You had a pretty strong season, do you think you can have a good podium finish?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I'm feeling really good. That's our best chance because it's a track that as I said we know and most of the teams don't know, and let's see if we can get a good result. Watkins Glen and Mid‑Ohio we were running good both races and really had a chance to be on podium in Watkins again, but unfortunately the pit stop in the end cost me. And Mid‑Ohio was the opposite; there was no yellow flag at the end and I couldn't get the podium. Both races I qualified good and ran at a good pace, and hope I can do that in Edmonton and hope I can get a great result there.
Q. How different are these cars from what you've driven the past few years?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: From a fan point of view, it is the same. Both cars are open‑wheel race cars, and they look almost the same.
To drive, is similar, but those IndyCars, they have less power, a little bit less power. So they go a little bit slower. But in terms of, you use the same Firestone tires, and aerodynamic of the cars are very, very similar. So it's just a little bit less power. It will run like two, three seconds slower around the lap, so people from outside cannot feel the difference.
The good thing about this is because you have a little bit less power, we spend a little bit more time on the straights and there is actually more chances to overtake. So the races are going to be more exciting, especially having 27 cars on the racetrack.
Q. Wondering if you felt momentum going into Edmonton just from running up front in mid Ohio or if that just added pressure tour?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, no pressure. I'm very used to fighting for the championship, three years in a row, and I won the championship in 2000. So I'm used to winning the races and getting the points, so I don't feel any pressure.
I think our team being such a small team, every great result that we get is a plus, and we work hard together. And I think the last few races in Watkins Glen and Mid‑Ohio were really good for us. So I just hope we can do even a little bit better in Edmonton.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking the time to join us. We appreciate that, and we do wish you success in the remaining races this year.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you very much.