Newman/Haas seeks success at Motegi
Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) will compete in their eighth race at Twin Ring Motegi and first on the road course. It will be the team’s third event in Japan since 2002. In 2009, in their return to the track after a six year hiatus, the team finished third and fourth with Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia, respectively. In 2010, Rahal qualified 16th and finished eighth while Hideki Mutoh qualified 17th, ran as high as second in front of his home crowd and finished 14th. In the team’s five CART races on the unique, egg-shaped oval from 1998-2002 they earned one win with Michael Andretti in 2000, while Christian Fittipaldi finished third in 1999 and fourth in 2001 but were contenders for the win at least two other times. Oriol Servia will pilot the No. 2 Telemundo entry while James Hinchcliffe will pilot the No. 06 Sprott entry for NHR.
ENGINEER BRUNO COUPRIE ON MOTEGI ROAD COURSE
“It compares quite well to Mid Ohio, as it is very smooth. However we will also use our Sonoma knowledge, as it is hard on the brakes, and has a lot of slow corners,” said Bruno Couprie, who is in his first full season as a race engineer with NHR and works with Telemundo driver Oriol Servia, who has earned three podiums in the previous eight races.
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE MOTEGI COURSE
“Well all I know about the road course is what I saw two years ago when I did a lap running (jogging) around it,” said Servia who will make his fifth start at Motegi and attempt to better his top finish here of fourth place in 2009 with NHR. “It looks very smooth and I think it will be a lot of fun. I love the Motegi oval. I think is one of the best designed ovals in the world and it is shame it got damaged during the earthquake, I hope one day they can fix it so we can come back to race on it.”
“It looks like a challenging circuit with some technical and long corners and some rhythm sections,” added Hinchcliffe who will compete in Japan for the first time. “Its a track where having some knowledge and experience would be a big advantage, which none of us have because we have never raced there and because of that I think it is going to be a level playing field among all drivers.”
WHAT’S YOUR POINT(s)?
Telemundo driver Servia is ranked fourth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 367 and is 63 behind third place Scott Dixon (430) with three races to go. There are still four drivers mathematically eligible for the title -- Dario Franchitti (507), Will Power (502), Dixon and Servia, who is ranked No. 1 in the Laps Completed category after having completed 1,840 of 1,848 possible laps to date. Hinchcliffe is ranked 16th with 255 points and is only three behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader JR Hildebrand who is ranked 15th with 258. Hinchcliffe missed the season-opener and the opportunity to score points at that event and is only 29 points out of a top-10 rank (Graham Rahal, 10th place with 284).
COUPRIE ON THE TELEMUNDO TEAM’S ABILITY TO STAY UP FRONT IN THE POINT STANDINGS
“Championship positions come from points. Points come from race finish positions. A lot of people mistakenly think that a fast qualifying lap entitles them a high position in the championship. Oriol is the driver who has completed the most laps this year. It is not surprising, as I cannot remember so far any mistake of his during a race. This is simply exceptional, and it reflects well in his ability to stay in the top five of the championship for so long.”
JAMES ON THE SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR BATTLE
“Obviously adding the race in Motegi (to my schedule) was very important. Missing St. Pete was one thing, but missing two races is nearly impossible to overcome. To be honest, I haven't put a ton of weight on the battle so far. We started off on the back foot, and after Indy the gap was so big I nearly forgot about it and just went weekend to weekend doing the best job I could. Now that it is closer, I am sure the next few races will be more fun knowing that something is on the line!
“It always comes up, but honestly it is usually other people that come up to me and bring it up! I have never done the math myself after a race to figure out the gap. It seems others are following it more closely than I am. Ultimately we go into every weekend trying to beat as many as people as we can, not just JR. So if I have a good race then I am happy, even if JR finishes well too.”
JAMES ON WHETHER THE CHANCE TO WIN ROY MEANS MORE NOW THAN IT DID AT THE START OF 2011
“It really can't mean anything until you've won it! So I can't really answer that until after the season is over. Certainly that was a goal going into the year, and you only get one chance to win Rookie of the Year, so it does mean a lot. But I don't want to spend time thinking about what it would mean to win it, to then NOT win it! I'll focus on my job for now and hopefully get to think about that after Vegas!”
COUPRIE ON HOW THE TEAM PREPARED FOR THIS NEW COURSE
“This track is not like a new street course, it is permanent, already existing, so we can do a lot more than just simulate the track. On the topic of simulation it was very close to real car data in Baltimore, so that is very helpful. There is a lot about Motegi on the web, Google Earth, YouTube videos which nicely completes our simulation work. We have also spoken with some drivers who have raced on the Motegi course, so we got some good line and setup advice.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE EXPECTED FRONT RUNNERS IN MOTEGI
“Will Power has been very strong on all road courses this season and you can never forget his teammates Helio and Ryan as well as the two Ganassi cars,” said Servia. “We at Newman/Haas have also shown nice speed everywhere so we could be challengers for the win as well. The championship is very competitive and to be honest there are at least 15 cars that, if they do everything right, they can win in Motegi.”
“Because it is a new place for all of us, there are a lot of unknowns going into the race,” added Hinchcliffe. “We really need to see how things shape up after practice and qualifying. It looks like a fun track so I hope we are able to put on a good race. Every driver thinks that they are the best at learning a new track so obviously I am no different. Whenever there is a new circuit, it does level the playing field and you think it might give you an opportunity to be a bit further up the grid. I hope that is the case for us.”
COUPRIE ON THE TEAM’S OVAL & “UP & DOWN” ROAD/STREET PERFORMANCE IN 2011
“We were actually very competitive on short ovals straight away (when the team joined the IndyCar Series) in 2008, as they are handling tracks. I remember we actually surprised ourselves and the rest of the paddock with Graham that year. Oriol is an excellent oval racer, and James is getting there, as his fourth place finish in Loudon shows. Our road and street course performance this year has been up and down, but it has been so for every top driver apart from Franchitti and Power. The field is so tight that whenever we do not perform perfectly 10 cars overtake us on the qualifying grid. As for Motegi, we got our best team result in 2009 there with Graham third and Oriol fourth, so for sure we would have preferred to run the oval course.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THEIR GOALS FOR THE MOTEGI RACE
“To unload the cars and have them immediately be quick and hope to win the last race in Japan - for a while at least,” said Servia. “Because it is a new track for all teams it will be very interesting to see which one is able to guess the best starting setup. We have a great group of engineers and I am confident that our cars will be good from the first lap. It is getting close to the end of the championship and it is very important to get as many points as possible at every race. As I said I love the oval and I hope I love the road course too. I have very high hopes and it would mean a lot to me to be able to win in Japan.”
“My goal would be to carry on what we have been doing and get a top-10 result,” added Hinchcliffe. “It is our rookie year and we're going to a track the team has never been to so I am taking a bit of a guess. It is a weekend where we will have to take it one session at a time. If we can come away with a top-10 finish and be the top rookie, I think that would be a good weekend.”
COUPRIE ON THE TEAM’S EXPECTATIONS FOR MOTEGI
“Qualifying has been hit or miss this year. We are working on that with Oriol. However the most important part is the race, and Oriol is a fantastic racer, which helps good team strategy turn into great results like we saw in Baltimore. We got a podium finish out of a P16 qualifying, which proves that anything is possible in Motegi. Hopefully we win that one!”
ORIOL AND JAMES ABOUT THIS BEING THE FINAL RACE IN JAPAN – FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE
“I am very sad that next year we are not coming back to Japan,” said Servia. “I love the country and I think it has been very important for the IndyCar Series to come all these years to race in Japan. Japan has always been a sign of the future with technology and it is a great society to be a part of. Japan has been a huge influence in racing all around the world and I think it is important that this year we show support to Japan by coming to race even with the troubles that the country is facing.”
“We are very sad to be losing a race in Japan,” said Hinchcliffe. “Honda has been an incredible supporter of this series over the last decade and even before that. This is their home track so its sad we are losing the race. On the other hand I am very happy that I am going to get to be there for the last race and get to race in Japan and specifically at Motegi before the race is no longer part of the championship.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON VISITING JAPAN
“For many years, I have used the race for an excuse to spend some extra time and visit different areas of Japan,” said Servia. “I have been many times to Tokyo, Kyoto and two years ago I went to Mount Koya which was a great experience. It always feels too short of a trip to Japan and I want to stay longer. During the year I am addicted to sushi and it is always great to go to the fish market. I will miss not coming to Japan to race next year and I truly hope that Japan again becomes part of the schedule in the future.”
“I had the opportunity to travel a lot in Asia when I was racing in A1GP but Japan is one of the few countries that I never got to go to and always wanted to. I had some friends that raced in Formula Nippon, and GT's and F3 and I heard so many cool stories about living there and racing there that I am really looking forward to getting the opportunity to see the country and learn a little bit about the culture and hopefully have a good race.”
COUPRIE ON HOPES/EXPECTATIONS FOR THE FINAL THREE RACES THIS SEASON “We want to do the best we can each weekend, especially during the race. After our strong result in Baltimore it is very realistic to aim at the top-five in the championship. It would be a great come back for Newman/Haas Racing as a team, and Oriol Servia as a driver!”