CART MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 12, 1997
T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks for joining us today and a special welcome to our guest this afternoon, driver Max Papis of Arciero-Wells/MCI Racing. Welcome, Max, and thanks for taking the time to be with us today.
MAX PAPIS: Thanks.
T.E. McHALE: Max, driver of the No. 25 Reynard Toyota sponsored by MCI is in his second series of the PPG CART World Series after running a limited three-race schedule in 1996. The highlight of that season was a 9th place finish at the Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America in only his second PPG CART World Series career start. Road America, located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is the site of the 14th round of the PPG CART World Series, the Texaco/Havoline 200 coming up this Sunday at 2:30 P.M. local time. This season Max owns six top 15 finishes in 13 PPG CART World Series starts, including four in his past six outings. He has been the top Toyota powered finisher in the past three events with a 15th at the Molson Indy an 8th at the U.S. 500 presented by Toyota and a 14th in last Sunday's Miller 200. His 8th place finish at the U.S. 500 presented by Toyota was his best in 16 PPG CART World Series starts. Entering Sunday's Texaco/Havoline 200 at Road America, Max stands 21st in the PPG Cup race with 7 points. The Texaco/Havoline 200, round 14 of the PPG CART World Series, will be televised live by ESPN on Sunday August 17th at 3:30 P.M. eastern day late time. With that, we are going to open it up for questions.
Q. You have been very positive, very upbeat after each race, even though you have finished prematurely on several occasions. Can you talk a little bit about being part of a developing program and the real frustration that is involved rather than keeping up that real positive front?
MAX PAPIS: No, it is no keeping positive side. You know when you start a program, you know what you have to face. I knew last year when I joined my Ferrari Team that I was facing a winning series and a winning car. And, I knew when I signed for the MCI Team that I was facing a hard program, and development program. Development program means that you need to stay up to keep the morale up. And, you know, sometimes it is hard because when -- it is hard when you know that inside of you of the potential to win. But, I knew that when I joined the team and the reason why I am always positive is because I see every development, every step forward we do is something positive. It means we are going towards the right direction and that is why I keep this attitude.
Q. Can you continue with that; what are some of the things that are happening and do they have more to do with the Toyota engine or with your team in general? What are some of the developments? Where is the progress coming?
MAX PAPIS: Express it a bit more because I don't understand.
Q. Where is the progress that you are seeing coming from? Is it more reliability in the Toyota engine? Is it something in the team?
MAX PAPIS: No, to tell you the truth, the team, the MCI Crew they are doing a fantastic job. And, I know that on the setup point of view and on the car, especially in the last two or three events, we have a car that can compete for a top-5. What I am positive and what I am thinking, you know, what really -- what was actually, you know, good, it was that we finished the 500 miles and progress we are seeing is on the engine side. Progress not on horsepower because, you know, little bit improvement here and there, but not something that really -- not what I would like to see. But, progress in the mentality, you know, in the approach of racing. That is what is important because first you have to build the right approach and after you can make the race -- you can really, you know, think about going racing at top level and that is why I am pleased -- I am more pleased nowadays than what was in the beginning of the season.
Q. When you talk about the mentality, is that again, the team or Toyota or the way the two are working together?
MAX PAPIS: Only talking about Toyota because, at the moment, you know, I think that in the MCI Racing Team we have people like Gordon Coppuck that doesn't need anymore experience, winning a world championship in Formula I and being competitive in CART Series. And, someone like Richard Buck won Indy 500 and won many championships. Someone like Mark Johnson, you know, he has been successful in motor car series. So, I think on the team side what I am pleased is that the team made a big change this year from a small operation, we become a large operation. And, we had an opportunity to understand each other recently. And, we can take the best out of my car and out of myself to do that just in the last two, three events. But, you know, the mentality that is coming on board is the right mentality, is coming from Toyota, is the approach, is the racing approach that is becoming better and better and that is what I appreciate the most.
Q. Hello, Max.
MAX PAPIS: Ron, I am here in the soul of the NASCAR racing, in Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Q. Does that mean we have got some fenders to look at?
MAX PAPIS: At the moment still single seater.
Q. One of the things that I have learned about Max Papis since you and I first met at Daytona, I think, two years ago, you seem to understand that in order to win the war you have got to win small battles. I am wondering if the fact that so many cars fell out at Michigan, there you were still running at the end, was that a small battle won in this big war?
MAX PAPIS: I tell you, you know, when you start -- when you know that you cannot -- you have something in your hand that you cannot win, you know, you cannot win with, definitely this, like this make you think and make you approach the race in a different way. And the small battle, as you said, the achievement that the MCI Racing Team did, you know, why we finished the race in Michigan is thanks a lot to my team. Both me and Hiro finish while the other Toyota cars, they didn't finish because we modified a lot of things on the car to help, you know, some problem that we have on the engine. And, Toyota understood that, appreciate that and they came up with an engine that, you know, was not the fastest on the field as everyone knows, but was something that, you know, allowed me to go to the end. And, I will tell you, for me, first 500 mile race and finishing the 500 mile race is a big achievement because I don't think that many people finish their first 500 miles in the top 10 and that, for me, it is encouraging.
Q. What was it like for you in your first 500 mile race and did you sleep real good Sunday night?
MAX PAPIS: I tell you first time -- how I approach 500 miles was the same way I approach the Daytona 24 Hour, was I knew it was going to be a long race, long event and I paced myself at the limit of my knowledge at the beginning of the race because I didn't -- I never experienced to run in traffic with so many cars. And, after, through the pace of the car, in order to take it through the end. And, I tell you, at the end of the 500 miles I was really, really tired because I was pretty tense during all the race because -- every time you -- when something is new you really don't know how to approach it. I slept for about two days after that.
Q. Thank you, Max. By the way I am taking some Italian classes so you and I will be able to converse maybe?
MAX PAPIS: Perfecto!
Q. I don't know what you said. (laughs)
MAX PAPIS: Bye-bye.
Q. I wonder how you say you-all in Italian?
MAX PAPIS: Say what?
Q. How do you say you-all?
MAX PAPIS: Tutti voi.
Q. At any rate, Max, are you at all concerned that if the Toyota package doesn't really start to deliver and give you a car that can be a winner, are you at all concerned how that might affect your driving career in a negative way?
MAX PAPIS: Yeah, I think about that because it is part of -- yeah, I thought a lot about that, that is why I am giving 110% faith to Toyota this year, and, next year and I hope they can come up with a good product. Honestly, I have -- not because I am talking right now, but I have a lot of faith that they will come up with good things next year because you have to consider that - to make it short - this year the new engine was a completely new engine compared to last year and the knowledge that they could get from last year's engine was very, very limited. It was like 20, 25% of the entire development of the last two years. So, I think the progress that they had done, they showed really good, is not what I want; is not enough. And, I know that in one way or another Cal Wells will make me successful. I know that Cal will give me the opportunity to show my potential. If that will be with Toyota, I will be more than pleased. If not, you know, we have to consider. But, I think that next year is the year where we will see where we will go.
Q. Do you have a deadline that you have set for yourself to see some results from the Toyota motor that will be very encouraging for you, at which point, if it's not encouraging you will say, well, oh, geez, I have got to seriously look elsewhere?
MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. In the middle of next season I want to see the things working. If not, I will have -- you know, if the things will not work next season, I will be personally very disappointed because I am putting tremendous effort - besides driving the car - you know, in supporting and helping the team and helping the Toyota with the knowledge that I had in my past and introducing the right people and trying to create the right mentality, like the racing mentality, the right approach. And, as I told you, my -- not "deadline," we shouldn't say "deadline." But, I am expecting big for middle of next season. I wouldn't -- I don't want to go back to Mid-Ohio or U.S. 500 and finish 8 or finish 14 like in Mid-Ohio. I don't want that. If that will happen means you know something is wrong.
Q. I was wondering whether or not you find any of your experience in the other racing venues translatable to the IndyCar series?
MAX PAPIS: Experience in what?
Q. You race in other series like the 24 Hour Race, and overseas in Formula I, do you see that translating into your IndyCar Racing?
MAX PAPIS: Oh, yeah, absolutely like, you know, even if I am only 27 I have been -- I had the opportunity to drive in different series all my life like Sports Car, Single Seat, Formula I, 3000, Indy, and many things I learn, you know, what I can tell you especially what I can exploit to car is the mentality, is like I am convinced that everything start from how people approach the problem that they have; how professionally they do it, and, -- yeah, how professional and the right way to see the right problem. And, I will learn in my career is giving the right weight to the different problem. And, that is what -- that is what I am exploiting into CART. And, on the driving experience side, you know, I am exploiting, like, my experience I had in the 24-Hour Race, you know, I can do that -- I can take an advantage for 500 mile race, and the experience I had in the F-I, you know, Sprint Racing very fast, is like, I can -- I put that in Road Course or Street Course experience.
Q. I am looking at the box score and 7 out of the top 10 cars were on Firestone tires and you are on Firestones. I notice PJ Jones is a couple laps down on Goodyears. Are you noticing a big change that maybe Firestone is edging ahead again?
MAX PAPIS: No. I just think that, you know, the reason why we are two laps ahead of PJ is thanks to my crew, you know, because they have done a tremendous job on the pit spot and for one time we have been, you know, our strategy paid out because PJ took chances. He pit earlier. My crew always make me gain couple spots every time we went out and every time we came in the pit. And, for sure, Firestone, they are providing us a tremendous tire that I think will suit our car and -- I think we will have an advantage over Goodyear both -- we had it in Mid-Ohio. We can have it at Elkhart Lake. And, I think a little bit in Laguna too. But, Goodyear, they are there, they are right there. The problem, you know, Michael had spun out in the beginning of the race, Bryan Herta he had a puncher and if not there would have been a big, big issue for the race. But, I think we are pretty close, but sometimes Firestone is a little bit further ahead. We have been doing a lot of test for Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake and I think this is what is paying out.
Q. Following up, you have had all your experience in Europe pretty much and now you are running a full season in CART. Is it everything that you expected it to be?
MAX PAPIS: Honestly, a little bit more than what I expected. This is the most competitive and challenging series I have ever been involved in my life. If you consider to make a progress, you just need a couple of tenths of a second and you go from 18 to 14, you know, tells you how competitive the series is. What I can tell you, what I appreciate the most, and why I think, you know, CART Series is one of the best, if not the best, you know, in the world of motor racing is that the personal level of -- the personal approach you can have between drivers, like, you know, you can have a friendly relation like I can have with Alex or Greg Moore while being on the track, you know, being really, really hard and doing a very hard race, but that doesn't mean that outside the track you cannot spend time together. And, that is something that I really appreciate because it means that in CART Series, people, you know, for our racing, it is still racing. It is not a war. And, that is what I appreciate the most.
Q. Max, I find it interesting and frankly heartening that you can have a relationship with other CART drivers, be friends off of the track because we talked to Paul Tracy a few months ago and he is exactly the opposite. He doesn't want to be friends with any drivers off the track. Is that important to you in terms of just your life?
MAX PAPIS: I tell you, I am a man who appreciates many things in life. And, for me, motor racing is a big part of my life and is a big enjoyment and I am very proud of what I am doing. So, for sure, being able to share some emotion and have some -- yeah, we can call it friendship with other drivers. Like, very, very big respect. That is what I would like to say. And, I think this is important because make you enjoy more racing because, you know, I do my job when I am on the track. There is no friend there. I do my own things and that is it. But, besides the track, you know, what I said before, many times people forget that behind racing car there are always human beings. And, you know, if you are too selfish outside racing car, you become to be a little bit blind and I think you don't see reality because this is not a war. This is a sport. And a sport is made of a lot of things like human relation and fights and like, you know, having sometimes, you know, some bitterness for some other driver, but that doesn't -- that doesn't mean that you can't shake their hands when they are outside from the race car because the job is showing that you are the best when you are in the car. When you are outside, you don't win championship talking. You win championship when you are sitting in the car.
Q. Max, can you give an example - you have talked a lot about racing mentality and about, I guess, sounds like deciding which problems are important or which problems you need to address now. Is that what you are talking about? Can you give any specific examples?
MAX PAPIS: Yeah, to make you understand like if we have various problems we are working on the engine and on the team too like to improve and to become stronger, like, you know, if you have like a problem related to, I don't know, let us say like, you know, to the heat of the engine, that the engine produce too much heat. And you have a problem with the engine that on -- regarding, you know, pit limit speed, like, you know, to carry in the pit lane, the most important things to know and acknowledge that I can live with, you know, taking care of the pit speed limit. But, you know, you cannot live with overheating in the engine. I think this is the right -- that is why I said I am pleased that Toyota, they are learning a lot on that. And, they are focusing and they are getting the right people on board that can say they cannot address the problem help and they can find responsibility because motor racing, it is a team game and everyone must have their own responsibility and both the man who tight the bolt in the engine; then the man that put the engine together, and the one who run the engine and my mechanics that put the engine in the car and the engineer that engineer the car. So everyone has his own specific role. And, what I am pleased, what I say to you that I am pleased is that people are finding more and more naturally where do they have to end and which kind of responsibility they have to take.
Q. What are you doing in Charlotte? You said you were at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
MAX PAPIS: I am recording, you know, on track and RPM tonight.
Q. You are not driving there, though?
MAX PAPIS: No. I am going to Elkhart Lake tonight.
Q. Max, when you go into a race, can you tell us what your priorities are and in what priority you have them? Is it like -- is your first priority to advance quickly through the field or is it to just finish the race or can you give us some sort of perspective of what you are thinking when you are driving for a program that is trying to develop --
MAX PAPIS: I will tell you, I can give you two different prospects, what is inside of me as a racing driver and what is inside of me when I think. What is inside of me as racing driver is what happened at Mid-Ohio in the second day of qualifying. I went in the car and after we struggled for two days, you know, because we had some -- we could not find the right boost control on the car. Finally, just for the qualifying, we had -- everything was running okay and I went in like if I was going to do, you know, a pole position. And, on lap 2, I misjudge a bit the brake and I spun. But, how did I start like U.S. 500 was intentionally, you know, looking at the situation, what was happening. And, you know, ace myself around that and understand how the things are developing and the race without saying I want to win the race in the first, you know, 20 laps. And, honestly, I had to learn that for this year of development because my -- inside of me I am a driver who like always to go 110 percent and always try to go and, you know, fight for, you know, don't give up anything. But, you cannot do sometimes. Sometimes you must know and you must learn inside yourself that it is better for the team, for my guys that have been changing engines and engine to find the right one, to take the car to the end than crash in the wall in Lap 2.
Q. Does it take more skill to drive a car for a program that is developing?
MAX PAPIS: I will tell you it takes a lot of patience and I am Italian and my patience is there, but it is pretty limited. So I am learning more and more and sometimes I explode. But, what I can tell you, it takes a lot of skill to control your emotion and when we will be competitive and I hope that is shortly. Honestly, I don't tell you that -- I am not selling anything. I am telling you what I have, you know, why -- the reason why I am here, you know, the feeling I have inside and when I will be there my satisfaction will be very big because I could pace myself and I could learn. I hope these things will come and it will come shortly. If it will not come, I will tell you, as I say before, personally very disappointed because I am working as hard as I have ever been, you know, when you have something in your hand that is a winning package and you are a driver that can do a good job, it is not that difficult, but it is more difficult when you know that you have something that cannot win and you cannot do more than your car and that is a difficult part of it, to know that, you know, to control yourself and say, 8th place is good for today even if it burns inside of me seeing that Zanardi is winning. But, I can't do that, even I push harder, only thing I can do is crash.
Q. Max, how much of this patience that you have developed over this year comes from your dad because I know your dad had so much to do with the early part of the career? Do you sometimes pick the phone up and call him in Italy and say help me?
MAX PAPIS: Yeah, tell you the truth, to tell you what is happening, it is like during the race in Mid-Ohio, you know, we were struggling on top end speed and this was very frustrating because we had a car that was really good. We were -- I was faster than the Brahma car in the infield, but they were blowing me off on the straight. And, Richard Buck, you know, the team manager came on the radio and said remember what your father say and these things make me calm because what my father say -- we always share, you know, what do I think and for me it is a big advice for me. And he is a special person and what we say, you know, he say to me, be patient and think the reason why you are there. You choose to be there and you are bringing -- you are trying to bring Toyota to a top level and if they are not at that stage, you cannot drive as you are thinking of winning. You have to drive as, you know, the potential of the situation that you are in at that stage. And, you know, most of the time, honestly, when I am sad or when I am -- not depressed, but sometimes, you know, you know when someone has -- I came here in the states, I won a lot of things last year, and you know, sometimes seeing other drivers that they are winning and you can't and you know that maybe you could battle with them maybe at the same level, these things hurt you inside. So, your family always is the people that you are always rely on.
T.E. McHALE: At this point, I think we better let Max go because I know he has a commitment at 2:00 P.M.. We will wrap it up for today. Thanks to Max Papis for joining us today and wish Max the best of luck this weekend. Thanks to all of you for joining us and we will talk to you next week.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you very much to everyone and, you know, Elkhart Lake is going to be like a never sorry because Mid-Ohio was my first ever, you know, my first year in IndyCar, and Elkhart Lake was the best finishing position and, you know, I really hope that we can really do very well there. We have been testing, we were really fast. And, I hope I can introduce my season in a shining way. That is what I want to do this year.
T.E. McHALE: Thanks, Max.
MAX PAPIS: Thank you everyone.
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