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Firestone Indy Lights: Corning 100

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Corning 100

Firestone Indy Lights: Corning 100

James Davison
Felipe Guimaraes
J.R. Hildebrand
July 4, 2009


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second and third place finishers, James Davison and Felipe Guimaraes, and we start out with in third place finisher, Felipe Guimaraes from Brazil. This is his first ever appearance in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. You improved steadily all weekend and saved the best for last, tell us about your performance.
FELIPE GUIMARAES: So yesterday we had a bit of problem to set up the car with the racing and for the qualifying, and I think that it was -- in the qualifying but not too bad, first time here on the track and it's my first time, and it could be better. It could be better. During the race, my car was very good, and I had a little bit understeer but anyway, I think I had a very good start. And then the guy that was contact me -- inaudible -- and I just had a big -- to overtake him in the last lap, and he made a mistake in the last one, so that's why I passed him.

Q. How does the Firestone Indy Lights car compare to the car you had been racing in terms of power, grip, other factors?
FELIPE GUIMARAES: We had understeer in this car so I think easier to drive this car.
THE MODERATOR: James Davison, previous best finish was 5th on the oval at Milwaukee and previous best finish at the road course season was 7th in Long Beach. On the pace all weekend, pole, second place finish, why the great improvement over previous road course performances?
JAMES DAVISON: To be honest we haven't had a road course this year, they have been street courses, and there is a difference in the approach on car setup and the experience we have.

Q. What is the difference of driving -- inaudible?
JAMES DAVISON: The engineering side and the driving side, and I think both of them today, both driver and car did well. And that's the level that this series is, and for sure, it's probably in the long run, it forces me to take myself to another level in my race performance, when you've got a Target as strong as these AGR guys today.
Obviously my single-lap speed is very good, so, yeah, something to build on, and good result. We'll be looking pretty good in the points in terms of breaking into the Top 3.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by our winner J.R. Hildebrand, from Sausalito, California, second victory in the No. 26 Arpro Andretti Green/AFS Racing, he won from the pole at Long Beach, it's his third career Firestone Indy Lights victory and his second full season in the series. And J.R., James has given his side of the story, you cut the downforce to the minimum and were rocking on the straightaway, comment on that as being your strategy, or something else.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I would say that's not really that far from the truth.
You know, we had some trouble in qualifying. We just ended kind of getting held up in traffic towards the end of the run and had a couple little mechanical things that were going on that just kept us that couple of tenths out I think.
So we made some changes to the car for the session this morning, and just, you know, we kind of decided that the cars, there's a big gap in the gearing here that, you know, in qualifying this sort of run, you know, sort of a mild downforce setup, and you'll run a shorter gear. And so we decided that starting from fourth, we knew we had the car to run up front, but we really didn't think that with that setup we were going to be able to get there, because everybody just ended up on a limit or in the same gear for 900 feet at the end of the straight.
So we decided to sort of role the dice and took some downforce off and we sort of thought that was quite a gamble just because getting around this place, the majority of the lap time is through the corners. But we thought if we can make the car a little bitter, if we can stay close, we can peel the downforce off and put the tall gear in it so that we would be able to keep going while everybody else is in the limiter at the end of the straight even if we are not as fast up to that point. Worked like a charm.
Mechanical setup of the car was really stout, and as I showed when I got out in front that I was able to stay there without having to draft.
But I can't thank the guys enough for recovering after yesterday, and you know, this is really what we needed to do at this point in the season. You know, coming into this race, to me, this stood out as a place to start building some momentum towards the end of the season, and especially with some of the championship contenders having rough days, it's really important are us to have a good run here.

Q. Did your -- inaudible.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: It took me well pretty much every lap of the entire race. I'm not sure it's necessarily the quickest time around the track but when the track temp came up a little bit, the cars started working a little bit better and the thing was just a rocket ship, especially running in traffic, it just gave me that little edge to be able to complete the pass that I think that the guys that were running a little bit more downforce and/or the shorter gear just couldn't quite make it happen.

Q. You talked about the restarts, you sort of slide into place from the initial start, with the longer run, you might get a little impairment with the restarts, were you concerned about that?
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I think I was able to get James on the green, so I think that I was going to be able to do that. I really did have the car, and in the high-speed force on the track, I think I was at fast or faster than pretty much everybody out there. So that's where I would have expected to struggle running less downforce.
So I don't really think that that was going to be a big factor, but it certainly made my job a little bit easier that, you know, you can't -- Sebastien and James, they couldn't pull away much before the first corner and then they just ended up being a little bit of a sitting duck for us just because the car was so good elsewhere.

Q. Someone has asked me to ask you about the Captain America on your car.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I guess we are one of the few American championship contenders. I had nothing to do with it really. The guys -- if you look at the top of my helmet, it's got my name, J.R. and the American flag, and that's been on my helmet for years now.
That I guess it was when we did the A1GP program that some of the crew guys on my car in Indy Lights were also my crew guys when we went and did A1GP and being the World Cup of motorsports, I've got this big -- I mean, I look like the personification of an American flag sitting out there.
So that theme just sort of stuck because we had a good weekend over there, and you know, we were fighting against Wade from New Zealand and James here from Australia and a few South American guys out there. Definitely it's just a little bit of a kickback to everybody, and it's fun for us, especially here on the 4th of July. Couldn't come at a better time.

Q. Your program came together really just before the start of the season. How difficult is it to get up and running so quickly?
JAMES DAVISON: Yeah, it is difficult, especially on the ovals. I remember the Homestead open test, we literally just got the car out of the box and I would have been lucky -- probably run full road course downforce on the oval there. It's just a process, and Bryan Herta told me it's 20 nothings that make a difference, with all of the right greases and friction reduction and etc., to have the straight line speed that you need on an oval.
So, yeah, I mean, it was tough. We go to St. Pete and even Sebring, and we don't even have a setup to draw off. So we had to continually develop the car through the weekend, and you know, by the end of St. Pete, we were third quickest in the race behind the two AGR guys so I was happy with that.
And then, you know, we went on the ovals in Kansas and Indy was tough for us and we started to get to Milwaukee and Iowa, basically we the time sheets in the practice, in Milwaukee ran in the Top-5 and quickest car in qualifying at Iowa.
So things are coming around. For sure it's good to know that, you know, we are quicker on ovals and road courses now. I'll be realistic and say not enough to consistently beat these guys or maybe beat them just yet, on the ovals, especially.
But you know, come Toronto, it will be another deal and it will be back to a street course and we can improve our car a little. These guys were really hooked up at Long Beach.
Yeah, we definitely need to make an improvement to the car based on where we ended at Long Beach and where these guys finished. You know, those guys, he had obviously won the race and had a really good run, and yeah, it takes time to catch your stride as a new team, and I'm learning a lot with the whole process.
I've really got to understand the car. I'm working with a highly respected and competent engineer that I'm look learning from the technical side, which is very important as a driver. You've not only got to drive the car, you've got to give the right feedback and understand and even make set up changes yourself, and I'm starting to do that.
Yeah, it's working well, so for sure, it's a good -- you always want to win, and it would be great in your second season of Indy Lights to go with the team that's going to hit the ground running. But this process I'm going with, I think is going to be certainly well in the long run in terms of going through and understanding all the different aspects in what you need to do to go quick.

Q. This is your first race, you've just been with the team, you did one test, I had heard about the test and they said, this guy can drive a race car. How much input have you learned working with Emerson Fittipaldi in A1GP? That has to be a good guy to work with, and then to come to a team that you had never met and to finish Top 3 in your first race.
FELIPE GUIMARAES: Yeah, from Emerson I learn a lot and he told me about this track, because he raced here a long time ago and he told me something about the track and helped me a lot I think.
Yeah, you know, it was first time, this car, here, at the track, with this team. And I think we have a very good team. Bryan Herta can help me a lot, as well, and he helped me a lot this week and for the race and for everything. Always our car was good, not perfect, but was good, it was getting better and better and better, and for the race, I think our car was good. It was not the best one, but was good.
And I'm just happy to be here, I enjoy it a lot and I hope to be in the next race or do more races.

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