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IZOD IndyCar Series: São Paulo Indy 300

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  São Paulo Indy 300

IZOD IndyCar Series: São Paulo Indy 300

Tony Cotman
March 13, 2010


THE MODERATOR: I'd like to begin with news conference on behalf of the IndyCar Series, formerly the Indy Racing League, to say what a remarkable job has been done here in Sao Paulo by the administration, by everybody, all the people working with the promotor to bring us to where we are today. Especially also by the circuit designer, Tony Cotman, who is here with us. There have been nearly 200 races in the history of the IndyCar Series. I've been to most of those races. We have stellar road course or street course races like this in many locations, including Long Beach, St. Petersburg, Edmonton and Toronto. None of those facilities are any better than what we have here today, which is remarkable considering the short timeline that this has all been put together, whether it's quality of construction, whether it's race-ability. This is an amazing achievement on all counts.
Now, we have in our nearly 200 races, whether ovals, street courses or road courses, have encountered many challenges. Challenges are not unusual. The kind of challenge we've had today, similar challenges. We've had worse challenges. The measure is not the challenge, it's how the challenge is met.
Again, the city, the promotor, everybody who is working on this has responded, it couldn't have been any better. What has been accomplished today in terms of recognizing and addressing that challenge will be accomplished tonight hopefully in remedying whatever problems there are. Again, an amazing testament to this community, promotor, the people of Sao Paulo.
With that, Tony Cotman is the circuit designer. He has worked on many courses around the world for the IndyCar Series, for Champ Car and CART before us. He has done a great job. He is going to talk a bit about some of the challenges, what we're doing about it, then we'll be happy to take some questions.
TONY COTMAN: First of all, thanks for coming. Sorry to keeping waiting.
I mirror some of what Fred has said. Please understand that temporary or street circuits are unique to themselves. Every one poses its own set of challenges, whether it's paving, whether it's street closures, whether it's fencing, whatever it may be. In this situation, it's obviously concrete.
I expected when we laid the circuit out here, I obviously didn't expect there to be the issue we have. This is probably one of the first times I've seen the concrete actually shiny and the rubber, the compound is just not sticking to the concrete for whatever the reason. It's actually making it a little more shiny.
We're out there now trying to provide a solution. As I said, it's not new to temporary circuits. There's always different tire issues. But the key thing is what kind of solution can we come up with, can we come up with a solution, and ultimately provide a good show for the fans.
That's what we're trying to achieve tonight.

Q. Tony, the diamond grinding you do in the United States isn't available. What methods are you going to use? If that doesn't work, is the final prospect to lay asphalt?
TONY COTMAN: I think we have a couple options. We already began down there grinding. I'm pretty happy with the result so far. We're making a few adjustments. It's critical how deep we grind. There is reinforcement under the reinforcement. So far so good. It's no different than Indianapolis. Indianapolis has been ground before. It was originally smooth. For those of you unfamiliar, the Indianapolis 500 track was repaved. It was too smooth. It had no grip. And it was ground. A little different because it's an oval, but the same kind of methodology applies.
When we come out here tonight and try to roughen up the concrete, the best way to explain it is the difference between this floor here, where it's really smooth, and if any of you have been to the pit lane, we feel the concrete has a little more grip, bite to it. That's what we're trying to achieve.
We've only just begun, maybe done 20 meters. The initial 20 meters look good, good enough that we've decided to continue.

Q. Tony, any way for you to test this? Run the two-seater this evening?
TONY COTMAN: We're looking at a couple options to test it. It's just going to be dependent on how it comes out. If we can achieve what we're looking for, there will be no need to. The most critical thing now is going to be wash it thoroughly, which is going to be a tough job. That's just as critical as the grinding.
Also we're dealing with concrete that's a little uneven. You have high spots on the concrete, as you would anytime you lay sections. It's not going to be just one pass, we're going to have to do a few passes, come on back, and address the low spots.

Q. (No microphone.)
TONY COTMAN: Like any street circuit, it's difficult, you can't close the roads till the last minute. Understand the first time this track was actually closed was last night, around 10 p.m., midnight. No, we didn't run an IndyCar down here prior. You know, my job is obviously to show up, look for a circuit, make sure I'm happy with it, consult the appropriate people. I always try to get feedback from drivers and others that I know that I can rely on or get a good feel for.
You know, if you can go and test it, it would be a dream. But the reality is when you're building temporary circuits you can't test it. You have to make a decision and go for it. Sometimes you've got to tweak it. And I have, you know, no doubt that we can tweak it and make it better.

Q. Question in Portuguese.
TONY COTMAN: You're correct, it is like driving on ice. It's exactly what it looked like on TV for anyone who saw it. I agree with all the drivers on that.
Do we have a solution overnight? That's obviously what we're attempting to do right now. We have a huge team out there, obviously massive support from the city. So I think we have the tools to get the job done.
It's going to be a slow process. It's not going to take an hour or anything like that. It's going to take us much of the night.
But I'm confident we can achieve what we need in order to put on a great event tomorrow. I really believe that if we can get that surface to where we need it, you're going to see one helluva show tomorrow because this place really invites passing. So if we can just solve the straightaway issue, I'm pretty confident.

Q. Question in Portuguese.
TONY COTMAN: I'll answer in the order you asked. The first question was, should we have a driver or drivers involved designing the circuit. The short answer is yes. There were many drivers that I talked to about a lot of things around the track, whether it's surface. A lot of you probably saw a chicane in the original design. And, quite honestly, Tony is probably one that's taken more laps around here than anybody prior to the circuit being built. I'm open to all their feedback.
We always communicate. I don't have an issue dealing with drivers, listening to their opinions, because everybody has opinions. At the end of the day, someone has to make the decision because 24 drivers all have 24 different opinions. That's just life.
Your second question, what happens if we can't get it fixed tonight. You know, I think it was did you ask: Is there some chance we could not race. No, I don't see that. I'm confident that we've got ourselves a good solution and I feel pretty good about getting it fixed tonight and putting on a good show.

Q. How deep can you take that? You said you couldn't take it very deep. How deep is that?
TONY COTMAN: I would say roughly probably two to three millimeters, so maybe an eighth of an inch max. But it's the way it's grooving that's critical, not just necessarily the depth. As I said, we have a few high spots in the initial pass, so we're just going to deal with the level. Won't be able to do it in one pass. We'll have to come back and hit the low spots on their own. That is where the time will be.
But, as I said before, I feel pretty good about it.

Q. Are you taking the racing line or the whole section?
TONY COTMAN: The whole thing.

Q. You said a couple options. What if the first one doesn't work, what's the second one?
TONY COTMAN: You know, I haven't thought too much about the second one because I'm pretty confident in the first one. I guess we could talk to the city about paving if it gets to that. Obviously, as most of you probably know, that has drawbacks. It will be down for 12 hours, we'll be running on it, makes it difficult. I'd really like to see the first solution work.
But, you know, we can always fall back on one or two other old tricks that we've learned over the years if need be.

Q. I was told initially there was paint on all that stuff. You noticed it was slick initially. Is there any way you could have foreseen this or did you think taking the paint off was going to solve the problem?
TONY COTMAN: I think everybody is well aware they paint it for carnival. I think it's for television purposes, to be honest. That was blasted off. The paint was blasted off. You look at the surface when the paint is blasted off, it looks good.
We don't run on concrete tracks or cement surface tracks a lot. We have over the years run at a couple places that have had cement surfaces. But it looked no different than any other. You know, I was confident it was going to rubber up.
You know, it didn't. It just never rubbered up. As you saw during the day, temperature came up, got a little slicker, temperature started decreasing at the end of the day, got a little better, but still not good enough to race on. So that's why we're having to do something about it.

Q. Question in Portuguese.
TONY COTMAN: Your first question, no, the start and the finish of the race will be just where it was planned on being. That's not going to change.
To answer the other question about should we be scratching the surface as opposed to other methods, that's really what's going on. You know, it's a large machine that rotates. That's effectively what we're doing. We're digging in and scratching the surface.
You know, it's not a bullet-proof solution just in one pass. If we deal with the high spots first and then the low spots, I'm confident we can get it.
You've got to understand, when an IndyCar is running at a high speed, it's very, very low to the ground. In fact, it rubs the ground. Every time an IndyCar touches the ground, it's bouncing.
At the end of the day, this may help us a little bit. It may smooth the surface out, some of those undulations a little bit, and hopefully we can give the pavement something to bite, something to bite into the rubber. If we can do that, like I said, I'm pretty confident we're going to be okay with the first solution.

Q. Questions in Portuguese.
TONY COTMAN: When it comes to safety, the scratching or grinding, whatever you want to call it, of the surface, only helps that. If it does rain, it won't be a problem. It won't hurt it at all. In fact, the water will have somewhere else to go.
Again, I think the key thing to remember is, you know, we're just trying to create a higher grip level. That's it. So when the driver stands on the gas, he's got some bite. And in the rain, it's always going to be a little slippery in the rain. Doesn't matter where you race.
But, you know, if we've got enough grip in the dry, we'll have an adequate amount of grip in the wet, and I don't expect it to be any less grip than the rest of the circuit.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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