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Q&A: Justin Wilson - EXCLUSIVE

8 June 2007

Q:
We're here at the launch of the European leg of the Champ Car world Series, so what does it mean to you to be coming back over here to race at Zolder and Assen?

Justin Wilson:
I think it's great to finally get back over here, to race in front of the European crowd and show them what Champ Car is. The bit I'm excited about is the fact that we're going to be on proper road circuits, so it's going to be entertaining to drive. Champ Car has been here before, to Rockingham and the Lausitzring, which are good fun to watch, but I think Assen and Zolder will allow people to see these cars racing hard and going at it like we're used to in Europe.

Q:
Do you have any prior experience of either of the circuits you'll be racing on in Europe?

JW:
No, they're both completely new to me, although I've been playing some of the computer simulators to try and learn the track. Hopefully, that's going to help - it's helped in the past - but I'm just looking forward to seeing the tracks for real. I guess the first time we'll be going round is the Friday morning before the race. I reckon it's going to be pretty quick. From what I've seen, with these cars on these tracks, it's going to be very challenging for the drivers and very quick.

Q:
We know why these circuits have been chosen as the first stops on what we hope will be an expended European tour, but there is a big British presence in Champ Car at the moment, so do you think the UK deserves a round?

JW:
I do - but, obviously, I'm saying that for a reason. But I would love to have a race here and have a chance for the British fans to see the new cars on a road circuit. I think that would be great.

Q:
You've had something of a tough start to the 2007 season, with things not quite as well as you would have hoped. Can you put your finger on what might be behind it? Is it the switch to the new car, or the upheaval of the RuSPORTS team merging with Rocketsports at the start of the year?

JW:
The new car has obviously changed things, but the thing that has affected our performance is all the changes that have gone on within the team. There's been a lot of personnel changes as we joined up with Rocketsports. It's been great working with Alex Tagliani, who's been a big help - in fact, I believe we've helped each other a lot and that's definitely worth something - but the learning curve has been very steady for a number of reasons, mainly down to the personnel changes, which meant that things haven't been done at the right time. That has been frustrating, but my crew and engineers have been working very hard and they deserve better. They've been working hard this week, on the seven-post rig and on differential tests - so they're working flat-out to try and make up for some of the poor decisions that were forced upon them earlier in the year.

Q:
Can you explain to us how the two teams have come together, because it's not a true merger of companies, more a technical collaboration...

JW:
The best way of describing it is that we are two one-car teams that come together at a race track to work under one tent, if you like. All the engineers work together in one office, and we just try to work as a two-car team. That's very beneficial, to have the data and information from another car - we give our information them, they gives theirs to us - and it's gone on from there. Alex's engineer is a guy called Chris Lerch, who still works at RuSPORT - he was AJ Allmendinger and Cristiano da Matta's engineer last year - and that has helped us a lot, to have one of our engineers there, running that car. We're not trying to out-do each other, we are one organisation in that respect. Since the start of the season, however, we've lost a lot of our management at RuSPORT and we're taking a lot of leadership from Rocketsports, and that's what's taking the adjustment.

Q:
Alex Tagliani has a considerable amount of experience, but has he been able to bring that to bear with the new Panoz chassis, or have you both been starting from scratch?

JW:
With the new car, we're both starting from scratch and learning what it likes and what it wants. It's not like it is an evolution, as it has always been in the past, this is completely new. But Alex has definitely helped a lot and the great thing is that we're both feeling the same things - he can back up what I'm saying and vice-versa - and not because we want to protect each other, but just because that's what we're feeling. We have a different way of describing things and that's helped the engineers, to give them the feelings that we're having.

Q:
What differences does the new Panoz have over the old Lola?

JW:
There are a number of differences. You can go from the obvious ones like the paddleshift, the high nose, the slightly different seating position, down to the wheelbase being shorter, so the car reacts differently, the weight distribution is different. There's just a lot of subtle things that need adjusting or adapting to, whether it's driving or set-up work, and you've got work around those things.

Q:
We're in the middle of a six-week break before the series resumes in Portland. You had a truncated test up there shortly after the three street races that opened the season, but how do you see things going for Portland, and the rest of the season building up to those races in Europe at the end of the summer?

JW:
The test was frustrating as we didn't get much achieved there so, when we go back for the race, we've got to work very hard and make up for that. it's mainly going to be about getting the set-up better and, hopefully, we can develop the car like they're working on at the minute. The main aim, of course, is to go there and win. We've been very competitive the last two years - we should have won it in 2005 when the engine blew up, and we should have won it last year, but got blocked by a backmarker who jumped the chicane and then blocked me - so it's been a good track for me and one I really like, so I'd like to be competitive again this year. That's what we're working towards, and the rest of the year is the same principal. Even though it's been a frustrating start to the year, we've still got it in us and I've got a good group of people around me who can win races, so I'm going to be trying very hard to give us that opportunity.


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