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Talk With Tony Cicale

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Tony Cicale

Tony Cicale was a high-school math teacher who got interested in racing. His latest success was with Jacques Villeneuve, winning the Indy 500 and the CART championship in 1995. At the end of that season I chatted with Tony at Laguna Seca and asked him what he would do next.

"I'm not sure," was the reply. "I don't really like the travel and hassle involved in racing at this level. I don't have anything to prove so I'd only do this again if I had a challenge-a chance to work with another driver like Jacques." He pronounced it than and now, "Jack."

I had read that he was back this season working with Team Green. The drivers/engineers there are Dario Franchitti/Don Halliday and Paul Tracy/John Dick. Franchitti had five poles and three wins last year while Tracy's best finish was fifth.

I saw Tony walking back to the CART paddock from a practice session and he stopped to talk. "I'm here trying to see if I can make some contribution. Race engineering is difficult and the driver and engineer aren't always on the same wavelength."

"So they've got you here as a psychologist/translator?" I asked, grinning at Tony.

"Well, maybe," he said. "It's difficult. Maybe race engineers should be psychologists instead of engineers. Driver confidence is a big part of making the car go fast and the driver has to have confidence that the engineer is helping him out and on his side."

"I read you went to some F1 events with Villeneuve, but you didn't get involved. Why not?"

"Jacques wanted me to get involved but I didn't see a job for me. He and his engineer, Jock Clear, have a great relationship."

"I've only talked to one F1 engineer but he made it clear that they set the car up on a shaker rig and it's the driver's job to drive it. They don't fiddle with the setup to make the driver comfortable like they do over here."

"Generally that's true," Tony said. "But Jacques has converted Jock Clear into a CART engineer. They change the car a lot. That's one of the reasons he left Williams. Patrick Head wouldn't allow that to happen. It's very different over there. The cars are designed for minimum weight. They're very, very light."

"So they take the weight out of everything and put ballast down low and move it around to optimize the car?" I guessed.

"That's right," Tony said. "They spend a lot of money on lightweight materials. The cars are very safe but they're very light."

"Well, good luck. I guess you'll enjoy yourself or I won't see you at the races."

"That's right," he grinned and walked toward the Team Green haulers.

As always I learned a lot in a short conversation with Tony. He's a very thoughtful and intelligent guy.

Immediately follow the Long Beach race John Dick left Team Green for Arceiro-Wells to become Scott Pruett's engineer. Pruett needed an engineer because Ken Anderson had moved on from Arciero-Wells to Gordon Racing and Robbie Gordon.


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