WHAT NHR ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF:
Lisles: “It's difficult to pick out a favorite moment; there are so many memories of good things and, of course, some of the bad ones you try to forget about. I think getting through my first oval race as Mario's engineer was quite a challenge but a privilege, too. I had seen Mario in Formula 1 because that's where I came from. He was in a different garage over at Lotus, so I knew him in passing but it was a great privilege to work with him in his home environment in America. We had some good times together. Michael was already here at the team and, for a few years, I was his race engineer. We had a great run through the early '90s, including winning the championship with Michael (1991), which was a huge amount of fun. He was probably at his peak as a driver and the team was performing well and life was pretty easy, really.
"I have a lot of fond memories of Michael charging through from the back if he hadn't qualified very well or disappearing into the distance if we had. We saw lots of checkered flags. Michael went to Formula 1 and we were with Mario the last few years before he decided to hang up his helmet. We had some good times and some bad times.
"We had a great run here in Indy in qualifying in 1993. It was extremely hot on Pole Day and Mario, being the creative guy he was and because we had trouble with the tires going off, came up with the plan of taking the green flag on the first time by and we very nearly put it on pole doing that. We were on pole for a long time and decided we weren't going to run again and, very late in the day, we got pushed back to second quick; but that was a lot of fun. Later on that year we went on and did the fastest-ever qualifying lap at Michigan of 234mph. That was a lot of fun.
Paul Tracy was here for a season and we had a lot of interesting moments with him. Michael returned to the team after his F1 run and he and Paul got on surprisingly well. Then we had the Swift (chassis) saga which was exciting and we won the first race with the car but, overall, the program wasn't as successful as we had hoped and we returned to Lola. Christian Fittipaldi was with the team many years and we won some races with him. Michael left and we started a whole new era with Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais. There are a lot of good memories there, lots of races and championships won. They are all good memories; it's difficult to pick out one. Having Justin, Graham and now Hideki drive for us seems too recent to consider a memory.
“I suppose my most poignant memory was in 1994, at Mario's last race. I think we were up to third at Laguna Seca, the last race of the year, and the engine quit. He was just coming down the hill toward the pits and the engine quit. He rolled into the pits and the engine was dead and it was the end of his professional racing career. A few seconds earlier, we thought he was going to finish on the podium – which would have been a tremendous way to end his career, but it didn't work out. Of course, motor racing is very cruel in that way but Mario just got out, shrugged his shoulders and took off his helmet and threw it across to his crew chief (John Simmonds) and said, ‘Here's a nice memory for you,' which I thought was one of the nicest gestures I've ever seen any driver give toward the guys who do all the work on the cars. I have no idea what that helmet must be worth but I know it is the crew chief on the car's greatest possession now. He'll never let it out of his sight. That is a fond memory because it shows he was not only a great driver but also a great person. He was very generous to those who worked very hard on his behalf.
“Of course, once we were back in the Lolas, Cristiano da Matta came on board after Michael left and we had a lot of fun re-learning the ropes with Lola and also with Toyota, because we had a new engine supplier. We had a lot of fun getting the car up to speed. It turned out to be a very good car and Cristiano got the most out of it. We had a lot of fun winning a lot of races with Cristiano and tied up the championship very early in the season, which is unusual. Almost every memory with Cristiano is a good memory. Cristiano left us and Bruno Junqueira came on board and he is such a classy guy. We took on Sebastien Bourdais as a rookie and he turned out to be a very accomplished rookie and, as everyone knows, went on to win four championships and that provides more good memories.
"It was a lot of hard work, too; a few people gave us a hard time trying to stop us from doing four in a row, which is difficult to do and a tremendous accomplishment for everyone in the team. To win championships you not only have to be fast, you also have to finish all the events and the team was performing very well. We had reliable cars, a tremendous finishing record, good pit stops and that's very satisfying when you can just continually keep that up year in, year out. That's why we all do it; that's what we all strive to do. That's a very good accomplishment to look back on.”
Tzouanakis: “My favorite accomplishment goes back to the old days. When the team started in 1983, the car wasn't a very good car but we worked very hard with Lola and, despite being only a one-car team we were capable of winning a couple of races that season – and came back in 1984 and won the championship (right). Our first win in Elkhart Lake with Mario was memorable. We were able to improve the car a lot with Lola's help; the car started coming around in the middle of the season and we were fortunate enough to win. It was a major accomplishment for everyone, and for it to happen at Road America, which we call our home race because it's so close to the shop, was big. The track is also a special place for Carl, so that win was memorable. Other accomplishments I am proud of are all of the championships we won with Michael, Nigel, Cristiano and all of the success we had with Sebastien.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INDY 500 MEMORY AND BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?: Lisles:
“My best Indy 500 memory and biggest disappointment are probably one in the same race. It was 1991 and it was basically a shootout between Michael, who I was engineering at the time, and Rick Mears – and I really thought we had the better car all through the race and I thought we were going to win it, but we didn't; we came in second. That race was a great memory up until the point where Rick got in front and took the checkered flag. It's one of my best memories at Indy, but also one of my greatest disappointments.”
Tzouanakis: “I don't have a favorite Indy 500 memory. There are many disappointments that this team has had at Indy. We've never won this race but have been close many, many times. Probably the biggest disappointment was in 1987, when Mario drove. We had won the Pit Stop Contest, we were on the pole, led the most laps and we were the fastest car all month. With Mario being so far out in the lead in the race (two laps), we decided to take it easy a little bit on the engine – but it did greater damage to the engine when he was letting off, trying to take it easy to save the car until the end of the race. That was a big disappointment.
"There are so many times when we were in contention to win the race with Mario, Michael and also Nigel. We have won at numerous tracks across the country, and the world for that matter, but we haven't won at Indy. It's still a goal for everyone on this team to win this race.”