Sebastien Bourdais Teleconference Transcript THE MODERATOR: Hello, everybody, we're here today with Sebastien Bourdais, who as you all know won his fourth consecutive Champ Car title this past weekend in Surfers, obviously being the first to...
Sebastien Bourdais Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Hello, everybody, we're here today with Sebastien Bourdais, who as you all know won his fourth consecutive Champ Car title this past weekend in Surfers, obviously being the first to win four back-to-back titles.
It's worth knowing that Sebastien's finishing record in the top positions is equally impressive. He's had 30 victories in 72 starts, which equates to a 42 percent winning average, finished on the podium 42 times for a 60 percent average, and he's recorded Top-5 finishes 51 times.
He's finished in the Top 10 on 58 occasions, for, again, an 81 percent average, all numbers that point to a level of excellence which we obviously haven't seen in the Champ Car World Series.
In addition to his success this year in the Champ Car World Series, it's also worth noting that he finished second overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his hometown this past June, and in a testament to his love and affection for the media, he decided to roll a rally car on Monday instead of hitting a TV cameraman. So without further ado, I introduce Sebastien. I'll ask him a couple of quick questions and then I'll open it up to the floor.
First, Sebastien, thanks again for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time. I'm sure you're fully recovered from jet lag, but I wanted to first start with perhaps tell me over the last five years of your career at Champ Car, what would you describe as your favorite event and perhaps even your favorite foe?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I guess hi, everybody. It's great to be here today and talk about what we've done recently and not so recently. But it's kind of tough to summarize these five years. I think so many things happened, so many good things obviously, with four championships in five seasons.
It's just been a great weekend to top it off with a win at Surfers, and to be the first four-time winner over there. Obviously I have a lot of great memories and great events all through these five years.
I think Long Beach will probably remain very special for me. We've won a few times over there, and the track has been really good to me, but it's not the only one. I've got to go with the big and loaded events, and Long Beach obviously is one of them.
Q: Tell me if you remember, obviously we're about to head into Mexico City, and your first title you clinched there. Tell us a little about that first title and clinching in Mexico City.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was a big, big fight with my teammate Bruno. We had to go all the way to the wire. It was a pretty intense race. We were both kind of in our own league on that day, and we were P1 and P2. We were just battling each other out, and eventually battling so hard that I made a small mistake, spun the car and still managed to win the race. It was obviously a great way, like in Surfers, to win the championship with a win, and it was 1 and 2 in the championship for Newman/Haas, so it was awesome.
As everybody knows, the first professional achievements and that first championship is always something you remember with a huge emotion.
Q: I guess I would ask my questions maybe sort of looking a little bit to the future of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. You weren't the first champion to have left the team actually for Formula 1. Michael Andretti did before, Cristiano da Matta did, obviously Nigel Mansell was there for a period, and yet the team has continued to win after their champions left. I assume that you believe they'll be winning again in 2008, and I just wondered if you could maybe talk about why, what makes the team so good year in, year out?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's a little difficult to summarize, I think, but to be honest, it's obviously a very -- an extremely talented group of people working together extremely well and extremely hard with great leadership from both Carl, Paul and now Mike obviously, joining us at the beginning of the season, and actually extremely glad that we could offer him his first championship. I know he wanted it really bad.
But on a different subject, I think nobody is really irreplaceable. Obviously a driver is one part of that success, and Carl always seems to be able to find the right guy for the job, and it doesn't necessarily need to be Sebastien Bourdais, I guess. It's been other people before, and obviously great names, between Michael, Mario and Nigel and Cristiano, and I'm sure they'll find someone else that can get it done just as well and build a new group and start a new adventure.
Q: If I could ask a follow-up, sort of along the same lines, obviously you spent the year as a teammate with Graham Rahal, and Graham clearly over -- not just this year but in the past, but clearly this year showed great potential, and I think he would certainly agree that he didn't always realize that potential on race day for one reason or another. I mean, and yet he's only 18, next year he'll be 19. What have you seen from him this year that leads you to believe that he'll sort of be able to step into your shoes as sort of a team leader?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I've seen a young man obviously who's got a very big talent, who's grown up extremely fast. In that field you've got to, otherwise you don't last very long, and he's very mature.
In the meantime he's also shown that if he doesn't start always super-fast off the bat, he's shown that he could learn very quickly and very often in the Saturday morning practice session he was getting very close and sometimes just as fast as we were.
So I think he's obviously going to be on that trophy of drivers who can compete to win the championship next year. He has one year of relationship with the team already. I'm sure they'll be even better prepared than anyone else to get the job done.
Q: Sebastien, you've become -- I mean, you went from being the rookie very quickly to being a top challenger and then the champion, and then you were almost expected to win. It got to be that way in recent years. From your point of view, did that present any particular pressure? Was that a difficult thing to deal with? How do you look at that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know, but it kind of took some of the fun away in some respects because when you finish second and you think you've had a pretty decent day, and maybe you were not the best on that particular day, but you did put in a pretty good performance and people are starting to say, what happened to you, you only finished second today, that is a little difficult to deal with, I have to say.
It also contributed to the fact that I kind of wanted to go and move on to another challenge. I think obviously at some point you're going to fall. You're going to not win, and that would have been very hard on everybody.
I think we've been extremely fortunate to win it four straight times, and it's all to the credit of, like I said, the relationship we all had together and how much -- the efforts that have been put together to achieve these results, and that was a lot of fun.
I think it's always a little tough to manage that pressure, although we all kind of took the races one at a time, and that's probably one of the keys of the success we've had.
Q: If I could quickly follow up, I'd like to ask you about the nature atmosphere of the team and Paul Newman himself. Paul is a very honorable, very honest man. We know that's not necessarily true across the board in racing. But there's that element, you've got to meet this guy, work with him, and I think he reflects a kind of a very honest team in many ways. Could you talk as well a little bit about that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, of course. I think there is no need to deny the fact that Paul is probably the team's first supporter, and whether you have a great day or not such a great day, he's always behind, always supportive, and always pushing to get the best out of everybody, but in a good way, not putting the pressure.
I think having a lot of trust in the people he's chosen who are on the team, he's obviously a great engine to that motivation and that spirit that carries through the team, which is do everything you can to win, and when you don't win, try even harder.
Q: I'm just wondering, who do you think will be sort of the top three guys next year? With you gone obviously it seems a little more wide open than it has been the last little bit. If you were betting on who would be the champion next year in Champ Car, who would you pick?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, obviously I think Justin is a very strong guy, but there are a lot of open questions, who's going to be where, what and how, and I think there are quite a few rookies that have shown a lot of promises between Robert Doornbos and obviously Graham, who's got a lot of potential but had quite some bad luck which really prevented him from being -- contending in the championship. But also Simon is going to be a guy to be looked at, and then you're going to have the usuals. Obviously Justin but also Will Power is going to be very strong next year, and that's kind of a tough pick right now. I'd go probably with Justin, but we'll need to find out later.
Q: And just to follow up, I guess, do you find of feel sort of almost like Michael Schumacher, five years in a row he won the Formula 1 World Championship, I think everybody was kind of expecting him to win, and it almost -- in some ways, Formula 1 got very predictable. Do you think that your leaving is going to sort of spice things up and there will be sort of a renewed interest in Champ Car because people won't go to races thinking Sebastien is going to win all the time?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I don't know, that's a good question, I guess. Domination sometimes for a sport is certainly not always a good thing, though we've only won so many races, and I can't say every time we come to an event, we'd be like, oh, we're going to win again. I think it was still pretty unpredictable the way the race unfolded and everything. But you might be right. Maybe some guys are happy to see me leave.
Q: Was there any moment of realization the last three or four years that you were like really in the middle of something special and historic? What's it like, pressure or just mentality, to try to ride that wave for as long as you can when everything was sort of lining up for you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I guess it's been one of the longest waves ever (laughing) if we compare it to surfing. It's certainly been a lot of fun. I think when you look back it's a big achievement, and it's also, like I said many times, it's a group success. But as far as I'm concerned, I never really thought about what was awaiting me in the corner. I arrived in the States in '03, and I took it just as it came to me.
We knew we had a great group of guys, and we were really fast straight off, actually straight off in St. Pete, as you know, we had that first pole and looked really strong. It's not always been smooth, but we always had that speed, so it's very comfortable. When you know you've got the speed, you know at some point it's going to pay off. And I think that all along was what really made it a little easier because even when it was tough and wouldn't just kind of materialize, we knew we had the speed and we knew it was going to happen at some point.
So it was pretty reassuring, and we just had an awesome time that everybody knows about, but maybe people don't know as much about the doubts and when it wasn't going as well. I think it's also racing, and you don't always know how it's going to be. As far as I'm concerned, it was definitely a great thing, and I'm certainly not going to forget about it anytime soon.
Continued in part 2