CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Friday qualifying press conference

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM CLEVELAND WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND A.J. ALLMENDINGER ERIC MAUK: We are joined by our top three qualifiers in today's first round. We'll start with our third place qualifying, driver...

CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM CLEVELAND WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND A.J. ALLMENDINGER

ERIC MAUK: We are joined by our top three qualifiers in today's first round. We'll start with our third place qualifying, driver of the number 3 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul puts up a third best lap of 57.001 seconds, 132.965 miles an hour. Paul is a three-time pole sitter here in Cleveland; two-time winner of the race and is the defending champion of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland. Paul, you had a strong finish today. Tell us about it.

PAUL TRACY: The Forsythe car has been working good. It was a little bit frustrating to be standing there watching the monitor with five seconds to go and then see yourself go from first to third as the last two cars pass by the line, but the car was good, you know, the first set of tires we ran were blacks and I did a really good lap time, kind of stepped the mark for everybody. Then decided to go to red for the second stint and my car went out of balance on the reds. I ended up -- the car didn't want to accept the reds, I just lost the balance of the car. So that was a little bit frustrating because I felt that with reds we should have improved maybe 3, 4/10, but didn't improve anything at all. So overall pretty happy about it

ERIC MAUK: We don't always see guys in the Friday qualifying breaking the reds out on the second stint. Most of you did here. Is that a testament of how important it is to be up front here; especially with Turn One.

PAUL TRACY: It is important for us to try to get a front row starting spot. Obviously we haven't been able to do that this year and we didn't do it today. We knew that A.J. was going to go like he did last week, so we decided -- we felt that the tires were going to be worth three or four tenths and for my car, they weren't. So, we basically ran the exact same time. I think if we could have gone on blacks again and had another crack on it with the same handling that we had originally I probably could have gone faster than what we ran

ERIC MAUK: Our second place qualifier, the driver of the number 7 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A. J. Allmendinger. He puts up a top lap 56.965 seconds, 133.012 miles per hour. A.J. keeping that momentum up after getting that win last week, come in here with a strong performance. How do you feel it went?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: It was okay -- I'd have to agree with Paul, I think both our cars are working the same. And he said the same thing, put on the reds and I went a bit faster but it was really lap to do so I was pleased after the pre-qualifying session which is our first dry session definitely. The Forsythe car is very close. I think we just keep plugging away at it. On the blacks the car is really good. Reds we need to fine tune it a bit better. But overall, I am pleased with so far how today went and the whole Forsythe team is doing a great job, and just trying our best to keep the momentum going and keep up there

ERIC MAUK: First practice very wet, very slick, very treacherous conditions. You come into a dry session for qualifying. Tell us how the Bridgestone Potenzas performed for you today.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I think Bridgestone is doing a great job. I don't know if it is a combination of the track and the tires or just the tires; especially the lap times are so much quicker than they were last year, so, the track hasn't changed, has it? Well, the curbs, yeah, anyway, but I just think overall Bridgestone is doing a great job and the tires don't seem like they are wearing out at all, and which allows the teams to be able to work on their setups a lot better during practice because the tires don't fall off. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the race.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.

First round qualifying leader here for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, presented by U.S. Bank, driver of the number 1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing Sebastien Bourdais, a two-time winner of this race, his top lap of today 56.851 seconds, 133.359 miles per hour. Sebastien guarantees himself a front row starting spot for Sunday's race, his fourth of the year, and also gives him a Championship point giving him 163 on the year widening his gap to 31 points.

Sebastien, you hung that time up on your very last trip around this circuit. Tell us about that lap

SEBASTIEN BOUDAIS: Well, it was a great lap, but I wish I could have done it a little earlier, just talked about it with PT, and the first run, I don't know if he made a mistake or tried to get out of the way with Cristiano. I just run into them on the last two corners, so stopped that lap and the next one because it was the last corner, so I try again really didn't put another one after that, and second run, a Rocketsport car spun in front of me, same thing, last corner and I said, boy, that's it, going to be really difficult from now on. And then was able to re-collect a little bit myself and just try again, two last laps and it was -- the last one was very clean, but the front tires starting to give up a little bit so I was very intent not to over drive it. Really feels like these Bridgestone tires this year are a little bit better; definitely more grip. I think the guys at the track did a good job to put these curbs on the last corner and in the last Chicane. That's definitely a good thing because it used to be a real mess. Now it's fair for everybody, the track is the same for ever lap and you don't have dirt on the track anymore. It's good, I am pretty happy with the McDonald's car right now

ERIC MAUK: 56.8 you guys are less than a half-second off the track record. Do you think the track record could be in jeopardy tomorrow

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, usually around the second gap, improvement between the first and second day so there is a pretty good chance of that record is going to go down, but all depends on what the conditions are tomorrow. We'll see.

Q: Let's talk a little more about that. Why do you think the cars are so much better here?

PAUL TRACY: I don't know, when was the record set?

ERIC MAUK: Vasser has that from 1998 I think.

PAUL TRACY: Well that's a long time. He was running the Honda then with the Reynard with cars with 900 horsepower. At the time of the tire war against Goodyear, Firestone, used to be very, very soft, compound tires, so to be flirting back with those type of tires is obviously 200 less horsepower, harder, more durable tires is pretty impressive how fast the Lolas are and how fine tuned, how much development the teams have put into these cars.

Q: A.J., it looked like you has a couple laps were you had a chance to put together some really good laps

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I think I hit every section perfect. I never did it on the same lap. So -- the lap before I was two tenths up coming out of the last corner and the car kind of moved around a little bit on me so I stepped out and missed that corner a bit and did the same thing the next lap. It was just like Paul said, like I said, on the Bridgestone reds, it was a bit more inconsistent. The tires got a lot of grip in it, but I think it's our job at Forsythe to get a little bit better read on the car, to get it more consistent on the reds. So you know, I am happy for tomorrow. I think we're really close. We just need to fine tune the car and it's kind of like what we did at Portland just keep making it a little bit better each session and by the race time it should be great.

Q: Did the track seem better to you guys?

PAUL TRACY: Seems like the track is really clean. Obviously it's been raining hard for a week and the track, it seems to be very, very clean; more clean than ever I have seen before. We used to get big huge rooster tails of sand coming off the back wings of the cars and very clean right now. I guess the rain has just washed everything off the runways, you know.

Q: Sebastien, do you feel you have a trump card since you didn't run the alternate Bridgestones and Paul and A.J. did?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That's the thing, we stick to our guns and our plan because we feel that we rather have the same situation on the car, you know, we know what we have got and just making adjustment between the first and second run; go back out and it is easier for us, I feel more comfortable this way, and anyway most of the time it's quick on the second day, so we rather use two sets of reds the same day when it really, really counts and we'll see tomorrow, if they are not better, they are not better, but it doesn't seem either like they are really much slower.

Q: Sebastien, do you feel better that you can go into the first turn from the front row

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just you can start from 10th and be tangled or tangled someone and be on the pole and somebody is going to run over you or into you, so I really truly believe that we should have a cleaner stop this year because of the way the track is managed, a little narrower so you can lock on the inside just like I did in 2003. Yeah, you might lose the tough spots out of turn 2, but out of turn 1 but the truth is it is better to be second than out of the race. We'll see how it goes. I am pretty confident you are not going to see a 10-car wide going into turn one with five not getting out of it?

ERIC MAUK: Want to back that up, Paul, you were on pole in '04 and your race lasted, what, about 14 seconds?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, had a lot of those happen. This year it happened to me twice and it happened here in '04. So I know the feeling of being on the pole and getting to the first corner and getting taken out. So it looks like you know, series has done a good job. They have made some improvements I think for the drivers, like Sebastien said with the curbs in the corners, putting the cones down in the first corner, you know, we have done that in years past with, I think they did it with barrels or cones one year and there was still a big pile up down in the first corner, so it's just one of those things where you come down here the corner to a hairpin and you are braking from 160 or 170 miles an hour and the back end of the group always seems to leave it a little bit too late for braking and then they get into the corner too hard and everybody stops. So just I think it was for the most part a pretty clean start last year and judging by how Portland went which is a pretty tough first corner to get through, we got through there clean and went, you know, yellow free, so hopefully we can do that on Sunday

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You tried hard to make it show that....

PAUL TRACY: Your teammate blew it first. (Laughter)

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I liked the start so I didn't know what the problem was.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Actually I think if it goes bad here at the start with what we have done, I think it's going to be nothing compared to what is going to happen in San Jose, for example. (Laughter).

Q: What are your thoughts on how the red tires held up?

PAUL TRACY: Just again, my car for whatever reason this year and for the most part last year, we have struggled with red, with being inconsistent. We don't seem to get -- my car, I don't seem to get a big time gain from blacks to red and obviously we did a good time on the blacks. I thought okay, I am going to pick up, you know, some time and got on the brakes and the rear end just jumped out from underneath of me in a straight line, so, that's kind of the problem that we have had with reds is inconsistent rear and you know, not a good front end either, so you know, it's what I struggled with on the second run.

Q: Do you expect your car to be better tomorrow

PAUL TRACY: I think so. Obviously if the track rubber is up you go faster. When I did the time the first time I had a gap of 3/10 on everybody, and your second time around with the same set of tires with may be a slight improvement on the car you are going to go quicker, so I think if -- looking at it now, probably should have stayed on the blacks, but we felt that I could pick up more time on reds but it didn't materialize. And in hindsight, I mean, most of the times that we have had trouble with our reds the car has not been handling well and we have tried to make it up with reds and it didn't happen. Today the car was perfect, when we put the reds on it went out of balance, so something that we need to figure out why.

Q: If they put cones out for the start, will it help keep everyone clean?

PAUL TRACY: I don't think it really matters. I have had it here before where they have put barrels up in the past and there was a big pile-up. So it's just -- it all depends on how the start rolls away and how greedy guys get in the back for how many positions they want to make. That's what it comes down to.

Q: A.J?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I agree. I saw the Atlantic race last year and that didn't work too well. It will be interesting because we're all crazy race car drivers and just because there's cones there, there's still open area that we see and, you know, hopefully you are up front and you can somehow avoid it, but it is Cleveland and it's turn one and that's why the fans show up, they love the start and hopefully we can still make it exciting. But I don't think it really matters at this point what they do, unless they actually put up a wall that kind of blends on to the front straight-a-way, that doesn't allow you at all to get to that spot.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You have got to ask Tony but I think it's going to be pretty hard with that. I think what is going to make it better is the fact that we have got racing markers on the inside this time. Because that is the only real difference. You can put cones, if you don't know when you are supposed to brake because you are on the inside and you have got cars on the left and you don't know where you are, that's the real reason why we always have had big crashes around here. I think, to me, if it's not better this time it is just because somebody screws up which can always happen.

ERIC MAUK: Qualifying two o'clock tomorrow. Thank you.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais