CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Thursday top-three press conference

Top-three qualifying press conference with Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier and Sebastien Bourdais. Eric Mauk: I'm Eric Mauk with CART communications. We are joined by our top three qualifiers after Round 1 of qualifying. Our rookie points ...

Top-three qualifying press conference with Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier and Sebastien Bourdais.

Eric Mauk: I'm Eric Mauk with CART communications. We are joined by our top three qualifiers after Round 1 of qualifying. Our rookie points leader celebrates the addition of a new co-primary sponsor on his car this week and does so by running third on the day. The driver of the #2 McDonald's Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Sebastien Bourdais, turns a fast lap of 59.163 seconds, 128.148 miles per hour on his final lap of the session to finish third on the day. Sebastien, your first day on the Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport circuit. What do you think?

Sebastien Bourdais: I think it's a lot of fun on this track. You can push very hard. We saw a lot of guys going out of the track because basically you can go out of the line and still continue in the session. So it's a lot of fun, you can push hard, and it's interesting.

Eric Mauk:  Saw a lot of guys going off, including each one of you three at
one point coming off there.  Was there dirt on the runway at all?

Sebastien Bourdais: The problem is basically when somebody goes off of the track, is carrying some dust on the line, and when you arrive on that, most of the time you spin off, so you put even more dust on the track and it gets worse and worse. So it's fairly difficult to manage that. It's also very difficult to anticipate because you never know who did the mistake in front of you or not. So it's pretty tough. But it's for everybody the same. I think I did a good last lap. The Newman/Haas team did a great job because I never went there and we only had an hour session of practice before the qualifying. I'm pretty pleased to be on the top three for the moment.

Eric Mauk: A couple of laps before you put up your fast lap, you got through the dusty part, then had a 360, made a great save in the back part. Take us through that.

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, it was very close to a crash actually because I just succeeded to keep the front tires on the track, so basically the car rotated with the back on the grass, but still with a bit of grip on the front, so I didn't completely lost control of the car. I succeed to go back on the track. But, yeah, it was very close. I've been a bit lucky on this.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations, good luck tomorrow. Today's second fastest runner, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Patrick Carpentier, the defending race champion here in Cleveland. Patrick ran a best lap of 58.868 seconds, 128.790 miles per hour. He and his teammate are the only drivers to run sub 59 -second laps. Patrick broke that 58 late in the session. Take us through that lap.

Patrick Carpentier: It was good. That lap went pretty well. But I knew I had to put a really, really good lap in to try to beat Paul's time. He put a good lap in. So that's what I was trying. We did a 58.8. Then we had another lap that was going really, really good. Seemed to be a little bit faster. I don't know if it would have been fast enough for the pole or not. But ended up in a 360, quite a bit of dirt and sand and stuff like that. Lost that lap. So I came back on the track and I went to try one more time on the last lap, but I blocked Jimmy when I came back out of the grass, and blocked him quite a bit. So I apologize to Jimmy because I knew he was on his fast lap. But there's always tomorrow. It was a lot of fun. I like this track. You can push really hard, like Sebastien said. You go off, you come back, you try the next lap. It's a lot of fun.

Eric Mauk: Obviously a great race for you here last year, you dominated the second half of it. How much did that play into your confidence coming into this weekend?

Patrick Carpentier: For sure I like this place. In Ohio we had good success last year, won here and won Mid-Ohio. But this year's very competitive. It's going to be a night race, so it's a little bit different. It's going to make things very interesting.

Eric Mauk: Thank you, Patrick. Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Today's qualifying leader is also the CART Champ Car world points leader, the driver of the #3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Paul Tracy. Paul put up a blistering lap of 58.405 seconds, 129.811 miles per hour to lead today's session. The effort guarantees Paul a front-row starting spot in Saturday's night race and gives him a championship point, raising his total to 100 points. Paul, 58.4, nobody came close to that. Where did that come from?

Paul Tracy: I had a good lap going previous to that lap, and I got a wheel off the track. I did a 360 coming out of turn four, the same place that Pat did it. So, you know, I had to just regroup and try to put the lap together. It was the last lap of my first set of tires. So, you know, I was pretty happy just to get that lap because I just had the one chance to do it. And then I came in and we waited a little bit and went back out, and the track seemed to be like it wasn't as good after that. There were a lot of guys going off, a lot of dirt on the track. It just made it more difficult to do the time. I was able to do another 58.8 after that, but couldn't get close to the time that I did on the first set.

Eric Mauk:  We go out for two more sessions later on this evening.  One it
will be totally pitch black.  The first session will probably be darkening
as you go along.  What do you expect out there?
Paul Tracy:  I hope it's not going to be pitch black.  I hope there will be
some lights on (laughter).  Might be a bit hard to see. No, I'm looking
forward to it.  I haven't seen the track lit up yet.  The first session will
be partially lit.  So I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and take questions.

Q: Paul, you went out in the hottest part of the day. What do you take to the evening now? What have you learned that you can run with in the evening?

Paul Tracy: Well, I think you're always learning something when you go out on the track. We made quite a lot of changes to the car before qualifying. I was just okay with the car this morning, but I felt there were a lot of things we could change. Both Pat and myself made a lot of changes to the car, you know, quite a bit, damper, springs, and downforce configuration. So the car was much better right from the warm-up. I was on old tires, and the car was as quick as I ran in the morning on old tires. So I knew we could put a good lap in, and the lap came.

Q: Talk about dealing with the track. If it is going to keep getting slicker and slicker and slicker, what do you think you're going to see, what do you think you're going to have to do as the weekend progresses?

Paul Tracy: I think the track will get faster as we run on it more. It was much faster from this morning till now. I think at night it will get faster because the track temperature will be cooler, there will be more downforce. It should just get faster.

Q: How will you stay on course?

Paul Tracy:  That's what you have to deal with here.  That's kind of the way
it is.  You have to deal with that in the race.  Guys are dropping wheels
off in the race a lot.  Kind of the end of the race, guys cutting through
the grass in the last chicane.  That's kind of the way it is.

Patrick Carpentier: It will be interesting tonight to see if the guys that go off course can find their way back (laughter).

Sebastien Bourdais: No, I think during the race it will be easier because you'll see during the race, you don't push, try to make the flying lap, you just try to be more consistent as can you and put a good series of laps without getting out because basically you can be one-tenth or two quicker. But if you go off of the track, you lose five seconds. So at the end of the day, it's not a big gain. So it's better to stay on the track, don't put dust. I think the situation would be easier for a longer run during the races.

Q: Paul, this is your 200th race. Any special significance in that for you?

Paul Tracy: Well, you know, it's nice.

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, he's getting old (laughter).

Paul Tracy:  Yeah, getting old. I'll note it should be my 201st start if it
wasn't for Wally (Dallenbach) (laughter).  Should have celebrated last week.

Q: Sebastien, you don't test at this track. It's usually one of the most exciting races every year. "Points of reference," that's what everybody always says when they come here, toughest thing is figuring out where you brake, points of reference. No other experience like this in your career up to this point?

Sebastien Bourdais: No, it's the very first time. That's why I'm pretty pleased to be there, especially with the amount of testing we had to compare with a regular weekend, it's quite difficult. But I think the biggest problem is to put a lap together because you can be very competitive in nearly all the corners. You say, "Yes, this time I have the lap," and you just screw up at the very end, and you say, "Oh, shit." You could do it again. No, it's not very easy to put a lap together, to be honest. That's my biggest problem for the moment.

Q: Paul and Pat have both won here. Maybe you could address the length of the race. I believe it's 115 laps again. How is that going to be in terms of endurance?

Paul Tracy: I think it's going to be a lot easier to do it at night when it's 20 degrees cooler than in the daytime. Last year was I think the same distance. It's a pretty tiring race. The pace was fast. You know, Pat, he won by quite a big margin. He must have been in better shape than everybody else (laughter).

Patrick Carpentier: No, it was tough last year actually. I was dehydrated after the race, a little bit sick. So this year I think it's going to be quite a bit better. And it was pretty hot, too. I think it was like close to a hundred degrees, so.

Eric Mauk: Patrick won last year's race by 17 seconds.

Q: Patrick, how is your wrist, the injury you sustained? Did you feel it today at all?

Patrick Carpentier:  No, it's fine.  No, I'm okay now.  No, I bent the
trailer when I hit it, but I'm fine now (laughter).  I was pretty lucky.
Eric Mauk:  Two practice sessions tonight.  We'll let these guys go.  Final
qualifying tomorrow 8:20 p.m., 8:20 tomorrow night.  Thank you.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais