Champ Car Post-Race Press Conference Transcript with Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our post-race press conference for the U.S. Bank Presents the ...
Champ Car Post-Race Press Conference Transcript with Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani
Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our post-race press conference for the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, round five of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined by our top three finishers from today's event, starting on your far right, the third place finisher, driver of the #8 Johnson Controls Ford/Cosworth/Lola/ Bridgestone, Alex Tagliani. This is Alex's best finish of the year, his ninth podium of his career, and the third podium for Rocketsports Racing. Alex, pretty eventful day for you out there, eh?
Alex Tagliani: Yeah, actually I knew I had a really quick car. I was expecting to race without incident but it didn't start really good in turn one. I had a couple of cars in front of me that were a little bit slower, so I wanted to get by them quicker, where the move going into turn one came from. Unfortunately, I decided to go in third gear to make the turn and I locked the tires on the back and I started sliding in.
I almost made it out and then Wilson came out from nowhere and touched me a little bit and then I went in the grass, and from there, I was probably last. And then on a restart, it was really slippery. We made a change for the race to get a little bit more straightaway speed, so we were a little bit less aerodynamic in the back and the car was quite loose on cold tires. And I came out and I made another mistake out of the chicane, kept it running. And basically we were last at that time. The first set of tires was pretty ruined because I had that flat spot from the big spin, and then we started making our way up. The team helped me out really much with the strategy, but we really didn't show the potential of the car because I was all the time in traffic and passing people and pushing really hard on cold tires. So it was good but the team brought me back in third place and made our day, I think.
Eric Mauk: As you said, you fell back to the end of the line. At what point during the race and during the second stint, you made some passes and started to climb up; at what point did you know this thing wasn't lost and you had a chance to get on the podium?
Alex Tagliani: After the first stint, I was catching sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth place really quickly. I was coming off the chicane and they were just coming off the hairpin and I was pretty surprised. I mean, I don't know if something was wrong; they were saving too much fuel. Obviously I was on the push to pass all the time to make up ground. And at that time, I knew we can finish in the top five, good strategy, you know, short fill and try to run by ourselves, quick laps. And so at that time we could finish at least in the top five.
And then after the second stint, there was a yellow and team decided to make me come in and fuel me out. I was at the end of the line, anyway. I was in tenth place. And we came in, put full fuel, hit the same tires, went out and there was a second yellow, so at that restart, we came into the pit to do our stop and we had one stop to do till the end of the race. And I started running consistently in the 59s when everybody was doing 60s in front of me, and that's where we made up all of our ground.
Eric Mauk: Our second place finisher, the driver of the #6 Pacificare Ford/Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno earns the 20th podium of his career with today's finish and also turned the last fastest lap of the event, turning a lap of 58.960 seconds with just three laps remaining in the race. Bruno retains his championship points lead by three points. Another runner-up finish and strong weekend for you. How do you feel?
Bruno Junqueira: I feel good, I think. But for sure, it was a difficult weekend for the PacifiCare Newman Haas Team. I started good Thursday morning, being the fastest. But I put the car on the wall then I have a good qualify -- not good qualifying yesterday with a lot of traffic, it's top six. We knew that we had the car to be maybe third. I think I had a car almost as fast as Sebastien and slower than Tracy and I realized that my goal for the weekend was finish on the podium.
The start here is always very difficult and I tried to be very safe on the start to be outside. I knew that something inside was going to happen, and I saw the accident and I had to stop the car because I was just outside of Tracy and Justin and they started to spin towards me. I had to keep going straight to stop the car and then I went to last. Then it was a pretty exciting race for me and pretty difficult, because I had to pass everybody, be really careful to not crash, not make any mistakes and be really precise on overtaking the other guys. It was a good race. I mean, I passed everybody pretty much on the track, and came to second.
And then Sebastien was very far away. On the restart, there were three cars between us and once I get those three cars, Sebastien was maybe seven seconds, and I tried to get it down to six seconds. I got some marbles on turn eight and I went a little bit wide and I decided that's it, already had a crash there and I'm second, let's keep this position. Just kind of keep a good pace but keep the second position and keep a lead on the championship. I mean, from last to second, that was a good result.
Eric Mauk: Last year you had the points lead briefly following your win at Road America, but now you've had it for three consecutive events. Tell us, does it affect your thought process going into a race?
Bruno Junqueira: I mean, I always want to win the race. It might look bad that I have four second places, but the points are good and I did not have the luck to win yet. But out of the five races, three races, I had the fastest race lap. That means I didn't finish second because -- I mean, I had a fast race car in a lot of the races. I've been consistent and I think a win will happen. I'm approaching every weekend trying to win. For sure, it can be a little bit difficult. I don't do very well on this track in the past and second place was my best result. I think it's good.
Next weekend, Toronto is a racetrack that I like. I guess I finished second or third last year and I can get a good result. I mean, this championship is very difficult and the way the points are, you cannot make any mistakes. That's what I'm trying to focus so far are the mistakes and be fast and consistent, and that's the way that I hope to win the championship. For sure, I want to win races and that's going to happen. I hope I can win one or two races before Road America, and then Road America is a race I should win.
Eric Mauk: The winner of the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford/Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien and Bruno have put together the third 1-2 finish for Newman/Haas Racing this season. This is his third win of the year, sixth of his career and he had a margin of 15.130 seconds, he led 88 laps on the day, the second most ever here at Cleveland. Roberto Moreno led 91 to win the 2000 race. Three wins this year, another one that probably looked a lot easier than it was for you. How do you feel?
Sebastien Bourdais: I think actually, it's been probably the easiest of my career, of my short career in Champ Car. You know, I was challenging for the start, all piled up first turn, and then it was an uneventful race except the track inspection, I don't know where it came from. All in all, we had a very strong car and a very good lead, and, you know, we lost that and we still have been able to build it back. So I think we just, basically, we did not do the best start of the race, that's a bit of a shame, but you know when you have a strong lead, also, you don't really push all the time as you can when you are trying to come back. And, you know, it's just a great sensation, a great feeling to be back here and to win again, second time in a row in Cleveland and second time in a row for the season. It looks like this year, it's rolling, and we're just going to try and keep that move going on.
Eric Mauk: Tell us about the start heading into turn one; what did you see?
Sebastien Bourdais: I don't know. I saw smoke, I saw a lot of things flying over my head and just when I got out of the turn, I saw that nobody was even close to me. So I thought, well, everything is looking pretty good. You know, Alex was obviously feeling optimistic at the first turn and pushed everybody at the outside.
I don't really know what happened because it's like everybody kind of fast-braked and went a bit far, and I caught the apex and there was nobody anymore. It was that kind of start that you're really lucky, you just run through without taking a hit from anybody, and it's up to you to try and keep on like that.
Eric Mauk: It looked like you had one close call out there with the #5 car, were there any tense moments out there for you at all?
Sebastien Bourdais: No. Well, you know, when you're catching lapped cars, it's always difficult. I think I was always coming back pretty fast behind them and I did not catch these cars at the best places all the time. Like at the exit of the fast chicane is probably not the best way to catch a car and you had to move very quickly. I've been surprised that he was kind of struggling with the balance and so, you always are surprised when the car in front of you is not doing what you are doing and you don't have the time to study how you really struggle on the racetrack. So you cannot always kind of expect something wrong to happen. It was close, but I always had a small margin except after the yellow and Bruno closed the gap because he was possibly going to stop later than us. He stopped three laps later on the first pit stop, so he had a shot on us if he was close, but I think we've been able to open the gap again and this I am most proud of.
Eric Mauk: Our top five in points after five events: Bruno Junqueira is our leader with 133; Sebastien moves into second with 130; Patrick Carpentier is third with 104; Alex Tagliani vaults to fourth with 86; and Paul Tracy and Ryan Hunter-Reay are tied for fifth with 85. Also note worthy is that Oriol Servia finished in fourth place; that's the best finish for a Dale Coyne Racing entry since 1996. Roberto Moreno finished third at Michigan in '96.
Q: You mentioned that this is a track that you need to have a rhythm on. You didn't have it earlier in the week. Did you find it today?
Sebastien Bourdais: No, at the first qualifying session, I was not satisfied because I know I did like five or six fast laps before the qualifying session which is ridiculous here. You know, it takes a bit longer than that to really be great. But then after, I was pretty much right there, I just could not find the feeling I had with the car last year, and I was struggling a bit with them this year. And every time we try to do something to cure that, we generated some kind of oversteer and things like that and never really got rid of the understeer. So, it's not been a very easy weekend for us, and I'm just glad that it's not a failure for the race, because I didn't think we were going to win that one.
Q: You had the penalty Thursday and you were upset but I guess things worked out?
Sebastien Bourdais: Exactly. Yeah, it looks like things have to be one way and I just, you know, accepted the penalty and tried to keep working. I think it just played right for us. It's that kind of circumstances, you don't control anything, and for any reason at the end, it just plays out well for you.
Q: Bruno said that he expects to win in Road America Sebastien, what do you see as being the tracks coming up where you have a good chance to do well?
Sebastien Bourdais: I don't know. I mean, I think we were very close from Bruno, maybe a bit faster than Bruno in Elkhart in the rain; and on the dry conditions, he was faster, that's true. So we just have to try and find some more speed in the car. We did a good test at Road America. We're obviously looking very strong, just a matter of putting the whole thing together in the qualifying session. And I see now, I think I proved since the beginning of the season, basically I'm right there all the time, and I don't say I'm going to win everything, but for sure we are going to be trying very hard every time.
Q: Alex, you were able to gain a lot of ground after the spin how much of that was because we are at Cleveland, rather than, let's say, Long Beach or Road America; what do you think about the track?
Alex Tagliani: We had a really fast car this morning. We did 58.6 on 28 gallons. I think we went really aggressive. We went for it and we did a change on the car. We trimmed the car to be quick in the straightaway, and it changed the balance tremendously in the car in the race. So it was not as good as it was in the warm-up, but it was really fast on the straightaway. So I think because of the size of the track and yes, there's more opportunity here with the push to pass; obviously there are really fast straightaways and then big banking going into turn one, and then after the hairpin, you can stay pretty close on the car. You don't have the effect of the turbulence and after you get down turn three, also. And so I think, yeah, the track is more favorable for more passing.
Q: Alex, your team has made big gains lately, are you happy with how things are going?
Alex Tagliani: Yeah, Long Beach, we were fighting with Bruno for second place. He was pitting a lot earlier than us and on the last start, it was really important, we were hoping to come out right in front of him on cold tires, and we had a bubble in the pit and took 43 seconds and came out of that pit. That was one little thing that the team has to get fixed. In Monterrey, we went from the back to the front, basically, from 15th to third in 26 laps, and it was just like a pit strategy that made us finish fifth.
Technically, I think there is a lot to learn. We are running with different shocks this year than last year and we are not running with any shock program. So we are doing what we can with what we have, and it's basically our team that decides to fix everything that we have. So it's a little bit more difficult. Maybe we're really proud when we can have a good result, but I think there is a lot of progress that has been done. The manager is a lot harder on the guys. They have been practicing very tough this year and I think that's another big change. And I think we saw in this race that it was really important for us to be good stops and they did. So, it's moving along. The next five races for us are going to be important, and I think we're going to have a good car. We had a great test in Elkhart Lake, so hopefully we're going to give a hard time to Bruno. We want to win that race.
Q: Are you surprised that Paul Tracy is struggling?
Alex Tagliani: Paul Tracy? I mean, these guys are really, really quick. Their strength is that they are consistent. They can go; don't have the fear to go to a racetrack and really struggle. They can rely on basically a good top three, top four car every weekend. I think with different tires, showing up in Portland with different tires caught us off-guard. We were fast last year and this year we really struggled, and I think it seems that it is able to adapt quicker to all of these little changes in trying to make less mistakes, like Bruno said; and I think so far, the Newman Haas team did everything right.
Q: How do you like the Cleveland track?
Bruno Junqueira: I think the Pacificare car today was good. When you come to a racetrack like Cleveland that is very wide, there are a lot of points to pass on this track and that's why I think that's one of the best tracks on the race. When I actually race here, it's very nice because we can push hard and try to pass the guy in front. I would say that I made like 12 positions on the race, and 10 of those positions were actually passing people, maybe one or two were on the pits or someone that had a problem. But most of the positions I actually pass the guys, and that's the nice thing about racing in Cleveland. I enjoy it a lot and I think I was really good. I had a lot of fun in the race. For sure, Sebastien had a better race, got first, didn't have to do much -- I mean, had to do much, but it wasn't the hardest race and won the race. But sometimes going back from last to second is very rewarding for the driver and I enjoyed it. I think here is a neat place that it's possible to do that.
Alex Tagliani: This one there are few yellows. Compared to a street course where there's a lot of slow corners, there's a lot of high-speed chicanes and a lot of momentum, if you have a good car -- without a good car, you can't do it. But if you have a good car, and you run like 7/10ths quicker than another guy and you can run back on the green for 30 laps, you make up a lot of ground.
And also, if there's a pack in front of you that runs, you know, three or four cars together, they slow themselves down, because running behind someone here at high-speed, it's not really easy. And if you're running by yourself, I think you can make up a lot of time.
And I think that's exactly what happened I think for Bruno and myself on the first stint. We have a little gap and we run by ourselves and we start running into traffic in the second stint but all of our ground was made early into the race.
Q: Why is there so much trouble in Turn One here?
Sebastien Bourdais: Because it's wide and -- you're fast to slow, everybody has to hit the same apex. So everybody is shooting for the same spot. So when you have ten cars pretty much targeting the same place at the same moment, that's not going to make it.
Bruno Junqueira: I always have someone that wants to have a banzai and thinks that he can pass the guy in front; and the guy that's in front of him, he can pass the guy in front and continue like that. And still, everybody tries to take a little bit later than the guy in front. You know, there is a point, like a domino. It's kind of difficult.
Sebastien Bourdais: But I think it's also because it's so wide, you can see what happened. You know, like you have the first two guys, and I try to go inside and then Tag went out and inside, too, and probably the guy went inside on Tag. And the problem is, the more you go to the right, there's no braking signals on the right side. So the guys --
Alex Tagliani: It's right. There's no signals.
Sebastien Bourdais: There's nothing. So he ends up being flat when all of the guys are already on the brake. That's also the problem, there's absolutely no rest when you have to hit the brakes.
Alex Tagliani: It's like in Toronto, Vancouver, from the start to the braking point, the speed is a lot slower, it's a lot narrower. So opportunities, they are not much. Here, you know, coming in fifth, almost going to sixth before you start braking, you feel the draft a lot. I was behind Sebastien and I have a great launch and I saw the opening was really wide and it's pretty inviting, you know -- I can do it, I can do it. (Making rocket sounds.) (Laughter).
Eric Mauk: I'd probably better end this before we get this spun into the wall here. Thank you all for joining us. We go racing next week at the Molson Indy Toronto at Toronto's Exhibition Place. Thank you very much.