An interview with Cristiano da Matta Alex Tagliani Bruno Junqueira Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let's get started here with our top-three press conference following today's race here at Road America, a very...
An interview with
Cristiano da Matta
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let's get started here with our top-three press conference following today's race here at Road America, a very exciting one to say the least. We'll get started with Alex Tagliani, driver of the #33 Player's/Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone who finished second this afternoon. He takes his second runner-up finish of the season and his first on a road course this season. The finish matches his career best on a road course which came last season in Toronto. He now has 80 points on the year after today's performance. That moves him from 10th into a tie for sixth in the overall points standings.
You had a very quick car all weekend long, Alex. Great work in the pits to get you out ahead of Bruno. Go over your day and talk about the performance and what it means for you and the team.
Alex Tagliani: Well, the Player's team is working really hard. I know how hard they work at the shop to improve the car to be more competitive. It seems that they're doing a good job because the car is more competitive every race.
My car was really good. I can't complain about it. The only mistake we did I think was choosing a seventh gear that was a little bit too tall. My car was not pulling the revs. It was just too low coming up the hill in the front straightaway. It was really difficult. I think that was our only mistake.
But the setup of the car kind of made up for that. It was really fast in all the corners. It's really difficult to stay behind other cars in the turbulence at high speed. My car was just handling perfectly.
I was able to follow Cristiano at the end. I think I would have had the chance to pass him if I would have had a shorter seventh. That was the only time he was pulling away from me coming up the front straightaway. I guess we're going to know that next time.
Again, the team did a good job on the setup. The guys in the pits had a fast pit stop on the last one, going from third to second, and then we stayed second. Again, Bruno was really fast at the end in the straightaway. When I lost a little bit of draft on Cristiano, seventh gear was really slowing me down. Bruno was drafting me pretty well, so I had to protect my position a couple of times. But it was good for second today.
Merrill Cain: Congratulations.
We're also joined now by Bruno Junqueira, who captured third place this afternoon driving the # 4 Target/Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, marking his fourth podium finish of the season. Bruno moves into a tie for second place in the overall championship point standings with Patrick Carpentier now with 101 points on the year.
Bruno, talk about your day today. Paul Tracy got a good jump on you at the start of the race. You obviously had a good performance through the rest of the race. In the pits, Alex was able to overtake you, but you maintained third place.
Bruno Junqueira: It was an okay day. I cannot complain about third place. But I felt that today Team Target gave me a really good car, a car to win the race. We were leading the race for a long time, keeping Cristiano under control.
I was a little bit unlucky because Cristiano pitted two laps later than me on the third pit stop. Right on that time the yellow flag came in. I knew that he would just go out in front of me on cold tires and I could pass him going down to Turn 5. But with the yellow flag, I had to stay behind Cristiano. I really couldn't pass him. That was the point where I lost the race because then I had to stay behind Cristiano.
In the last pit stop, I had to put more fuel in than Cristiano and Tagliani. I lost a position to Tagliani. It was a shame. I think the three of us were really fast. I could go one or two tenths faster by myself. As Alex said, I was fast in the straight. I had no downforce at all. When I was by myself, I could just put some good laps together. But because I didn't have much downforce, was really difficult to get a run.
I tried to pass Tagliani two or three times, but he just kept going to the inside. It was really difficult to out-break him on the outside. I got third place, so that was okay.
Merrill Cain: A couple of quick notes here. We did some research and this is the longest road course race in CART since 1983, and the fifth longest road course race in CART history as well.
Also, unofficially, the top five in the point standings after today's race are Cristiano da Matta, who builds his lead to 143 points, Patrick Carpentier and Bruno are tied for second place with 101 points on the season, Dario Franchitti follows them with 85 points, followed by Christian Fittipaldi who has 82 points on the year.
A couple other notes as well. This is Toyota's seventh win in 12 races today with Cristiano da Matta's victory. It is Toyota's highest one-season win total in history.
We'll open it up questions before we're joined by Cristiano.
Q: It was an interesting first lap, Bruno, on the start of the race when Paul got around you. Can you talk about him taking you down into Turn 5 there on the first lap?
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, Paul is always very aggressive on the first lap. When I saw him after turn one, I knew that he would try anything on me going into Turn 5. Maybe I was a little bit too careful in Turn 3. I didn't go too fast. He drafted me and passed me. But I knew that I could pass him again. I just waited a little bit. But then I realized it was really difficult to pass him on the track because of my downforce. I was fast in a straight line, but because all the straights here, you get fast corners before it, it was really difficult to get really close.
Then I pitted a little bit later than him I think, put some fast laps together, and I was able to pass him. As I said, then I was just controlling Cristiano. My car had a little bit of understeer and a little bit of push mid race. On the third pit stop my car was really good. I think if Cristiano would have stayed behind me, I could have pulled away a little bit from him.
I can't complain about third place. I think for three races in a row this year, I could have scored top five finishes. So I know how important this is. At the end of the championship, it will count a lot.
Q: Talk about your start, Alex, and how important is the second place for you before the race in Montreal?
Alex Tagliani: It's important. Like Bruno said, it's very important to score points. Second place is 16 points. It would have been better to have 20, but sometimes it's too risky to try to overtake.
My race was pretty good. My car was handling perfectly in the turbulence. I was able to be very fast in the carrousel behind Cristiano. To overtake I would have needed a shorter seventh in the draft. I was very close to him a couple times. Going into seventh gear, he was pulling away from me, even in the draft. That's the only negative point. If my car could be like this every race, that would be very good.
Q: What did you think about the start of your race?
Alex Tagliani: I was behind Bruno. He had a little jump. Then I guess I was not able to draft as well at the beginning of the race. My car was running a little bit better when it was light. Paul [Tracy] had a good start. He was very aggressive and took a chance. It was really close at the beginning. I played a little bit more conservative and then we know what happened.
Q: Alex, how do you end up having too long of a seventh gear when your teammate Patrick had too short of a seventh gear?
Alex Tagliani: It's kind of easy to explain. Both of us had different car setups. This morning, because of the little problem I had with the engine, the tire pressure came down to five pounds when we did a test with the rear wing, so the car started to drag a lot in the practice. I guess when we finished the warm-up in the morning, we looked at the data, and we learned nothing. We didn't have a chance to get a draft. With the wing change, we tried it with the tire that lost, you know, 15 pounds of pressure, so it was dragging too much. We guessed, and we guessed wrong.
Top three press conference, part II