Champ Car Teleconference Transcript with Bruno Junqueira
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to a very special Champ Car media teleconference as we are fortunate to be joined by Bruno Junqueira. Most of you know him as driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing. As most of you know by reading the testing reports we put out over the last few days, Bruno was back in the Champ Car just this past week testing two days at Sebring International Raceway as he recovers from his accident that he suffered last year at the Indianapolis 500. Bruno, thank you for joining us today. First of all, just tell us a little bit about how you feel after testing. You ran almost 200 laps around a very tough course. Just your feelings on getting back in the Champ Car.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel really good. It was really nice to be back in the car after several months. I felt no problem with my back, no problem with the rest of my body. I think I'm almost as fit as I was before the accident, so was great. I didn't feel any difficulty in getting up to speed. Pretty quickly I set some fast times. Was very nice. I mean, it was perfect test for me.
ERIC MAUK: Bruno, almost 200 laps as we said before, and your time was the fastest time of the myriad of guys testing. Four teams were testing, but with a number of different drivers as teams continue to set their lineups for the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. You're heading into your sixth Champ Car season. You've been a series runner-up three times, eight race wins, 73 starts, 28 podiums in those 73 starts. You've always been very successful, always run up at the front or near the front.
Tell us a little bit about having now sat in the Champ Car after being off. Have you really gotten time to think about, A, how you feel after that, and B, how that experience now has kind of set itself to your goals for next year? Have you thought about what you want to do next year as far as your performance goes?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For next year I want to race, and I want to enjoy the races. Didn't set any performance goals yet. I hope I can win some races. But I'm not setting goals yet. I think it's a little bit early.
ERIC MAUK: What is next on your timetable?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I'm going to Brazil now. I think the end of January, going to do the first test for the 2006 season. I want to think about each step one at a time. I hope I can have some good tests, and to be very well-prepared for the first race of the year in Long Beach.
ERIC MAUK: Outstanding. We look forward to tracking your progress. Again, it's very good to be back here talking to you again. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q: Did it feel strange when you got back into the car for the first time after not having been in there for so long?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: To be sure, it felt normal to me. I think I was very well-prepared mentally. I knew what I had to do. For sure, Sebring is a track that I've been to a lot of times. I drove this car a lot of times, as well. I felt normal. For sure on the first five laps and go full throttle with the power of the Ford engine, you feel a lot. I said, "Oh, this car has a little bit more power than I thought it would have. Brakes a little bit better." Then after a few laps, just got used to it. The way I used to drive came back pretty quickly."
Q: When you've been out of the car for a long time like this, what part or aspect of driving is the hardest to get back in the rhythm of? What comes back slowest?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: That's a good question. What comes slowest when you come back? I don't know. I think everything is maybe one step down. You get slower in everything. It takes a little while until you go back fast. When you run new tires, a long run, maybe you get a little bit more tired than before. On cold tires, you are not that fast yet. Pit stops are okay.
I think everything, you need to redo it for a couple of times before you get a hundred percent. I mean, I could feel that from Monday to Wednesday, Wednesday I was a little bit better. I think for sure next time the test will be a hundred percent up to speed.
Q: Did your crew play any type of practical jokes on you when you got back in?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. I think the PacifiCare Newman/Haas team was very nice and they support me a lot. I think that was one of the nicest things. I mean, if they joke about something, they always do about other things, but never about my accident. One thing some mechanic said after the first run, he said, "Oh, didn't look like that you stayed out of the car." I think that was pretty good.
Q: (Question and answer in Spanish.)
ERIC MAUK: The question in Spanish, he asked about the Mexican support of Champ Car, the fact they had the two drivers in last year with Mario and Rodolfo. He also asked about your thoughts on Katherine Legge's test yesterday.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yes. I mean, I think Mexico is one of the great places our Champ Car has a big support. We had two great races in Monterrey and Mexico City. Every year, a lot of fans, great races. I was very happy to win the Monterrey race this year.
For sure, Mexico has great drivers. He also asked me if we would have more drivers now that we have those two. For sure we miss a lot Michel Jourdain and Adrian, two great Mexican drivers. About Katherine, I said she did well. She just did half a day in the afternoon. But for sure she needs more testing and she is going to do more I think next week.
ERIC MAUK: We'll continue with questions.
Q: Are you already confirmed to race for Newman/Haas next year? No official announcement has been made. Regarding the Servia situation, can you comment? I saw some quotes in the press release from the new Belo Horizonte track in your hometown. They say their priority is to bring Champ Car in 2007 back to Brazil. Have you been in touch with them? Do you think it's a serious project? Do you think they have a realistic shot of bringing Champ Car back to Brazil in '07?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: First, I will stay with Newman/Haas next year. About the Brazil race, I met the people that are trying to build a track there. I didn't know them before. They look like very serious people. They say they're going to build the track and they are going to try and bring the race. My sister is working with them. Champ Car, as well. I'm sure that if they build a track in my city, we're going to have a race in 2007. I'm very realistic. I know it's not easy. It's a lot of money to build the track. I support them in doing it. I hope it happens.
Q: The Servia thing real quick, do you have any hint on that, if Newman/Haas is going to be three cars?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I don't know yet what's going to happen.
Q: What can we expect from Bruno Junqueira after your accident in this circuit in this year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: What you can expect from me? You're going to expect a driver that loves racing, that's going to be fighting for the poles, fighting for the win every weekend as hard as I used to do. I'll be up there. I hope I can win both Mexican races next year.
Q: You mentioned in Montreal your physical regime that you do. Do you feel that helped you recover and get back in the car?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, for sure. Being in shape and working out a lot, eating good helped me a lot in my recovery and helped me a lot when I was back in the car to be able to do a lot of laps in Sebring. For sure, it paid off in everything that I did the last seven months.
Q: Was there anything different on the car that you can share with us that you'll be looking forward to working on this year? Anything new on the car that you can tell us about?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. I mean, what was new on the car was my seat because I have to do a new seat (laughter). Basically, because I stayed a long time without driving, I just put the basic setup, the same setup I did in January of 2005, the test in Sebring. The team just gave me a car that I already know how it is.
Q: Will you do some more testing before the start of the season? What is your schedule like on that?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think we're going to be testing in the end of January, then February, March and the first race -- to be ready for the first race in April in Long Beach.
Q: You didn't feel any physical discomfort at all with your back, in the areas where you had the injuries?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, no problem. I mean, I was a hundred percent.
Q: With the drivers that you saw out there this week in Sebring, a number were rookies or new drivers trying to get a ride. Did anyone impress you out there that you saw?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think for sure Ryan Briscoe and Giorgio Pantano, they were pretty good. Actually, they run pretty much the same time. Pantano ran 60.99 and Briscoe 61.03. On cold tires, both looked like they could run 61.9. I think they are really good. I knew that. They showed. Those are the drivers that impressed me more.
Q: You still have the rods in your back, correct?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yes, I have. I will have it forever.
Q: Does the seat press on them and bother you? Are they positioned such that the seat doesn't touch them?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, I have no problem with that. The titanium rods that I have are inside between the bone and the body. They are not between the skin and the bone. Doesn't bother me at all.
Q: I'd like to know, during this time off, how much have you learned about being patient? Do you think it will help you in the car next year?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, I learned a lot. You have to be patient. You have to look at life and look at racing in another way, and I did a little - or a lot. I hope that helps me. But sometimes when you are in the heat of the moment in the race, you always want to win. You get a little bit impatient. But I hope I will get myself together and try to be patient all the time so that I can improve my performance.
Q: Did you do any racing simulations on computers while you were unable to get into a car?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. I just play a lot of PlayStation, that's it.
Q: Did you do a lot of bicycling?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, bicycling and swimming a lot. Pilates a lot, as well.
Q: I assume that would be competitive bicycling with all your friends in Miami?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Oh, yeah. I'm already very competitive.
Q: During your time off, it allowed you to step back and get a wider perspective of the series. Give us some thoughts of the direction that Champ Car is taking, the steps forward it's made since the time you've been off.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: My thoughts is I joined Champ Car in 2001, and every year the following year has been worse. 2002 was worse than 2001. 2003 was even worse. 2004 was even worse. I think 2005 is the first year that was better than the year before. For sure, 2005 was better than 2004. I see the Champ Car turning around. I hope you grow every year from now.
Q: Do you see any particular reason for that turnaround? Can you point out a couple of reasons in your mind that can be attributed to the turnaround of Champ Car?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think people believe more ion the series, believe in the owners. They're doing a good job. They came up with two good new races this year, Edmonton and San Jose. Both were great successes with the public. I think the TV package was better this year, is going to be better next year. We have a lot of drivers that want to go and race Champ Cars. A lot of things. Those are maybe the main things.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference today. Bruno has a lengthy list of things he needs to do before he hops on a plane and heads back to his native Brazil to celebrate the holidays.
Thank you to the media for participating on our call today. Bruno Junqueira, thank you for your time today. We look forward to seeing you soon.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you, Eric. Thank you, everybody.