Friday Champ Car Press Conference Qualifying Transcript
Bruno Junqueira - Provisional Pole
Sebastien Bourdais - Second Fastest
A.J. Allmendinger - Third Fastest, Top Rookie
ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the Gran Premio Telmex Tecate presented by Banamex, round 14 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined by our top three qualifiers today. We'll start with our third place qualifier, driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, AJ Allmendinger, for RuSPORT. He is third today with a lap of 1:27.858 seconds, 114.175 miles per hour. AJ, great run today. How do you feel about the way it went?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I was pleased overall. First time here for myself and for the team. We've just been picking away a little bit during the practice session and during qualifying. I think there's still a lot left in myself and in the car. So overall, any time you can be in the top three in this series, it's great. I think there's more tomorrow for us to have. As long as we continue the progress, I think we can be there.
ERIC MAUK: After today's practice session, did you feel you had a shot to run this well in qualifying?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I thought so. But there's still a lot of stuff for us to work on overall in the car. For myself, just trying to figure out how to get a good lap in on this track. Any time you can have a good practice session and be up on the lap chart, it's good heading into qualifying to give you confidence. But you just never know.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Our second place qualifier today, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, our series points leader, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien puts up a best lap of 1:27.822 seconds, 114.204 miles per hour. Sebastien, going for it hard on that last lap. Had a little problem. How do you feel about the way it went?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The McDonald's car is definitely looking very good. I think most of the front-runners have been running on the alternate tires that Bridgestone has brought along. They're definitely much faster. I think most of the people improved between 7/10ths of a second to two seconds. For the second run, definitely there is a lot left tomorrow.
I knew it was going to be really hard to compete against Bruno, with the regular tires, and Bruno with the alternate tires. But I went for it. It was a very, very strong first run. You know, just laid it very much on the edge. Just didn't make it in the last turn. My engineer said it was very close. Doesn't really matter if I make it very cleanly through the last turn, because it's a very long straight, and afterwards, you know, unfortunately I pushed to the limit.
ERIC MAUK: You went out again very late in the session, about five minutes to go, both you and Bruno both went out very late. Tell us a little bit about the strategy behind going out late?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think it's pretty clear for us that we can do the lap very early on during the run, so there's no point in standing around and wearing out the tires that we might have to use for the race. You know, it was basically a lot of grip on the Bridgestone tires, on every tire. You know, I just needed two laps, and that was it.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our Friday qualifying leader puts up a best lap of 1:27.565 seconds, 114.539 miles per hour, guaranteeing himself a front row starting spot for Sunday's race. This will be his first front row start since Denver, the driver of the #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno shaved a point off of Sebastien's lead. He now trails by just 21 points heading into the weekend. Bruno, again, you needed to do it, have a good run, have a good performance to stay in the race. You answered the bell again, just like you did in Australia. How do you feel?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel really happy. It was real important to get a pole today, the points, and to guarantee front row. The PacifiCare car was very good this morning and we didn't change much for the afternoon. On the first set of tires, the balance wasn't there, wasn't that great, so we made a big change on the car. Even changed both the springs -- all four springs on the car. Just took a big gamble and decided to go on the soft tire, as well. We waited five minutes to go.
I was able to put a good lap and to get the pole on the last lap. I knew that I just needed to make no mistakes to get the pole. I knew that the first lap was good. Was very difficult because my car wasn't especially very good through turn 14, so I took it very conservative in the end to guarantee the pole because I knew it was important. I'm quite happy with that. I think it's important for the championship. Put pressure on Sebastien to have a good qualifying tomorrow, as well.
So I'm quite happy. I think tomorrow I can improve the car. As I said, this afternoon the car wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to put on the pole. So let's work harder tomorrow to get the extra point tomorrow and the pole for the race.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about how the tires held up today.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Really, really good. I think the Bridgestone tires, one thing that Sebastien said, pretty amazing hold. The tires came up to speed on the first lap, you already can do a very, very fast lap. That's amazing. One of the only tracks you can see that. This is actually the best.
So the tires are holding very well, as well, because this morning I ran 23 laps on the tires. I did my best with like 15 laps on the tires. I was just behind the guys that were running new tires. So the Bridgestone tires are holding very well, especially the soft tires. They gave a lot of grip, but very fun to drive. Maybe next year going to ask for more of those. But it's been great. I mean, you have to work a little bit as well on the setup with that kind of tire, small groove, you can go at least half a second faster on those tires. Have to do some adjustments for tomorrow when we run the soft tires.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. In addition to shaving the series points lead down to 21, Bruno also cuts Sebastien's lead in the Corona Cup standings to just six points, again the Corona Cup is a $100,000 prize put up by Corona given to the driver that amasses the most total points in the two races held in Mexico this year, one in Monterrey earlier in the year, and the one here this weekend obviously. We'll now take questions from the media.
Q: You were at the top for a long time. Before the big accident at the last lap, were you trying to beat Bruno?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You can only try, right? You can never know if it's going to work out until you finish the lap. No, I think I felt it was pretty close, and I didn't have a look yet on the data, but Craig said that it was, you know, going to be very, very close. You know, that's why I went for it. I knew it was going to take a big attack, and unfortunately it didn't go through the last turn. But we are looking very good. We have the setup on the alternate tires for tomorrow. We're going to really be able to work it out.
Q: Bruno, with about nine seconds left, you jumped up and got that last lap. Going through on that next to last lap, did you feel like the car was there?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I felt the car was there. I knew I had to do it because on the second to last lap, when I brake for turn 14, there was a bump there, and I lost the car a little bit. I lost maybe 3 or 4/10ths. So on the last lap, I took it a little bit conservative, especially on the last part of the track. Sebastien could run 1 or 2/10ths faster, but if I run like a seven-five I'll be on the pole, not take any chances because he had hard tires. Tomorrow we're going to have just one set, and I hope it's going to have a clean run tomorrow. But it was important to get the point today, and that was our decision.
Q: AJ, eight and a half minutes to go, you moved up, to third, actually second at the time and then pitted and didn't come back out. Why not?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Actually, what happened was, you know, there's about three or four laps on the red tires that I thought I could put a good lap in, and I think we're having a little problem with our data system because after my best lap, my next lap said I was up by like 9/10ths. So going into the last corner, I figured that was going to be the best lap I could do. I pulled in and it was actually slower than the last four.
Looking on the data, it was never even close to being 9/10ths up. It was up in the first couple of corners, then down. Then after that, after I pitted, I didn't think we were going to have a chance to go back out and go faster than what I did. Like I said, there's some stuff we can work on for tomorrow. And today was a good result, so I was happy and pleased with that. And I think we just go in and figure out what's wrong with the car and just fix that for tomorrow.
Q: There were a couple of drivers close to you, guys on the grid complaining about the cars struggling a bit for traction. I wonder if any of you guys had similar problems. Also, could you comment about the track condition as far as bumpiness, et cetera.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think the track is very close to last year. It didn't really change. You see it's much faster than last year. And second, because, you know, we came back with the same setup and really just feeling the same. You know, I think it's really difficult here to put the setup together and find the balance. It's always been a challenge, and it always is when you have less downforce and it's a bumpy track. So the smallest problem, adjustment you did on the car makes a bigger effect as a result. So it's tough, yeah, for sure.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: As Sebastien said, this track is a little bit bumpy and we don't have much downforce, so it's very hard to find the right balance. When you find the right balance, you can go much faster, and you can feel comfortable, you can attack the corners. When the car is not pretty good over the bumps, especially on the fast chicanes, like high speed and very bumpy, not much downforce, so it's very, very difficult to get the tight line to make the right line there. And if the car is not feeling good, it's a nightmare. But if the car is feeling good, is a lot of fun.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I'll agree with that (laughter).
Q: Now that you're running in the backyard of your teammate, you're one of the newest American drivers, now that the season is almost over, how do you feel about your decision to run here in Champ Cars?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, this is by far the place I wanted to be. It's what I worked for for the last four or five years, especially in the Champ Car ladder system, going through the ranks. You know, I'm more than happy to be here. There's really no place I'd rather be right now than in Champ Car, especially with RuSPORT.
So, you know, Michel (Jourdain) coming on board this year has been a huge help. I don't think we'd be as far as we are right now without him, and I'm just really looking forward to him this weekend. Hopefully we can continue the success that we have, and especially even next year, because not only do I think the team is getting a lot better, and myself as a driver, I think Champ Car itself is getting a lot stronger, and that's probably what is the most exciting.
Q: AJ, the last couple of weeks, from mid-season on, you've been pretty regularly up in the top let's say three rows all weekend. The weekend in Australia, you had a problem with the car, and you pushed to the backup car, and that was better than your primary. Today, first time you've been to this racetrack, just talk about the progress the team has made, particularly in the last part of the season.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, I mean, I think early on in the season, it was really about just trying to find a good baseline. You know, the first couple of races, we were kind of lost on just where to even start with the car. Now we're able to each weekend start with a decent baseline that we know that works and work from there on that. And that's why it shows that we've been further up in the grid each weekend, because now we can use the first practice really as a test session, and I'm more confident in the car, and I can go out and attack the track and learn it a lot quicker.
So overall, we've gotten stronger. There's still a lot of work to for us to do, especially to run with these two guys over here. So in the off-season we know the places that we're weak still and the places we need to work on. But overall I'm very pleased with the progress that the team's made, especially in the last eight races because, as you said, we're consistently in the top three rows. Now it's just a matter that we got to work on so we can be consistently in the top two rows and challenging these guys each weekend, get the setup perfect and be able to contend with them.
ERIC MAUK: To further illustrate that point, AJ has finished in the top six in four of the last five races, including a pair of top fives.
Q: Sebastien, on that last run, you stayed on your regular tires. Did you decide not to use the alternates? Were you saving them for tomorrow?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yes, it's been the strategy all the time for us. I think we've been pretty successful doing so. When we saw that everybody was, you know, using a set of alternate tires, we said, "Oh, that might be difficult to get the pole." AJ was very close, but didn't pass us. So was (Justin) Wilson, and a bunch of other guys. Then traffic has probably been somewhat of an issue, too, sometimes for others.
But, no, I'm really pleased because now we're going to be able to work on the setup, and I think it can be looking good tomorrow as long as the weather is staying consistent and we don't run into trouble.
Q: Sebastien, on that last lap, you got into the tires a little bit. Any damage?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it was kind of off the alignment because the steering wheel was not completely straight, but it was nothing major. Just scrapes around the tires, very slightly.
ERIC MAUK: That will wrap-up our press conference. We said the grid with final qualifying which begins tomorrow at 1:45. Thank you.