An interview with: TRISTAN GOMMENDY SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS WILL POWER THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our provisional qualifying press conference. Right now we have Tristan Gommendy, our provisional polesitter, earned his...
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our provisional qualifying press conference. Right now we have Tristan Gommendy, our provisional polesitter, earned his first ever Champ Car front row start. Tristan, you went fast early. What was that like for you guys?
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: We put the black tires, for sure, like everybody in the beginning. We did a quite good lap with black tires. The car wasn't very stable. When my engineer asked me what I want, I said generally more grip, not really more front, more rear.
No, it was more general grip. So he said, okay, we will try the red tires. It's going to be normally more grip. We tried it, but the balance of the car changed. For us for the moment, we will try. But for us today the red tires wasn't quicker. I think it's the same for everybody because I saw some drivers put the red tires like Doornbos because he was just in front of me. I think he didn't improve his lap time.
I think it was the same problem for everybody. Anyway, it was a good day for me.
THE MODERATOR: Now that you're on the front row at a tight circuit like this, what does that mean when it comes to racing on Sunday?
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: I don't know. For Sunday, it's most important, for sure, to do a good start, a good race. But we will see. The race, it's always very long, a lot of strategy. Sometimes we saw with Jani last race we were not very competitive. A little bit lucky. A good pit stop in the right moment, finished P3. Bourdais and Power was quick and in front, and they finished behind everybody.
It's difficult to say about Sunday. I just want to speak about today. Today is a good day for everybody. Thank you very much for my engineer Yves because he did a very good job. We did a very good job in the testing one month ago. It was I think the key of the pole today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q: How do you consider the track? Compare with some European tracks.
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: This track firstly is very nice, very smooth. It was a big surprise when we arrived here for the first test. It was a big surprise because it's very smooth, very nice. If I want to compare with a European track, it's maybe like Spa, but smaller. Is a little bit like Spa. It's a very nice track. I think it's a good thing to have a track like that in the Champ Car championship.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Will Power who qualified third today in provisional qualifying. Will, you've been near the top of the time charts. What does it mean to come out on Friday and do that again?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, it's really nice to be here at this circuit. Yeah, to be in the top three again, that's really good. Would have rather been on pole. You know, it's definitely going to get quicker tomorrow because this track rubbers up so much. Might even be a little cooler.
Today for us it doesn't really mean much being third because it's either the pole today or nothing. We're going to go back, have a look at the data, get the car a little better, go for it tomorrow.
But it's good to be up here with an old sparring partner of mine.
THE MODERATOR: Back to questions from the media.
Q: Was it a bit nerve-wracking waiting it out? You posted your time earlier in the session, then Sebastien on the last lap came very close.
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: Yeah, at the end of the session, Bourdais was just in front of me so it was easy for me to see what's happen. But it was very close. I don't know. Yeah, the track was quite constant because nobody improved the time, and I did it quite earlier. But the track was quite constant.
I don't know. When you're in the car, you don't know what happen around you. You push, that's it. I said before that we try the red tires, but it wasn't quicker. The balance of the car was the same. So it was with the black tires.
It's good to put red today because, my opinion, I will have the black tires tomorrow again. For the moment, the black was better.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Sebastien Bourdais, second quickest in today's provisional qualifying. You were the only car out there to run faster on the second stint. Why were you able to do that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I'm still wondering because it looks like Dan Clarke was really trying to ruin everything. Kept on running off the racetrack every lap but the last one so there was still some dirt out there. I'm pretty sure that's the reason why I didn't go quicker, because he would run off once in the chicane, turn five, again at the chicane, again turn five. That just did it. You would get in turn seven, you couldn't clean the left side of your tires, and you would just lose 2/10ths of a second. That was that. I don't know what he was doing. It's a little frustrating.
I mean, on my part, I made a small mistake on the last lap when I felt like I really -- I really thought people were improving. I had to push a little extra and go for a bigger chunk of lap time and just run wide in turn eight. That did it.
As close as it was today, any mistake just cost you the pole. It was a good fight. I wasn't expecting so many guys to be that close. I guess that's how competitive the series is right now. People keep on telling us it's too easy. Well, you have your answer.
Q: Tristan when you had that moment in the first chicane did you think of Portland where you lost your fastest lap for causing a red flag? Talk about that.
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: Portland, yeah, for sure, I spun. I did the pole, but I spun just after. For sure, it was my mistake. Anyway, it's like that.
But it's true that I continue to push because I did not know if somebody improve my lap time. I continue to push. It's right what said Sebastien, a lot of grass, dirt on the track. Dan Clarke was large, so it wasn't easy. But Sebastien was just in front of me so it was easier for me to see what's happen with him.
But I continue to push. I spun in the chicane because I push the limit two times too much. But fortunately it was okay. Nothing special.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Tristan was saying it's the same for everybody. No real data to say the car is going to hold for the whole race, the chicane, hitting the curbs that hard. In the meantime we've been testing here for a day and a half, we've been doing it for the whole practice and test, and the car seemed to be just fine. Physically, yeah, it does kick you quite hard, but that's what we get paid for.
Q: Tristan, your sixth race in Champ Car, you're on a front row. Have you taken a step forward today in your progression in this series?
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: I'm quite happy about it. I said that just in the press conference before yesterday, that the performance was here since the beginning, especially since one month. It's good to prove that to everybody, to stay in front and to try to do a good result because Portland we were fine. Unfortunately, Servia and some drivers blocked me. We lose a lot of time. We finish P7. But it was quite good to finish P5 quite everywhere since the beginning of the season.
For sure I'm happy about it, but now we need to make some points for the championship. It's very important. We will see this weekend. It's a good start for the moment.
Q: Tristan how important is it to start on the front row here?
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: For sure, the first row is very important for everybody. For me nothing is special because fortunately I did it before. Every year I change the cars, Formula Nissan, Renault 3.5. I did some pole. I won some races with Power. It's not new for me.
It's easier to start in front, so nothing special. It's going to be less stress Sunday.
Q: Is there any particular corner or section of the track that you find particularly challenging?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think the whole track is challenging. It's fast. It's just plain fast everywhere. Other than the chicane, the last turn, there's not much room for error. If you overdrive and make a mistake, you're going to hit and you're going to hit hard. It's one of these tracks where you know you've got to push. Coming into it, it's super important because that's where the lap time is coming from. In the meantime, you always have to keep in the back of your mind you've got to stay in between these white lines. That's the biggest challenge.
What makes it also a real challenging track is because you have to drive with some sense of compromise, speed and making it 'cause if you wreck it, it's probably going to be the end of the weekend.
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: I don't know. For sure the corner six, seven is the quickest I think. Nothing very special, but you feel if you lose the car at this place, the race is compromised for sure. You will need another car I think. Maybe another driver. For sure this corner is very impressive in the car, very quick in Champ Car. This corner, it's a pleasure. Don't lose the car here.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think the whole track is quite technical. Everyone's tested it. It's really, really close. You know, to be on the pole, you have to do a perfect lap, no mistakes. That's what it's going to be tomorrow. I think this is the closest Champ Car has ever been.
You know, everyone can look forward to a good battle for pole. I'm not sure about the race, though, because I can't see anywhere you're going to be able to pass here unless someone makes a mistake or does a bonsai move, Dan Clarke down the inside sort of style.
Q: Will, is there anyplace to pass here on the track? No place?
WILL POWER: Well, there isn't. Unless someone makes a mistake on the exit of a corner, that's the only way you're going to be able to get a run on someone and have a chance of passing. I think qualifying is really important here. I think the start's going to be really interesting if they don't do the chicane. Even if they do the chicane, it's going to be interesting. Either way there's going to be some action.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think it's really too bad that we couldn't get the chicane after turn five, which was originally planned. But the guardrail is just way too close over there. You're basically braking with the guardrail facing you. That would have been an opportunity to pass in turn eight 'cause it would have slowed down turn seven, not make it quite as fast.
It would have been flat easy even following someone, then you would have been in a position to pass someone in turn eight. Right now turn seven is like this. You know, it's just basically on your own, it's already tough enough when you're going to be in traffic. There is no way you're going to be able to follow a car. That's basically ruining it. It's a little bit of a shame.
I think you're going to see quite a bit of passing in the Atlantics because they're still probably going to be able to be flat through there in traffic, where for us it's going to be impossible.
If everybody goes through seven, it gives you a long period where you can draft and everything. But if you can't stay close to the guy in turn seven, how are you going to pass him in turn eight? It's impossible. That just ruins it.
Q: Last week you raced on a black, wide airport track. This week you're on a narrow track on the side of a mountain.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not that narrow really.
Q: What does the adjustment have to be from one week to the next when you're racing on a different sort of terrain?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Nothing special for me. It's very fast. That's the common factor with Cleveland. The only difference is Cleveland is bumpy and here it's just smooth. There's not like one bump other than the one we go out hitting the curbs.
TRISTAN GOMMENDY: Nothing special. For sure it's two kind of circuits and different tracks. This one is very fast also, very smooth. For me personally I prefer this one. Maybe because we have a better setup here.
WILL POWER: Same. I mean, you don't have to contend with bumps here. It's probably a little less safer here. If you come off, you're going to have a big one. It's just a real pleasure to drive here. It's nice. It's like a real European-style track. The whole area, it's like being in Europe, somewhere in France, whenever. It's nice.
THE MODERATOR: Final qualifying tomorrow at 2:00. Thank you.