Top three qualifiers press conference with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and get started while we wait for Alex to make his way up here. I'd like to welcome everybody to the final round ...
Top three qualifiers press conference with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani
Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and get started while we wait for Alex to make his way up here. I'd like to welcome everybody to the final round of qualifying press conference for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We'll start off with our second place qualifier, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Paul elected to rest on his Friday time, which guarantees him a front row starting spot for tomorrow's race, as his first round time of 1:17.220, 98.098 miles per hour, gives him the second spot on tomorrow's grid. This also marks the first time Paul has started on the front row in consecutive events since 1997 when he turned the trick at Gateway and Milwaukee. Tell us about the decision about not to run in the final qualifying.
Paul Tracy: I think it's frustrating at Team Player's because we had a spin this morning, and I spun into the curbs, damaged the bottom of the tub on my car, punched a hole through the bottom. We weren't able to repair the car. We would have had to have taken out the spare car for qualifying. That would delete our time from yesterday. The only logical choice was to sit out.
It's frustrating to do because I felt like we had a good car all weekend and we could challenge to be on the front row legitimately again. But on the other hand we have a couple of extra brand-new sets of tires to start the race on. From that standpoint, starting on the front row, we'll have sticker tires throughout the whole race. Brand-new tires is a nice advantage in the beginning of the race, I think. We'll just have to see how the race goes.
Mauk: How big of a task will it be to get ready for tomorrow?
Tracy: I think the car will be good. We tested last week at Fontana on the road course. I actually drove the car that I'm going to race tomorrow. I shook it down and ran like 10 laps in it. It's ready to go. We just need to change a few things here and there on the car to match the setup to what we have now. The car will be ready to run in the morning.
Mauk: We are joined by our polesitter, Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Sebastien set a new track record with a top lap of 1:14.938, 101.076 miles per hour, smashing the old record set by Kenny Brack in the inaugural race here. He earns his fifth championship point of the year with the pole win and becomes the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1993 to win the pole in his first two Champ Car starts. As you may know, Nigel won the pole at Surfers Paradise in his first race, then was injured in practice for his next race at Phoenix, withdrew, did not make a qualifying attempt, he then won the pole at Long Beach, which was his second race. Sebastien, congratulations. A new track record. Did you think you had that kind of speed in you today when you started?
Sebastien Bourdais: After the practice sessions, we were pretty happy this morning, but it's always hard to imagine that you can do such a lap during qualifying. Yesterday, it was really difficult to handle the car. The team did a fantastic job. The car today was really good. I really owe a lot to Newman/Haas Racing because I feel we did a great job this weekend. We'll see tomorrow. I mean, it's such a big surprise all the time to be so much on the pace. I just can hope it will be like this all season long. .
Mauk: We are now joined by Alex Tagliani, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He grabs the third spot on his last lap of the day with time clicking off the clock, 1:15.437, 100.407 miles per hour. Marks the best ever qualifying spot for Rocketsports Racing and marks the second consecutive season that Alex starts third here. Tell us a little about your day, Alex.
Alex Tagliani: I'm very excited for the guys on the Johnson Control team because they worked really hard before the first race, in between St. Pete and this race, I know that they worked really hard to make sure that we have a backup car for this race. It's just a good boost for everyone on this team. Qualifying went pretty well. The first set of tires, I had a problem on the back straightaway. We didn't have the time at that stage for qualifying. Later on we put on our second set. We went out and had a good time going on. We got blocked a bit by some other driver. We decide to pull into the pit, do a little bit of air pressure changes in the car. The last lap was a good lap. It was good for everyone. We're pleased to be where we are.
Mauk: Tell us about that last lap where you came from the middle of the lap. Did you know had you that kind of speed?
Tagliani: No, we had a clear lap. Everything went well. Like I said, we just cooled the tires and went back out. We used basically all the road we had available to do that lap.
Mauk: Best of luck tomorrow. We'll go ahead and open it up to the media for questions.
Q: Sebastien, these other two guys have been here before. Talk about the slipperiness of the track and going for pole when you've seen people go off the track in the morning.
Bourdais: Yeah, it's true, it's really a slippery track, especially to begin. But the grip is improving all through the weekend. It will be really good tomorrow. Already today it was better. I mean, there is a lot of grass everywhere, so I don't think it's only because it's slippery that everybody is spinning, it's also because you know you can push and don't damage your car, so everybody's trying to push and push and push. If you spin, you spin in the grass, it's not that bad.
Q: Sebastien, your two fast laps were I believe 13 and 14. Was it, again, a function of you finally had some clear laps? Did you save your tires for the end?
Bourdais: In the middle of my second run, I was blocked by many drivers. There was some traffic, some yellows. It was really difficult to achieve a good one. Even with my best lap in my first run, I got a yellow and I had to slow down. I think it could have been possible to do this lap earlier. It's just a question of timing.
Q: Paul, with your start, do you feel like you have a shot at the championship this year?
Tracy: I don't know. I just want to do the best job that I can and take each race race by race. You know, if we can finish well tomorrow, have a good day, finish on the podium, that will get us closer to a championship. We've got 18 more races to go, and it's a long championship. We'll just have to take it each race.
Q: Paul, when you went off this morning, you really lit up the tires. Were you thinking about tire conservation?
Tracy: I was on old tires when I spun from yesterday morning. It wasn't really like I was trying to save them. We have four sets of tires left, stickers. We didn't run a new set this morning. Obviously, I crashed, damaged the car. We have four sets for tomorrow, which I think is good for the race. We have a new set for every stint. I'm fairly happy about that.
Q: Sebastien, yesterday you talked as though your car was tougher to drive. Was that a function of making changes in the car or grip level, track surface? Did you make substantial changes to the car?
Bourdais: Yeah, the team did a really great job. We changed a lot of things on the car. It was a big bet this morning. We were crossing the fingers that we would have a better experience. We started to really do a good job together. It's really good. I think it's going to be really nice this year.
Q: Alex, were you concerned about damage to the undercarriage of your car?
Tagliani: Well, it was only in the grass. For sure if you go off, you hit curbs it will damage the car. I went off at turn one once, but luckily there was no damage.
Q: Sebastien, what is your relationship with Bruno Junqueira?
Bourdais: I just want to integrate in this team. Again, it's a big family. He helped me a lot especially to move in Miami. I really thank him for that. I mean, we have a really nice relationship together. The relation on the track doesn't change at all. The relationship we have, we are friends out of the track, and we just fighting on the track to get the best result for us and for the team, too. It's not a problem at all.
Q: Paul, what was the problem with Pat (Carpentier) today?
Tracy: I guess he has some type of a flu, a bad flu, Strep throat, some type of a virus in his eye. His vision, he can't see out of one eye. He tried to drive this morning and came up on one of the corners and couldn't see where he was going and drove off the track, damaged his car on the bottom, damaged the tub similar to my car. It was at the team's request that he go back and rest and sleep till tomorrow. We'll see what happens, see how he feels in the morning, see how warm-up goes, make a decision on whether he'll race or not. I hope for Team Player's that he'll be able to run because obviously he didn't get the result I think he could have had at St. Pete, and he felt like he was going to have a good weekend this weekend. It all kind of unraveled. I hope that he'll be able to run tomorrow.
Q: Sebastien, tell us about your feelings about the crowd and the track and the support of the fans here?
Bourdais: I'm really pleased. It's a beautiful place. Again, I think I never race in such a beautiful place. The track is a bit too slow from my point of view. It's very interesting and technical, as I like. It's great to be there, especially when you're so quick and on the pole, what can I expect more?
Q: Sebastien, what would you say are the main considerations for the race tomorrow from your point of view? What is your primary consideration or concern?
Bourdais: I'm really pleased with the balance of my car. On the other end, as Paul says, with four full sets of new tires, it's probably going to be tough tomorrow. What can we say? It's really difficult. I don't have the experience of the race here, so I believe the track is getting better and better again. If it's the case, I hope my car will still be good. There is no reason not to be.
Tracy: I think my main concern is I know I have a good car. I'm able to run fast on all tires. I think I raised the point with Chris Kneifel after practice this morning that maybe it would be a good idea to take those big curbs at the exit of turn three away. I know it's difficult to do for qualifying, but so far this weekend we have five or six cars with damaged tubs.
Going into Long Beach a couple weeks away, we have cars damaged, not the manpower to get the cars back to England to be fixed, repaired, back in time for Long Beach. Any more cars damaged I think would be bad for the series. Maybe we need to talk about taking that one set of curbs away and trying to make some solution there so we don't end up at Long Beach with people having problems, if they damage a car in Long Beach, they don't have a spare to use. I think that's something we really need to bring up.
Tagliani: Same thing, saving your car. It's easy to go a little bit wide in one of the corners and go over one of those curbs. We have good tires for tomorrow. We did a long one this morning in the session with old tires. We did that because we really got caught in St. Pete by not running in the warm-up. We wanted to be prepared for tomorrow. It's a very unusual track. The track seems to go faster and faster in the race compared with other tracks, you're always going slower in qualifying. This one you can almost do fastest lap time in the race than qualifying. Hopefully we'll have a good car and we'll be there at the end.