CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM MONTREAL WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND NELSON PHILIPPE ERIC MAUK:: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We have our top ...
CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM MONTREAL WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND NELSON PHILIPPE
ERIC MAUK:: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We have our top three finishers from the Champ Car Grand Prix of Montréal, round 11 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We'll start by introducing our third place finisher today, driver of the #4 CTE Racing HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for CTE Racing, Nelson Philippe. He earns his second podium finish of the year, his first career podium finish on a road course. Matches a career-high finish with a third place run today. Led 11 laps, and boosts himself to fourth in the points. Nelson, good strong run today. Tell us a little bit about it.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, if we start at the beginning of the race, which is yesterday, you know, it didn't go off really well. Had not such a stellar start. Got a big puncture on the right front, put us in the back. We started at 14th today. To be honest, at one point today I really thought that's where we were going to finish. I didn't really see any exit.
Of course, I'm not in the pits, so I don't really see what's going on around me. The guys told me -- their exact words were, Run like hell. Just put in fast lap after fast lap. I was able to pull a lead big enough. There was a gap big enough behind Paul that I was able to come out of the pits after a splash in third place. Overall very satisfied. Good way to end the weekend in Montréal.
ERIC MAUK:: You said you had thought about maybe resigning yourself to the fact you had a top 10 car. At what point did you know you had a car that could challenge for podium?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I had no idea. Honestly, I didn't think I had the chance to be on the podium. Coming out of the pits, it was a splash and go. All I saw was the blue Forsythe car. I thought to myself, That's P.T. in second place. Must be pretty good. All I know is they told me you have to run fast, run as fast as you can. That's what I did. I don't think it was good enough to be fast lap of the race, but almost there.
ERIC MAUK:: It was very close. Tell us about those laps when you led, especially last three or four. You ran some very quick laps.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I mean, in the beginning of the race, I was really having trouble getting into a rhythm and getting right. I don't know if the car just came in or something in my brain, the switch went on or something. I was able to pound the laps really fast. I usually work really well under pressure. It proves it, because I had Sebastien in my gearbox and I was able to pull away from him. Just running the fast laps I think is what enabled me to be on the podium today.
ERIC MAUK:: Congratulations. Good run today. The runner-up in today's event, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul earns his best finish ever here at the Champ Car Grand Prix of Montréal, finishing second, earning his third podium finish of the year, the 72nd podium of his illustrious career. Paul, you had a pretty busy day. Tell us a little bit about it.
PAUL TRACY: It was a good day for us. Obviously, this has not been a great track for me since we've come here. I've had my best weekend ever here. I had a good time this weekend with the crowd. The crowd had a lot of fun with me. We turned it into a good result. I'm happy to come away with a podium finish here in Montréal. It was a good day.
ERIC MAUK:: Three races left. Obviously, the title is a little bit out of reach. You guys have a tough battle for spots 4 through 10. Each one of those spots, another 10 grand in prize money. Tell us what today's finish does as you guys look towards the end of the season.
PAUL TRACY: I haven't seen the points yet today. Obviously the guy I'm battling now is Nelson for fourth. This was probably the worst track for me in the last four races. Now going to Elkhart, it's been good to me. Australia, I always run well at. Mexico City, I've won that before. We just have to keep pushing and hopefully we can get a win.
ERIC MAUK:: Unofficially right now, Nelson is in fourth with 175 points, Paul is fifth, just two points behind, 173. I don't have the full top 10 here in front of me. Fourth through 10th right now still covered by about a dozen points. There's a very tight battle going on.
Sébastien Bourdais has a 62-point lead with three events to go. A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson both are tied for second now with 248. These are unofficial point totals as we stand for the moment. While we wait for our race winner to get here, we'll take questions from our two here.
Q: Paul, it seems a little bit ironic. I mean, you came in here and you were greeted rudely, let's say. You kind of made a plus out of this whole weekend. Do you find that kind of surprising?
PAUL TRACY: No (laughter). Obviously, when I came here and heard about the papers, one of my competitors was asking the fans to not treat me well. I thought I'd try to make the best of a bad situation. There's no point in hiding in your truck and not signing autographs for the fans, 'cause that's what we're here to do. I tried to make some fun out of it. Obviously, go back and forth with the crowd. You know, you heard the podium today. It was all cheers for me when I came up on the stage. So I turned, you know, a huge negative into a positive. So it was a lot of fun.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Extra motivation, I guess, right?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah.
Q: Nelson, congratulations on third place. But I think you get an F for style points for that spin in turn two halfway through the race. A little bit of trouble getting yourself pointed around. Can you sort of talk us through that one.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I know. I kind of felt stupid. I kind of felt like Dan Clarke at Cleveland back then (laughter).
No, actually I just couldn't get it spun around a little bit because it was downhill. I tried passing Mario going into turn one. He went really, really deep. I just had to go straight, run the shortcut. I just came out and spun it around. It was unfortunate. I mean, as you say, I finished third after a spin like that and losing quite a bit of time. I tried maybe four or five attempts to spin it around (laughter). It even makes it even more special.
ERIC MAUK:: We are now joined by the winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Montréal, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He led 40 laps on the day. He also ran the fastest lap of the day. His sixth win of the year, the 22nd of his career. That ties him on the all-time list with Tony Bettenhausen and Emerson Fittipaldi. He is 13th on the all-time Champ Car list. This is also his 14th win from pole, which ties him for 4th in the all-time list with the Rocket, Rick Mears.
Big day. Big win. Possibly even a bigger day for you in the points as both your title contenders went out very early and you gained 30 points on them today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, just like you said, I guess it was a hell of a day for the championship. This McDonald's team did a mistake-free run, great pit stops. Last year we lost it as a team, and this year we won it as a team.
It was going to take exactly the opposite of what we did last year. These boys pulled a magnificent pit stop for the last one. It's all to their credit. Obviously, it can go either way from there when you come in pit lane with the field packed up. It's out of your control.
I was really, really happy to see that we peeled off first. But then it wasn't going to be that easy because obviously there were quite a few cars in front of us, and there was quite a few laps left. I decided that the best defense was the offense and pass Catherine. When that's been done right off for the braking I was feeling a little more comfortable because I could see that Nelson was pretty fast. From there on, it was a clear-cut.
ERIC MAUK:: Tell us your thoughts on the green-white-checker at the very end. What had been a nine second lead was suddenly nothing and you had one lap to defend.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I was pretty confident that the car was going to be good enough. We had plenty of 'push to pass'. Every time we had a yellow flag, we were able to pull away. So I wasn't too worried. But obviously anything can happen. You can make a mistake. You can run wide and Paul could have had a shot at us. I can't say I was very happy, but that's what racing is all about. You have to overcome anything that's in front of you.
ERIC MAUK:: 62-point lead, three races to go. It doesn't lock anything up, but it's got to make you breathe a little easier.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, for sure. It's about as good as it gets. After Denver, it was very important for us to bounce back, and now it's done. I can't say I'm really pleased at the way things went with A.J. because obviously I would have liked better to win it fair and square. You know, that's what racing is all about. We've had our share of bad days. You know, today, it was a good day.
On the other hand, Justin made a mistake. That, I guess, is part of racing, too.
Q: Paul, I guess the irony of the podium is not lost on you, the crazy Québecois surrounded by two Francophones.
PAUL TRACY: It was good to get a warm reception on the podium and the cheers of when I walked out for practice on Friday morning. I had a lot of fun this weekend. To come away with a good result, like I said, is great.
Q: The last trick with the flag on the podium, I guess.
PAUL TRACY: I gave it to the fans at the end. They had a fight over it. It was good to watch (laughter). No helmets in that fight.
Q: Since this is probably the last time that you guys are going to drive on this particular course in Champ Cars, how do you feel about the fact that we're not going to be coming back here again?
PAUL TRACY: I think I'm pretty sure we'll be back somewhere in Québec. Alan Labrosse, who is the promotor here for the last two years, I've known Alan since I started racing cars in 1985. Him and I used to race against each other. He's a stand-up, straight-up guy. He's very honest. I think he has good connections with the city and good connections with the people here. He's been able to generate sponsorship for some of the drivers in the series in Québec. I have a lot of faith in him that he'll find us another place to race in Québec.
This is a beautiful track. This is a fantastic track. When I first started racing cars in 1985, like I said, one of the first races I came to was here to watch a Grand Prix. It's a beautiful, beautiful circuit.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, well, as we said coming off the podium, I just hope that the people from Montréal are going to speak up and try and cheer for a third event on the island. If we can have that, then we'll be back for sure.
Champ Car wants to be back here. Apparently the fans want us to be back here. So there's only one man standing in the middle of it, and I guess an exception would make it a lot easier. I hope it happens.
But anyways, just like P.T. said, we'll be somewhere in Québec. If the worst comes, it's still not going to be terrible.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I kind of agree with what they said. No sense in me repeating what they said. If indeed this is the last time we race here, I'm just proud to be on the podium for the last time.
Q: Paul, there was a small incident later in the race where you seemed to have a couple of bumps there. You got in the back of, I believe it was Will Power.
PAUL TRACY: No, I kind of ran around…
ERIC MAUK:: That was the 11 car.
PAUL TRACY: I kind of ran most of the race alone pretty much, kind of chasing Sebastien with nobody behind me.
Q: Early in the race, it looked like occasionally, Paul, you could close in on Sebastien, but then the gap would kind of stabilize. What was going on there? Sebastien, were you just kind of keeping sort of a two- or three-second safety margin, or what was going on at that point?
PAUL TRACY: I think my car was pretty good. You know, obviously Sebastien was just controlling the pace that he needed to do fuel mileage-wise. I dropped back a little bit trying to save fuel. They told me to catch up. I caught up. I burned a little bit more fuel doing it.
When we came in on the first stop, I ran out of fuel down the straightaway. It was coughing and sputtering on me, but it didn't stall on me. I was pretty marginal there.
My only issue with the whole race is the very last stop after that that took about five, six laps for my tires to come up. I was running two or three seconds a lap slower than what these two guys were doing. They pulled eight or nine seconds on me. Once I got stabilized, I was running the same pace.
Q: Paul, you've had fun off the track this week. We had fun with it. You had fun with it. It's good for media promotion, we all know that. But you, as a professional racing driver, athletes, very few professional athletes, I think most of us agree, would attempt to do anything like this because it takes your mind off the discipline of your sport, having your game face on. I think the vast majority of professional athletes would never attempt this for that very reason. Is that a difficulty? How do you cope with that?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think about it too much. Obviously, it's just having fun with the crowd is what it's about with me, interacting with people, having fun. You know, I'm the kind of guy that can poke some fun at myself, too. I'm not so serious that I can't take somebody's criticism or whatever they say about me and poke it at myself as well.
You know, for me, I have to enjoy myself. To be able to keep doing this, you've got to have fun, and that's what keeps me going.
Q: As far as "keeping your game face on. Keeping your mind on-the-job at hand," it's not a problem for you in any way?
PAUL TRACY: No, not at all.
Q: One thing I think a lot of us were curious about was the track itself. Seemed like there was a lot of slipping and sliding out there. How were the conditions today?
PAUL TRACY: Very tricky in the beginning. Then towards the end the track was just pretty quick. Overall, not too bad. I think it made for an interesting race. It made for a lot of different strategies because there were some guys sliding off, different fuel strategies. Pretty good race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think it was really hard. At the beginning I think I was quicker than A.J., but obviously passing was not an option because you could just not go off the line. There was one dry line that I was at.
At the stop, I was really tempted to go over A.J. You know, but no way around. After that, I kind of settled and tried to save more fuel. But the track was getting a little wider and wider than the line. Still, it was very easy to grab some water and lock a wheel in the braking, or start to have a big wiggle. It was really tricky out there for sure.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I actually got caught up in the track conditions at the beginning of the race. I thought I had a very quick race car. I tried to overtake a few race cars. That's when I had my spin. Just tried to out-brake Mario. There was just absolutely no grip. The track was so wet. It was definitely a bit tricky in the beginning.
But we make the -- like these two guys have said, the track, it was just getting better and better. I think we were able to run some pretty competitive times considering it poured all day and all night.
ERIC MAUK:: That will bring an end to our press conference. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. We go racing again in four weeks' time at Road America.