CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM PORTLAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND PAUL TRACY ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first...
CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM PORTLAND WITH AJ ALLMENDINGER, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND PAUL TRACY
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the GI Joe's Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, round five 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 #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. He puts up a top lap of 59.121 seconds, 119.592 miles per hour. Paul, you went pretty quick first time out today. Second stint, looked like you were having a little trouble. Tell us a little about it.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, we're just really struggling with our car. Sounds like Sebastien has the same trouble. Turn six and seven, I just don't seem to have any grip. Really just chasing the car across the track. I try to turn in, the car won't turn. All of a sudden it's in an oversteer condition. I'm losing a lot of time just in the one corner. We were kind of chasing our tails a little bit, trying to fix the problem. Really on the second stint, went out and I spun there. Red came out just after that. We came up, put some more fuel in the car, went out to trying to go again, but there was too much traffic. You know, ultimately I think we got a little bit of a gift today. I don't think we really deserved to be third. We ended up there, so I guess we'll take it.
ERIC MAUK: You talk about chasing your tails a little bit. Something you can put your finger on and work on for tomorrow?
PAUL TRACY: I hope so. Talking to AJ just now, he doesn't have that condition. I think it's kind of a little bit strange. We're going to pull our car apart, look things over, see what we can find.
ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier, our current series points leader, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien puts up a quick lap of 58.464 seconds, 120.936 miles an hour. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about how it went.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it went really good for the McDonald's car. First run was good. It's just like PT said, in six and seven, it feels like you're all of a sudden going on ice. I don't know what's up there, but it was the same thing at the test. I guess AJ feels more comfortable with the car because he put the option tires. It's just on the standard tires, it's extremely difficult. There's not much you can do because for me the car is perfect everywhere else. You get to these two corners, it's the end of the day. It's bizarre. You know, we're fighting Justin, so it's okay. We just looked around in pit lane and saw who was going to put the option Bridgestone tires. AJ was one of the few takers, so tomorrow we'll have two sets. We'll stick to our guns, keep the same strategy week in, week out. Well, we hope it's going to work out tomorrow with no rain.
ERIC MAUK: We had a bit of rain about 45 before the start of the session. Did that throw you a curve ball at all?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I don't think it influenced the session at all. I think it wasn't pouring rain enough to get rid of the rubber. Just dried really quickly with the sun. No, I don't think it changed much of anything.
ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow. Leader of today's first round of qualifying, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. Puts up a quick lap today of 58.378 seconds, 121.114 miles per hour. Guarantees him a front row starting spot for Sunday's race, his first front row start of the year. Earns him a championship point, giving him 70 on the year, putting him in sole possession of fourth place. AJ also started in the front row here last year. AJ, congratulations. Tell us a little bit about your day.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Thank you. I think from the start of the weekend, including yesterday, Forsythe has done a great job to get me here and get me in the car and fitted correctly. More than anything, the team just really made me feel like at home, they're excited to have me here.
For the first time in a while, I was able to come to the track today and have fun and be happy and really enjoy myself. Practice, the team did a great job to get out there and get a good feel of the car. In qualifying, we were about a 10th off of Sebastien on the black tires, and we thought we could go out there and put the reds on. Especially, if Sebastien didn't, maybe steal one. Fortunately it worked out because the red came out when I first went out there, so I had already done about two laps on the tires. After that, as Paul said, there was a ton of traffic. I think I was probably the last guy in line.
It might have been the most ugly pole lap anybody's ever seen because I about crashed in turn one because everybody has been dropping wheels, so there was dirt all over the track. I tried to top that by crashing even harder in turn seven, but somehow stayed on the track. I really don't know how I got pole, but thanks to Forsythe and especially Red Bull for sticking behind me in the tough times. We'll take it.
ERIC MAUK: You're as competitive as anyone out here. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. How does it feel to come out here in your first session with the new squad and do so well today?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: It's obviously fantastic. It's a great feeling. More than anything, I wanted to prove to Forsythe and the whole crew and the whole team for working so hard and bringing me here, that I deserve to be there and hopefully show them that I can do the job. Hopefully today just kind of starts that process. Obviously, there's still a lot of weekend left, there's still a lot of things we're going to go through. It starts a process of showing them how hard I'm going to work and how much I want to be here at Forsythe.
ERIC MAUK: We'll take questions from the media.
Q: Somebody was saying you were fired, hired and engaged all in the space of about three days
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I was actually fired, engaged and then hired. It was more about four.
PAUL TRACY: I thought my life was complex (laughter).
AJ ALLMENDINGER: So, you know, I mean, I kind of had to laugh because I got the news on Friday. Actually, I kind of got the start of the news on Thursday, thanks to Paul. Got the news on Friday, kind of got over the initial shock, was on the phone for a bit. You know, I just thought why not, let's go get engaged in Niagara Falls. Got engaged, got hired on Tuesday. I'm going to have like a huge phone bill because I was in Toronto the whole time while doing it. I don't have a Canadian cell phone plan, so that's not good.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Cost just as much when you're calling the US anyway.
Q: It is reported that this is a two-race deal with Forsythe, how does that affect your outlook?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, I mean, I think we just want to jell as a team and see if we work well together. I think we proved that today. So really we're just kind of looking towards the rest of the year, just getting through this weekend, seeing how it goes, then Cleveland.
I know everything's going to fall into place. I've really enjoyed my time here already within just a day that I've been here. The group of guys on both cars are great to be around. Just the atmosphere in the team, it's pleasant and it's a lot of fun to be there. I know everything will fall into place. We just got to do our jobs.
Q: Paul and AJ, can you talk about how is going so far on the team?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's good. I think obviously Mario and I kind of went quite far apart in terms of setups, likes and dislikes. You know, Mario had a very difficult time driving the car that our team has kind of developed over the last couple of years with myself and Pat. There's been a lot of time and a lot of money spent going down this avenue. Mario just didn't seem to want to work within that box. The team felt it was holding the team back in terms of developing the car.
A lot of things happened, not really so much the setup differences, but the two incidents. I think that really, you know, like it said, kind of tipped Gerry over center. That was really it. It just kind of all happened that AJ became available, I know Gerry was looking at some other drivers, then all of a sudden AJ became available. The first test was this weekend. Can he drive the setup that we've migrated towards? Obviously, he can. He's on the pole.
Now we've started working today really for the first time this year on how do we make both cars better at the same time. I think we still have a lot of work to do to catch Newman/Haas, but I think we're in a much better position right now.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I would just agree with Paul on that. I think being able to come in here, the I think the biggest test was practice. I think Paul and I, we got off the track and we were within five-hundredths of each other. We basically said the exactly the same thing about the car. We made a couple of different changes to the cars. Paul said he was complaining about oversteer, I'm complaining about understeer. Hopefully we can look at both cars and find a happy medium and make us both better. Through the first day so far, it's been great to be able to work with Paul and just see what he sees in a race car because he's got so much experience and learn from that.
Q: Sebastien, can you talk about how your outlook on the season has changed a bit? Different competition now than you had in the past.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's a little early to say that. I think you can't take Justin out of the picture yet.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: You never can take Justin out of the picture.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I've known him for a long time. He's not going to give up. He's not going to give up an inch. He's going to be there week in, week out. He won't fall off. He won't make mistakes. He will just keep on finishing, taking the points, podium finish, the wins when he get a chance. Obviously, he's had a bad session. I have no idea what happened to him. It happened to us in the past, too. That's just the way racing goes. I completely expect to have Justin as being part of my main competition if I'm in contention tomorrow to fight for the pole. We'll see.
A two-guy battle might turn out to be a four-guy battle with these guys on our left, if the package is raising its game. For sure, we'll see. It's a very interesting move. I'm just surprised Cristiano didn't do better than that. Obviously, it depends very much on what setups he likes and things like that. It might just take a little bit longer on the other side to get acclimated.
Q: You guys are eight-tenths off pole here from last year, is there more left in the car?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, if I remember well, the pole was 57.8.
ERIC MAUK: 57.597.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: The first day, then slowed down the second day.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The second day was very much like that. It was warmer and everything. Yeah, you know, realistically when I went out for the last time, we put a new set of standard tires. Because we're so far back in the pits, I just wanted clean air, so I left 30 seconds after the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, Jan Heylen snuck in between. You know, it was really unfortunate because it happened to be that the timing was going to work perfectly for us. We were going to get two laps. I crossed the start/finish line with one second to go. That bought me another lap. I was 3/10ths quicker than my best lap in turn four. By turn five, I was on Jan Heylen's ass, so that was it.
PAUL TRACY: It's hard to say whether we'll go quicker than last year. We were here a month ago. Quick time was 57.0 a month ago. This track is very, very sensitive, can be very inconsistent. Like Sebastien said today, the corners -- eight of the ten corners are perfect, two of them are bad. It kind of went like that in the test. The track was really quick until all of a sudden on the second day at 2:00 in the afternoon, the track went bad. It's a very funny track to deal with.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You call that funny (laughter)? That drives me nuts.
PAUL TRACY: It can be very frustrating.
Q: A.J., how does it feel to be working with the guy that has been your mentor throughout your career?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Mentor? They keep saying that.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: He's not going to run him off the track any more because he's his teammate (laughter).
PAUL TRACY: He's been used to it, though. Why would I want to change that?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: It's funny how things come full circle. In 2000, 2001, when I was on his go-karting team, did I ever think I'd be his teammate? I never thought so. To be able to work with him now, and more than anything, for a year and a half now I've got to work with Justin, and everybody knows I think so highly of Justin, I think he's so fast inside the race car, the way he goes about things, is amazing outside of it, the stuff he can do. I was able to see really a different side of personality working. Justin is obviously very laid back, quiet in a lot of things, the way he goes about his business. Paul and I kind of have the same mentality, same personality.
To be able to work with Justin and now switch over to really basically the complete opposite of that, I'm excited about. Hopefully we can work together and use that energy to make Forsythe the best team out there.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our press conference. We set our grid with final qualifying tomorrow. Be advised we run our warm-up after qualifying tomorrow. We do not run a Sunday warm-up here this weekend. We will run a warm-up after final qualifying tomorrow.