CART Champ Car Portland post qualifying press conference. Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain Jr and Adrian Fernandez Eric Mauk: Adrian Fernandez, our third best qualifier on the day, driver of the No. 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex ...
CART Champ Car Portland post qualifying press conference.
Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain Jr and Adrian Fernandez
Eric Mauk: Adrian Fernandez, our third best qualifier on the day, driver of the No. 51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, put up the third best lap of 58.948 seconds. Its Adrian's best ever qualifying result here at Portland and matches his best of the season. He started third at St. Petersburg to start the year. Adrian, you ran in the Top 6 pretty much every practice session over the weekend. Did you feel that you had strong chance to come here and do well in this session?
Adrian Fernandez: Yeah, I actually thought I had a chance at pole. When I did my time in qualifying I thought it was going to be good enough for the pole. The track improved tremendously. There was a lot more grip than we expected and I did not have enough to catch Paul [Tracy] but we're still happy with third.
Eric Mauk: Were you surprised at how quickly the track dried?
Adrian Fernandez: As you can see the sun was out, the cars were running on it, the water was evaporating very quickly. The track was almost fine when we started the session. I came in for my second set of tires and the track was dry. We made some changes to the car. The car was pretty good on my next set of tires. I got caught in traffic; had a little too much push and I couldn't put up a very good time.
Eric Mauk: Our 2nd place driver, driver of the No. 9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Team Rahal, Michel Jourdain Jr. Despite the fact that he already had a front row spot guaranteed, he went out and put up the second fastest time of the day, his fastest lap was 58.838 seconds. Third front-row starting spot start of the year. First time ever here at PIR.
Michel Jourdain Jr: I think we're in a different position from everyone else having already gotten the spot in the front row, we didn't want to go out with everyone immediately. We waited a little while, but we may have waited a little too long. Paul did a fantastic job, Team Player's did well; just a matter of timing. Paul did well. They have been very fast all weekend. Tomorrow is a very long race. Hopefully we can get another podium and put ourselves in position for the Championship.
Eric Mauk: As you said, you waited a little bit before you went out. Five minutes into the session there was already three guys in the 58 second range. Were you surprised at how quickly people were fast?
Michel Jourdain Jr: Yes, I was. We're sitting in the car. Suddenly I see 58 and I think, oh, my God, this isn't going to be easy. I knew I had to go out and put up a good time. I think our tires had already gone off a little bit. We came in to change for the second set, we were hoping to improve our time but it started to rain. I was still very happy to be in the front row. I think it's a good starting spot. We'll find out tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: Paul Tracy, our pole sitter, driver of the No. 3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, won the pole today, with best time of 58.793 seconds. It's Paul's second pole of the year; 15th of his career moving him in soul position of 8th place in the all-time Champ Car List for poles won. He earns another championship point boosting his total to 82 on the year. Paul, congratulations. On your 4th lap out there, you put up your best time. Were you surprised to go that fast that soon?
Paul Tracy: I really didn't think we would go that fast. I started the session on old tires; the car wasn't that good. We wanted to go right away. But the green flag dropped; I did some racing with Pat out of the pits because I wanted to be out first and be clear of traffic. Whenever you feel a cold breeze around here it seems like the rain is following five, ten minutes behind, so we wanted to get out. Our goal was to go out, run three or four laps, come back in, change tires, go back out, run three or four more laps. On my second run I was able to almost match the time. The track is a little bit funny sometimes because when there's absolutely no rubber on the track when it rains the track is fast. As you get more rubber on it, it gets more slippery and you have slower lap times. The track relayed its best at the start of qualifying; felt like it was starting to get a little bit more slippery; couldn't beat the time that I did. I got close to it on two occasions. And once I was finished it started drizzling. I knew I had a good chance of securing the pole.
Eric Mauk: Mid-Ohio, where we have run more than 10 events, you haven't won it. Starting on the pole are you confident that you are going to have a chance to change that mark tomorrow?
Paul Tracy: This is a track where track position is the definitely the most important thing. Qualifying really dictates how you do in the race. It's never been a good track for me here. I have never qualified here fantastic. To be leading the field is a good feeling though. I just have to wait and see what the weather conditions do. I don't think it will really matter where you start tomorrow because it will be rain, dry, rain, dry. And it should be a good test.
Eric Mauk: Congratulation, best of luck tomorrow. We'll open it up the floor for questions.
Q: Did you make any big changes since yesterday?
Paul Tracy: No, the only thing we've done, we made a lot of changes on this way, that way; go out on new tires, the car feels good; then it gets worse and worse and worse. We started making changes to try and make it better. We ended up back where we started again. I think we went out qualifying we were only 100 pounds stiffer in the rear springs than we were when we came here. But we made massive amount of changes this morning, we were all over the place. I could hardly get around the track. I put newer tires on and jump to third. This is a track that's very difficult to judge how you are performing because it's so dependent on tires.
Q: This morning seems like you were struggling, Paul, couldn't really tell what was wrong with the car?
Paul Tracy: I was struggling. Like I said, you want to get the tires really hard here because of the speeds in the corners, the track is very abrasive so it's hard on the Bridgestones. You start to get a read, you make a change and the tires - you don't know if the change helped. We came here with our best setup; ran good in testing, very quick in testing ran and 58.9 in testing here. We made all these changes and ended up back where we started. That's how I ran my best laps; that's how we tested here.
Q: Seems like your engineer and you together did a good job figuring out the problem?
PAUL RACY: Seems like we didn't come up with any solution really because we're back where we started. Standing here after qualifying thinking to ourselves we may as well sit around and watched and just made a big flying run because my quickest lap up until the start of qualifying was my third lap, first practice session, I was faster than the third lap in qualifying session 1 and third lap - I did my best lap today qualifying 2. The rest of the time we may as well just stood around and watched.
Q: How is it going to be tomorrow in the race because you have to do a few laps; aren't you going to fall off a bit?
Michel Jourdain Jr: That's exactly the way it's going to be, third lap and he's going to be done. Everybody. (LAUGHTER).
Q: Michel, whose call was it to go out exactly when you went out during qualifying?
Michel Jourdain Jr: Everybody talks about it. We just started to wait a little bit, didn't want to start off in the middle of the pack, and have to work too hard because of the traffic, everyone is backing up to try and find the gap. The worst thing that could have happened to us was what happened, we're starting 2nd because I already had a front-row starting stop guaranteed. There are going to be some guys that are going to be very tough tomorrow. We knew we didn't have anything to lose. We just wanted to go out and try and get a pole and get another point.
Q: Could you talk about what came down from race control, that bans defensive driving?
Paul Tracy: I think it is good. It makes for a better race. Last week there was a lot of passing in the front. But you know you are able to race clean. I had an opportunity to pass Pat [Carpentier] when he ran wide. I actually couldn't see him, I was turning the wheel and I had my hand in front of my eyes and I couldn't see him. The corner was going to the right. I thought for sure he was going to come back on track and swerve across the track and he didn't. I kind of let him off the hook on it. But typically if they stopped that you will have good racing.
Michel Jourdain Jr: I think I am the best example of what can happen. I think it's very good, I passed a lot of cars last week when I was faster than the guy in front of me, you should be able to get in front of that guy. It's still not very easy to pass. I was faster than a lot of people at Laguna but I didn't always pass them on the lap I caught them. Still not easy to pass. For sure someone makes a little mistake you can get a run on them. It is much better, it's safer, it puts on a good show for the fans.
Adrian Fernandez: I agree, I like it, makes for good racing.
Q: Does that cause chance for controversy as the officials have to decide what is blocking or what isn't?
Adrian Fernandez: That's where the officials have to do their jobs. Anybody that starts blocking they have to stop it right there.
Q: How much of the race is going to be determined on an educated coin toss as to whether it turns out wet or dry?
Paul Tracy: I don't think it's so much car setup because you have a wet setup or a dry setup; with the weather like it is today the best driver will win the race. It will be the guy that doesn't fall off the traction. With the change in conditions it will be very tricky, get out there and it starts to rain you are on slicks. The driver is going to have to be in control to get back to the pits and to get rain tires, it is very hard to drive a car on rains in the dry. The team that wins this race tomorrow will be the team that does the best job with the strategy keeping the tires in touch with the weather. In order to keep these cars on the track in the rain with slick tires is virtually impossible. The best driver will win tomorrow.
Q: No intermediate setup that works well in either condition?
Paul Tracy: Rain tires don't work very well in the dry. Just like today there's going to be times when guys are driving in the rain with slicks and driving in the dry with wets is inevitable. But the best driver is going to win.
Q: What does it feel like driving down a straightaway at the mercy tails of rain?
Paul Tracy: It's not so bad. The tires are designed to do that. That's the way it was when I went out the other day. The best condition for it when it's just partially wet, the wet tires does - that is not what they are made for. The Bridgestone tires are made to break through the water when it's very wet, they do a great job in doing that. They do a good job in standing water like it was yesterday.
Q: What about your vision?
Paul Tracy: I didn't have anybody in front of me so that made it a lot easier. (LAUGHTER).
Adrian Fernandez: It's not fun when you can't see anything, it's no fun.
Paul Tracy: It's like being in an airplane in a cloud, fog, just can't see anything around you, it's like a whiteout.
Adrian Fernandez: That's the problem because you can't see anybody and you don't know how fast the other guys are around you; that's what happened in Australia last year.
Eric Mauk: You start 3rd tomorrow, you approach that first turn, if you can't see anything, how do you approach the entrance to the first turn?
Adrian Fernandez: In 3rd place I am in a better position than the guys that are in 5th or 6th or 7th. (LAUGHTER). I will be able to see a lot more than those guys. Paul will be on one side; Michelle will be on the other and hopefully I will be in between them somewhere and vision shouldn't be that bad. The track is wide enough where you can enter and I shouldn't be blocked, my vision shouldn't be blocked. I should be able to see what is going on in there.