Press conference from The Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented By Briggs & Stratton with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Tagliani Part 1 of 2. Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We're going to ...
Press conference from The Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented By Briggs & Stratton with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Tagliani
Part 1 of 2.
Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We're going to go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America, presented by Briggs & Stratton. Before we get started, I'd like to give a round of applause to not only these drivers, but all the drivers of the CART Champ Car World Series that outlasted some pretty tough conditions and gave us a pretty thrilling race here at the end of the day for 34 laps.
Right now we're joined by our top two finishers, not coincidentally from the same team, Newman/Haas Racing. The first 1-2 sweep for Newman/Haas Racing since the Grand Prix of the Americas in Miami last year when Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi finished first and second, except for those guys took one and two in Brands Hatch Sebastien Bourdais winning that one, Bruno coming in second.
Sebastien Bourdais: Don't try to recover, you messed up. (laughter).
Eric Mauk: We'll start with today's runner-up, Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Our rookie points leader ran the fastest lap of the day and made up nearly four seconds in the last five laps to finish just point 703 seconds behind our winner. This is the fifth podium of the year for Sebastien. Congratulations. Tell us about those last few laps. You really made up some ground and gave a challenge to Bruno at the end of the day.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, basically I think for the last stint, I thought the track was going really quickly, and I was really concerned about the fact that I could run out of tires for the end of the stint. Nobody was pushing my back. I said, "Okay, let's take it easy. I'm not going to try anything silly on Bruno." And I wanted to finish this race. A podium, a second place, was pretty good. We're closing the gap for points. It was a good deal for us, the 1-2 for Newman/Haas Racing. I said, "Let's try to make it safe." The last five laps when I felt basically the tires were hanging in pretty well, I was pretty close from the checkered, I said, "Okay, now we can try to push a bit more." Also because Tag was closing the gap on me, I said, "Okay, now it's time to push a bit more." I closed the gap and I think Bruno was just trying to see the checkered also. You know, it's always the kind of races when everybody's trying to make a kind of compromise to see the checkered in good conditions.
Eric Mauk: Last pit stop, a lot of radio conversations on whether you wanted to stay on the wets or go to slicks. How close of a decision was that for you guys?
Sebastien Bourdais: I think it would have been pretty close. But we got some drops of rain just before the pit stop. I just changed completely our mind, and especially mine. I think definitely it was the right choice, and the safe one to stay on wet tires, especially because all the field was putting new sets of wets again. It was just a bit of a gamble. When you are in P2, you don't want to play any gamble.
Eric Mauk: Sebastien stays in fourth place in the points but closes to within nine of third place. He has 116 on the season. Third in today's race, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing, Alex Tagliani. Alex takes his third podium finish of the season and the eighth of his career and finishes in the top-three at Road America for the second straight year. Alex, congratulations. You had a couple serious dices out there early on. Take us through some of that action.
Alex Tagliani: Yeah, well, first of all, I have to say that I was quite pleased that they started the race damp because, I mean, our team decided to go with like 85 percent wet setup, and we were hoping to start the race early. When we were looking at our car in the pit lane, they were drying the track with the jet dryer, we were getting a little bit nervous. So for us with the decision that we made, we were quite happy that they started the race with wet conditions.
I mean, my car was good early on into the race. Came from pretty far back. I had to pass a couple of guys. But, you know, when you have a good car in the wet, it's a little bit easier. So I just had to make no mistakes. The toughest fight was with Patrick Carpentier. He was quite quick on the straights. I was quicker in the corners, but I was not able to get by. My team did a good job in the pits. We came in and came out in front of him. Then when I was behind Sebastien, I was hoping to save the tires a little bit and run into the wet all around the track. I could see him going into the dry. I was hoping he was going to blister or burn his tires, and I can come back later on. But the tires lasted. I had to push really hard to get close back to him. I flat-spotted the front tires up to the cord. I was done the last two laps. I was just hanging there. And that's it.
Eric Mauk: Through your four-year career, you've been very good here. Three times started in the top three, a couple podiums now. What is it this about this track that suits your driving style?
Alex Tagliani: I don't think it's the track that suits the driving style. I think, you know, if you go on a racetrack and the setup is good, you love the track, you like it. For the last three years, I loved it. Yesterday I hated it. And today I like it again, so (laughter). It depends how you're able to compete. We definitely struggled with a couple of things on our car this weekend that we keep on finding it and we're learning it. But for the future, I think we're going to get better and better. The rain was definitely an equalizer for everybody. But I guess it's, again, a track that you love are tracks where your car is fast and you're competitive.
Eric Mauk: The winner of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America, presented by Briggs & Stratton is Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Bruno claims his first win of the season, the fourth of his career, leading all 34 laps and claiming all 23 championship points available over the weekend. He takes the series points lead for the first time in his career. Bruno, big weekend for you. How does it feel?
Bruno Junqueira: It feels really good. First thing I have to thank Mario Andretti for bringing this race back and give opportunity for everybody to stay here and give opportunity for me to get my first win this year. It was a very good weekend for me and the whole PacifiCare Newman/Haas team. We were able to get our first pole of the year. We were on the pole a lot of times Friday -- but could never repeat Saturday. But this time we were able to get the pole by a big gap. That was pretty nice.
The race was really difficult because the track was damp. I think CART made a good decision not to start the race early on because for me and Sebastien was okay, but for the people in the back, I don't think they could see much because of the spray. Then when the track got a little bit dryer, they blow the jets. Then when it start the race, really the racetrack was in a good condition. When they asked me about this, I said, "It is slippery, but is okay. There was not big spray. A regular wet race that's difficult, but there it is." Then they started the race.
The early laps were really difficult because I was in front and I didn't have any practice this weekend on the wet. Then I had to find the grip of the track. And then Sebastien was following me on the first two or three laps. Then when the tires got a little bit hot, I started to feel the track, I started to push a little bit harder until I open a gap on him. Then came the yellow. We did the last pit stop. The team did another great pit stop. And after the last restart, I was able to pull away. I was pulling away a little bit every lap until with like five laps to go.
The track -- like seven laps to go it started to rain a little bit. I didn't want to push harder. And like with five laps to go, the rain stopped. And then Sebastien did a very good lap. He was like one and a half seconds faster than me. Then when I look, I think he's getting close. I thought that five seconds was a good margin. But, you know, in a lap, it is very easy to go one second, one and a half second slower. Then I push a little bit harder - not too much because I still have like three and a half seconds over him. I knew that he was pushing hard. I try to build the speed a little bit every lap, but without make any mistakes because I knew there were three or four laps to go. And my car was in good shape. I know it will be really difficult for him first to close the gap, and after to pass.
I improve the speed. I made a calculation on the last two laps that he would be close to me, like one and a half, two seconds, but not enough to try to move on me. That's I think what happened in the end. I think it was a very difficult race because the track was getting dry. But, anyway, I think I had completely the dry setup apart of a little bit left front wing, and brakes. Didn't put any more downforce or didn't put any other change on suspension on the car for the wet. We did not think that the track couldn't dry out. We thought it would be like a very heavy storm and then it dry out. I don't know it make any difference. But I think the basic setup of the car was good, no matter what, the dry or the wet, was good. I think was really good for all the Newman/Haas team. Another 1-2, and good for me for the championship that I got this. I think after Vancouver, I said that I lost the concentration in the race. My dad and my mom, they said, "Bruno, come on." I said, "No problem."
They thought I was giving up. But I think through all my life, everything I go after was really, really difficult. I had really bad times. Sometimes when I have a difficult moment, I get some inspiration inside of me that I became stronger than before. And I think that's what happen. I think after Vancouver, something happen on me. I was a little bit shaken for everything that's happen. I said, "I'm going to be strong." Nothing's better than my favorite racetrack, that's Road America. Nothing better to have a perfect weekend, 23 points, pole on both days, lead all laps. I'm quite happy. Still a long ways to go in the championship. I think Paul Tracy is looking very strong. Michel Jourdain is very consistent. Sebastien is very fast. Now he's starting to be consistent and get on the groove. And then I think it's like four very strong guys for the end of the championship. Then have to keep working hard and to get a great result in the end of the year.