Top three qualifiers press conference from Road America with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier. Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, assorted meat products, we'll start our final qualifying press conference for the Mario ...
Top three qualifiers press conference from Road America with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Patrick Carpentier.
Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, assorted meat products, we'll start our final qualifying press conference for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton, round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We're joined by our top three qualifiers here on the day. Third in today's qualifying run, Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Patrick used his last lap to hang a time of 1:44.306 seconds, 139.721 miles per hour on the field. This is the third time in the last six races that Pat has qualified in the top three. Pat, congratulations. Tell us about your run.
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, it was good. Made some changes in the car, just really small changes. Drove it, and the car was a lot better. We could put a lap together. On the second set, we waited a long time to come out of the pits. I was stuck with a few back markers. On every lap I was catching them, I couldn't get a lap. Finally we got a couple laps in, and improved the time 1/10th. But I'm pretty happy this weekend. A few things change. For me it's the first time that we run fast here at Elkhart Lake. It's a good thing. It's good for the team. The last two weekends for us have been extremely tough. A lot of battles inside the team. This weekend is a good thing.
Eric Mauk: Another night here at Elkhart Lake. Another rainstorm. You come out here this morning. Again, was it a totally green track or was there anything left over from yesterday?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, I think it's a little bit harder on the tires. Every time you put rubber down and seem to get going, the rain comes down and washes it out. You go back out and put some more rubber down. But the track at the end of the qualifying was pretty decent. I think my car was good, so the track felt pretty good.
Eric Mauk: Last two times out, you've been in the points. First few times here, it was kind of a struggle for you. Feeling a little more confident? Feeling strong going into tomorrow?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, I think we have a good car. It's well-balanced. We don't seem to use one or the other of the cars more. You know, when the tires go off, they all go off. This morning we ran with tires that had 24 laps on the car, and it was a little bit loose. But the car I think is pretty good.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Second is Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, who will start on the front row for the sixth time this season after our rookie points leader put up a time of 1:44.242 seconds, 139.798 miles per hour. Sebastien, congratulations. Starting on the outside of the front row. Tell us about your run.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think we had two good runs. Unfortunately, I didn't put either of my laps together. I made some mistakes every time. But we closed the gap a lot with Bruno. The Lilly crew did a good job. I think we're pretty much there. Just need to balance the car again. But now it's another practice. We will need to be on the pace for the race. Obviously, I don't know exactly what's going to happen about the weather forecast, but I just expect the track is going to be consistent, because it's a lot of pit strategy, and it's always frustrating if you're not on the right one.
Eric Mauk: We talked yesterday about this is your first event weekend here at Road America. But you have tested here. You talked yesterday about being comfortable with the track. Now that you've been here long enough, where do you see the key points of this track being for tomorrow's race?
Sebastien Bourdais: There are a lot of key points. There are a lot of straight lines and there is a lot of corners where if you do a mistake, somebody can go by you. It's a demanding track about the consistency on your mind. It's very easy to make a small mistake because the speeds are very high. It's very easy to miss a braking point or turning point. And as soon as you go flying, you lose a lot of grip, and it takes you like half a lap to go back on a good tire grip. But I think we are pretty much there with the Newman/Haas Racing car. Bruno is obviously very quick. I hope we should be able to pull a bit away in that. We'll see tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Our polesitter is Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Bruno wins his first pole of the season after putting up a lap of 1:43.703 seconds, 140.524 miles per hour, making him the first driver since Michael Andretti in 1998 and '99 to win back-to-back poles here at Road America. This is the sixth pole of Bruno's career, gives him another championship point, boosting his total to 143 on the season, closing the gap to 18 on Paul Tracy.
Q:Bruno, you've done everything but sit on pole and win a race this year. How good does it feel to get up here on pole?
Bruno Junqueira: It feels really good. I've been on the pole Friday a lot of times, missing the pole by hundredths or thousandths of a second, a lot of times in the front row, a lot of times been second. It feels really good. I hope this track can bring me luck again and I can get my first win with the PacifiCare Newman/Haas Racing, first win this year.
Eric Mauk: We go to a lot of tracks where the field is separated by a 10th, 2/10ths. You have 7/10ths on the field going into tomorrow. How do you keep from becoming overconfident when you have a gap like that?
Bruno Junqueira: It's quite difficult. I always feel really well in qualify, but I know once we start racing, the guy that's behind can draft, and then all those differences goes away. It's very difficult to break away and open a gap on this track. I remember last year, even if I was like half a second faster than Cristiano (da Matta) in qualifying, he was close to me because he would make a 10th of a second every straightaway. You have three long straightaways. That's a half a second just on the straight line. On the other hand, here is no more fuel economy. Because even last year, I was a little bit lean, trying to save a little bit of fuel. Same I think was Cristiano. This year going to be good because we have to push all the 60 laps. Is a very difficult racetrack to push hard, hard all the time.
I hope doesn't rain tomorrow because when rains here, it rains really heavy. I hope it doesn't rain on the race. That's something that can happen. Unfortunately, it happened 2001. But I hope doesn't rain. Because when it rains, separation gets really, really difficult here.
Eric Mauk: In true racing fashion, Pat has already shaved 2/10ths of a second off of the lead, correctly reminding me the gap is only 5/10ths instead of 7/10ths. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media now.
Q: Bruno, after last weekend, you said you really thought this was going to be maybe the most important race for the season because you believe you're very quick here, as you demonstrated. Tracy obviously believed he was going to be quick here. So far it's worked out well. You're on the pole; Tracy is a bit behind. Do you still feel this is really critical for you for the championship, to win this race?
Bruno Junqueira: I still feel that. I think until now we didn't get much. Tracy already won this race from last place. Tomorrow is the race day. It is important for me to have a good race, and I hope I can try to get my first win this year. As I said, that's one of the racetracks that Tracy has most of his confidence, and that's the racetrack that I have most of my confidence. It is the time of the year that it's important for me to start to win races. That's what I am going to try tomorrow, to get my first win, and close the gap for Tracy.
Q: Patrick, you're a half second quicker than yesterday. What was the difference for you today?
Patrick Carpentier: We made some changes. The car was more stable and I could attack the corners a little bit more. I could enter deeper into the corners and keep the speed up a little bit. Kept the momentum up. That's a momentum track, if you can keep the speed. We were really weak yesterday in the carrousel, and we made some change to improve that. It was a lot better today than it was yesterday.
Q: For all three, I know Sebastien hasn't been here before, but can you talk about the fact that they've actually lengthened this by 10 laps? Used to be 50 laps, as I remember. Now you're doing like 240 miles instead of 200 miles.
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, it's a pretty long race.
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, I don't know why they keep lengthening every race this year. But to me a great race does not necessarily go by the length of it, it goes by the show you have during the race. So I don't know why they lengthen it. I was not aware of it. So thanks for letting me know we're going to have a longer race tomorrow (laughter).
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, I think that last year was for some reason, I don't know, for TV or whatever. I think last year it was already 55 or 60 laps here. Every year they keep making the race longer. I mean, this track, a lot of drivers think it's very easy because you have the straightaway. But, I mean, is not that easy physically because especially on the tight corners, it's quite difficult. At the end of the race, you can get a little bit tired. But I hope they don't make the next race, next weekend, so long. Because that one, I tell, that's a difficult one.
Patrick Carpentier: One good thing is they gave us an extra set of tires. We got eight instead of seven.
Bruno Junqueira: No, but last year was the same, eight sets, because it's four pit stops. Same as Cleveland.
Eric Mauk: Actually, last year we did run 60 laps here. It was the first time we had run 60 laps here.
Bruno Junqueira: It should be 60. 2001 was 55.
Eric Mauk: Right, 55 in 2001.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, I think definitely it's mentally demanding. I think it's very easy, again, to do a mistake. 60 laps on this racetrack without any trouble, I think it's already a performance.
Q: Bruno, correct me if I'm wrong, you didn't go out in the 10-minute practice session before the qualifying.
Bruno Junqueira: No.
Q: Can you explain why?
Bruno Junqueira: I think it rained so much this morning, I didn't feel that the track would be up to speed on both 10 minutes. Same as yesterday. I don't seem so confident with the car. I don't want to go on 10 minutes and the track to be dirty and the car will be sliding all over the place, and say, "Oh, well, I want to change something." I know that the car that I have, then I just wait the right time to go on the track.
Q: Same for you yesterday, Sebastien.
Sebastien Bourdais: Today we just went out to bed brakes. We had to test new brakes. Basically that's the only thing we did during this session.
Q: Bruno and Patrick, since you've raced here before, starting position doesn't seem to be so important here as it is on some of the other road courses. Could you talk about that a little bit, please.
Patrick Carpentier: Like Bruno said, Paul started at the back one year and won the race. But it was a different time back then. The fuel strategy and pit windows were not obligatory as they are today. You know, we have to stop on lap 13, and everybody does. It's a bit harder to go from the back and go to the front. We haven't seen that as much this year. But any guys, for sure Bruno has been really, really fast all weekend, the Newman/Haas team. But it's a long race. 60 laps is a long time. I remember Tag left at the front one year and didn't finish. So many things can happen. We're going to see what happens. For sure I know these guys are going to be fast. We're going to be fast. It's going to be a fast-paced race. We'll see who is there at the end.
Bruno Junqueira: For sure you can pass on this racetrack. It's quite difficult because the field is pretty tight. I think from Sebastien to the guy that's 11th is less than half a second. Half a second here is not much. Then the field is pretty tight. But as Patrick said, now that it's not fuel consumption that makes the difference, it's much more difficult to come throughout the field. Because in the past, you could pass, because the guy in front was saving fuel, then he tries to overtake, you have the power, extra power, to pass the guy in front. He just goes two laps longer and pass, you know. But now there is not that anymore. That's the beauty about those new rules. Who goes fast goes fast, you know.
Q: How much did the rain affect your preparation? I mean, you guys raced faster than yesterday, so did it have any effect on you guys today?
Sebastien Bourdais: The track was quicker because it was a bit colder maybe. Even if it rained, it didn't quite wash out the racetrack. We still had some rubber. Then we kept put more and more. It gets quicker. Everybody is adjusting the car. The setup is always a bit better second day than the first day.
Patrick Carpentier: It never rained a lot during the session, so it didn't really affect us. The only time was 10 minutes before qualifying where we thought the track was not as good. Went out, same thing, just to do brakes. But it didn't change much for me. For sure this track can accumulate quite a bit of rubber and get pretty sticky over the weekend. And it didn't do as much this weekend. But during the race, it will do.
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, I think what they say is right (laughter). I think if doesn't rain, you going to keep going fast and fast and fast during the race. After every pit stop, we're going to go like 3/, 4/10ths average every lap faster, after every pit stop.
Eric Mauk: That wraps it up. We start tomorrow morning with warm-up at 10 a.m. 60 laps of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America begins at 2 p.m. Thank you very much.