CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM SAN JOSE WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, CRISTIANO da MATTA AND JUSTIN WILSON ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference, our top three ...
CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM SAN JOSE WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, CRISTIANO da MATTA AND JUSTIN WILSON
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference, our top three finishers from the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose presented by Taylor Woodrow.
We will start with our third place finisher, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. Justin started 12th today before finishing third, picked up the extra championship point that is awarded for gaining the most positions in a race. It's his sixth podium finish of the year, the ninth of his career, and he maintains his hold on second place with today's finish. Justin, a long way to go, made up nine spots. Good, strong race. Tell us a little bit about how it felt.
JUSTIN WILSON: It obviously felt great to get on the podium after a day like we had yesterday. Things didn't work out. I gave the crew lot of work to do. Just very pleased to try to repay some of their efforts. They did a fantastic job in the pits today to give us the opportunity to move up.
ERIC MAUK: Early on you had a couple guys in front of you that got taken out and got out of your way for you. You had to get by a number of people. Tell us about how you were able to do that.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was just trying to pick the right situation. There were people that were trying to make a move and didn't make it happen, and I managed to get past Nelson Philippe I think both times when he tried something on the car in front and it didn't work out.
It was just trying to calculate when it's time to push, when it's time to save fuel and sit back and let the race come to you. Just really pleased that I was able to get the car on the podium for RuSPORT and CDW.
ERIC MAUK: All in all, a satisfying result?
JUSTIN WILSON: I think so. It would have been nice to stop Sebastien getting a few more points. Under the circumstances, the way the weekend was working out, I'm very pleased with what we've got.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Finishing as the runner-up today, Justin's RuSPORT teammate, driver of the #10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Cristiano da Matta. The 2002 series champion puts up his best finish of the season, the 20th podium finish of his career, the first since his Portland win last season. The result today also moves him up three spots in the standings. He was 10th at the start of the weekend, now moved up into a tie for seventh.
Cristiano, good strong run, one you've been chasing for a while. Tell us a little bit about it.
CRISTIANO da MATTA: It felt good, we have been working and working on the car and improving it every week and we are happy that we have been able to put together a good result today.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good result. The champion of the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose presented by Taylor Woodrow, the same driver that won it a year ago, back-to-back here at San Jose, just like he's gone back-to-back with the two last Champ Car titles, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais.
His fifth win of the year, the 21st of his career. He also posted the fastest lap of the day, led 69 laps, moves up to a 31-point lead over Justin Wilson in the standings. Sebastien, pretty much from the start things went your way. Tell us a little about it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think it was a brilliant day for the McDonald's team. We just had the perfect setup. The car would take a few laps to really go up to speed. But once it was there, it was just unstoppable. It was a great feeling. I was able to, without taking stupid chances, really run fast towards the end of the race when the fuel didn't matter any more.
You know, at the start, I was just really, really surprised that they threw the green flag when P.T. did what he did, really jumping it. Clearly he was ahead already as soon as we put full throttle. You know, he had been asked to be on my rear wing. That wasn't exactly what I was looking for. You know, I just had to give him the position. That was quite frustrating.
I was really happy to see that race control decided to correct that. Once we got in the lead, we really didn't have anybody that seemed to be able to get to us. Obviously, it's a little bit of a shame for (Dan) Clarke. He seemed to have a pretty good car. In the meantime, I'm pretty sure he wasn't saving fuel when all of us were. He could stay with me for quite some time after the first pit stop. But I was just kind of holding him just to make sure -- far enough to make sure he wasn't going to try anything, in the meantime saving as much fuel as I could, maintaining that pace.
The deal changed a little bit as soon as he had the mechanical. I didn't have to push quite as much. I could save a lot more fuel. We never kind of could show where we were going to stop or anything because both stops were under yellow. Anyway, it was a great day for us. I really enjoyed driving the car. The car was rubbering in and getting very nice to drive. I think I hope the fans really liked it because it seemed like it was quite hectic behind me.
ERIC MAUK: This win for Sebastien today, the 13th of his career from the pole position. That moves him ahead of Michael Andretti and into fifth place all time for wins from the pole position in a Champ Car event. Also the 69 laps led we alluded to before gives Sebastien 1514 total laps led, moving him into 18th, ahead of a pair of former Champ Car titlists in Alex Zanardi and Danny Sullivan.
Also, the total attendance for the weekend has been announced, 155,934. That is up about 2,000 from last year. It puts the Champ Car World Series over 1 million in attendance this year just after nine events. Top five in points, unofficially, Sebastien leads with 255, Justin is second with 224, A.J. Allmendinger third with 210, Mario Dominguez moves up to fourth with 141, Paul Tracy hangs on to fifth with 138. We'll take questions from our top three finishers now.
Q: Sebastien, you got a 31-point lead now over Justin, and A.J. has fallen quite a ways back. Five races to go. Are you feeling any more comfortable with the points situation?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think it won't be done until the very end probably, unless we can maintain over 35 points lead with two races to go. The only thing we need to do is keep on finishing and then we'll see.
As you know, it's very hard to clinch the championship a race or two before the end. It's probably going to come down to the wire. I mean, Justin, you can see, even when he has a bad weekend, he manages to bounce back and from 12th finishes 3rd. Okay, it was probably a day that went well for him because things played out the right way. But, you know, still he's very strong and consistent. I know him very well. We've been kind of doing that for quite some time now.
Even though A.J. has dropped some, we can't take him out of the equation. We'll see what happens. But we just got to keep on doing what we do: finish races, be fast, run mistake-free. If we can do that, we should have a pretty fair shot at it.
Q: Shorty, as a race winner and former champion, how important is it for you to get back on podiums and winning and establishing yourself with the team?
CRISTIANO da MATTA: It's great to get this result because I admit, there have been some times when I wondered if it was going to happen again. Now that pressure is off and I can focus on making the car better and becoming a consistent threat for podiums and top-fives.
Q: The course was a lot different this year. Seemed to be a lot smoother. Wanted to know your opinions about how was it driving this course compared to last year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Were you disappointed you didn't see cars flying at the start (laughter)?
Well, I think there's no need to say again that this track was a lot better. There is really no comparison with last year. The promoter spent a lot of money on fixing all the issues we had. I think there's still a few bumps that could make our life a little easier. In the meantime, you know, you kind of wonder sometimes if making it easy is not kind of ruining the show. Definitely gave us an opportunity to fight. You could see a lot of passing. At least the asphalt stayed together and we could run hard for most of the race. That was good on my side at least.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, from my point of view, the track is a lot better. It's enabled us to attack the course and overtake this year. The improvements have been fantastic. I'm sure Sebastien doesn't want them to make it any smoother, that's because his car is working well. It's down to us, the rest of the teams, to figure it out and catch them up.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's a new car (laughter).
Q: Particularly Sebastien and Cristiano, in that two-thirds stage of the race when Oriol Servia and Charles Zwolsman were technically leading the race, I imagine kind of a difficult tactical game for you to play, Sebastien, because I'm sure you were faster than those guys, but yet at the same time you weren't in a position where you could -- you didn't want to make a bonsai move on them, on Zwolsman. Can you talk about how you played that. Also, Cristiano, were you able to -- did you think you had any chance of actually really closing in on Sebastien during that stage?
CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, I turned what, the third-fastest lap of the race, and I was still nine-tenths of a second slower than Sebastien, so I really don't think I could have done much to make up any ground on him. Plus, the fuel mileage number I was trying to hit was a tough for me to hit, so it was tough to make up any ground.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, for me it was kind of mixed feelings a little bit 'cause I was achieving a much better mileage when I was behind Charles. I'm sure he wasn't saving fuel at all because, you know, he didn't have to. His only target was to try and make as much ground on the people that were behind to kind of get positions out of the pits.
You know, I knew if I was going to go by, I could pull away a little bit and make sure I was just going to get myself out of reach. So it was a little like, you know, should I try, should I not try? So I saved enough fuel that I could use the 'push to pass' a couple of times and at least really give it a shot. I closed in on the last two corners, didn't save fuel for the last two corners, and got on him. I guess if he had not been in the middle of the track, I probably could have been side by side with him down the straightaway. I had to pick the outside and put myself in the marbles. From there on, I was like, Are you sure this is going to work? It was kind of, you know, Should you really put yourself in that position leading the race, knowing they're going to pit?
It proved to be useless anyway because, okay, I pass him, but the yellow came out very soon after and the nice margin I had on Cristiano was taken away. You know, it's always like that. You know, you try and build a gap, you pull away, then a yellow comes out, do it all over again. It was just a little difficult to manage.
Q: Sebastien, were you aware of how many positions Justin was making up? If so, was that putting any pressure on you to keep it off the wall? Finally, when you were behind Zwolsman, were you able to save your tires or did that really matter?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, the Bridgestone tires were consistent enough. Craig (Hampson) was coming on the radio telling me, you know, Save the tires for the end of the race. I didn't really need to, so that was not a concern.
No, the progress Justin was making, I could see. At the beginning, I didn't know where he was. At some point during a yellow flag, the team told me where he was. I was actually pretty happy he was not too close (laughter). Then the whole world fell apart and people started to make mistakes. I could see his board, so that meant he was closing, getting positions.
Didn't change anything on my approach. It's not because he was closing on me that I had any more pressure not to stuff it because obviously from the very beginning, the key word was going to be, you know, to finish that race, and that's the key word until the very end of the season. Didn't change my approach.
I could see the advantage we had at the beginning of the race getting smaller and smaller. It's still nice to get a few points on him, but definitely not as big as we would have liked it to be, you know, after a pretty bad qualifying for him on Saturday.
ERIC MAUK: We'll end the press conference here. Thank you.