Top three finishers in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Interview with Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain and Bruno Junqueira Part 1 of 2 Eric Mauk: We'll start the top-three finishers conference from today's season opening Grand Prix of St.
Top three finishers in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Interview with Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain and Bruno Junqueira
Part 1 of 2
Eric Mauk: We'll start the top-three finishers conference from today's season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first race of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Joining me now are the second and third place finishers in today's race. The third place finisher, Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He takes the third spot after starting seventh today. This is his eighth career podium finish and his best season opening finish in his career. Tell us about your day.
Bruno Junqueira: Had quite a difficult weekend. Friday I was second fastest, but still, because of the red flags, I couldn't get my best lap. Saturday was terrible. Couldn't get a lap at all. Then I start seventh. I really thought I should start from the front row, the pole, second. I think the PacifiCare car was good, we had a chance to do it. It was a long race. I felt I could do a good race. But the car was handling very well, but on the first pit stop, we had a problem with the right tires that cost us a lot of time. We went almost to last. Then I started passing people. That was really, really difficult on this track. I think I was one guy was able to pass people fighting for position.
The car, the PacifiCare car, was handling very well. We went forward. The Newman/Haas team started to do good pit stops, good strategy, that helped me a lot to go forward. I think it's like 30, 35 laps till the end and I was third, behind Jourdain. I made a lot of pressure on him. The end of the race, the track was really slippery. I started to have a problem on my brakes. I thought it would be really difficult to pass him. If you can't brake really well, it's difficult to outbrake him. I said, "Okay, let's hang around, make pressure." But then I got traffic twice. He broke away a little bit. I just slowed down to keep it third place. After that, third didn't look so bad.
Mauk: You made some passes up through the field, had a couple of different battles with Mario Haberfeld, couple of inside moves, made some passes there. Tell us about those battles.
Junqueira: I think on the second lap, I came inside Mario on turn one, on the straight. He started to squeeze me to the wall. I lifted a little bit. After the wall was finished, he still was squeezing me. I broke inside of him and said that that was my position. I didn't believe that he could block me that much. I was set to do the corner, then suddenly I see Jourdain doing the corner. I said that I had to go straight. I almost hit Jourdain. Oh, my God. I had to go straight, make Jourdain pass, then I turn right, then I went wide, but I passed him.
I think that was really bad. Unfortunately, because of the first pit stop, we went to last, and I had to pass him again. Then I get a run on him at the exit of turn three, I went inside. He squeezed me until I was touching the right wall. I passed him again. But that time at least I was expecting him to behave really bad. I hope these stewards do something about it because that can be very, very dangerous. He already had a lot of crash in his past. If you want to keep alive, you have to behave a little better.
Mauk: Our runner-up today, Michel Jourdain, Jr., driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, earns the best finish of his Champ Car career, taking home the second place trophy. His previous best finish came at Michigan where he placed third, that was two years ago. Tell us about your run today.
Michel Jourdain, Jr.: Thank you very much. I gave some money to Haberfeld this morning. It was like, "Okay, I don't want Bruno on my tail for the first laps, so do something with him. If you do that, I pay double." I got to give him some of the prize money.
Junqueira: You're going to give him your prize money?
Jourdain Jr.: Mario.
Junqueira: Really (laughter)?
Jourdain Jr.: Yes.
Junqueira: I thought you were going to give me half of the prize money because at the end of the race, I was nice to you. I keep you ahead of second place. Come on!
Mauk: Either way, money well spent.
Jourdain Jr.: It was a very long race. The track changed a lot at the end. It was very, very slippery, like Bruno said. It was hard to stay on the track. It was very easy to make a mistake. There were a lot of yellows, especially in the last restart. The tires were so, so slippery, I made a couple mistakes. Paul really pulled away in those first couple of laps. Bruno was really on my tail.
Junqueira: You almost crashed.
Jourdain Jr.: Si (laughter). I'm very happy. We had a good car all weekend. I think we could have done a couple places better in qualifying. The result is great. It's great to have a start like this, especially going into Monterrey, Mexico. I love that track. The fans are great. Hopefully this helps. I'm sure this will help for the race. Last year we had a great year. We just need to qualify better, get rid of these guys that are too fast and we'll be winning a lot of races.
Mauk: We are now joined by today's race winner, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He captured the 20th win of his Champ Car win, tying him with Earl Cooper for 16th on the all-time win list. Paul led 71 laps on the day, the most he has led on a street course since his 1999 win in Houston, where he led 85 laps. Tell us how it feels to get the win first out this year.
Paul Tracy: It's a great feeling. To have my first win with Team Player's, I just have to thank them for all the work they've put in, switching over the winter from Reynards to Lolas, pretty much at my request. It was a lot of work, a lot of money invested. This is how I can reward them back for the effort that they put in. I had a good day today. No real trouble at all. You know, I just kind of was pacing myself the first bit of the race behind Sebastien. We did a different pit strategy. I was held up for a little while. In the end, Sebastien ended up taking care of himself and it pretty much was easy after that. I was just able to go at my own pace, conserve the tires, not have to push too hard. It was a great day.
Mauk: A couple laps after the last restart, Michel closed into 3.9 seconds behind you. Next lap you got another second and a half on him. From there, it was as close as he got.
Tracy: I slowed down a little bit because I felt I was going pretty hard in the beginning. I felt the tires starting to go away. I started to slide around a little bit, slide around. The car was getting very over-steery. I just slowed down for three or four laps. I lost quite a bit of time. I had an eight-second lead. It came down to just about four. I got my tires under control, kind of got the grip back, then I was able to pull away at the end to 10 seconds. I kind of gave him a little bit of a tease to let him catch up. I think he felt it, "I'll push harder." Maybe his tires fell off, and then I was able to pick it up again.
Mauk: Official margin of victory, 12.136 seconds. Let's open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Paul, what was your strategy?
Tracy: I tried to make a good start. We made a dead equal start. We went into the first turn side by side. He ran a little bit wide. I squared up, got on the outside of him the next turn. I was going to try to get him the first lap, but he was pretty quick on cold tires.
After the first three or four corners, I knew that I wasn't going to get him. I just basically stayed behind him. I was about two or three seconds behind him, not trying to use too much fuel. At first we were thinking we were going to go all the way to lap 30. Then when that yellow came out, we decided not to.
He had actually slowed down on the yellow. The yellow came out, and he slowed down, waiting for the pace car. It allowed a lot of people to pack up. I think we'd have been maybe better if he'd have kept the pace around on that yellow, but he decided to stay out. I came in. Pretty much the whole field came in, except for Adrian and Emerson's driver.
I got stuck behind Monteiro for 20 laps. I lost a lot of time to Bourdais on that stint. He rocketed out of the pits right in front of me, cut right across the front of me, and I got him on the next straightaway. It was maybe two or three laps later that they radioed me and told me that he had brushed the wall and did some damage or something.
From there, I knew that we were kind of in control of the race. I just had to pace myself, not make any mistakes. Like Michel said, the track was getting slipperier and slipperier. I was expecting to go faster and faster throughout the race, probably go quicker than qualifying, but it didn't really rubber up like I thought it would. You know, just kind of ran mid and high two's the whole race, tried to run at my own pace.
Tracy: It just seemed like turn one got more and more slippery. When you went down there on the braking zone, as soon as you got on the paint, the car would lock the tire, then it wouldn't turn. You almost had to brake a whole half a marker earlier, slow down, be off the brakes before you got to that paint. It seemed if you tried to brake going into the corner, going across the paint, it would lock the front up.
You know, just seemed like the track didn't really get more and more grip. It seemed to be putting rubber down, but seemed to get more slippery. At the end of the race, the last five, six laps I was still going at a good pace. I was doing low three's, trying to pull the gap.
Tracy: No. I mean, ultimately it's my race. I got to go out there and do my own job. From that standpoint, there is nothing I can do about him going out. I got to run my own race and do my own thing.