CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Top-three qualifiers press conference

CART Champ Car top-three qualifiers press conference at Lexmark Indy 300 with Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira and Paul Tracy. ERIC MAUK: We'll get started with the post-qualifying press conference for the Lexmark Indy 300 here at the Gold...

CART Champ Car top-three qualifiers press conference at Lexmark Indy 300 with Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira and Paul Tracy.

ERIC MAUK: We'll get started with the post-qualifying press conference for the Lexmark Indy 300 here at the Gold Coast of Australia, Round 18 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. My name is Eric Mauk, CART Communications. We are joined by the top-three qualifiers for tomorrow's race. Starting on my left is the driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, for Player's/Forsythe Racing Paul Tracy. Our series points leader ran a top time of 1:32.000, 109.370 miles per hour to qualify third, marking the eighth consecutive season that Paul has qualified in the top-five here at Surfer's Paradise. Paul, congratulations. Kind of a tough run, give it everything you at the very end and have to settle for third place.

Paul Tracy: Yeah, we made a big improvement. I think the biggest thing -- I had a talk with Bruno in the bathroom before qualifying and I said to Bruno: How do you going to go through the chicanes so fast and he told me you got to go all the way around the curbs, don't touch the curbs. And so I decided to do that. He didn't realize it, but at the same time I was pissing on his shoe for bad luck, so it kind of worked out. (LAUGHTER)

Bruno Junqueira: I am a nice guy. I help Sebastien. I help Paul Tracy. I am offering help but now you guys have to start to help me as well.

Paul Tracy: You need all the help you can get. I will help you next year.

Eric Mauk: Paul, eight straight top-five starts here at Surfer's. What do you attribute to your success in qualifying here.

Paul Tracy: I like the track a lot. I have really enjoyed this track ever since I first came here. Every year it's - the chicanes are always a little bit different from year to year. Sometimes there's cones, last year they had like concrete round bubbles on top; then there's tires. So it really doesn't lend any particular advantage to anybody because it's kind of different every year. So today really, I just had to attack the curbs more; more than I did yesterday and that's where we made up the time. The last chicane in the back I went 12 miles an hour faster through there than I did yesterday and that's where all the lap time came from. So we're happy to be -- we're right close to Bruno and obviously, Sebastien had a good day today. The points are so important right now that taking the point from it's -- if we couldn't get it, then it helps us so it was good.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier driver of the #1 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Bruno Junqueira who took the runner-up spot with a top lap of 1:31.994, 109.377 miles per hour. Bruno qualifies second for the second consecutive season here at Surfer's Paradise and tomorrow must make up seven points on Paul Tracy in order to stay in the title hunt. Bruno, water weight in your shoes aside, how do you feel about the way things went today?

Bruno Junqueira: I mean, this morning the car was really good. I was much faster than everybody. And it felt again in qualifying could do the same. For sure everybody improved their car, but I still thought I could be on the pole, no problem. But, unfortunately, my first run or second run, Rodolfo Lavin was in front of me when I was in a good lap. The first run, my best lap some piece of paper blew from the wall between Turn 1 and 2 and I had to slow down. I lost like three or four tenths in my best lap. Even through that, I did 31.9 and I was on the pole, I decided not to try another lap. And I pit. Then Sebastien came on and improved, but I knew that I could go faster than that. Unfortunately, the second set of tires, I was behind Lavin and as I can see here, he's like almost four seconds off the pace and every time I slow down and start to go fast and I catch him and then slow down and then the guy that was behind me get close to me; then I had to go fast to not screw the guys behind lap. And then I catch Lavin again. I didn't get any clear laps on the last set of tires and that was really frustrating and not to get the pole same as last year was a little bit frustrating. But I hope tomorrow in the race will be sunny and I can go pretty much the same as last year. Got the lead in the first rap and no yellow flags and win the race this year.

Eric Mauk: You waited almost 20 minutes to come out before you came out for your first run today. You talked yesterday about things might get a little faster but within five minutes guys were already a second and a half faster than they were yesterday. Were you surprised how quickly the times dropped today?

Bruno Junqueira: To be true, not, because very often the track picks up one, one and a half second between day one and day two. I think I was the only one that didn't improve that much. For sure I got a very good lap yesterday and improved 7/10 today, but I was expecting to run like mid-31s. I think the track, if it doesn't rain tonight, the track will be even better tomorrow and the race pace will be really fast.

As Paul Tracy said, every year this track has different configuration of the chicanes and I like the way that it is now because I mean, it's really fast and you can go a lot over the curbs, but I mean, it's just not -- the cones that sometime you can crash in the cones and break something in the car and then someone go and hit the cones and the cones fell off and sometimes the track goes faster and sometimes the track goes slower. Now the track is the way it is. Then every session you can expect the track to be at the same layout, then I like this way, for sure it's faster and the fast Chicane, Turn 7, is like really, really fast, you can not make a mistake, a big crash, but I like the way the track is set up for this year. I hope they continue doing this because this is, for sure, the best street track that they do the whole year.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. The pole-sitter for the Lexmark Indy 300 is the driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Sebastien Bourdais, who snares his fifth pole of the season with a lap of 1:31.718 seconds, 109.706 miles per hour. This is Sebastien's first pole since taking top honors in Cleveland and marks the 12th consecutive race in which he's started in the top 6 which is a CART Champ Car record for rookies. Sebastien, you were third yesterday but not very happy. I assume you are a little happier today with the way things went?

Sebastien Bourdais: Sure, it was just frustrating yesterday, but not unhappy about the result. But when you feel you have an A-1 car, it's always kind of a problem. So today has been really different. Could have been really catastrophic because we really didn't achieve anything on the first set of tires. Took quite a while to build up the speed and got traffic, traffic, traffic, traffic; was only one lap left and brushed the wall and still managed to do a 31.7. So I was really amazed with this lap time and said, I think we can still go faster than that because when the tires start to have six, seven laps on them then you really can do something better. We started with another set of tires and we didn't really get a chance to put the realistic lap. Pretty close all the time, but couldn't complete the second half of the track. And that has been enough to get the pole so it doesn't really matter but this Newman/Haas team did a great job again this weekend. A long way to go before the podium tomorrow, but my car was very good. This year is very good. What can I say, just expect that tomorrow is going to be a great day for us.

Eric Mauk: Last time you were on pole in Cleveland you went on to win the race. Your first race ever here tomorrow, you have been out here for two, three days now. Where do you have to be quick? What is the key part of the racetrack tomorrow that you need to be fast on in order to win tomorrow?

Sebastien Bourdais: There's no key, just every chicane is as important as the other one. I think you really have to kick your ass to do that on this racetrack. It's really difficult, very demanding. It's really a neat one, I think it's even pretty dangerous because you have to say, okay, now, you know, I got to keep this speed in this Chicane and obviously if it doesn't work very well, you are going to end up in the wall straight even before you land, so that's kind of tough. But that's the way it is and that's very difficult. I think that's why we can see difference in the lap times and if that is what it takes, I am ready for it.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. We'll open up to questions.

Q: Sebastien, I think it was Cleveland you said that you know, coming to a track you have never been before, your Formula 3000 experience helped you because you just go out for it. Does this track resemble any Formula 3000 track and tell us if it doesn't, what -- any other track you have been to before?

Sebastien Bourdais: I am really glad that it's one of the last racetracks of the year, to be honest. You really need to be in confidence with your car, you need to know what you can do and what you cannot because if you just guess, you know, you are going to end up in the wall pretty fast. So no, I really have to work very hard to push myself and to do all I could and even more sometimes, so, no, it's really not easy. The Formula 3000 experience is helping, but it's not all of that.

Paul Tracy: Look at him, he's still sweating.

Sebastien Bourdais: I think you get so much adrenaline that, seriously, it's really exhausting.

Q: I don't know if they are going to be -- well, I think there will be team orders possibly tomorrow, but it almost seems like maybe you are helping Paul more than Bruno. Talk about whether the team is, you know, if that's going to -- I guess it depend on how Paul's day goes to.

Sebastien Bourdais: Thank you. Well, I don't know, in many situations this year we have done a pretty good job with Bruno like Denver so I don't know. I think, you know, it's requesting a lot of efforts from the whole team. I think we're working pretty well with Bruno. Tomorrow I will do what I have to do, but I think again, the best way for me to help Bruno is to be up front and to be in the middle of the fight. So we'll see.

Paul Tracy: I'd have to agree with - - if I can step in -- I don't know, with Pat (Carpentier), he's just struggling lately and I am not getting any type of help from him, any fight for Bruno or Sebastien, so it is harder for me because I am having -- like Miami, for instance, I am having to fight both, trying to stay with Bruno and I have got Sebastien behind me pressuring me to make a mistake and I made the mistake. So it's a much more difficult situation for me. I think that was a help for Bruno, you know, we're trying to get Pat up there, but for some reason here this weekend, he's just not happy with the car. His not being able to contribute is putting me at a bit of a disadvantage.

Q: Have you ever watched roller derby? They got jammers and blockers. Are we going to have one tomorrow, you got two teammates ahead of you and if your car manages to be a little faster, you have got to overtake two cars?

Paul Tracy: I think the most important thing for me is just to finish. If Bruno now wins the race and leads the most laps, I just have to finish third. Without him getting the point today was important for the finishing order. But this is a crazy race. You have been here many times and a lot of journalists have been here many times, and you never know what the outcome of this race is going to be and it's always been a very chaotic race and people that should have won didn't win and people that you would never think could win the race have won the race here. So this is one of those tracks that's just, you never know what is going to happen until the checkered flag comes out and the key for us is just to be there at the end of the race and see where we finish.

Q: You are not known as a guy to settle for something. How hard is it going to be for you to just maintain position then if that's what it takes to win the Championship?

Paul Tracy: I think it was harder yesterday and last night to sit and think, okay, my car is not that good, if we start fifth and Bruno is first, you know, that's -- you get a lot of emotions that you wrestle with, how should I approach the race, how should I do this or that. You know, today we just sat down and he debriefed and carefully went through every corner where we need to improve and looked at splits and we were able to improve today, quite drastically, from yesterday.

So racing for me is a lot different than qualifying. For me, qualifying has always been, throughout most of my career, it's been a bit of a struggle. I have never been a great qualifier. So the race comes more naturally to me and tomorrow the focus is to just not get mixed up in anything that can happen here in the first corner which can happen very easily. A couple of years ago we had two Championship contenders Gil deFerran and Juan (Montoya) take each other out in the first corner and open the door for Dario (Franchitti), so anything -- anything can happen here.

Q:   Paul, you have been very outspoken this year about both CART and the
IRL.  Do you have any concerns at all about getting a ride next year?

Paul Tracy: No, I have a contract for next year with Jerry, and so does Pat. So he's a principle guy behind taking this company public. He's told me that we have a sponsor lined up. He's not prepared to say what it is yet, but I will be driving in CART next year.

Q: Paul, you have been the international ambassador for this event, leading into the event for the last eight, ten months. You've got family here, you talked about it at the media breakfast the other day. Finish in the top three tomorrow and you walk out of here with a prize you have been chasing for many years now; what would it means to do it here tomorrow?

Paul Tracy: Well, I think the one thing it's a dream for every driver to win a Championship at the top level, whether it's Formula 1, Champ Car, NASCAR, IRL, when you are at this ultimate level it everybody's dream to do that. And we took a photo this morning, me and Bruno and Michel in front of the Vanderbilt Cup. I have never seen the Cup up close before because it's always been in somebody else's hands. I didn't want to touch it because, you know, I don't think any of us touched it just because I thought it might be bad luck to put my hands on it too soon. So we'll wait for the day that I can put my hands around it.

Eric Mauk: That will wrap it up. We warmup at 10:45 tomorrow. We go racing, the start of the Lexmark Indy 300 at 2:35.

-cart-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais