CART Champ Car teleconference with Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira. Part 1 of 2 Eric Mauk: Thank you for joining us today on a special media teleconference as we bring in two of our title contenders for the 2003 Vanderbilt Cup, as we come to...
CART Champ Car teleconference with Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira.
Part 1 of 2
Eric Mauk: Thank you for joining us today on a special media teleconference as we bring in two of our title contenders for the 2003 Vanderbilt Cup, as we come to the end of the Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We have two races to go the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia which comes up in two weeks followed by the King Taco 500 at California Speedway. And then we will have crowned a champion, and it very well could come from one of the two gentlemen joining us on the call today. First is the driver of the #3 Lola Ford-Cosworth for Team Players, our points leader right now with 226 points, Paul Tracy. Paul, thanks for joining us today.
Paul Tracy: Thank you.
Eric Mauk: And we are joined by his closest pursuer, Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman Haas Racing. Thank you for joining us today.
Bruno Junqueira: Thank you.
Eric Mauk: We'll start with Paul. Obviously a big weekend for you last week in Mexico City and a huge crowd came to see it, 221,000 people on race day. You picked up your 7th win of the year, led 64 laps and had one of the better days in the season at a time you needed to put one up on the board, how satisfying was that event for you?
Paul Tracy: For our team it was very satisfying. For us the last four or five races have been a bit of a struggle. Qualifying has not gone very well. Race performance maybe was good but not as good as we would have liked. Both Bruno and his team, they were starting to gain a lot of momentum in the championship and for us, it was important to kind of pull the momentum back our way. So to qualify on the pole the first day, and then start from the pole and win the race was exactly what we needed to do, and what our hopes were to try to do and we were able to achieve it.
Eric Mauk: The 29-point lead going into the final two races, got to imagine a bit of urgency to maybe wrap this things up in Surfers Paradise. As you get a 500-mile race on the California Speedway oval after that, and as we've seen many times, anything can happen and usually does at that place. How important is it for you to put the wrap up this thing in Australia?
Paul Tracy: I think it's something that we can't focus on because for me, the last couple of races I maybe was concentrating too much on just trying thinking about points, thinking about the championship. Those races did not go very well for me, and really this last weekend I just started focusing on what I had to do every practice session to drive the best to my ability and get the most out of the car, get the most out of the team, and that's what we're going to focus on what we go to Australia is just concentrate on every practice session and not worry about points, just do our best and if we're able to wrap it up, that's half the battle. If not, we keep racing until the last lap in California.
Eric Mauk: Bruno, you had a strong race car in Mexico City and had a chance to stay up front, unfortunately what a lot of people didn't know at the time was that you had been struck ill and definitely were not feeling very good. How tough was it to drive a 750-horsepower race car feeling as poorly as you did that day?
Bruno Junqueira: Well, it was very difficult, I was feeling really sick, but, fortunately, the race was going good I felt we could finish second. The second pit stop, we have to see, but I think we lost a bit of power at the end of the race. People started to pass me very easily on the straightaway. And even if I was fast enough to keep the second position, I couldn't go back. And every time that I try to pass someone, someone would go and pass me by, and to end up finish second was a bit frustrating and makes thing more difficult to win the championship. I will try to the last race to win this championship though.
ERIK MAUK: You definitely have a shot at winning this thing heading down to Surfers Paradise, a street track, but a different kind of street track, and a pretty quick layout. What are your impressions of Surfers, and do you enjoy going there to race? Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, I like Surfers a lot. Last year I was on the pole Friday and I lost the pole to Cristiano (da Matta) by 1/1,000th of a second. Unfortunately in the race last year , it was raining very hard, I was leading and they decided to call a yellow flag and then I finish 14th. But I hope this year the weather will cooperate and we can go racing, and I hope that we have a good race there.
Q: Paul, this race of course is taking place about as far away from Toronto and maybe from the media glare here in Toronto on you. Does that take some of the pressure away and now that Jacques Villeneuve has departed from the F-1 scene, you are Canada's preeminent race car driver, does that also now put some pressure on you, can you address those two points?
Paul Tracy: For me, I mean, Jacques is doing something totally different than what I've been doing for the last six, seven years. So the impact of what has happened in his career really doesn't affect me at all. To answer your first question, when you're in a championship, it doesn't really come into your mind where the race is or what's going on. And when it comes down to a situation like this where you're battling for the championship, there's no less pressure anywhere. The pressure is very high and the competition level now is getting much tighter than it was at the beginning of the season, a lot of the new teams, the drivers are figuring out how to do this and you're seeing a lot of different people on the grid up front. So it's getting harder and harder to win now at the end of the year, and so really the pressure is at a maximum level right now.
Q: It's got to be tough when you have a pretty nice lead with two races to go, because now you have to drive for points and that's so against your style. Just talk about your mind set for the last two races.
Paul Tracy: I think my mind set really is going to be the same as what it was for Mexico. Like I said at the beginning, I think the last couple of races I started thinking about the points too much and driving by the point number of my position. You know, I just went back to how I started at the start of the season and just said to myself, "This is an important race." I treat every race like it's the last race in the championship right now, and I have to finish and I have to score as many points as I can. And that's how I'm going to go into Australia, just go with everything that I can to have a good result.
Q: Bruno, I watched the race and it looked like Sebastien's guys might have short-fueled them and that's how you lost your spot going out. Can you talk about how your teammate is supposed to be helping you?
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, that didn't help me much, but, I mean, we still had a problem on the second pit stop. Our second pit stop was five seconds longer. I had a three-second lead on Sebastien -- even if he short fuel, he could have never passed me. But because I had the five second longer pit stop and he did short fuel, he was able to pass me. I was talking to my engineer before, and we are going to have to figure out what's happened because you lose so much straightline speed by the end of the race, and this is why people passed me. Even if I was really fast on the chicane, on the rest of the track, I could not pass anybody and everybody passed me easily. We have to figure out what happened at the end, if something happened on the car.
Q: You could perhaps become the first Canadian champion since Jacques Villeneuve, the first CART champion, how important is it to you as a Canadian to be the first one in a number of years to achieve that?
Paul Tracy: I think for me, I don't think of it as being Canadian or being this or being that. It's just a goal that I've had since I was a kid, since I started racing, to be a champion. All of my individual goals I think I've set. I've won a lot of races, 26 races now, and all of the individual goals that I've set for myself, I feel that I've achieved but that doesn't mean as much as a championship, until I achieve that, that's what I'm striving for.
Q: And did you have a sense going into this season, I mean, there was some changes for you in the off-season coming into the season, did you have a sense that this could be the year for you?
Paul Tracy: I felt I had a good chance for sure, but I didn't think I would start as strongly as I did. When we started with the new team, I felt it would take us some time to learn and adjust to each other and maybe by mid season I would be winning races. My off-season didn't go as well as I would have liked. I was very fast, testing and spring training, things like that. So really I didn't expect to come to the first three races and win three in a row, but it happened that way and everybody on the team got confidence in themselves and I was confident and then it just all started to go up from there.
Q: You have three Top-10 finishes in Australia, including the one win you have there. Do you feel that your experience at Surfers is going to be a big advantage over Bruno going into this race?
Paul Tracy: I don't know if it's a big advantage. Obviously Bruno last year started on the front row and he knows how to get around there. For me, I've always been very quick there. I've won the race. But Surfers is a very tricky track. I mean, they have never had a repeat winner there. When it's 15 years that you've never had a repeat winner, it shows you how demanding it can be and how easy it is to make a mistake. The goal for us is just to go down there and do everything we can to have a good result.
Q: Will you be bringing the same car you had in Mexico?
Paul Tracy: Yeah, same car.
Q: Paul, going off of what you talked to the other reporters about -- does the added points you got this last weekend help you relax and maybe go back to a better focus on the race?
Paul Tracy: I think it puts everybody at a little more ease, but maybe sometimes that's not so good. Definitely when the championship lead got down to 13 points, the pressure was being felt by the team, but it seems like we were able to respond to that. So my focus is to keep my intensity up. I hope that the team, their intensity stays up for the next two events, and that's what we need to try to do.
Q: Bruno, how do you feel now?
Bruno Junqueira: I'm feeling better. I was feeling really bad, even flying back to Miami. I still have a bit of a stomach disease but I'm 90 percent recovered. I think by tomorrow I'll be okay.