CHAMPCAR: Long Beach: Friday top three press conference

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Qualifying Press Conference Friday, April 18, 2008 An interview with Justin Wilson, Oriol Servia, Alex Tagliani THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We just completed the first day of qualifying here...

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Qualifying Press Conference Friday, April 18, 2008

An interview with
Justin Wilson,
Oriol Servia,
Alex Tagliani

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We just completed the first day of qualifying here at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Welcome. We have with us here our three fastest drivers from the session. Why don't we start actually first with Alex. Great to have you here. Obviously it came together at the last minute, but tell us about how excited you are to be here to run with the last Champ Car race.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, it's very good for me. I'm very happy first to have the chance to race with the Walker organization. Three days before the truck left to Long Beach we decided let's do this. So not a lot of time to get fit in the car and the best circumstances.

But they have a great car, a lot of guys are working really hard. They're working both jobs. They're doing Atlantic and Champ Car this weekend. It was my first win in Atlantic in '97 in Long Beach in my professional career, so it means a lot to be here and at the last race in Champ Car.

THE MODERATOR: Obviously the three guys have run a lot of Champ Car races. Anything among that, your Champ Car experience, that you were able to go that fast today?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I don't know, you have pretty much the best of the best, like in the cars. Everybody proves themselves in the various different series. You know, it's a mix of good cars and putting the best laps you can on the track. Everybody is pretty tight and everybody has his own story, but so far, I think it's good for us, and I'm very proud to do this with Derrick (Walker) for this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Oriol, why don't you tell us a little bit about what it felt like. Obviously you're driving in the IndyCar Series, jumping in the DP 01 again. Any different feeling? Tell us about that.

ORIOL SERVIA: Why do I get this question?

THE MODERATOR: Because you're the elder statesman; you're smarter than the other guys.

ORIOL SERVIA: No, as Justin was saying, it's a kick in the butt. It's really a lot of power. It's a great car. It's just a newer machine. It was designed later and differently, and it's not actually I don't think it's fair to compare it with the IndyCar (Series car) like we are asked all the time because it's just different rules and just a lot more fun. It's a lot more downforce and lighter and more power, so just a better performing and faster car.

But anyway, I'm sure times will change in the IndyCar (Series) also, and we'll get to a faster car. All the drivers, we all want more power and more downforce and more grip, so it's just a lot of fun.

THE MODERATOR: Justin's lap today was 1:07.356, which was faster than last year's pole qualifying time, which was 1:07.546, in the McDonald's car, a slightly smaller gentleman who was driving it. Tell us a little bit, obviously you were so much faster than the other guys, even those two guys sitting next to you. Talk about that.

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, well, we felt that the car was good, and I was very pleased with how it was handling. But we went out and did quite a quick time on the Black tires that still would have been good enough for pole, but we weren't sure what everyone else was doing down the pit lane. We didn't get a good pit selection so we couldn't see, so we decided let's go and see what they're like. We tried the Bridgestone Red tires and they worked great.

I'm just very pleased to keep up the tradition of the McDonald's car being quickest. Before the qualifying I thought it's a bit of pressure taking over this seat at a track like this where Sebastien (Bourdais) has always gone so well. I'm actually quite relieved to have done as well as we have today, and I think we can relax tomorrow and work and get even quicker.

I feel I had a lot left and I made a few mistakes, but generally pretty happy with how things are going. It's fun to do one last race here at Long Beach.

THE MODERATOR: How did it feel being out there with 20 cars today?

JUSTIN WILSON: It was busy. It was hard to get clear space. I'm sure everyone is saying the same thing. I managed to get one lap where I could go for it, and I caught one car. But still nice to finish off the lap, and I was pleased. It was great to have 20 cars on the grid. It does make a difference, the more cars you have, the more of a spectacle it is, so I think this is going to be a great event.

THE MODERATOR: Just to remind media, the provisional pole that Justin got today guarantees that he will be in the front row for the race on Sunday.

Q: (No microphone.)

ORIOL SERVIA: I really do feel that, also. I mean, it seems there's a big crowd, and it just feels good. I don't know if it's related to also the TV ratings increasing in the first two IndyCar (Series) races or just because it's the last Champ Car race, I don't know. I think there's definitely a space in the world for open wheel, and it was empty; it wasn't filled in the last 10 years, and that space is there, and we're just starting to take it back basically. People like open wheel as much as they like other sports, so it's just time.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: Unfortunately when you're on track a lot of the rules are quite similar. The one we have to watch out here is with qualifying you get 15 laps. With qualifying restricted so different you don't get into that mindset. It's actually harder when things are more similar, whereas when you do qualify in a completely different fashion, you remember how you used to do it.

There's a few things that took a bit of getting used to. One was adjusting to the power and the turbo lag and then the downforce built in the car. So there's been a lot to adjust to this weekend, going from one to the other. It was easy to go from the Champ Car to the IndyCar (Series car), but now switching back, it took a few more laps than I expected.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: I heard one rumor early, I don't know how true it is, of it possibly being rained out the whole weekend, in which case this race wouldn't count for points. We're hoping that's not true because we feel like we've got a good opportunity here to do what we're used to and get a few points before we go back and struggle on the ovals.

Q: (No microphone.)

ALEX TAGLIANI: Hopefully for them the race will count for points because they can definitely make up for what they can't on ovals so far. But for me it was on Justin's statement, it was quite harder to adjust not on the Reds or on the IRL, but a couple days ago PT (Paul Tracy) was helping me installing stone in my house, now I'm a race car driver (laughter), so a lot more to adapt to than Reds and IRL cars.

It's a fun weekend, I'm just enjoying it. I'm driving a great car, and it's been a long time. I didn't have a great car underneath, so I'm enjoying it.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I was going into my actual last time lap of trying to improve, and I felt a lot on the table in the first half of the lap. I made a mistake and went down the runoff at Turn 6, got spun around, came back out, and the next lap after that there was a car in the wall at (Turn) 1. I was hoping that things had worked out. I had no idea how everyone else was going at that stage.

I knew there was a lot left, so I was a bit anxious to see the times.

Q: (No microphone.)

ALEX TAGLIANI: Pretty tough subject to talk about at the moment. I think there's a lot of things going on. First of all, yes, it's pretty sad for him. He's been racing for 40 years.

I mean, I was in the mix, as well, in this whole thing. You know, we tested at PKV Sebring, and basically everything seems to be okay, other than rumors. But I wish that this whole thing would have been at least treated a little bit more honest so I would have had a choice to make a month and a half ago instead of waiting.

And I think same thing for Derrick; he's been putting everything on the track professionally, and what's been happening to him, as well, I don't think it's fair. But I guess it's my opinion, and it doesn't count for much right now in racing.

Q: (No microphone.)

ALEX TAGLIANI: I mean, first of all, Derrick is not a rich person like Kevin (Kalkhoven) or Gerry (Forsythe). His business is racing, and he did it quite well, with passion, and he needs to go racing with sponsors. Unfortunately there's a lot of things there that I can't really talk about, but I can say that he has not been treated fairly in this matter.

Q: (No microphone.)

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, maybe. When you're a driver you always look for opportunities. At the moment there is none in (the IndyCar Series), but things could change. I mean, the guys that have been jumping from Champ Car to the (IndyCar Series) have been proving that they're pretty quick. On oval it's pretty much 90 percent the car. So far they're proving that they're a step up. Maybe it's going to open eyes on other team owners down there in the future. I don't know, but I don't even think about it right now. I'm having so much fun driving a good car that I'm enjoying every second.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: I think it's a combination of the two, like you said. Having cars run on the track on Thursday afternoon means that the car is in a much better condition when we go out Friday morning. We can run earlier, which was always the complaint, that we weren't on track in the first 10, 15 minutes. It allowed us to run much more, and our tires would last longer because we're not putting all that rubber on the track to make grip for later. I think that is a big factor.

And the fact that we've now had these cars for a year compared to last time here, so we've learnt a lot, we've validated a lot of things and were able to make the right choices much faster.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, that's one mentality, that you can throw them away after you're done. But I'm sure none of our team owners would be too pleased if you hand them back this pile of bits at the end of the race (laughter).

We're thinking of the bigger picture. Of course you want to score points, but at the same time, we're all racers and out there to race. You don't plan on crashing with anyone, or at least most of us don't, and you try and do the best you can. If you have a crash, you have a crash, but it's racing.

Q: (No microphone.)

ORIOL SERVIA: I actually don't think so. Sometimes we meet in other cities that really don't mix well with our rubber, but it seems to have not bad at all.

Q: (No microphone.)

JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I mean, this track is like that where you've got the hairpin where you need to use pretty much the whole steering lot to get round, and then there's a few other places where the car is quite loaded up and you go over a bump and the back snaps out and you have to catch it. It keeps you busy in the car, but we enjoy it; it's good fun.

ALEX TAGLIANI: I have something to add. After Oriol's statement comparing the two cars, one of the panels will be for sale at the Palazzo Hotel in Vegas, so if you want to own the fastest open wheel in North America, help Derrick (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: We'll end with that. Thank you.

-credit: irl/ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia