Friday Champ Car World Series Qualifying Press Conference Transcript With Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson Eric Mauk: We will get started with our top three qualifiers press conference from the final round qualifying for the U.S.
Friday Champ Car World Series Qualifying Press Conference Transcript With Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson
Eric Mauk: We will get started with our top three qualifiers press conference from the final round qualifying for the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, Round Five of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Our top three qualifiers today led by the third qualifier, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, who puts up a lap time of 58.034 seconds, 130.641 miles per hour. Sebastien last year posted the best qualifying average over the season of everyone in the series. He qualified with an average of 3.67, tomorrow's starting grid, third place again. Sebastien, you really seem to have the hang of qualifying. What is it about what you guys do that gives you such a good chance at qualifying?
Sebastien Bourdais: It's a bit of luck, today was not pretty good, yesterday was better (laughter). I think I made a misjudgment this morning when we checked the car. During the practice, it was very difficult, a lot of red flags and tough conditions. So I think I made a little mistake and ended up with a car that I didn't really like during the qualifying. None of the team's fault, it's pretty much all on me. But that happens; if it's a bad day, P3, I will take it.
Eric Mauk: The red flag came out and shortened the session, did you have one more good one in you or were you pretty much done by then?
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, I think I was probably in turn 2, and may have had one left. But "if", and "then" I could rebuild the world. You know, it could be worse. So, we are going to start in the inside in the second row and that's all right.
Eric Mauk: So you've got a veteran going into turn one and you've got a rookie that's looking to prove himself; who do you follow into turn one tomorrow?
Sebastien Bourdais: I really don't think I'm going to follow anybody. (Laughter.)
Eric Mauk: Our second place qualifier, earning his first front row starting spot of his Champ Car career and the first front row starting spot for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing in their two-year stint in the Champ Car World Series, driver of the #34 Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Justin Wilson. He puts up a best time of 57.954 seconds, 130.821 miles per hour. Justin, congratulations. How does it feel to start on the front row?
Justin Wilson: Thank you. Yeah, obviously very pleased with how things have worked out. We've been quick most of the weekend, but we have not actually completed the lap. So I knew the car was good enough and very happy that it was working. Very pleased that things are coming together. We're making progress each weekend and making the car quicker.
Eric Mauk: It's only been a few minutes, but have you thought about how you go into turn one tomorrow?
Justin Wilson: Well, obviously, like Sebastien, I don't want to be following anybody. But I'll just take it as it comes. I've seen the start of last year's video and there are a few lines, so I'll just see how it plays out. But it's best not to have any preconceived plan.
Eric Mauk: Our pole sitter for the U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, driver of the #1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy, he earns his first pole of the year, the 20th of his career, tying him with Gordon Johncock for eighth on the all-time Champ Car list. Paul puts up a best lap of 57.546 seconds, 131.749 miles per hour. Congratulations, first pole of the year. Nice to be back on top?
Paul Tracy: Feels great. We've had a really good weekend so far this weekend and we've been quick in every practice session. So the timing of qualifying just kind of -- everything just timed perfectly. The first run, we went out and we decided we were going to wait a little bit and then we went, knowing that towards the end, it can get difficult to do a time. Because at the end everybody is trying really hard and flopping wheels off on the grass and throwing dirt on the track. So it can be more difficult to do the time at the end of the session than in the middle. So we waited for some clear track. I had a nice five-lap clear run, did the time. And then the red came out right after I crossed the line, so the timing of it was perfect.
Eric Mauk: You knew going in, you it was going to take a 57.4, 57.5; did you know you had one in you?
Paul Tracy: Well, I was hoping. We didn't run new tires this morning and I was able to consistently running in the low 58s. So I felt the car was good. You know, with new tires, we could jump quite a bit quicker. But the lap came and we decided to try to make our best lap in the middle of the run, knowing that, again, it would be hard at the end with a lot of dirt and grass on the track.
Eric Mauk: How did the tires hold up today?
Paul Tracy: Tires are good. We have good sets for the race; so very pleased.
Q: You had a spin in Turn 10, what happened there?
Paul Tracy: I think everybody has had a lot of action there. It's a very tricky corner. It's very fast. It's got a big bump right in the transition from the right-to-left. And, you know, when the tires are worn, it's when you hit that bump, the tires give up grip and a lot of guys are spinning coming out of there. So it's about a 140-mile-an-hour turn, fifth-gear turn. When you are trying to get the lap time, it's basically from where the timing marker is for qualifying; that's the start of your -- the first corner of your lap. And if you mess up the first corner, then usually the whole rest of the lap doesn't go very well. So usually everybody is trying real hard through that corner.
Q: This is a great result for you, is it this time of the season you start to feel the push for the championship, this race, Vancouver, and the races coming up as a turnaround point?
Paul Tracy: I hope so. We have a long way to go in the championship, ten races still. You know, we had a good result last week. Starting off with a good weekend so far; building up into these races going into Canada in the next month. So, I'm looking forward to that.
Q: You were having dinner last night and you found that you won the pole. Does that give you any extra boost -- how you found out last night and what you thought of it?
Paul Tracy: I was actually having dinner with Oriol and Jimmy, and Oriol got a call from his engineer. I was happy. I felt bad for Sebastien. I don't know what the situation was for him, but, you know, from our standpoint, it's good to be on the other end of the spectrum, I guess.
Q: You haven't been to any of these tracks and you're knocking on the door with a front-row spot, so what do you do to prepare before you come, especially like Cleveland where you can't test? How did you prepare for this track?
Justin Wilson: To be honest, before we got here, I was having fun back at Goodwood in England. So the team did a good job of preparing the car and we just talked about what we think we need from the car around here. We always start with the previous race's setup and just evolve that. And I think we've got a good understanding of what the car takes now, so we can start it reasonably soon. It still takes a little longer, especially when you have a lot of laps on Friday morning, but we are getting to learn that now.
Q: Paul, earlier you mentioned that there are a lot of lines here; how many lines are there going into turn one and how do you know which one to take?
Paul Tracy: Well, there's definitely lots of different ways to do it. You know, you just hope that nobody from the middle of the back of the pack thinks that they are going to get to the front in the first corner. That's usually the problem. But, you know, we'll just try to make a good start tomorrow and try to lead everybody through the first corner clean and let the race happen. But usually somebody gets brave from the back and thinks they can get five or six, seventh position in the first corner. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.
Q: What is "back," two rows back, five rows back, top three rows legitimately have a shot going into one and coming out?
Paul Tracy: I think it's harder for the guys in the front to jump past two or three rows because the front guys are braking at the limit down into turn one. But the guys further back, as it accordions back, the guys in the back are still coming up full-speed. So you can get two or three rows under braking, and that's usually what happens. And then you get to the point where the rest of the field is turning in, and you're still trying to slow down, and that's usually when something happens.
Q: Obviously your first time here, just your reaction; very different from the tracks you have seen before.
Justin Wilson: Yeah, obviously, I'm enjoying the circuit. I think it's great. I like the wide-open, fast bends that are very flowing. I don't know what else to say. You've got to work the car over the bumps. You can't force the issue, but you do have to push it hard. So it's quite a unique circuit and I think it's fantastic.
Q: Not to belabor the question before, can you talk a little bit, you've got two wheels off the track and I don't think I've seen too many 720s before.
Paul Tracy: Well, I just wouldn't stop spinning. I had two wheels like two and I sloshed it and the rears went into the grass; and they spun around and the fronts hit the grass; and they spun around and the rears were in the grass. It just kept -- I was like, when is this thing going to stop? Finally it stopped and I was pointed the right way and took off again. It was one of those situations where it just kept spinning and spinning and spinning. I just had my foot on the clutch and kept the motor running. I knew, once you get to the apex and the thing goes sideways, there's really no chance for it to say that you're either out in the grass or -- I just pushed the clutch in and waited for it to stop.
Q: Sebastien, where were you when you heard about the penalty yesterday and what did you do?
Sebastien Bourdais: I was here at the track. There was nothing much I could say.
Q: How does that change your mindset when you go in with a front-row spot already sewn up?
Paul Tracy: Well, I think it always, when you get the provisional pole, it kind of relieves a little bit of pressure. You can think about it a little bit more carefully and things are not so frantic. You can pick when you want to go on the track. And you know, you still go out there when it's time to go out there and do a lap. You still push to the limit, like I did today, because we had a good chance again today. For sure, it takes the pressure off the practice session leading up to qualifying.
Q: On the other side of the picture, Sebastien, when you lose the pole, how do you approach the qualifying session when you lost the provisional?
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, I just react as if I didn't get it. Well, if we can win here -- and then you have to consider second qualifying as a big stretch, basically you can do good because you have a lot of positions available and you just improve. On this racetrack, it's very difficult because you are not in the right place at the right time and you get a yellow flag or a red flag, then it's over. You know, it's always much more pressure on the front row on Friday, but I just did the best I could.
Eric Mauk: That will wrap up our press conference. We go racing tomorrow, 97 laps, we begin at 5:00 PM. Thank you.