Thursday Champ Car Qualifying Press Conference Transcript with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our press conference. We have the top three qualifiers from...
Thursday Champ Car Qualifying Press Conference Transcript with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira
Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our press conference. We have the top three qualifiers from today's first round of qualifying for the US Bank presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, round five of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined by our top three qualifiers. We'll start with our third-place qualifier on the day, driver of the #6 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno put up a top lap of 58.5 seconds, 129.600 miles per hour, taking the third spot on the day. Bruno, you come back after a hard hit in the practice session, you get everything fixed, rebounded, put yourself in the third spot. How do you feel?
Bruno Junqueira: I feel fine. I think the whole PacifiCare Newman/Haas team did a very, very good job. I have to thank them for repairing the car after this morning's crash. We came back strong until I think the last minute we were on the pole. Quite happy with the car. I have a little bit too much understeer, but for sure I didn't have enough time to adjust and make the change that we planned. But I think it was a great result, and was good.
Eric Mauk: Not to belabor the point, but we had a power failure here in the media center at the time of the accident in the practice session. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened there?
Bruno Junqueira: It was in Turn Eight. I don't know, I was on a slow lap. I just passed Oriol. I was like 10 miles an hour slower than I usually am, and just lost it. I don't understand. I was on a cool-down lap because of Oriol preparing to go on another flying lap. I don't know. I just felt I lost all the grip. I don't know if I hit something on the track or something. It is difficult to say what happened. But the important thing is that I'm okay. For sure I'm going to be a little bit sore tomorrow. But the PacifiCare car is good, strong, and ready to go.
Eric Mauk: We're glad you're feeling well. Good luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier on the day, driver of the #1 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. His best lap was 58.361 seconds, 129.909 miles per hour. Paul, second here in the first round of qualifying. How do you feel?
Paul Tracy: I feel good. Had a pretty good session. We started off quickest in the first run, and then we pitted for new tires. I felt the car was good. We could do a better lap. Then I kind of didn't really get a clear run, and was held up for five or six laps, couldn't get the right spot to get the lap, really had to wait too long and did it on the last lap. The tires were really probably not at their best. So it was a little bit frustrating when we came in, you know, P2 only by a hundredth of a second. But, you know, we'll try tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: Is the track slick? How long is it taking for those tires to get ready where you can really run on them?
Paul Tracy: I think the track really isn't as slick. When we first went out this morning, it was pretty slippery. But the times came down really fast. Last year's first day pole was 58.5. Today it was a 58.3, so it's quicker than last year. You know, we're only a 10th or two off of the pole from last year on the first day. So for sure I think the track will be faster tomorrow, and, you know, overall I think the track, it started out maybe a little bit slippery, but it sure got quick pretty fast.
Eric Mauk: Good luck tomorrow. Our first day qualifying leader, who guarantees himself a front row starting spot for Saturday's race, the driver of the #2 McDonald's/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He puts up the quick time of the day, a 58.349 seconds, 129.935 miles per hour.
He earns a championship point for leading today's session, giving him 99 on the season and moving him into a tie for second place with Patrick Carpentier. They are six points behind Bruno, who leads the series after four events.
Sebastien also sets a modern era Champ Car record by earning the front row starting spot today, giving him five consecutive front row starting spots to start a season, making him the first driver since 1979, which is the CART modern era, to accomplish that feat. Sebastien, tell us about that late run in the session? Two red flags, you only had a couple laps under your belt, you come out and put one up like that.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, well, I think we have to be glad with the result because it didn't look so well for quite a while since this morning. We just kept collecting red flags after red flags. And every time we go out, it looks like it's not the right timing. So I'm pretty happy for the McDonald's crew because, you know, we have a solid baseline from last year, and obviously that's what we qualified with, because we couldn't really test anything this morning. So I'm pretty happy. I think there's some more in the car, but we'll see that tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: You talked before, you didn't think it was your best lap. What do you think you're going to have to do tomorrow? What do you think can be done? How much is left in that track? How much is left in the car?
Sebastien Bourdais: As PT said, the racetrack is in pretty good shape. I think without the red flags and the conditions, in a clean run, maybe two in a row, because we only had one shot, we probably can do a 58 flat, something like that. So tomorrow with a better racetrack, could go 57.6 probably.
Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Last year you had to prepare for a night race. Any difference this year? You ran later in the day.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, sure. Well, last year basically the very important sessions were the ones that were at night, and that's where you really had to set up the car. This year we just have to, you know, set up the car in racetrack condition. Hopefully the weather is going to hold and isn't going to be similar storms, but we aren't quite sure of that.
Q: Could you talk about, they did the repaving down the front straight coming out of eight, going into nine? Can you talk about what's going on there? Better, worse?
Paul Tracy: I think it's better. I mean, it's always difficult. There's always tires at the apexes here. You're going so quick, you're dealing with inches for the apex. So that's always been a problem here. You can clip the tire and bounce it into the track. But the paving they've done, for whatever reason, it's good. It's smoother. It doesn't have so much big rolling bumps in it. So I think it's good.
Bruno Junqueira: I agree. The pavement is much better on the back straightaway. Maybe a little bit in Turn Eight, the tarmac, if you go out of the tarmac, is a little bit dirty. I think they did a great job.
Sebastien Bourdais: It's probably going to pick up more than other years, because it's probably the slickest, I mean, if anything, because there's no rubber down. It's kind of greasy. The oil is going out of it. I think there's probably more potential of improvement than the years before.
Q: A little more detail on being a 5:00 start, last year's 8:00 start. Can you talk about that a little bit, detail of what the difference might be?
Paul Tracy: Well, I mean, really it will be a sun-up race the whole time. Last year the sun was setting, then going to dark. So this year, I mean, it doesn't get dark now till 9:30, quarter till 10, and we'll be done by 7:00. So, you know, really it's a daytime race, but it allows the fans to, you know, stick around. After the race I guess there's a fireworks show, which will be good for the fans.
Q: As far as track conditions?
Paul Tracy: I think it's pretty similar to how we just qualified. It's 4:30 now, quarter to 5, so the track conditions right now are good.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, I agree. I think it might be a bit of a problem with the sun at the end of the race if, you know, if anything. But last year we had it in the eyes at the very start. So I think, if anything, it's going to be better. As PT said, it's a daylight race.
Bruno Junqueira: I think it's a good idea. It's going to be new for everybody. I think nobody start a race at 5:00. Very often between 12:30 and 2. It's going to be good for the fans.
Q: It looks like this has to be the most fun track. Just maybe talk about, is it still as much fun with no traction control, hang it out as much as you want to?
Paul Tracy: I think really there's only one place where you really have to be like a little bit on the careful side, and that's where Bruno crashed this morning, because if you make a mistake there, it's going to be a big mistake. But the rest of the track, I mean, you can give everything that you have and you can ask everything of the car. So it's a lot of fun.
Bruno Junqueira: I think it's a good track, for sure. I love Road America. But I think it's a good racetrack. One thing that's pretty cool here, that's something always difficult, I had a problem today, I'm sure Tracy and Sebastien had a problem, the track is very wide, then the drivers push so hard, and very often they go a little bit off the track and put a lot of dirt in the track, and a lot of red flags, as well. Times when you're in qualifying, and you get those red flags, it's a little bit frustrating because it's pretty nice when you get like three or four clear laps, building up every lap a little bit faster. I like it a lot.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think, yeah, since I arrived there, I said that the racetrack was first unique, which makes it really fun for us because, you know, you can really push, you don't have so much problems about that. If you do a mistake, most of the time you end up in the grass, unless you're really unlucky.
But, you know, it's a fun racetrack. I think it's a great show, and everybody can see it. So, I mean, personally I really like it. It's challenging, it's fast. It's probably one of the racetrack that has the fastest average speed in all the corners because you always in third our fourth gear, which makes it really challenging and interesting.
Q: I noticed between the first and second session they put a cone leading into Turn One. Is that something you guys asked for?
Paul Tracy: I think some of the drivers that hadn't been here, it's difficult to see because the corner is so far away from when you you're braking, some guys, sometimes it's difficult to find it. Plus there's a big cone in the road. As you're braking, you've got to turn over the cone. Sometimes you if sit very low in the car, you can't see the cone from where you're braking.
Bruno Junqueira: I think the cone always been there. Just this morning session, it wasn't there. The other years, there's always been a cone there. Is that right, Paul?
Paul Tracy: There's been a cone, sometimes no cone, sometimes lots of cones (laughter).
Q: Any input into the qualifying procedure? Because from a media standpoint, fan standpoint, it doesn't get much better than it did the last four minutes. The pole changed five times I think in six laps. It's probably one of the best parts of the series. When they started with the one-lap thing, did you guys have any input with the officials to say, "Let's go back together," or do you like the way it is? Do you like the fact you're out there all running together?
Sebastien Bourdais: I think personally I like the single-car qualifying. I think it's more representative of the real performance of the guy. You know, there's no excuse. You can't say, "Oh, well, I've been hold up in the traffic." But for the fans and for you guys, I think it makes it more interesting. You know, spins, guys upset against other guys. You know, so it's just the way it is.
Bruno Junqueira: I agree with Sebastien.
Sebastien Bourdais: But quite honestly, apart of street races, there's probably no reason to put a single-car qualifying on a racetrack like this one, especially since the Bridgestone tires are pretty consistent. You don't have only one flying lap. I would say Portland was more an issue because you had one very good lap, and after the tires would go a bit down. So it was critical really to hit, you know, the tires right. But here it's really consistent and you just, you know, you can turn around and you're always going to have a shot.
Q: But you can get a great time it seems like, if you have three or four clear laps.
Sebastien Bourdais: It's always better if you have three laps in a row. But if you're a good driver, you can do it in one lap and it's still decent, when sometimes on a street course it's really, really difficult. If you don't have a few laps together, you're never going to make it.
Q: Did you talk about what you guys wanted with the officials?
Paul Tracy: I'm not going to comment on the officials. (laughter)
Q: Just wanted to know why it got changed.
Sebastien Bourdais: From both of these guys, it looks likes it's very expensive.
Paul Tracy: That's the answer. Sometimes we don't know why.
Q: You made a little history here today, first guy to do this five times in a row. Does that mean something to you?
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, it's always nice to have your name, you know, in some books. But honestly I don't think it's up to me to evaluate the performance of the thing. I just try and do my best. It ends up being, you know, five times on the first row. But, well, you know, I guess it could be worse.
Eric Mauk: Paul actually started on the row four times to start the year. That was the old mark. This is Champ Car modern era, which is obviously from 1979 through present.
Q: What year was that, Paul?
Paul Tracy: Last year.
Eric Mauk: Actually, it was last year. All right, that will wrap-up our press conference. We set the final grid with qualifying tomorrow, we begin at 1:45. Thank you.