CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Top three finishers press conference part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Paul this is only your third race this season, are you optimistic that things are looking good for the Championship? PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it's hard to say. We're quite a lot behind in the championship in terms...

Continued from part 1

Q: Paul this is only your third race this season, are you optimistic that things are looking good for the Championship?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it's hard to say. We're quite a lot behind in the championship in terms of points. The team was really enthusiastic to start the season.

We got off to the start of the season great in Vegas. Talked to everybody here. To get off to such a good start, get injured, have to miss two races, really the team didn't develop the car in the period I was out. We didn't go testing with the other teams at some of the tracks they tested at. We kind of basically shut the development down. We've fallen behind in terms of development.

This last test at Elkhart Lake has helped the team. We found a direction with the car. We're not where we need to be. But looking at the race today, we had fifth quickest race lap, so we're closing the gap. In terms of understanding the car, we're a little bit further behind than some teams, but we're working at it.

Q: Robert and Neel, can you put your race in context of your learning curve in Champ Car, is this a lesson because no matter where you start, something can happen?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah. Well, I think there's a famous phrase: To finish first, first you have to finish. Never give up, always push to the end. What makes Champ Car spectacular, because in Europe you race from start to finish flat out. You don't think of fuel saving. I think if you will come on the radio to somebody racing in Europe now and say, Save fuel, I think he won't understand, for sure.

I struggled as well in the beginning. It is a different way of racing here. Strategy is very important. Obviously you can gain a lot or lose a lot on cold tires as well, which is different to Formula One. So, yeah, the races are very long. 1 hour, 45 is the longest race I've done so far. I think you just have to keep your head down.

I start to understand the strategy more and more. But I still think they're doing an amazing job on the pit wall to understand also what your competition is doing, the drivers in front of you, behind you. You're racing all the time people who you might not even see in front of you.

Yeah, it's a great championship. I really start to enjoy it, as well. It would be obviously great to do a clean race. I mean, it's crazy that you come from the back and still finish on the podium, of course. I kept my head down and we're here.

NEEL JANI: For me it's more or less the same as Robert said. It's about learning fuel saving. Today I actually had a fuel leak. The fuel was getting into my cockpit. I had it on my bum. It's burning quite a bit after some stages (laughter).

It was really all about fuel saving for me actually in this race. I had to be really careful. I guess I figured that problem now, how I can save fuel.

The rest is strategy: Don't give up, just concentrate on not doing any mistakes. It's crazy, as I said. You're last, you have a fuel leak, and suddenly you're at the front, then at the back, then again at the front. You wouldn't get that normally. It's really this type of racing in America which gets that. I guess that's more spectator friendly, and driver friendly, too. I don't mind too much.

In the end, yeah, as I said, it's also team strategy bringing you up.

Q: Paul, we asked Sebastien this yesterday, what do you think of this years’ rookie class?

PAUL TRACY: I mean, I can tell you coming into the championship, you know, you read what people say, you hear what people say on the Internet, that the series is full of drivers that are nobody. I can tell you, these guys are tough. It's as tough of racing as I've ever done in my career today, to hold off Graham at 18 years old and me being 38 years old. It's not easy.

These drivers, I mean, it's just really an evolution of younger drivers, guys coming from Europe who currently have Formula One contracts. Their people are looking for them to get more experience. They're obviously very talented or else they wouldn't be at the level of being a test driver in a Formula One car, winning races at the junior level in Europe, whether it be Formula 3 or GP-2 here in the States.

Guys like Graham and Pagenaud are winning races in Atlantics. The competition level is high. It's as high as I can remember right now. There's a lot of drivers that not a lot of people know about. It's easy to assume they're not very good, but it's not the case.

Q: For as long as I can remember it’s the first time there has been no accident at the start, can you assess the standing start?

PAUL TRACY: It was pretty close to an accident. There were a lot of cars with interlocked wheels going into turn one (laughter). Justin, he made an unbelievable start and came flying down the inside, kind of slid in there. There was a lot of cars kind of on the verge of running into each other, but it didn't happen.

Q: As far as standing starts go are you satisfied with yours?

PAUL TRACY: I think it's good. For me, I'm kind of disappointed with how we got away off the line. I felt like I got away pretty well. Obviously Justin came by pretty quickly. I didn't really progress on any of the cars in front of me.

You know, it's very new to me. It's not new to Justin. It's not new to the guys beside me. They've been doing this their whole career. The last time that I did standing starts was back in 1986. I'm still getting it right, you know.

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, no, 1986, I didn't do any standing starts (laughter). But thanks for the compliment. I think you look great for 38, man.

Q: Robert, after you passed Servia in turn one you fell down about four places afterward, what happened?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Servia, a big crash in the chicane. He lifted for that. I passed him. There was the team telling me to let him pass again. Anyway, so I passed all the guys again. I did many passes this race.

Then, yeah, I made sort of half a doughnut into the hairpin because I was struggling on the brakes. The rears locked. It was like complete silence. Then suddenly the car just got into gear. Yeah, I just kept it nailed, saw a lot of smoke, then continued racing.

My mistake. Made up for it with some good lap times afterwards. But, yeah, I had to start all over again.

Q: Robert, Neel how were your standing starts?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Rolling starts I was getting used to. I think the standing starts, it is something we learn obviously in Europe. I'm still not happy with the clutch in this series because I do struggle. They're not the best starts you can make. It's always sort of you keep your fingers crossed that everything goes well.

Yeah, they have a lot of horsepower, these cars. The wheel spin is quite intense, especially with the hard compound tires. It's not easy to make a good one.

NEEL JANI: Two standing starts, I always gained positions. Actually, I almost hit Paul in the first corner. So I lost a position again. But I think I gained two or three positions until the first corner, but then I fell one back. So standing starts definitely helped me.

Q: Paul were they telling you to let Graham go by since he had to pit again?

PAUL TRACY: No, no, no. They were saying, Hold him off, hold him off. Basically Neil was coaching me, saying, Keep pushing, keep pushing. They were basically telling me when he was on 'Power to pass', when he was close to me, close enough to out-brake.

I was basically at that point, towards the last five laps before he pitted, pretty much driving in my mirrors most of the time, on the front straightaway, looking to see where he was.

That's where our weak point was. The rest of the track was okay. But just leading onto the front straightaway, he seemed to have a big advantage on the brakes to me.

Q: Can you tell us about the upcoming race in Mont-Tremblant?

PAUL TRACY: I'm excited about it. For me it's a track that I raced at when I was young, when I was a kid. I think the last time that I raced there, had a race, was in 1985. It's been a long time.

There's a journalist here that was actually there when I was there. I don't see him. There's a couple journalists here from Canada that were there when I was racing there. It will be like a homecoming. I'm excited about it.

The track is fantastic. The ski area, the village, the surroundings are beautiful. We're going to take my wife and kids, take a small vacation beforehand, be up there for a bit doing some training and enjoy the week in Canada.

ROBERT DOORNBOS: I think it's a great circuit. I made my debut now on all the circuits. I raced now on an airport, so I can check that box as well. Looking forward to Mont-Tremblant a lot, because it's very similar to my favorite track, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, in Europe, also like it's in the Ardennes, in the mountains.

It's great with the difference in height. We did one day of testing. The car was quite quick. We finished fastest. I'm looking forward to that race for sure.

NEEL JANI: Mont-Tremblant, I couldn't go testing at that time because my passport was at the U.S. Embassy for a visa problem. I missed that test unfortunately. I guess I'll see the track the first time next week.


-credit: ccws

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Series IndyCar