CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, MARIO DOMINGUEZ AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top three press conference following first round qualifying for the Centrix ...
CHAMP CAR PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, MARIO DOMINGUEZ AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our top three press conference following first round qualifying for the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Our third place qualifier in today's first round of action, our series points leader, defending winner of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He puts up a quick lap of 60.347 seconds, 98.848 miles per hour. Sebastien, tell us a little about how it went for you.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it was very good to restart the weekend the way we finished it last year. Obviously, things didn't go the same way for the qualifying session. The McDonald's car was really good this morning. We did I think 60.3 I think with 25 laps on the Bridgestone tires. Just couldn't even match it with the two new sets we put. The second set during the qualifying was ruined by traffic. We just couldn't put a lap together. It was quite light in the session. But, you know, first run was just all I got.
I was just really surprised. The team was kind of disappointed. Definitely can see the grip is not there any more. We'll just investigate if the dampers broke or something, try and do better tomorrow, if the weather is letting us do it.
ERIC MAUK: We've already broken the track record here the first day out. Are you surprised that the track is so much quicker than it was last year already?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I was surprised this morning because we were one second faster than the first practice of 2004. But, yeah, I can say I'm very impressed with the kind of grip I have for these sessions. We'll see how it goes. No, just a bit disappointed. As I said, if a bad day is P3, then so be it.
ERIC MAUK: Our second place qualifier on the day, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Mario Dominguez. Mario puts up the second best lap of the day, 60.213 seconds, 99.068 miles per hour. Mario coming off back-to-back top five finishes in the Champ Car World Series. Mario, tell us a little about how it went.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Good afternoon to everybody. Well, first of all, I'm really happy to be part of the 1, 2 qualifying effort today for Forsythe Racing and Paul is on the pole. The qualifying was not as good as you'd think. You know, I'm in second position, but I was struggling a lot with the car in some corners, then I got a little traffic at the end. I put in my best lap time with the first set of tires. But that's the usual thing with these kind of tracks, you get a lot of traffic because the tracks are so small, a bit narrow, so it's hard to pass. But quite happy with being in second. It's my best qualifying of the year so far, so I'm very happy with that.
ERIC MAUK: You've done well here in the past. Last year you ran up front all night during the race, finished fourth, qualified fifth. Any particular parts of this racetrack where you feel more comfortable or any part that you feel you need to work on heading into tomorrow?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, I like this racetrack a lot. I always seem to be pretty fast around here. There's obviously some corners that I think I should improve on my driving and some corners that we can improve the car on for tomorrow to be quicker. But it's a good, fun place to drive. It's definitely very challenging. It doesn't allow you for any mistakes at all. It's very slippery on some corners so you're on the edge all the time. The car is slipping and sliding, just brushing the wall sometimes. It's quite a lot of fun driving around here.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you. Our qualifying leader in the first day of qualifying, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy.
Paul sets a new Denver track record with a time of 59.759 seconds, 99.821 miles per hour. He earns a championship point for winning the first day pole, giving him 189 on the year, cutting Sebastien's lead to 27 points. Paul is second in the championship. This will be his fourth front row start in the year as he is guaranteed a front row starting spot with today's performance. Paul has started in the top five every event this season and started third or better in eight of the nine events. Paul, tell us about your run today.
PAUL TRACY: It was a good run. I'm very happy for the team. It's our first 1, 2 this year. Really, the first qualifying set of tires, I got a good first lap. You know, I thought that there was a little bit more and was able to improve on it all the way around the track. Then came in at the end of that first run. I told my engineer, Eric (Zeto), I said, "That was a really good lap. I pretty much got everything just about right without really any small mistakes." Made a small adjustment on the shocks, went back out. We were close, but, again, there was traffic, as well. You know, then the red came out. I had a good lap going and the red came out at the end. We were happy to see that.
ERIC MAUK: Obviously, you got a lot out of the car, a lot out of the track today. Is it going to be a lot faster tomorrow or were the weather conditions so good today you don't think it's going to get a whole lot faster ?
PAUL TRACY: Hard to say. Obviously, the track is going to improve, if there's no rain. There's potential for rain tomorrow. This track is one that improves with rubber. If the weather's good tomorrow, we're going to have to improve.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We'll take questions from the media.
Q: You've gone from a stock car to a Champ Car in the last week, how has the change been?
PAUL TRACY: I've done a lot more than that. In the last week, I went from a half-mile short-track stock car, went back to Vegas on a flight, did a night test with Sebastien on a high-speed superspeedway, and went back and ran stock car at Michigan for two days. Then last night we went out together and ran midgets and sprint cars, dirt-modified cars out at the Rocky Mountain Speedway, then today. I've had a pretty good experience of driving different machinery in the last seven days. It's been a lot of fun.
Q: The altitude here takes away your downforce, what changes have you made to combat that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, really we had a very strong baseline from last year. We know it's about 18 percent, 20 percent of downforce we lose around here. There's just not a whole lot you can do. You just try to optimize the mechanical grip you've got. You know you are going to lost a bit in downforce. You're going to slide whatsoever. I guess you just have to find your way around trying to be comfortable, especially since it's kind of bumpy around here. It's a challenging racetrack, so you need to trust the car.
Q: How is it having a veteran like Jimmy Vasser in the series
PAUL TRACY: It's great. I competed against Jimmy -- my first race against Jimmy was 1986. We've known each other a long time. You know, I just came out of driving Formula Fords, Formula 2000, and him the same. I did a Formula Atlantic race. They had this big prize money invitational race in Memphis. He was there. A lot of guys were there that have kind of gone through the racing, have been here in Champ Car. We all kind of met at that time. I got to know Jimmy a little bit at that race. Obviously, we know each other really well now. It's great.
Q: You have two inches less boost in the Cosworth engines here this year but times have already -- I think Eric said that you set a new track record. Why are you faster with less power?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think the tire is probably a little bit better. Obviously, it's cooler I think here than last year. That's six or seven tenths quicker than I qualified here last year. We've improved our car with shocks, springs, aero. Our car's a lot different than it was last year when we came here. We've improved quite a bit.
I wouldn't imagine that Sebastien would come with too much different of a setup than he had last year because he qualified on the pole by quite a lot, and drove through the field to win the race. I wouldn't imagine he would change the car that much. I think we've just improved and that's really where the change for us has been.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I think we tend to go a bit slower in the straight, that's for sure, I think like three miles an hour, four miles an hour. But that's only top speed; there's only one spot. At 180, doesn't really matter. Four miles an hour, yeah, you're losing a 10th of a second, a 10th and a half, so it's not that bad. You just lose it at the very end. The torque is the same, it's just the power that changes.
I think we just go slightly faster in the turns, and at least comparing to qualifying last year, I think everybody just brought their stuff together, that aided their game, and definitely they're giving us a hard time. Last year I think I did 60.5, and I think I was on pole for the first qualifying. This year I do a 60.3, but it's 59.7 in front. Just going to have to put our stuff together.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I think the track seems to be a bit cleaner than last year. That's probably part of the reason. And maybe my theory is because the car has less horsepower, it's just a little bit easier to drive around these tight places. You can be on the throttle sooner and earlier, where before you had to be a lot more careful because the back end could go around. That might not be true, but that's my theory.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: There wasn't any hockey season, right? So nobody really used this parking lot. When we came back, there still was some rubber from last year. That might be a reason why it's coming a bit faster.
Q: The fast times were all run early in the session and no one got quicker later in the session. Why is that?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's just a factor of so many cars on the track in such a small place. Any slight turbulence, you know, if you can get a completely clear lap by yourself alone where you don't have the stress of other cars around. The two laps that I did, I was completely alone, I was able to just concentrate on the lap. I didn't have a car, you know, 20 car lengths in front of me that was maybe upsetting the braking or anything like that.
That's what it takes to get the whole lap together, especially when you're so low on downforce here. Any little turbulence from the car in front of you is going to upset the car. When you stick 19 cars out there all at once, the air gets, you know, 'turbulated', and the cars, they just don't respond as well.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just traffic on the second set. Just couldn't do anything.
Q: Who won at the dirt track last night?
PAUL TRACY: We were out just screwing around. Actually a thing Paul Newman set up, so I'll let Sebastien talk bit. It was a lot of fun.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We did that the first time in Long Beach last year -- this year, and we had a blast. We just decided to do it again. Oriol was there and Paul and PT. It was just a great time.
Q: How did Paul Newman run?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think you have to watch it to believe it. He's just -- I think I did succeed to pass him after 15 laps. It's not like I drove by and said "Hi." No, he's lost a bit of speed I think on the asphalt because obviously a bit more rush and everything. But on the dirt, he's still feeling really good. He likes to slide, that's for sure.
Q: Paul, last year Sebastien won this race and it served as a springboard to the title. He has won two in a row this year, do you find it especially important to gain some points on him this week?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think every race is crucial. You know, we're fighting. We're not giving up. It's going to be a fight all the way down to the end. It's been a bit of a seesaw battle back and forth. You know, we've came here. Mario did some testing last week at Fontana, which is kind of similar to street course testing. We learned a lot. You know, that's one of the key things with Mario coming on the team, is that he had tested, and we were able to use it later in the season. I think it really helped us this weekend. That's a big help.
Q: Mario, what changes are you going to make to the car for tomorrow?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I can't tell you. It's top secret (laughter).
No, we're going to change some things in the car, the suspension, try to improve the shock absorbers and the springs, try to gain more grip on the car. In some corners, I have a lot of understeer. In some corners I have a lot of oversteer. That's what we'll do, try to work on those specific areas where we can just gain more overall grip. That will make us faster throughout the whole track.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. That will end our press conference. We set our final grid with qualifying tomorrow beginning at 2:00. Thank you.