CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM DENVER WITH A.J. ALLMENDINGER, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND ALEX TAGLIANI ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference,...
CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM DENVER WITH A.J. ALLMENDINGER, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND ALEX TAGLIANI
ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the Grand Prix of Denver, sponsored by Bridgestone, round 10 of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We have our top three qualifiers for today's first round. We'll start with our third place qualifier, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Australia, Alex Tagliani. His fastest lap 60.988 seconds, 97.809 miles per hour. Alex, this has to be especially gratifying for you, especially given the tough time you've had over the last couple weeks. Tell us a little bit about today's run.
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, I'm very happy. Last weekend was really unfortunate for us because I think we had a podium finish. The car was really good. We couldn't show really the speed in second qualifying because we didn't made it. We crashed in the prequalifying. When we repaired stuff, we kind of glued stuff together. It kind of needs overnight to take a set (laughter). We also have our PR doing the stickers on the car as well, so that takes a long time.
But, no, I'm very happy. The guys really worked hard at the shop in the last two weeks. You know, a lot of traveling from San Jose, a lot of traveling to come here. There was not much days left for them to repair the car, so it was like night and day. To start the first day here in the top three, I think it's a good boost, good for the morale of the team.
ERIC MAUK: You've been here for all four previous Denver starts in the Champ Cars. Safe to say you haven't had the greatest luck here. Tell us a little bit about, did you make any changes, anything different today, or is it just a fortuitous run for you?
ALEX TAGLIANI: No, last year we didn't made it through turn one. We were involved in a big wreck at the start of the race. We started sixth.
Yeah, Denver has never been a track that's had luck. But, you know, I love street course. This is one of the tracks that, you know, it's pretty rewarding when you put a lap together. Like we were talking about A.J. before, it's one of those bonsai laps that you have to hang out if you want to do a good lap. It worked out for us today. You know, it's good. Hopefully in the race we'll stay out of trouble and finally finish where we need to be.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Two-time defending winner here at Denver. He puts up a quick lap of 60.763 seconds, 98.172 miles per hour. Sebastien has made three Champ Car starts in Denver, started in the top three in each of those events, won a pair of them. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about qualifying today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's been obviously a quite busy session with a lot of red flags. When we got a chance to get going, it really was a time to only do one run, very short first run, and then a second one. That was kind of gambling because obviously then if you get a red flag on your second run, you're really looking stupid and you didn't even put a lap together. We just try to play it safe, especially if it rains tomorrow, which is like a 20, 30 percent chance. We'll see.
The McDonald's car was pretty good. Unfortunately caught Dan Clarke in a better lap. We'll see tomorrow if we can have better fortune. So far pretty happy with the car, just a little tuning here and there. Hopefully tomorrow we can put things together.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about this racetrack. For those that might not have seen it or been here before, tell us how it is from a driver's standpoint.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's obviously very difficult. We always come back to the same lines, I guess. Low downforce with the very thin air, due to the altitude, we lose about 18, 20 percent of downforce. If you trim the car 20 percent in Long Beach or any other street course we have, it's going to feel awful. Obviously, we don't do it.
It's pretty difficult. Mechanical grip is at a premium. That's why you see so many mistakes. Just, you know, it's very easy to lock wheels and end up in escape roads. I guess that sounds familiar with the last one we had in San Jose, but for different reasons.
It's just a real challenge to get the lap going. Once you do it, it's usually pretty high, on top of the charts. So we'll try and be better tomorrow and do just that. And if we can start from the inside of the first row, because I'm not too big a fan of the outside here. Turn one, it's kind of a one-line deal. I experienced it last year. Obviously, you know, if you push the inside guy here and try and out-brake him, he's going to out-brake himself and drag you with him. That's not looking so good at that point. If we could start from the inside, I would be pretty happy.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
First-round qualifying leader, three-time race winner already this year on the Champ Car trail, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. His fast lap today 60.714 seconds, 98.251 miles per hour. Guarantees himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday's event. That will be his fourth front-row starting spot of the year. By locking himself into the front row, he maintains his status as the only driver in the series this year to start in the top two rows every single event so far this year. A.J., tell us about that fast lap.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think it was good. The Forsythe Indeck team gave me a good start to start with today. I think from last year when both P.T. and Mario were really quick here, gave us a good starting point. We just kept working on it. The session was a bit difficult initially. Really only got to put one lap in ever because when I got going, Paul had his accident, I just got my tires up to temp and did my one lap. We went back out there and got a chance on the reds and really just waited too long to try to get them up to temperature.
I was very fortunate to get one good lap in and really go out there and able to get the pole.
ERIC MAUK: You've been good here in the past. You won here in the Atlantics. You finished 3rd and 5th in your two Champ Car starts. Tell us a little bit about why you've had success here.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think last year, it was kind of one of those things I was more lucky than anything. As Tag talked about, the turn one incident took out a lot of good cars. Last year we struggled a bit but we were able to get fortunate enough to get a 3rd out of it. In '04, it was just a good top-five run for me as a rookie. I think I have a lot to improve on at this racetrack. I think Forsythe gives me that car. I can go out there and really learn the track and attack it.
As everybody's talked about, it's a slippery racetrack with high altitude and just really low downforce because of that. It really just makes you be on your marks every corner. If you're just a touch off here, you're either going to spin or hit the wall. I really enjoy the racetrack. I enjoy the city obviously with me living here. I think they put on a great race, just a great festival. Every time I race here, I get pumped up and get excited.
ERIC MAUK: Last question before we throw it back to the media. Does Red Bull make any longer straws for those cans?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: You know, you got to be able to drink out of it when you're sitting in the car, right? Don't be dissin' on the Red Bull bottle. You know you want one. You can't get one unless you're an athlete. You can't have it (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: I can't believe video games don't count. Questions from the media.
Q: Didn't seem like there was a lot of movement in the later part of the session like there normally is?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I believe so. As Sebastien talked about with the red flag, and with the weather kind of moving in, a lot of people went out early. Then with the red flags, it gave nobody time to kind of do their run, spread out, for people to choose different run patterns. Everybody was just kind of stacked together and going out there and trying to force a lap. I mean, I think that was the biggest thing for me.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, for me, it's just we decided to just play it safe and have only one run. From there on, after that, it was very difficult because, you know, I did do one lap, was going to be another one, got traffic, had to back off. You know, you pass the juice of the tires, then you start to make mistakes. I was again on another one, caught Mario. It's just everybody's trying to get his own gap, and it comes to be a mess at the end.
ALEX TAGLIANI: The first set of tires, it was so bad because the red flag and the traffic, we didn't do nothing. That's why the second set was a big gain because we didn't really run on the first set very much.
On the second set, I really gauged myself poorly behind I think Philippe. He was on red tires. I thought he was going to be quick, so I was trying to follow him, but I was catching him. In the end, I run out of road on my fast lap. The 60.9 stayed. I was, okay.
Q: A lot of guys that ran the red tires talked about not getting anything out of them. Your reaction to how the reds were today?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: It was difficult for me because we went back out there on the set of blacks after I'd only done three or four laps and put my fast lap in. We went back out and tried to do two more. That only left us like four minutes left. So I think for me, it was just more than anything that the tires were going to be fine and be good.
But I just took too long trying to bring 'em in. I knew between, A, I was kind of on the radio asking if anybody beat me. With the track being slippery, as difficult as it is, I didn't want to take a chance of possibly putting in the tires or something for no reason. So I was just more than anything conservative. I think the car was going to be better on the reds, but just never put the lap in.
Q: Alex, how does it feel to have a strong performance after a rough couple of weeks?
ALEX TAGLIANI: It feels really good. I mean, there was a couple of races this year that the car was very fast. I think we throw away Milwaukee, and last weekend was very, very bad. The car was just so good in the race that I wish we would have had a shot at the end.
But, you know, it's been going like that so far this year. We had, you know, a mistake by myself in Milwaukee. I put the car in the fence before qualifying. Then all the other things has been happening. Throttle got stuck, running out of brakes. It's been crash after crash. It's not been helping the team having little parts.
But this weekend it feels really good. I think everybody is smiling. It feels really nice to see them happy and forget about the last two weeks working so hard on the car.
ERIC MAUK: All right. That will wrap our press conference. We set our final grid with qualifying tomorrow. That begins at 2:00.