Friday Champ Car Press Conference Transcript Paul Tracy - 3rd fastest Mario Dominguez - 2nd fastest Sebastien Bourdais - Provisional Pole ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and get started with the post-qualifying press conferences, first round of...
Friday Champ Car Press Conference Transcript
Paul Tracy - 3rd fastest
Mario Dominguez - 2nd fastest
Sebastien Bourdais> - Provisional Pole
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and get started with the post-qualifying press conferences, first round of qualifying for the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver, Round 9 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, we are joined by our top-three qualifiers of the day. Starting with our third-place qualifier our defending series champion for 2003, driver of the No. 1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul puts up a best time today of 60.885 seconds, 97.975 miles per hour. Paul third on the day, but still a little bit of frustration for you it appears.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I am extremely frustrated that the session was red flagged at the end there for Ryan Hunter-Reay had done a donut, I guess, and kept going and figured that was reason to throw the red. Very, very frustrating when the cars are out there and you are driving on the limit and you only have one opportunity on the tires to get the time and it got interrupted with a red flag so that was really a missed opportunity. We'll just try and regroup and hopefully have better luck tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: They reconfigured what is now Turn 9. How has that affected the racetrack at all?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think really a lot. In terms of last time, I think it's very similar. I think it's got quite a different line coming into it. I don't really agree with it that it's any safer. I think it's maybe a little bit more dangerous because the way you approach the corner now the wall is coming at you and you are braking in a straight line and the wall is kind of coming back towards you so if you lock your brakes or have some kind of a problem you are going to basically run into the wall at a 45-degree angle. So it's just made the corner a little bit different, but I can feel it is a little bit more unsafe than it was.
ERIC MAUK: Guys are a little quicker now than you were at this time last year. What do you feel the reason for that is?
PAUL TRACY: Some of the corners are wider. What is now Turn 1, 2 is wider than last year, has more grip. So really that's the main difference, I think.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulation. Best of luck tomorrow. Our second-place qualifier on the day coming off a Top-5 run last weekend at Road America, the driver of the No.55 Herdez competition Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Mario Dominguez. Mario puts up a best time of 60.721 seconds, 98.230 miles per hour. You come off a Top-5, you come out here and you put a second in first-round qualifying; got to be happy with that.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, not as happy as I would have been if this guy (Bourdais) wouldn't have come at the last lap. He did pretty good. But I am quite happy, the team gave me a really good car this weekend. I like this racetrack. It's a fun track to drive around and it's not easy, muscling these cars around with all the horsepower through these very narrow streets. It's very challenging and it's good fun.
ERIC MAUK: How did the tires hold up today ?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Bridgestone tires were great, actually, they were holding on for several laps very consistently, even this morning I ran for quite a bit and they were very consistent all the time. So I am very happy with the job that Bridgestone is doing.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our first-round qualifying leader, the driver of the No. 2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien is our series points leader. He earns a Championship point by leading today's session, increasing his advantage on the field to 48 points. He puts up a lap of 60.413 seconds, 98.740 miles per hour. You stole another one on the last lap. Where do they keep coming from?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I guess I am just trying to do the best I can and am keeping consistent at the right moment. It was very difficult, the first set of tires I got some traffic and then the red flag came out, so I just came in the pits and then on the second set of tires I was kind of, you know, going fast and slowing down because I was catching Nelson (Philippe) that was trying as much he could, but still not quite fast enough to run into the back of his car.
So, I looked at the stopwatch on my steering wheel and I said now whatever I am doing I still have two laps so I sacrificed one and built a gap and said now tires are up to speed and setup is good so let us try it over again and it worked perfectly. The setup of the car was pretty good. You never know and you won't probably hear a driver very, very happy with the balance of the car because the downforce level is pretty low and the grip is diminished, so it's always difficult to find the perfect balance. But what it really takes is to have a balance that allows you to attack and that's what I have been doing in the last lap, so it worked out fine. It's a very good point to take. Front row secured now. It's usually a sign of a pretty good weekend.
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien guarantees himself a front-row starting spot for Sunday's race by leading today's qualifying. This marks the 9th consecutive race that Sebastien will have started in the Top-3. He's the first driver in the modern era of Champ Car which is counted from 1979 to the present to begin the season with nine consecutive top-three starts. Sebastien, you put up a 60.4. Might be a little early, but any chance of getting in the 59s tomorrow?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's quite possible. We have the soft compound with Bridgestone tires this year and for sure the grip has been improved. It's difficult to compare one year to another, as PT said they pushed some walls. Turn 1 and 2 is wider. They pushed the outside wall of Turn 3 and took out the wall at the inside of Turn 1 what used to be Turn 1 which is Turn 5 now. It's a more interesting and challenging corner now. So it's difficult to know what really the difference because Turn Nine also slower in the meantime. So you have some faster corners but some slower and the compound is different. It not very easy to compare, but I think the package is nicer to drive; that's for sure.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations on your run. Good luck tomorrow.
Q: Paul, last year during the qualifying you had your problems. You felt that the qualifying effort last year actually cost you the race because the course being as narrow as it is and that you have got to be up pretty far -- this time as far as, you know, finishing back and you have got to try to get that front row ---
PAUL TRACY: It's still very difficult to pass on any street course no matter how wide it is, or when you are at the front end of the grid, and you have guys like Sebastien, Bruno and obviously Mario ran well here last year, it's very difficult to pass if a car is running well. So it puts an emphasis on qualifying. Last year we qualified ninth and we passed some guys and ultimately ended up 4th. So we'd like to start closer up to the front and not have to work so hard, but when you are at the front if you are leading the pack you are basically controlling the race, and even at a place like Elkhart Lake which is four miles long it's difficult to pass there, just have to control the pace of the race.
Q: Could you expand on that Paul, is this a better track now than in its third year? Has it improved?
PAUL TRACY: Certainly it has -- I think it's improved in one section that was a big problem which is now Turn 1, 2, 3, 4, when it was first paved the first year it was so slippery, and seems to have much more grip now that the pavement has been down for a couple of years. What I understand the first time we came the pavement had been laid down a month before the race and it was just like being on ice. So as time as gone on the track has gotten better, built-in some inherent grip into it which is a help.
Q: Sebastien, first time it's ever happened nine straight races Top-3 start obviously that has been a key, you know, key of most races, particularly here with this narrow track. Talk about what that has meant to your season so far just being able to you know, in these Friday, Saturday qualifyings being able to just start well so that you had a chance to finish well....
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, to be quite honest, this year I have not been performing that well on Friday, just it's been pretty difficult to put the car up front for any reason. Mostly external reasons of, you know, the car, or set-ups or anything like that, just the conditions, red flags and couldn't put it together, doing a mistake, something like that, and we have always been able to recover very well on Saturday; which is most of the time the day that really counts and I am just very happy that we secured the front row today and you know, right now we're looking more confident and we're going to be able to approach probably the Saturday differently in trying maybe save some tires and things like that. It's always easier when you are up front.
Q: Mario, Paul alluded to the fact that he didn't get a particularly good qualifying run last year; had a lot of work to do on race day. You did a lot of work on race day last year too (laughs). I wondered if you could sort of talk about kind of the same things he did about how difficult it is to pass here, as being one of the guys who was really was able to pull it off a lot last year...
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, I was able to pass a lot of cars. I didn't qualify well. I had an accident Friday and then Saturday it was raining when I went to qualify and dried up for everyone else and I ended up 14th. At the beginning there was an accident in the second, third corner and I went, I went all the way to the back and I did pass a lot of cars, but my car was very fast. So once I got to like the Top-5 cars, who were going about just as fast as I was, then everything changed. It was a lot harder to get by them.
Q: Obviously you'd rather not start that deep in the field this year?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: The plan is to not try not to pass too many cars, just try to stay at the front and forget about that. Tomorrow I think we can improve, the Herdez car is very good and there's a lot we can still improve on it.
Q: Talk about the change in the pitstop window rule, I think that's something that everybody has been wanting to get changed all year long. This seems to be even if not what everybody was looking for at least a lot closer to what everybody thought it should be; that is my impression?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: The people on my team say it's worse, but I really don't know much about the pit rules. I think to be honest with you last years rules were very good because that made for some good hard racing. You had pits put in certain amount of laps and the possibilities of people getting lucky were, I think, a lot harder. The way it is right now, probably have to save a lot of fuel during the race. You see less action, but honestly I am not qualified to talk about that very well.
PAUL TRACY: I think you are trying to get me fined. (Laughs). I think the first thing that I should say is I think from what happened last week I think some of the yellows that were called were really unnecessary. They weren't really needed. You have corner workers. You have forklifts to get the cars out of the way. That's what the flags are out there, we're all professional drivers that have been racing since we were kids, we know when we see the flags, you know, so some of the flags that were yellow flags, particularly there was one in the middle of the race and one towards the ends where a car was spun off in the gravel, I don't think were needed.
But at the end of the day it took a bunch of calls like that to totally screw up a whole race, to finally make a change. So it's something that the drivers been basically all the teams have been asking for, the engineers have been asking for since the start of the year and it took one disastrous race for it to happen. So hopefully this is a step in the right direction.
@!SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Certainly going to be a lot about fuel consumption. That's the way it is when you have races with yellow flags and no tire warmers. That's the whole problem. It's very good. It brings a lot of, you know, the show is good because you see cars sliding around different speeds when the guy is going out of the pit but the big problem with that's it's much better for you if you can pit one or two laps later than the guy that you are fighting with. Whatever happens, if you pit two laps later even if you are three seconds behind him you are going to pass him.
The whole issue is right there because in F1 they don't have pit window and they don't have all that and they don't care because whenever they stop, they are as fast out of the box as they are with low fuel and used tires. That's the real thing we're talking about. I am pretty happy that we don't have tire warmers because it makes losing pretty spectacular but it makes very difficult to manage a race when there are yellows. And so I really think it was way too much of a gamble with the old rules I have been complaining about it, so have a lot of others.
I probably lost the win in Vancouver for that, and you know, it is just very difficult to accept that basically the fastest car is not going to win because of strategy and rules. So right now it's probably more in favor of someone who is going to lap fast, except if you get a yellow at a bad point which is very possible. But then at least you have the choice to come in or not. That's good. Because it used to be that you couldn't pit on the yellow because you simply would have to stop the race, so now I think it's more fair for everybody. Especially for the guy that's running hard in front.
@!PAUL TRACY: I think the major difference between us and Formula 1 is they don't really have yellows unless there's a major, major problem. And they you know, track blockage it is one thing on a street course cars in the wall and need to get out of the way, but a place like Elkhart Lake where you have got huge gravel traps and corner workers there's really not a reason to throw -- if a car is in the gravel your day is pretty much over, they should just pull the car off the track and that's it.
Q: Has anyone suggested -- anyone in charge suggested to you guys what is wrong with the rules last year, why nobody wants to go back to that? I mean seems like you all agree they were better. Like a lot of people agree they were better yet there's some reluctance to return to those. Have you gotten indication to why that is?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No comment. Very sensitive.
PAUL TRACY: Very sensitive issue. You have got to ask Paul Gentilozzi about it. His car happened to win last week. I think that was his brain child.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. We will set our final grid for Sunday's race with tomorrow's final qualifying, which gets underway at 1:45 p.m.