An interview with: SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS ORIOL SERVIA JIMMY VASSER ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post-event press conference for the Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400, round 11 of Bridgestone Presents The...
An interview with:
ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post-event press conference for the Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400, round 11 of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined by our top three finishers today. Our third place finisher, driver of the #12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for PKV Racing, Jimmy Vasser. This is Jimmy's best finish of the season, his first podium finish, the 32nd podium finish of his career. He also moves up to sixth place in the championship points with tonight's performance.
Jimmy, tell us a little bit about how it went from your end.
JIMMY VASSER: It went pretty good. The guys worked real hard in the two weeks off to get the car, put together right, body fit, make it really slippery as possible, a lot of detail work. To be honest, this race is mostly all credit to the guys for all the hard work that they did.
Aside from that, you know, it showed in qualifying we were third and fourth, second row with PKV cars. The car felt really good on new tires, particularly at the start. You know, felt like I could stay -- even at the restart at the end, I could stay with the Newman/Haas guys when my tires were really good. But then about 15 laps into the run, started to slide up the track a little bit, made it more difficult for me to stay in the draft.
My only real incident, I don't know what lap it was, a couple, two or three laps into the race. I was on the outside of Servia in three and four. Tracy was coming up through the field, was on the outside of me. I was in the middle. It was kind of unfortunate. You know, I was trying to give Servia a little bit of room downstairs, but he wasn't giving me any.
ORIOL SERVIA: I was on the white line, brother.
JIMMY VASSER: You were pushing up (laughter).
Then Tracy was on the outside. There was just nothing. I had wheels on both side pods. I got a little sideways and had to get out of it to gather it up. I think I fell back to sixth or seventh, lost the lead draft. Took me a while. I really lost the lead draft from that point until the yellow. I was running in fourth pretty much, I think running a decent pace, but not the leaders' pace. 26.9, high 8s. Yellow got us packed back up. That was pretty much it.
The guys did a good job in the pits. Good finish for Gulfstream, Bell Micro, the whole PKV team. We built a new giant trophy case in our shop, and little by little we're filling it up.
ERIC MAUK: Is it a satisfying result for you and for the team?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. It's very satisfying. I'm a little disappointed with da Matta's result. He must have had a problem with his car. I seen he went backwards early. But the guys worked hard. Any time we can get a trophy, we're building our team, we're working hard. It's very difficult with the likes of Newman/Haas and Forsythe. The competition at the front sharp end of the grid is very stiff. But we just got to keep working hard and we'll get there.
ERIC MAUK: 32 podiums in what has been a great career. Congratulations.
JIMMY VASSER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Tonight's runner-up, driver of the PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Oriol Servia. It is his seventh podium finish of the season, the 12th of his career.
You gave it everything you had until the end. Tell us about how it went for you.
ORIOL SERVIA: Not really, you know (laughter)
ERIC MAUK: Would you like me to start over?
ORIOL SERVIA: No, I mean, it's kind of frustrating. Now my head is just going over the last 15 laps, what could I have done different, what if I would push it longer on the restart, you know, maybe pass him, then he would not have been able to pass me back. But at the end of the day, at that point you're just doing what you can.
They were going to tell him on the radio whenever I was going to push it. He knew just pushing it as much as I was going to push it, he was going to stay ahead. I think it was pretty difficult at that point to get around him. I was able to go beside him, but then, you know, the juice was over, the push-to-pass was over, he was on the inside, shorter line. There's not much I could do.
It was good fun. At the beginning of the race, I was saving a little more fuel than both of them, hoping that maybe towards the end and on the third stop there was going to be a yellow on that three-, four-lap difference, then it would have been golden, two laps ahead of everybody. It would have been nice. We're gambling a little bit there.
At the end, it was impossible to overtake. We touched wheels also. So I had I think both side pods marked. It was pretty exciting at 200 miles an hour. It was good race, and I'm very happy for the team. 1-2 again. For the championship, I don't know exactly how are the points, but obviously I must be a little better, a little more solid in second place. It's a good weekend.
ERIC MAUK: You definitely widen the gap in second place, only dropped a couple to Sebastien. Congratulations. Good result.
The winner of the Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, now two-time winner here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He earns his fifth win of the season, his ninth from the pole, his 15th win of his career, tying him with Alex Zanardi for 16th on the all-time Champ Car list.
Sebastien, tell us a little about how the overall race went from your standpoint.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, the least I can say it's not been a smooth ride, I guess. We lost the front hatch on the early stage when I was behind Oriol, just before the first pit stop. From there on, I knew it was going to be pretty difficult. You know, the car was kind of draggy. It wasn't as fast. We lost quite a bit of downforce. We were wearing out the tires a little more than we were supposed to.
I was a little bit afraid that it was going to be a tough race, but somehow I was able to stay in the tow of Tracy. I was getting ready to finish second because he was battling pretty hard to stay in front, even when he was saving fuel. I don't remember which stop it was, it must have been the third stop or something like that, just dragged me all the way up there in traffic, nearly stuffed me in the wall coming off turn two. Then I went to the left. Then he dragged me all the way to the left going to the white line. But he stayed there.
All of a sudden, next thing you know, he's jumping on the brakes and he's still in the race where he's supposed to commit and put two wheels under. I was so surprised, I didn't even have time to brake before we made contact. I was right in his gearbox. It's a miracle we made it through. Quite a bumpy ride for the McDonald's car. All in all, a very good result for the team. They got the reward for their hard work.
I'm pretty sick of all this controversy with him because I think Tony Cotman made it pretty clear, he had a public statement at the end of the race saying Tracy was in the wrong, he didn't commit to the pits, and I had no idea he was going to pit. What can I say? The facts are talking for themselves. Once again, there's hiccups on the way with him. But all I can say is we extended the lead for the championship, and that's all that really matters now.
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien did, indeed, widen his advantage over Oriol Servia to 67 points now with three races left to run. He led 53 laps tonight, giving him 1,080 for his career, moving him into the top 20 for the Champ Car all-time list in laps led.
We'll take questions from the media.
Q: Sebastien, just to go into the incident a bit more. I gather in the drivers meeting they made it quite clear when you're coming into the pits, you must put two wheels down over the white line on the backstretch, which Paul did not do. That's entirely your understanding?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's not my understanding; it's what happened. I think Tony Cotman, I said, once again made it very clear PT was in the wrong. He can say whatever he wants. It's not my comments. It's just a pure fact and observation. It's been done by the officials. I won't even debate it any more. It was clear. He didn't obey the rules. We could have paid the price very, very heavily about it. I mean, we're doing 200 miles an hour and I have absolutely nothing to win bumping into the back of his car like that.
As I said, again, I'm just completely astonished that we made it through because it should have been a big, big, big two-car wreck, period.
ERIC MAUK: Updating the unofficial points standings after 11 races, Sebastien has 310. Oriol is in second with 243. Paul Tracy falls back to third, 27 behind Oriol, he has 216. Justin Wilson has 214 in fourth. Mario Dominguez moves into fifth with 186.
Q: Sebastien, had you been told by your team that PT was coming into the pits?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I haven't been told. I mean, we don't know when he's going to come in. Even if they're scanning the radio, which I don't think was the case tonight, I had no idea. You can check my communication records. I had no idea.
The worst of it is, he dragged me all the way up there out of turn two, then dragged me all the way to the white line, but not over the white line, which I would have known he was going to pit. But he didn't do that. I didn't ask him to stuff me anywhere, and that's what he did again.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yesterday, the drivers meeting, we came up with this because we saw everybody was running on the low line, so we saw this thing could happen, you know, somebody's coming into the pits. So that's why specifically we said, "If you're coming into the pits, you put two wheels over." So it was very clear to all of us.
I didn't see if Paul had two wheels or not, but looks like he didn't.
Q: Sebastien, you lost the cover over the shocks and so forth early in the race. We know the aerodynamics and the engineering of the cars is so important. At this race, everybody works so hard to make the cars right. Yet, there you are, you have this scoop there of air, and you're still able to run really good, still able to win.
ORIOL SERVIA: Next year I will start without it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Be my guest, try it (laughter).
Q: Did it create any problems for you in any way, shape or form that you were aware of? How were you able to run as well?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I had extra ventilation at my feet. That was not a bad thing though.
Seriously, the car was like a rock, really. When I was behind PT, it was just fine because obviously you don't have any pressure. But when I was running by myself, the car was a little slower, for sure. I was just more concerned about the level of downforce really because I'm pretty sure we lost a couple hundreds of pounds. Over the length of the stint we're using the tires significantly faster than anybody else. I had to just keep on my toes to just adjust the car. Every time I was starting to understeer a little, I had to do something, then it would oversteer. I would correct it all the time. It was a nerve-wracking race. I'm so glad it's over.
Q: Sebastien, Oriol, looks like you did touch after the restart. Just talk a little bit about what happened there.
ORIOL SERVIA: I felt it. He says he didn't. I felt it. No, it's just one of those deals. I mean, at that speed, honestly, even if you're trying to hold your line, the car moves around more than you think. I'm sure I hold my line, and we touch. I have to think it's his fault. But I'm sure when you touch at that speed, it's nobody's intention because whoever is touching or being touched, you can both end up in the wall. It's one of those things.
Q: Sebastien, earlier when we talked about the racing with Champ Cars, the respect that drivers have for each other, I had a chance to talk to Bodine. He said he had the utmost respect for all you guys in this business. A comment was made that a lot of people were starting to leave, and about the popularity of both sports. You mentioned earlier in the week that racing, as you saw it, bumping and hitting cars is not really racing. I think you mentioned that. I want your thoughts on what Bodine said, the racing on the Craftsman Truck Series, the reason it's so popular is because they're able to battle each other, obviously because they're a full metal vehicle, so they have more protection, aren't going as fast. Your sport is a lot more dangerous. He's saying that's why there's so much more fans. What are your thoughts on that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I guess, I mean, a lot of people probably don't, you know, understand the true value, the proper essence of racing. But, I mean, we had quite a big crowd in the stands. Obviously at the end, they're all kind of trying to get away of traffic.
I think it's just the continuity that's going to bring our sport back to where it was. You still need to think that back in '95, IndyCar used to be bigger than NASCAR, and I want to believe it's still possible to invert the tendency and bring this thing back to the top, and we're working on that.
ERIC MAUK: Jimmy, you've kind of seen it from both sides of the coin. Do you want to comment on that?
JIMMY VASSER: He didn't ask me the question (laughter).
Q: How about the exchange with PT and Sebastien?
JIMMY VASSER: I don't know anything about the exchange with PT and Sebastien. I was half a lap behind. I didn't see it. PT is supposed to put his two wheels and indicate on the back straight, because we talked about it. If you're going in a pack, you're supposed to give some sort of indication at the front to maybe let everybody know you're getting off of it, so... I haven't seen anything.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring our press conference to a close. Thank you all very much. Thank you, gentlemen.