An interview with: WILL POWER PAUL TRACY ROBERT DOORNBOS ERIC MAUK: We'll begin our post qualifying press conference. We have our top three qualifiers for the Vegas Grand Prix, which will be the season opener to the 2007 Champ Car World...
An interview with:
ERIC MAUK: We'll begin our post qualifying press conference. We have our top three qualifiers for the Vegas Grand Prix, which will be the season opener to the 2007 Champ Car World Series campaign. That race will take place here tomorrow on the streets of Las Vegas. We're joined by our top three qualifiers.
Starting with our third place qualifier, member of the very talented 2007 Champ Car rookie class, driver of the #14 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Minardi Team USA, Robert Doornbos. Quick time of 1:18.515, 111.877 miles per hour. I should also add, Robert's #14 is sponsored by Murman's, Jumbo Supermarket, and Media Mall.
Good strong run today. Tell us about it.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah, first of all, it's great to be in the Champ Car World Series. It's obviously a new category for me and also for my team, Paul with this Minardi outfit. We started the weekend not very competitive. I've been sitting down with my engineer, which is going really well, our relationship. Basically he turned the car to my liking. We improved every session.
It's a great feeling to race on the streets of Vegas. I always enjoy driving open street circuits. We only have one really in Europe, which is Monaco, only once a year. I'll be more lucky this season, I think.
Yeah, it went really well. Just in the end we pushed hard. The red tires were a new thing for me. I had no chance to try them in winter testing because obviously they were not there. So the first outing wasn't great. Then the second run on the red tires, we made some adjustments to the car and it was a lot better.
So, yeah, up in third place. It's good to be here, especially because it's the first weekend. Hopefully I'll be here tomorrow as well.
ERIC MAUK: Awfully early to think about this. You're starting in the second row in your first Champ Car race. Have you thought about how you're going to approach the race tomorrow?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It's going to be the first rolling start of my life actually. It will be very, very exciting (laughter). Obviously turn one is exciting because it gets very wide. People can get very optimistic there. I hope everybody plays it smart and lets everybody race and don't make any sudden moves.
Yeah, I'll talk with my engineer and my guys in the team because they have a lot more experience with this type of racing. Then we can go. So it's been such a long winter, I can't wait to go racing.
ERIC MAUK: Starting on the outside of the front row, earned his spot by leading yesterday's qualifying, he posted a quick lap today of 1:19.625 seconds, 110.317 miles per hour, 10th best in today's session. He starts on the front row, driver of the #3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy, the 2003 series champion.
Paul, maybe a tougher day than you would have liked. Tell us a little bit about it.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it was a little tougher for us today. Obviously we made some changes from yesterday. But it just seemed like my car suited going over that big jump in the chicane (laughter). We just never really got a chance to capitalize on the tires. We seemed to either catch a red at the end of the first set of tires, then the second set of tires I had some traffic with Pagenaud, which didn't help. That kind of just killed our qualifying effort.
I think we didn't have anything for what the time that Will did. I think we could have made a better showing. Really the opportunity didn't come up. We're happy to be on the front row.
ERIC MAUK: Talk about the start of tomorrow's race. Surrounded by young chargers, then in fourth and fifth, Tagliani and Dominguez. How do you enter that first corner tomorrow?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's going to be important for everybody to get through the first corner and go racing. I think this is the start of a new era for Champ Car. You've got a bunch of new young drivers that are in the series, obviously showing that they're quick. It's not the scenario that everybody thought it was going to be where everybody was saying in the off-season, Sebastien is going to run away with everything. He's starting near the back. It's going to be quite an interesting race.
ERIC MAUK: The polesitter for the Vegas Grand Prix, driver of the #5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Team Australia, Will Power, winner of his first pole of the year, the second pole of his young Champ Car career. Will puts up what will stand as a new track record, 1:17.629, 113.154 miles per hour.
Will, an amazing lap. Tell us about it.
WILL POWER: On the red Bridgestone tires, at the end I think the track also gripped up. But our car worked really well on them. I mean, we struggled yesterday with just niggling problems with the car. Not to do with the handling or anything. We were quick yesterday. We just didn't get a fair go.
We worked on it, worked on the setup all the way up until qualifying today. Pretty much nailed it at the end, got a good run in traffic. Yeah, we did a mega lap.
But it all started in the off-season. I think Craig and Derrick Walker from the end of last year till now, they've been working really hard. They really want to win a championship. I want to help them do that.
ERIC MAUK: Looking at just the spacing, you talked about the lap and the speed you got out of that lap. Almost a full second ahead of Robert, who put up the second quickest time today. What does that do for confidence heading into tomorrow?
WILL POWER: Actually, the setup differences between qualifying and a race setup are a lot different because the tires go off fairly badly around here. Yeah, I mean, we had a good car in qualifying, but we also did some race stuff early in the practice session this morning. We also have a good race car.
We'll see. We'll get through the first corner. Good start, get through the first corner, we'll just go about our strategy. We're after the championship. We're also after our first race win.
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien Bourdais starting 17th, this is the first time he has not started in the top 10 in the last 54 Champ Car events.
We'll take questions from the media.
Q: Paul, because you already had a front row spot guaranteed, were you able to get more laps in race trim today than you would normally have?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, we looked at some of the stuff that Mario tried yesterday with the car in terms of the rear tires are a little bit of an issue here. They seem to be going off pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time today and did some longer runs, seven, eight, nine laps trying to get the rear of the car more stable. Maybe that cost us a little bit because we went with that type of a setup for qualifying 'cause that was probably one of my issues, was rear power down. Probably cost us a little bit in terms of the outright lap time. But I think I've got a good race car.
Q: Paul, because of your experience in Cleveland, do you think you have a better shot as a good start here? Are you going to tell the drivers at the drivers' meeting?
PAUL TRACY: That's really up to Tony Cotman. This a lot different than Cleveland. It's a fairly quick corner at the end of the straightaway. You get down in there, it's actually fairly quick.
It's not like where you come to Cleveland, you come to virtually a stop. It's really wide. So there's a lot of speed that rolls through there. If you get on the inside of somebody, you hope they can see you, not turn in across you.
Q: Robert, could you please talk about your opportunity to come to Champ Car and how Champ Car compares to Formula 1.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, yeah, I have to thank Red Bull that they actually let me go and race this year, because otherwise it would have been a very long and boring season with so limited test days with the new regulations. I did a day in Bahrain. The car is two completely different animals really. Luckily I raced in Formula 3000 in 2004, which is quite a heavy car, a Lola. That's more like this series, to be honest. I'm learning still about the tires. Obviously in race trim, we haven't done a race condition. We have to see how that works tomorrow.
But, yeah, my experience in Formula One helped me a lot to get to learn this car quickly. It's good on one side that you don't have all these gadgets because it's more fun for the driver. Obviously your right foot is now your traction control instead of a button on your steering wheel when which you have to turn up. There's no power steering, which my trainer helped me get over that trouble. You get a bit lazy in Formula One with all these gadgets.
Yeah, just two different series really. You shouldn't compare them. I know in Laguna Seca, Sebastien Bourdais broke the lap record. I think that was more showing a demo run of the Toyota. Anyway, it's the fastest series I think in the States. It's very competitive. The drivers are very strong. I think the racing will be very exciting.
Continued in part 2