CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Top three qualifiers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Will, what is the difference in this team from when you first started driving for them? WILL POWER: I mean, it's got stronger every year. I wasn't there for the first year. The second year was my first year. I...

Continued from part 1

Q: Will, what is the difference in this team from when you first started driving for them?

WILL POWER: I mean, it's got stronger every year. I wasn't there for the first year. The second year was my first year. I think not only did the team come on, but I also came on. It takes a while to learn how to drive these cars. They're a real driver's car. You've got to really drive them. You've got to learn what makes them go quick with the setup.

Everything combined, plus a lot of development over the winter, it just keeps moving ahead and we're where we are now. It's just hard work.

Q: Can you talk about the atmosphere, the competition of the Champ Car series?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: The Minardi team I know really well from my Formula One days. They rebranded the name. Paul gave me the opportunity to make my debut in F1 racing, which was a dream come true in 2005. To be back with him, to live this together, for both of us it's our debut in the series.

Yeah, he looked really happy. He was smiling. I think he will go to the casino tonight for sure (laughter). Yeah, I mean, it feels like a family, it feels like coming home. I'm very proud that all my Dutch sponsors are here, as well. It was a long winter. It's just good to get racing again and to start with a good result in qualifying.

Q: The difference between Europe and Champ Car atmosphere?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: So far I'm very impressed with the atmosphere. It's very relaxed. The drivers get along well with each other. Formula One, it's so big, so much bigger, so much more people on the team as well. I think I know all the names of my team members already. In F1, it's 500 people. I just call them all Mate. Hi, Mate. It's more small, but more fun as well. I think we'll really have a good year and enjoy it.

Q: Paul, how good a job did they do on the bump?

PAUL TRACY: It's not there any more. I think that was one of the advantages I had yesterday, was that big bump. I really attacked it yesterday and made a lot of time there. Now there is no bump. The only thing that throws you off is if you get out of sync and hit a curb, like what happened to Graham this morning.

The one issue that there was with the track, the city completely fixed it right.

Q: What happened when you came to a stop on the course Will?

WILL POWER: We had a gearbox pressure problem. We got out. I was lucky. Sebastien caused the red, yeah. Same as Australia.

Q: Will, you said at the beginning your goal for the year is to go after the championship. Obviously you have to win the first race. How could you describe to us your approach to this year?

WILL POWER: I'm fitter than I've ever been. I'm probably in the best driving form I've ever been. I've got a really good team around me. It's just all working together. I feel good about the season. I think it's going to be a good championship for us. I really want to win Derrick Walker's first championship.

Q: Is the chicane like Australia or more violent?

PAUL TRACY: I think it's just really very similar to Australia. It's quick going in. You're up around 150 miles an hour on the entry, then kind of braking into it, having to change directions. The track is slippery. They repaved last night, which took the rubber away that was already there.

One of those things. That's really the beginning of the lap, the start/finish line for timing and scoring is back behind that, just behind. Really you want to make your first corner your best one because that leads up to the longest straightaway. Guys are really trying to push the issue, be as quick as they can through it.

WILL POWER: It's a bit more violent than the Aussie chicane. The curb is bigger. It's really hard to find the sweet spot there. It changed overnight. You had to approach it a bit differently. Like Paul said, you didn't actually jump the last one -- jump the bump. It will be interesting in the race because if you kept pounding it hard, I don't know how long the car would last. You have to be smart about it, but also people can get a tow and pass you as well. If you're not quick through there, you're going to be attacked.

Q: Paul, after a season that you weren't too thrilled with last year, how important is it for you to get off to a fast start this year?

PAUL TRACY: I think my focus really is all this championship right now. I signed a new contract last year with Forsythe Racing, made a commitment to the series and my team. Probably looking back at it now last year, probably spread myself a little bit too thin, doing too much stuff, during endurance racing, seven or eight NASCAR races on off weekends. Really I think, like anything, I've kind of stayed away from that my whole career. A lot of people have tried a lot of different things. I was in a position with the team I'm with to have the freedom to do that.

Probably -- I don't think my full concentration wasn't totally on this. That's what we're looking at this year. I've been totally focused on my team, building the team around what I need to be competitive, assembled the people that we wanted on my car, came out and we're right there. At any top championship, you got to focus totally on that championship. That's what I'm doing.

ERIC MAUK: We assume you cut golf cart racing out of your schedule, as well?

PAUL TRACY: Yes. It was a sour end to a sour year (laughter). A lesson learned.

ERIC MAUK: You'll have to explain that to Robert when we get done.

Q: Paul, with the new cars and little problems development, is there an undercurrent of concern?

PAUL TRACY: I think everybody is having little problems. We haven't had one problem yet this weekend. One test we had, we had a multitude of small problems. Our Sebring test went fine with no problems. Houston didn't go very well for us. We had some problems. I had a couple of offs. One was into a big lake. Really cost us a lot of time in terms of getting time on the track. We haven't had anything that stopped us from running since Laguna. We've worked really hard. Like I've said, we've really gone over this car with a fine-tooth comb, really put a focused group of guys together to go over this thing.

Q: How will you two on the front row handle going into the first turn?

PAUL TRACY: I think it's his decision.

ERIC MAUK: It's Will's decision.

WILL POWER: It will be the inside, for sure.

Q: You've raced every street circuit that Champ Car has run. Can you compare this to the others?

PAUL TRACY: I mean, this is a great street course. This is probably one of the finest circuits - not only from a driver's standpoint. A lot of the tracks we go to, we go to the city, the city wants to have a race, but they don't want to give up too many streets, they want to limit you to a certain area where there's not a lot of traffic. A lot of the tracks we go to are compromised racetracks. They're in a parking lot. They're on streets they don't use. They make them short. Most street tracks are a mile-and-a-half to a mile point seven, which is a fairly short lap for these cars.

This track here, other than Australia, which is 2.7 miles, this track is 2.45. It's one of the longest street tracks we've ever raced on. They've done a perfect job. They've gone around and looked at what it takes to be successful in this market to put on a great race and a great show and a festival, to get fans behind it.

I mean, what else can you say about what they've done here? We had a problem with the track. They didn't just try to Band-Aid it and fix it. They tore the whole intersection out last night and repaved the intersection, that's great.

Q: What have your experiences been like with the new car?

WILL POWER: It's surprising how little problems we've had for a whole new chassis and a paddle shift, all that. I think Panoz has done a great job. It will be interesting to see in the race tomorrow. In all the tests, no one's had major gearbox problems and the car hasn't got a major handling defect at all. I think all in all, it's been a really good package

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Full credit for Panoz for making this new race car, for sure. There were no issues. Obviously being a test bunny in Formula One, you know what reliability counts for. I think I've blown up six engines. It's big spectacle in the winter testing. Finding the limits on the parts, the life, everything.

I think with the time they had, Panoz, like Will said as well with the testing we've done, there were no big issues. Hopefully it will be like that in the race as well. I think they're still working flat out on spare parts. That's not important.

Q: Paul, can you say what situation with you and Bourdais right now?

PAUL TRACY: I guess the situation today is I'm at the front of the grid and he's at the back. That's a first, I think.

He's going to be quick. He's going to be fast. You can see today wasn't a good day. Probably the worst day he's ever had in the four years he's been here. I'm sure he's frustrated. But usually when he gets frustrated, he's going to drive good tomorrow.

I would expect him to be a challenge tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much.

-credit: ccws

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Series IndyCar