CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Top three finishers press conference, part 1

POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND BRUNO JUNQUEIRA ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference with the top three finishers from...

POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH WITH SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, PAUL TRACY AND BRUNO JUNQUEIRA

ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference with the top three finishers from the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the 31st annual running of that event, the season opener of the 2005 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We are joined by our second place finisher today, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. This is Paul's 63rd podium of his career. Just two more podiums will tie him with Emerson Fittipaldi for 10th on the all-time Champ Car list as far as podiums earned. He led 23 laps today, and he will leave here second place in the points. Paul, how do you feel about the day went for you?

PAUL TRACY: I think it went great, but we could have had a little bit more. You know, we're right there. I had a good first stint, then it seemed like my car didn't really improve all that much and we didn't really get a big chunk of time. Once the track started to rubber in, guys started going faster, and I kind of ran the same pace the whole race. The whole race, every stint was the same pace. I couldn't seem to break out of the 70.2 second range, 70.1. Got into 69s a couple times.

When Sebastien came, he came hard and there really wasn't much to do. We're not allowed to block. I kind of faded him a little bit, but gave him enough room and was fair with him. He was able to pull away. I saw that he was on the red tires, the options, and I was on the standards at that point. I thought, "Well, if I can hang with him and stay close, then maybe on the next stop, you know, my final stop, we were going to be on reds. When we came out of the pits, I closed a little bit of ground on him, on the out-lap and the next lap, but he was just able to maintain that distance, that was pretty much it. We just tried to keep pace, keep it there.

ERIC MAUK: Did your pre-race strategy hold up pretty much the way you planned it or were there surprises in there?

PAUL TRACY: There were surprises. Twice during the race I pushed the pit lane speed limiter on. That's when Bruno went by me. I came out of the hairpin and accidentally bumped the speed limiter on with my hand. We're below 50 miles an hour in the last corner, and then I accelerated up, and the thing was on the limiter. Then it was misfiring and backfiring. I was hard into the limiter, and I couldn't get it to turn off, and then Bruno shot by.

I was fortunate enough that we had a restart right away after that. You know, I got off the line really well, used the 'push to pass', and got by Bruno on the restart. All in all, I mean, not where we wanted to be. We wanted to get that elusive fifth win, but we didn't. I think all in all, just a fantastic day for the series and a fantastic day for the City of Long Beach.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We are now joined by the winner of the 31st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the defending Champ Car World Series champion from a season ago, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien led 37 laps on the day, earning the 11th win of his Champ Car career, tying him for 18th with Cristiano da Matta on the all-time list. This is his 18th podium finish in just 33 career Champ Car starts. I don't have to do the math for you to tell you that better than half of his career starts have ended up with him here on the podium. Sebastien, kind of tricked everybody with the qualifying performance, but it looks like you definitely had the setup today.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think we tricked us ourselves. We were not expecting to be out of the top three. It was a long time it didn't happen to us, so it was quite a surprise. I thought I was going fast. It's been like that the whole weekend. And for some reason, we are fast in practice, and for the qualifying it didn't seem to come to us, at least not very easily.

I had to overpush and did a lot of mistakes. As I said the first day, maybe just because I didn't practice enough during the off-season or something like that. But definitely got a bit pumped up for the race and did one of the very best races of my career, went from P4 to win that race, passed PT and a lot of people. Very happy for that. Very happy for the McDonald's crew and very happy to bring home this win for Newman/Haas. It's been a long time here in Long Beach. As PT said, what a crowd, what an event. We definitely want to be back here no matter what it takes.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien turned the fastest lap of the day and also gained a championship point for gaining the most positions on the day. Therefore, he will leave here with a 34-29 lead over Paul Tracy. Sebastien, tell us about that lap 37 pass of Paul. You were right on him for a couple of laps and were able to get by.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I have to be pretty thankful to the Bridgestone alternate tires. They came very fast. PT already did a few laps, so he had time to warm them up. I was just out of the pits. I was kind of worried that I couldn't keep up with him, and it was the opposite. The tires came up so fast, I had a great run on him. I passed him. I think it's been the best pass over PT I've ever had. Doesn't happen very often to pass Paul, so I'm very happy about that. Definitely a great race and very exciting for me.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Our third place finisher on the day, driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. This is Bruno's seventh consecutive podium finish dating back to last season, making him the 11th driver in Champ Car history to string as many as seven consecutive podium finishes together. Bruno, you finished third, you had a strong race, ran up front all day today. How do you feel about the way it went?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I felt it was okay. The PacifiCare car started really well in the race. I was just following Tracy, saving fuel. Then I had a chance to pass him, and was still saving fuel. Pulling away from Dominguez, Tracy was just right behind me, but I knew it was more important to save fuel. After the first yellow flag, I didn't use the 'push to pass', and Tracy got a run on me and he passed me. I think I got a lot of marbles on the tires when I came outside on turn one. My car never handled as well until the end of the stint, so I had to burn a lot of fuel to keep up with PT. The car lost a lot of grip, so couldn't go as further as Sebastien might have did. But I had a good lead on Mario and Sebastien.

But after I was going out of the pits, the yellow came, and Mario and Sebastien just were going out of the pits. So I get some guys, slowing down in the middle of the track, so they passed me, so I went to fourth. Then, I don't know, I guess I passed Mario again at some stage, and I was going behind Tracy, and again Mario passed me in the pit stop. There was Jimmy and another guy in front of me, as well.

So when I had a free track in the end of the race, the car was good - not good as has been throughout the weekend, I had too much understeer. But I was able to finish the race on the podium. I was able to pass Mario when I had a chance. Today I think the strategy worked better for Sebastien who was able to pass PT, so well done to him. I think it was a great race, great race for the fans, and I hope we come back here in Long Beach next year.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Bruno. A couple of notes before we open it up to questions. We had seven leaders in today's race, the first time since the Fontana event in November of 2002 where we have had seven different leaders in a Champ Car race.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That's a street course.

ERIC MAUK: Ronnie Bremer led a couple of laps in his Champ Car debut. He's the first driver since Sebastien when he debuted at St. Petersburg in 2003 to lead laps in his Champ Car debut. And Timo Glock finished sixth, the highest finish for a Champ Car driver making his series debut since Justin Wilson finished sixth here a year ago.

Q: Paul: Marshall seemed to hold you up on the last restart? Did that bother you?

PAUL TRACY: The chief steward had given him the signal to -- they told me on the radio that he was supposed to drive through the pits and be out of the way of the leaders. The lap before we were going to go green, he didn't do that, he stayed out, and then it went green. You know, Sebastien just waited on the pace car a little bit to get away, built his speed up around turn ten, and he (Marshall) didn't really go. Sebastien got away from me probably a couple seconds right there, then he pulled in. That pretty much decided the race. It was really the only legitimate shot I had to get by Sebastien again, but it would have been hard. His car was fast. I don't think we had the pace that it would have taken at the end of the race to out-race him. And after that I just settled in and decided to take what we could get from him.

Q: Did you tire strategy play out the way you planned?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Actually, we had that planned, to use the alternate tires back-to-back. I think it was pretty even, you know, between the alternate tires. These tires were scuffed, then we got two sets of brand-new regular tires. It wasn't a big deal either way. But definitely the fact that we got the alternate tire for that restart definitely helped me because they were coming a lot faster. That's probably the reason I got around PT.

Q: You guys put on a great race today, had a huge crowd. What would you tell the people at Dover Entertainment that may want to go another way next year?

PAUL TRACY: Well, you know, I guess maybe I could comment first because I've been here the longest. I've been here at this race since '91, was my first race here. I saw more excitement this weekend and more enthusiasm from the crowd than I've seen in a long, long time. It's probably one of the best events, in terms of entertainment, that the Long Beach Grand Prix and Champ Car has put on since I've been here.

The fans were here to support it. We've got a new package of events, the drifting was a huge hit with the fans. Support series are strong. The fans love it. There's not much else that Champ Car can do. I mean, they put their best foot forward and did everything -- they've done everything they can do to try to keep this race.

Now it's not up to the fans. It's not up to the drivers or Champ Car; it's up to the media to help us and print positive things about this event because it was a great event, I think it's probably one of the best that has ever been here, and plead our case to the city and to Dover. It's going to turn into a political fight now, which isn't what it should be about. It should be what the fans want. But that's a fact of life, it's going to turn into a political money fight. That's what the whole thing has been over since the split with the IRL. We just hope that we're going to be back. I would feel very ashamed if this was my last time here.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Emerson Fittipaldi , Ronnie Bremer , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta