CART Champ Car post-qualifying press conference with Tiago Monteiro, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with the top-three qualifiers for tomorrow's Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante Presented...
CART Champ Car post-qualifying press conference with Tiago Monteiro, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira
Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with the top-three qualifiers for tomorrow's Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa. We will be joined by each of our top three qualifiers for tomorrow's 70-lap event. Right now we're joined by the first two qualifiers, and we will start with the 2nd place qualifier and the leader in today's session, the driver of the No 7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Ford-Cosworth Reynard/Bridgestone, Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese rookie led today's session with a time of 1:29.042 seconds; 112.639 miles per hour; earns the best starting spot of his Champ Car career. He also earns a Championship point for leading today's run giving him 21 points on the season. Congratulations. How do you feel about your run today?
Tiago Monteiro: Thank you very much. It was amazing, of course. We have been working so hard to get here and the team really deserves it. Everybody deserves it here. We have been pretty good since the beginning of the weekend. We have been working towards having a stable car and I think that's what we managed to do today even though it wasn't perfect. It's never perfect. But I took a lot of risks. I pushed hard. I committed little mistake in the last two corners, but it was still a good lap from the beginning. So we made it. I am really happy for everybody.
Eric Mauk: Starting in the top-10 for the third race in a row, you guys really made some big improvements lately. Anything you can point to?
Tiago Monteiro: We have just been improving all year long, actually. And the way I work with my engineer; the way he understands me; the way I understand him, it's been better and better. We just get to know how to use better the car and do it at the right moments. I am learning all the time. This is my first year. We started really late. I am learning every race, every time I am in the car; so is my engineer and the way we work together. It worked out pretty good today.
Eric Mauk: First Champ Car weekend here at Mexico City. Obviously soon to become one of your favorite tracks. What do you think about the layout?
Tiago Monteiro: I liked it even before that. It was good from the beginning. Reminds me a lot of a European track - nice big track with a lot of green. Most of the course is not that bumpy apart from one or two spots so it's really good to be in a good real racetrack. Of course, with that result, it's even better.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. We are now joined as well by our third-place qualifier, starting 3rd in tomorrow's event, the driver of the No 1 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone, Bruno Junqueira who qualifies third on the strength of yesterday's time of 1:28.905 seconds, 112.813 miles per hour; last year's pole-sitter here at Mexico City, Junqueira will start in the top-three for the fourth consecutive event. Bruno, congratulations, again starting up front, another consistent qualifying run for you. How do you feel?
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, it wasn't the best qualifying today. I mean, yesterday I had what I had, six-hundredths behind PT, but today on the first set of tires I did one timed lap, and then the red flag came on, same as for PT. But on the second set I did the first timed lap and it was like 1:29.6 and the second timed lap was really good, I was already 3/10ths faster than yesterday's laps. I know I am going to lose a little bit on the last three corners, I was losing today 1 or 2/10ths, but I thought it could be the pole.
Then I got Jimmy (Vasser) and he let me by, but on that, I lost half a second, 4/10ths at least, and that lap was like a 9,3 and it was a shame. I think today the car today was good, the track was difficult, because it is hot, very slippery and everybody is very close, but I lost another opportunity to get a point. But on the other hand, last year I got the pole here, but I think I got caught in the draft and passed before half of the straightaway I was already 3rd or 4th. Guys in the second row drafted me; then I hope it can happen tomorrow and I can be leading on Turn 1. I am sure that who will be leading on Turn 1 will have big help out of this track. But it's possible to pass.
It's going to be a really difficult race. The track is hot, the track is very bumpy, very physical because of the altitude. But it is going to be exciting because the chassis Reynard is very good here. Tiago qualifying on the pole today and Darren Manning, Jimmy Vasser, Ryan Hunter-Reay are being quite fast and it's going to be a big fight because they are fast on the straights. Going to be difficult to get around them.
Eric Mauk: Talking about the first straight there, heading into the first turn, the guy you need to beat is directly ahead of you. Is it almost better to qualify 3rd here and be directly behind Paul or would you rather be beside him.
Bruno Junqueira: I mean, I'd rather be on pole to get a point. (LAUGHTER) But, I mean, 3rd is what we have. And it's a long race. For me, as I said, it's important to finish ahead of Paul Tracy and I ahead of Michel (Jourdain) as well. I just know it's a long race. I have a good car. I know that he has a good car as well. But let's see, I think it's going to be a really exciting race because, as I said, this track has some opportunities to overtake. It's not easy because we are running so close between 1/10th of difference, it's difficult to overtake like this. But I think it's going to be a really exciting race for how the Mexican fans are going to show up tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. The pole-sitter for tomorrow's race is the driver of the No 3 Indeck/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Paul Tracy. Paul takes his sixth pole of the season and the 19th of his career on the strength of yesterday's time of 1 minute 29.842 seconds, 112.893 miles per hour. Paul starts in the front row for the 10th time this season and carries a 14-point lead in the Championship into tomorrow's 17th round of the series. Paul, congratulations. Kind of a bit of a tough time out there for you today, but again you walk away with another pole.
Paul Tracy: Yeah, that car was not too bad. We tried basically -- our strategy was to just to do one final lap on the tires. We felt that the tires were at their best on the fourth lap for me and I tried each time on the fourth lap; did a complete lap and then tried one more. And right away I was a couple of 10ths behind in the first sector. So really -- I didn't feel that I could match the time that I did yesterday and we were in a constant communication with the team and nobody was getting really that close to the time, so we were finished with a couple of minutes to go and watched Bruno on the last couple of laps.
Eric Mauk: Starting tomorrow you got the guy that's trying to beat you directly behind you. Tiago right beside you looking for his first win. How do you approach that first turn tomorrow?
Paul Tracy: I think all of us need to get a good finish, so you know, but this is such a long straightaway here on this track and you got some guys sitting 4th, 5th, 6th that are looking to get a good result and there's such a big draft on the straight that there could be some excitement in the first corner. I hope not. But we'll just see how it goes.
Eric Mauk: Thank you. Congratulations, good luck tomorrow. Take questions from the media.
Q: All three of you. The tires could be an issue. What I understand is that some of them begin to wear pretty quickly because of the bumpiness or whatever. Is that going to be a problem tomorrow and the second part where are the opportunities to overtake?
Paul Tracy: The tire that Bridgestone has brought here is a good tire. It is an abrasive surface for sure. I think it all depends on how you set your car up. I haven't had any particular tire wear problems, but for sure, on a track like this, where you have got corners left, you know, successive corners, you know, for basically two-thirds of a lap, it's going to be hard on any tire. Tire conservation throughout the run is always important no matter where you are, street course, road course, whatever.
Tiago Monteiro: Yeah, I think it's going to be long for the tires, but as Paul said, they are pretty consistent and this morning we were quite happy, we did a good time with the -- almost 20 laps, a set of tires and that's more or less what we're going to do, going to go to 20, 24, 25 laps, so we were quite confident actually for the race tire-wise.
Bruno Junqueira: I think this is one of the most demanding tracks for the tires because you have the high speed esses and you put a lot on one side to the other and the tires -- not just like an oval that it can hold a left-hander. Here you have to hold left-handed corners; then right-handed, and the transition between the corners as well, it's pretty difficult for the tires and the Bridgestone tires are working really good. But as I said, it is hot. And it's going to get difficult. As Paul said if you don't have a good setup, you are going to struggle by the end of the run.
Q: Where are the overtaking opportunities on this track?
Bruno Junqueira: For me I think the end of the straight, going into Turn 1, it's a very long straight. If you have a good exit off the left you can breath the guy in front, and outbreak him on Turn 1.
Q: Paul, you didn't improve the time of yesterday. Why, because of the weather, or what was the problem?
Paul Tracy: Hard to say. I think a combination of a lot of things. I think the weather is a little warmer, the rain last night washed a lot of the rubber that was on the track off the track. And then today we have had a lot of different cars on the track. The trucks have been out there and the Mustangs and things like that and that lays down a lot of different rubber that maybe is not as suitable for our car. So it's just a combination of things and we tried to go quicker than yesterday but it just didn't seem like the grip was there like there was yesterday.
Q: What makes the CART series such a good series for you to compete in?
Paul Tracy: I think what you have here is -- what you have in the last three races is what the CART Championship is all about. You have a natural terrain road course. You have an incredible street course in Australia, and a super speedway in California. We have all three disciplines in the last three races. That's what makes CART very unique to Formula 1 or IRL or anything like that. You have got three different types of tracks, a Championship battle between three guys in three different types of circuits.
Q: If you win this championship, what is left for you to do in your career? Formula 1 perhaps?
Paul Tracy: To answer your last question, no, for me probably too old now for Formula 1 and I don't really have the desire to do that. I have a contract with Jerry Forsythe to stay here in CART and he is one of the principle guys who is buying into the Championship to take it private. He's the main guy, Jerry Forsythe behind this facility who renovated this facility. So I am going to stay with him hopefully throughout the rest of my career. And the Championship, I mean, I finished 3rd twice and this team has given me the best opportunity to win a Championship that I have had in my career. But it's going to be a fight 'til the end.
Q: Reynards, I believe were the three fastest cars in today's session. Paul mentioned earlier that he thought that the Reynards are getting down the straights pretty quick. I wondered if you had any insights into why you think the Reynards seem to be doing so well here this weekend?
Tiago Monteiro: Honestly, no. We were discussing that with Paul and there's a few elements that might help the Reynards, as you said the straight lines, but usually as soon as it's too bumpy, we don't seem to do very well because we have to race the car. Here even though there's bumpy corners we are fast all over, so I don't know, I used to say also that when it was getting hotter we were not as good either. Some places when the temperature was rising, we were losing ground to the Lolas. Now it's hot and we're faster. So honestly, I think that most of the teams were who were using Reynards were new teams apart from Walker, and we started from the start and we are just getting to improve now and know better the car maybe we do there. That's one explanation. But there might be other ones, honestly, I can't give you now.
Q: Will today's result make big headlines in Portugal?
Tiago Monteiro: Yes, it's going to be crazy like here, the Mexican fans for the Mexican drivers, I mean, even for me, they are crazy for me so imagine in Portugal. It's going to be a big day in Portugal definitely. I already had some people on the phone. I couldn't hear what they were saying they were shouting so much on the phone. We have to take advantage of those moments, very good moments in your career.
Eric Mauk: That will wrap it up. We go racing tomorrow, 70 laps. We begin at 3:00 P.M. Thank you very much.