Friday qualifying top-three press conference from Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio with Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier. Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and start today's press conference, first round of qualifying for the Champ Car...
Friday qualifying top-three press conference from Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio with Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier.
Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and start today's press conference, first round of qualifying for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, round 13 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We're joined by our top three qualifiers today. Third in today's first round of qualifying, our defending race winner, Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone, who posted a time of 1:07.580, 120.284 miles per hour. Patrick is shooting for his third consecutive Mid-Ohio podium this weekend. Congratulations. How do you feel about the way things went today?
Patrick Carpentier: So-so. The car was pretty good. I think we didn't do -- the car was better than what we did. Went out on the first set of tires, took a few laps. Just traffic, a lot of traffic. All the guys came out in front of me and behind me at the end there, and I was just trying to get a gap. Just kind of got half a lap here. But I screwed Max Papis up a little bit at the end there because I was just trying to put a lap together somewhere in there. But it just very difficult for me. I'm a little bit disappointed today because I think it's more are you going to get a gap more than how much speed you got. It's a bit disappointing. Hopefully soon we'll go to a single-car qualifying and won't have that problem.
Eric Mauk: Is it something where tomorrow you may consider coming out the first couple minutes and try to create a spot where there's no traffic out there?
Patrick Carpentier: I think it's been our own fault. I think we waited quite a long time, waited till the end to come out. PT did his time fairly early on. Even at the end, I don't think he couldn't get a clear lap either. It's always a question of how much rubber there is, and what time you go out. But I think if they would use the practice time like they do on an oval, and the fastest guys in the practice are going to be the last ones to start on a single-car qualifying, then you'd have more interesting practice, less tire usage and better qualifying.
Eric Mauk: Thank you, congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Our second place driver today, Alex Tagliani, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Alex has finished in the top ten here at Mid-Ohio in each of his three previous Mid-Ohio starts. Tag carded a time of 1:07.477 seconds, 120.468 miles per hour, to take the second spot on today's speed sheets. A lot of rain last night. Was it real slick out there today? How did the track hold up?
Alex Tagliani: No, it was good. We didn't have a very good test here when we came. But we came here with a lot of differences on our car. This morning we had a lot of problems. We broke the block of the engine in the pit lane, and we did about eight laps. So when we came into qualifying, we were a little bit concerned. But I guess the car was all right on new tires, and we did an okay lap on the first set. And I think we got lucky on the second set. I didn't got any traffic. I did it early. A lot of the quick guys didn't have the chance to improve their lap. So we still have a little bit of issues on our car that we have to work. But with the minimum of lap that we ran this morning, it's kind of understandable. We just have to work a little bit more tomorrow.
Eric Mauk: You've always been pretty good here, always had pretty good success. Is there something about this track that suits you? Why do you think you've done well here?
Alex Tagliani: Well, I mean, Mid-Ohio is a difficult track. Like I always said, if you have a good car, you know, you enjoy driving on any track. If the car is bad, you kind of hate the track. So, you know, last weekend until the race, Elkhart Lake was my favorite track. But last weekend in qualifying, I hate that track because the car was bad. So it's just if you have a good car, you are enjoying it more.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations, good luck tomorrow. Today's first round qualifying leader, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, who leads the way after putting up a time of 1:07.204 seconds, 120.975 miles per hour. Paul guarantees himself his ninth front row starting spot of year and grabs another championship point, giving him 162 on the season, and moving him to within two points of series leader Bruno Junqueira. Paul, after last weekend, how important was it for you to come out here and get right back on it?
Paul Tracy: I think it's always important to respond to a challenge. You know, the last few races, we were able to dominate, and Bruno responded in spades. Going into Elkhart, he was saying that's his favorite track, that's where he's looking for a win. And he responded and did that. I made a mistake and ran off the track on the first lap. So the work that we put in has come to nothing. So this has not particularly been a great track for me in my career. I've never won here before. But I've always finished pretty well. I finished on the podium many times. So we knew that we needed to respond back. You know, Bruno hit the ball back towards us, now we have to hit it back towards him. We came out this morning, we didn't run a lot of laps. We had a good test here. We came out this morning and waited for the track to come in. We only ran six laps this morning. I posted second quickest. Then waited in qualifying, and went out on the fifth lap and set the quick time.
Eric Mauk: Third lap, a 68, fourth lap, a 71, then you snapped off the lap that got you the pole. Holding back a little bit, creating some space for yourself?
Paul Tracy: Yeah, I had some traffic in front of me and I had to wait a little bit. There was quite a lot of cars on the track when I went out on the track. Then the last two or three laps that I had were clear. So most everybody had come off the track. So I had to wait a little bit before I could go.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. We'll go ahead and open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Paul, any extra pressure on you here after last week?
Paul Tracy: No, I mean, you know, there's always pressure. But for me, you know, we just need to respond to that pressure. I would say there's probably no more pressure throughout the season than running in Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal for me and for our team. So, you know, we were able to withstand that and thrive off of it. So, you know, I guess this is the way that it's all supposed to happen this year. You know, being upset about last week doesn't do anything to help you this week. So you just have to roll with it and do your best every weekend.
Q: There's been a lot of discussion about single-car qualifying for the series, what do you think?
Paul Tracy: I think for me it's best not to make any opinions on what CART is supposed to do right now, so I'm just going to let other people make opinions (laughter). It's not for me to make the decisions on the rules. I mean, it's the same for everybody right now, and you have to go out there and find a gap, and your team has to look at the computers to find a gap, when to go. I've been pretty successful at it this year, you know, going on the track and being in a gap when I get out of the pits. We really work hard at that. When I go to leave my pit box, we go into a gap. That's what we try to do.
Alex Tagliani: There's always something to improve. But I think there's so many things to look at, I cannot make an opinion on that. It's schedule, time, who is running with us in the same weekend, is it possible. You know, it's all those questions. But, you know, I think at the end of the day, it's a respect that you have to have on the track with the other guys. Today was a good example. My buddy Paul here let me by, and I give him back the same two laps later. If you do that, I don't think there's going to be any problem. But if you start playing games on the track, that's when people start bitching, you know, about qualifying, and it gets out of control.
Patrick Carpentier: I have my opinion on that. I said it, so...
Q: Pat, your thing with Max Papis, you dropped in front of him and cut him off. Why?
Patrick Carpentier: Well, because I had to get a gap, that was actually the only lap that I had. That's when I actually did my time. It was either that or no good time. So that's what I did. I mean, you let some of the guys by, and Max is one of the guys that you know if you let him by, you're never going to get by him again, so I had to go. It was the last corner, and I saw him. He was inside. And it was either him or me, so I flipped the coin, looked at it, and it seems like it was me. But I cannot say nothing. I know I screwed him up, but that's why I don't like that system so much. Because I let a couple other guys go by down the back, and then I tried to get a gap, and then there was a little bit too late. I was on the last corner. If I would have let him by, then that was it, so.
Q: That was your last lap?
Patrick Carpentier: Yeah, that was the last lap I did actually because after that, it went red.
Q: This is a physical track, does the fact that it is a little cooler than normal make it any easier for you guys?
Paul Tracy: I don't think so. I mean, it's the same venue that we've raced at for years. You know, we've just come off of four or five races pretty much in succession that are all tough, physical races, starting at Cleveland -- starting at Portland, then a test here, then Cleveland, then Toronto, Vancouver, Elkhart. If you're not in race shape going into this race, you might as well just pack your bags and go home, you know. So, you know, you're at the end of a swing of all hard races. If you can't -- you know, if you're not able to handle it, then you're not good enough to be here really. You know, right now probably all the drivers are at their peak condition right now at this point in the season. I think it just makes it a little bit more comfortable to drive in, you know.
Q: Alex, what was the problem in practice?
Alex Tagliani: We split the engine in the pit lane. They started up, I went to leave the pit lane, and I went, "I didn't do nothing." (Laughter) There was like a big hole in the block, so...
Q: What are your thoughts on the cancellation of the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix?
Alex Tagliani: Well, I think it's pretty sad for the fans because Canadian fans, they love motorsport. I think all over Canada people were coming to see Formula 1 once a year. But it's also sad for the promoters because they were doing a fantastic job at that race. From people's comments, it was one of the best organized race in Formula 1. So I'm sure losing the race, not for their fault, it's probably very disappointing for them. But I guess Bernie has to decide what's the best for his series.
Paul Tracy: I think the same as what Alex said. I mean, you know, if you look at the Canadian GP, it's been around for a very long time, not only at that track, but Mont-Tremblant, Mosport. It's just part of Formula 1. Since '79, I mean, I would have to say you could put Montreal, the Montreal Grand Prix, probably in the same hat as Monaco or Silverstone or the British GP, whatever, as one of the crowns of their championship. So to lose that because of the legislation, I mean, it just shows, I mean, not only is CART hurting, but the legislation is hurting motor racing all over the world. People like to say, "CART is getting hurt." Everything is getting affected right now.
Patrick Carpentier: Same thing. I just think for the kids who want to come up from Canada with everything that's happening, and Player's leaving next year, no Grand Prix, one less race for them to sell to sponsorship, to come racing and stuff like that, I think for them it makes it more difficult in the future.
Paul Tracy: You have to look at the whole picture. I mean, not having that race, there's other support races where kids are coming up, like Pat said, Formula Fords, Formula Atlantics, in years past some showroom stock racing, things like that they've done there in the past. It affects a lot of people because that's one of the most important races in Canada for any sponsor to be at because of the amount of crowd that is there on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, to be part of a support series, it's a big audience to be up with.
Q: What do you guys think about coming back to Mid-Ohio and the chance it might not return next year?
Paul Tracy: My feelings, we talked about this last night, and I heard Bobby Rahal say some interesting things. It's not really my feelings that count. Sure, I'd like to stay here. Sure, I'd like to stay at Elkhart Lake. But it's up to the fans to make that happen. You know, it's not our responsibility. I mean, Elkhart Lake got put back on the schedule, and the fans didn't show up to support it that said they'd be there. That just put the nail in the coffin for Elkhart Lake. You know, sure, if you ask any racing driver, we'd love to race at Elkhart late. But when there's nobody there, then you can't afford to be there. It's the same for this venue. We all love to be here, but it's up to the fans to show up at the gate to make it a viable race. When you go to a street race and you get 180,000, 200,000 people for the weekend, you know, financially it's a much more viable product to put on than what happened at Elkhart.
Alex Tagliani: I think Paul's right. We have to just leave on the side our own preference and our taste and what we want, and just do whatever it takes for the series to get better. If financially it's better to race on a street course, then let's have 20 street courses. I mean, even like having less race overall in the schedule, but better races, I think it would lower the cost of a season. We just have to concentrate on having 16 good races, and that's it.
Patrick Carpentier: I think for sure try to get a good race where people will come, but I think it's pretty more complicated than that. I think part of it has to do with promotions and things you do and events that you put on. For sure, in the cities, you can get more people. Usually here, it's pretty far out, and we usually get a very good-sized crowd. To me CART has been what it is because of the different circuits. You get street circuits, road course, ovals, superspeedways. I think that's what separated this series from any other series. Maybe they should have more street circuits onto the series if it's better for the series. But I think they should still have different types of circuits all year.
Eric Mauk: Thanks, guys. Final grid for final qualifying tomorrow afternoon at 1:45. Thank you all for attending. Have a very good day.