Top three finishers press conference with: Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain and Alex Tagliani Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, everyone. We are joined today by the top-three finishers in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, Round 2 of the...
Top three finishers press conference with:
Paul Tracy, Michel Jourdain and Alex Tagliani
Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, everyone. We are joined today by the top-three finishers in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We'll start with our third place finisher today, Alex Tagliani, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He takes the third spot earning his best finish since taking a runner-up spot at Road America last season. This is the best season for the new Rocketsports Racing team and marks the second straight top five finish for Alex here at Monterrey. Congratulations, Alex. Tell us a bit about your day.
Alex Tagliani: Thank you very much. It's a very good day for this new team. It's a very small team at the moment. There's a lot of good things to come in the future. We had a decent car, I think consistent car, not the fastest, but consistent car all race long. We were running at a certain point in second place. We decided to do a full fuel stop. Some of the guys had a little quicker stop than us, and we dropped into fourth. Then Bruno spun, we took third, and we stayed third. I think it was just like a race where you had to do no mistakes and pay attention in other drivers before you that put some grass. It was really easy to slide off the track at some places. I think it's a good result for this young team. Hopefully a lot more to come.
Eric Mauk: We talked yesterday. You qualified third. Second race for Rocketsports Racing. To qualify third is one thing. You talked about what a boost it is. To finish third, talk about the mood of the team, what this does for the team.
Alex Tagliani: I mean, those guys had to go through nightmares. I mean, I never thought we were going to be ready for the first or the second race. They don't have a truck yet. They're moving this week. We only have two sets of shocks to work with. There's so many things to get ready for a team to go racing. I think with all those things, finishing third here, it's a great boost for all the guys that been working Saturday and Sunday, every day, to get everything ready. I think all the guys are going to go back home very happy and boost up, work harder to go to Long Beach.
Eric Mauk: Today's second place finisher, Michel Jourdain, Jr., Driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He matches his career best finish of second for the second race in a row, matching his effort from the season opener in St. Petersburg. He holds down the second spot in the championship standings and earns back-to-back podium finishes for the first time in his career. Also he's the first Mexican driver to claim a podium finish here in Monterrey. Congratulations. Talk about what all this means to you to perform this well in front of your countrymen.
Michel Jourdain, Jr.: Just to finish in the podium, it's great. To finish on the podium in Mexico is unbelievable. The crowd is just so great. They support us so nicely here. It's a great feeling.
Eric Mauk: Talk a little about that last restart. Obviously a lap car between you and Paul on the restart. Did that factor into it at all? Did you think you were going to get what you got on that last restart?
Michel Jourdain, Jr.: I knew that Paul was faster than me for much of the day but I thought I might have a shot on the last restart. Unfortunately, Ryan did not move over as quickly as I would have hoped and I ended up going wider and got some dirt on my tires. Then I could not catch Paul but he was very fast all day.
Eric Mauk: The winner of the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He claims his second win of the season, the 21st of his Champ Car career, moving him into sole possession of 16th on the all-time Champ Car victory list. Paul won today's race by 2.039 seconds and widens his championship lead to 11 points over Michel Jourdain. He led 69 laps on the day, the most ever led in a Monterrey event. You said after the St. Petersburg win you weren't accustomed to having fast starts. Looks like you'll have to get used to it.
Paul Tracy: I have to really thank Team Player's. The job that they did this weekend, we went testing, and found some new things on the car to help the setup. We came here and right off the trailer, the car was fast. I took pole position on Friday, then made a mistake on Saturday in practice and slid over the curb and damaged the car. So that put us out of the running for Saturday's qualifying. But I felt we could have defended if we had the chance.
You know, I guess that was a little bit of a silver lining because I think today the key for the race for me was the tires we had. We had a brand-new set of tires for every stint because we didn't run yesterday. You know, from about midway through every stint, I was saving the tires, then I could really turn it on and pull a gap out. That was beneficial going into the pit stops because the first pit stop, the engine stalled on me just as we dropped the car off the jacks, the engine quit. We had to cycle the ignition and get it started again. But at that time we had about a 20-second lead. If it wasn't for that, if we were packed up, we would have probably came out of the pits about seventh or eighth. You know, I think not running yesterday, although we wanted to be on the pole, we had a good opportunity because we had great tires today.
Eric Mauk: Talk about the last pit stop. You mentioned the engine stalling on the previous pit stop, Michel came right in behind you on that last one, what were you thinking about during the last stop?
Paul Tracy: Figured out I had to turn off the pit speed limiter, there was some type of software problem with the pit speed limiter and the engine rev limiter. When I racked it up to leave, it stalled the engine. They told me to shut off the pit speed limiter and go out without it and just not get over 50. We kind of knew what was wrong. On the last stop, we just had to be conservative and do a nice, clean stop.
Eric Mauk: Couple of notes before we kick it over to the media. Paul is the first driver to win the opening two races of a season since Rick Mears in 1982. Mears won Phoenix and Atlanta and went on to win the championship. Also Paul and Michel are the first drivers since Johnny Rutherford and Tom Sneva in 1980 to finish first and second in the opening two races of the year. Our top five in points: Paul Tracy, 43 points, Michel Jourdain, 32, Bruno Junqueira 24, Roberto Moreno, 18, and Alex Tagliani is fifth with 14.
Q: Paul, is it true that during the last moment of the race that you felt sick in your car?
Paul Tracy: No, I got something going on with my stomach. Right about from mid race, my stomach's been upset. I don't know if it was maybe -- you know, I don't know what the problem is. But I've got a really upset stomach right now. I don't know if maybe the drink bottle that was in the car maybe. The only thing I can think is maybe the drink bottle in the car maybe didn't get cleaned properly from the last race until now. Maybe there's some bacteria. I had a few gulps of water before the beginning of the race. About 30 laps into it, my stomach started really getting upset. I had to run to the bathroom after the podium. I'm hanging on up here.
Q: Could you take us through the start. Did you think that Bourdais was going to be a problem until he had a pit problem?
Paul Tracy: I was going to try and jump the start. I jumped ahead of him, but I spun the tires to two gears. He got away clean on me. You know, I tried to go, and I was on the other side of the track where it was dusty. I just spun the tires through both gears. He hooked up because he was kind of on the line in the middle of the straightaway. So, you know, I got in behind him. Basically my goal was just to keep him within range for the pit stops. It went yellow. We wheeled into the pits and he stayed out. I said, "Well, this is going to be the same thing at St. Pete. If everybody follows me in, we're going to get out in maybe third or fourth."
That's what we ended up coming out. Moreno was the only car that was in front of me. And I saw on one of the monitors that he pitted on the first yellow. So I knew that he didn't have the best of tires. So my goal really was just to get by him on the restart, and I did that going into the hairpin. Being on brand-new tires, I knew I could keep the pace with him and Oriol because they were on used tires. So it went yellow two laps later, they both came in the pits, and that effectively put them in the back and out of the running because you just get stuck back there. You know, your pace is so much slower, you can never overcome that. So really I was quite surprised at Newman/Haas did that strategy twice.
Q: Paul, you had an off 20 laps from the end of the back straightaway.
Paul Tracy: It was really just my mistake. I braked at the same spot every time, but I rushed the downshift a little bit. On the second, it locked up the gearbox and started to chatter the back wheels. The back was locked up, the engine was stalled. You know, I wasn't going to turn in like that and have it go around on me. I just decided to go straight and take the shortest route over the side of the track. You know, cost me a bunch of time. But I got the tires clean in about half a lap and was able to recover from it. Just one of those things. It's a slippery track. One little mistake on the downshift, you can go right off the track. You know, it's very easy.
Q: Before that, maybe a third of the way into the race, you got yourself quite a big lead. You were short-shifting down the straight, really cruising a little bit. Were you feeling fine at that point?
Paul Tracy: It really started about then. About halfway through that second stint my stomach started to turn a little bit. You know, I knew it wasn't something that I -- I wasn't going to pull in for it. You just have to live with it and do the best you can. But, you know, really this short-shifting, things like that, the car was working really well. You know, in those situations, when the car's working well, there was no sense in abusing the tires because I could go as fast as I needed to go without spinning the tires off the corner and not overusing the car. So that's really what I was trying to do, was just be generally for the car, generally for the tires. That way in the last couple of laps, before the pit stop, I could try to do a couple quick laps, and I did that. My inlap was quite quick. Then we had that stall. So that was a big help.
Q: Alex, how hard were you pushing today, considering the car and the way the track was? Are you satisfied that you got all the day was going to give you today?
Alex Tagliani: I'm very satisfied, but there was sometimes where we were on the track maybe with different configuration car. I was pushing all the race. At a certain point, there was Bruno that was running really fast lap times. There was no way I was going to stop pushing because you never know. Another yellow flag, you know, it's all bunched up. So every time I was catching some back markers, I was trying to pass them as quick as I can to be able to put them between myself and the other cars.
Q: Paul, Eric made reference earlier to the fact that you've been known throughout your career as a slow starter. You talked about it in St. Pete, too. Is this kind of a shock to your system, to be in this position?
Paul Tracy: Yeah. It's quite a different scenario for me. But I think really the credit goes to the team. They've done a fantastic job all winter, getting prepared, moving guys around, hiring some new people. So the team is very motivated to do well. You know, coming into these first few races, I mean, I've been able to get a few people on the team that I'm comfortable working with, with Tony, now Todd Malloy is my shop-based engineer. Todd I worked with for five years at Team Green, and Tony for a couple years. I kind of feel like I'm at home. It makes the job a lot easier.