CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Top-three qualifiers press conference

Top three qualifiers press conference from the Molson Indy Montreal with Alex Tagliani, Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia. Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference of the Molson...

Top three qualifiers press conference from the Molson Indy Montreal with Alex Tagliani, Bruno Junqueira and Oriol Servia.

Eric Mauk: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference of the Molson Indy Montreal, round 14 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We'll be joined by the top three qualifiers for tomorrow's event. Starting third tomorrow will be Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, who posted the second fastest time of the day with a lap of 1:19.671 seconds, 122.408 miles per hour. Bruno will start third here at Montreal for the second consecutive season and starts in the top three for the seventh time this year. Bruno just 6/1000ths off the pole. Gave it a great run, just came up a little short. Tell us about your day.

Bruno Junqueira: The PacifiCare car was very good today and through all the weekend. As I said yesterday, I think I have a chance to fight with Oriol to get the pole. Today we fought. I was a little bit faster. But Tag just came on like a rocketship and run 6/1000ths of a second faster than me. I mean, we did a different strategy today. We went earlier. There were a lot of good guys, (Paul) Tracy, Sebastien (Bourdais) on the track. On the second outing, I went very slow, pulled a lap 6/1000ths short of the pole. One lap before we have a problem on communication. I think I could get a better lap, but I made a mistake. Was going to go until the last lap to get the lap.

But I think at the end of the day I lost the pole because there was a rest room by our stall, out there by the box of the pit area. Every time before every practice I go there, I have a pee and go. I don't know what happened today but for qualifying, I went to go there and there was no restroom. I lost maybe a pound, extra one pound. One pound would be more than 6/1000ths of a second, I don't know.

Anyway, well done, Tag. His home race. I'm sure that he made a very good lap. Between me and Oriol and the other people, it is very, very close. I think is going to be a very difficult race, especially because Oriol and Tag are still looking for their first win in the Champ Car series. I'm sure they're going to work really hard. Oriol, the best start in his career. I think Tag already got a pole or two, but not in his hometown. He is going to be really exciting for the race tomorrow.

It's going to be really difficult because I want to win the race, as well. I'm trying to be as consistent. I win races, I'm fast. I want to go fast, but I need to go really careful. It's going to be a difficult race. This track is very easy to make mistakes because of hard brakings for the chicanes. Sometimes you can brake a little bit late and miss the apex of the chicane, and this opportunity guys have to pass you. It's a very long race, 75 laps.

Eric Mauk: 75.

Bruno Junqueira: It is a difficult race. I'm very confident that the PacifiCare Newman/Haas car will be good tomorrow and we can get a great result and hopefully I'll win. Thank you.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. The qualifying gap between the first two of 6/1000ths of a second is the closest since the gap at Chicago Motor Speedway one year ago, which was also 6/1000ths of a second between the top two qualifiers. Starting on the outside of the front row, Oriol Servia, driver of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, earns his front row starting spot by virtue of winning yesterday's qualifying. Came out, put up the fourth best time of today's session with a lap of 119.750 seconds, 122.076 miles per hour. This will be the first front-row starting spot in Oriol's career, the best grid position of his career. A lot of people went out very early today. You waited quite a while. Were there any thoughts of not even going out or did you know you were going out?

Oriol Servia:  Yeah, I mean, the other people, we were in a better position
because we could take maybe a little more risk.  We knew that we had the
front row already, so why not wait?  We waited till the end.  I think it was
a good strategy.  What happened actually, on the first set of tires, we went
out and something broke.  The undertray was on the ground a little.

We solved that for the second set of tires, so we solved that problem. The car was not reacting very well on the first set of tires so we made some changes. We were still very close. I think we were like within a 10th of Tag, so it was good. Actually on my last lap, just before the hairpin, I was one and a half 10ths quicker. Then I tried to make it up for the last chicane and made it worse.

It was a good effort for the Visteon/Patrick Racing team. We knew we had to give it our all. We knew the other guys were going to fight hard. They were obviously very quick. I'm just really happy to start from there. As Bruno said, it's going to be a tough one. Long race and difficult to be at the front in the end. It's funny because we started in CART the same year, 2000. We have both been very close to winning a race. We haven't done it. As Bruno said, (Tag) is excited to be in his home place. He doesn't get excited easy, but he will be for sure tomorrow. I don't know. We'll try our best. I'm really hoping to get our first win and we have fun doing it. We'll see what comes out of it.

Eric Mauk: Yesterday you came in with an ice pack on your hand. Any problems today with that?

Oriol Servia:  No.  I'm doing a bandage wrap before each practice.  It's
working pretty well.  I have no problem thanks to the medical staff that we
have.  It's been great.

Eric Mauk: You take the green flag from the outside on the front row. How do you approach that first corner, that first lap tomorrow?

Oriol Servia: I mean, it is a special first corner. I think in Formula 1, probably the statistics is 90 percent of the time there is a crash on the first lap because the way it is, we have a small right, a small left, and a very tight right. So, I mean, sometimes being on the outside, you can try to stay on the outside and get the inside for the right number. But we'll see what happens. The starts have been quite funny this year. We'll see. I think I have a very good car this morning on old tires, I was running very consistent, very quick lap times. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. As we wait for Alex to get done with 50,000 of his closest friends out here, we'll start questions from the media.

Q: Did weather conditions -- the day started overcast, then the sun came out. Did the track get greasy at all towards the end?

Bruno Junqueira: No. I think the track was really good today. I think the lap times that were run were impressive because we were like 6, 7/10ths slower than last year's pole. The Ford engine is very good. On the long straights, like here, you are much slower than last year because last year could rev the engines much higher, and you could be quick on the straights. I'm quite impressed with the lap times. I was expecting when we came here to run like 20.0, 20.1 would be the pole. We end up running 19.6. It's pretty fast. I think the Bridgestone tires are working really well. You can run the cars 25, 26 laps and still able to put some very good lap times on those. That helps throughout this morning's session. I could make all adjustments in my car. Plus the teams, I think because you have the same car from last year, you have a lot of experience on those cars, and everybody has very good setups. I think everybody have a good car. The difference between the guys that are in front and a little bit in the back is that you have a very, very good car, and the guys in the middle of the field have a just good car.

Q: You started third, Paul will start eighth.

Bruno Junqueira:  Since I know Paul Tracy, he start 18th, 16th, and still
win the race or finish top-three.  This year, I don't know what happens to
him.  This year he's starting much better than all his life.  I mean, in
order for him to start eighth, there are two things that happen:  either you
going to go forward or you going to crash.  For sure, he is not going to be
in eighth at the finish.  I don't know.  I'll try to do my race, as I said.
I'll say again for Tagliani.  Is going to be difficult.  These two guys
here, one of them their first race, especially at home, you know.  But I
will try to win, as well.  Going to be a long and difficult race tomorrow.

Eric Mauk: We are now joined by our polesitter, the hometown favorite, Alex Tagliani, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, who carded a lap of 1:19.665 seconds, 122.418 miles per hour to take the fifth pole of his career and the second of the season. This also gives Alex a championship point, boosting his season total to 74 and giving him sole possession of eighth place in the championship. Congratulations, Alex. How important is it to come out here in front of your hometown fans and put a pole on the board?

Alex Tagliani: Well, it's important, you know. Our team is working very, very hard. We have very smart people on my team and we're learning. We are getting more data race after race. There's always a little improvement. Being on the pole really is very special for me. But at the same time, you know, it's a way to say thank to all the guys because they had a very unusual season this year, just from movers to builders to, you know, cleaning. It's just unusual in the racing. A lot of times it's just trying to go racing and make your car fast. So I think every time we can get a good result, it's a big relief for everyone.

Eric Mauk: Yesterday Oriol led qualifying with a 21.1. Picking up a second and a half, almost two seconds today, are you surprised how fast it was today?

Alex Tagliani: Yeah, it's fast. But, I mean, the tires I would say start slipping from the lack of grip on the of pavement, so you have to wait. It's like Monterrey, Mexico. You know the first practice, the first qualifying, if it stays dry all weekend long, it's always going to be faster and faster and faster. So we were expecting that and we were hoping to be ready, have the right combination on the car for the track. Today we were lucky, no traffic. We could have done it. It's very important. In qualifying, having a good car, fast, no traffic, it's always a very difficult combination to have, and we had it today, so we are pretty pleased with that.

Eric Mauk: Your thoughts on your chances for tomorrow?

Alex Tagliani: Oh, you know, qualifying is pure speed and pushing really hard. Racing is more strategy, making no mistakes, saving the car, being very light on the parts and everything. It's going to be a long race. There's cars that are very fast, possibility to pass a little bit the long straightaway in the draft. Obviously, the engine is less power, so when you're in front, you're pulling everyone behind. Pole is good, but we have to work harder and finish the last 50% for tomorrow.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations, best of luck tomorrow. We'll open it back up to questions from the media.

Q: You went out fairly early and set your time. Were you concerned that that time would not hold up?

Alex Tagliani: Well, there is a couple of factors today, you know, the cool temperature. Like yesterday, we were in trouble. We put ourselves in trouble because we went out, there was a red flag, then we were so early that we put fuel in the car to do many laps, so the tire pressure was not up there. Today, just said that we have the car to be up front, and take the risk, do our four or five laps. If we get blocked, tough luck. On the first set, we did it. But I didn't go out very early. I saw Bruno, Sebastien went out. They did 20.0 and 19.9. Bruno was P1 at the time. I knew that the pace was going to be really fast. But it's always also very good when you know what kind of time you have to do. We have it all on our dash. I saw that the segment was good, so I pushed it. I had two very good laps going on. But then the second set of tires, it was very bad. I mean, the track was very maybe getting a little bit hotter. I was not able to match my time. I was just 19.7, so a little worse.

Q: Bruno talked that his team had been here last year, Oriol's team. What did you use for a play book? Did you feel like you came in here a little bit behind the eight ball when you got here?

Alex Tagliani: Well, you know, when I go racing, what I did all year long is I know what I like about the car in Long Beach, for example. I try to look at it and say, "Okay, Montreal last year, that was very important, struggling here and there, try to give them as much information as I can." But the engineers, they said the track was today, Thursday, they said the speed numbers are quite important here. With all the experience we had this year, that's how we set the car up. So they're very smart people. They're learning. I'm learning with them, as well. You know, it's just taking them a little bit of a notebook and information for the future. But that's why the potential is so good.

Q: After the position you were in last winter when you lost your drive with Player's, how does it feel to come to your hometown and get the pole ahead of your own team basically?

Alex Tagliani: There's an expression that we say in French (Translates to: In Your Face) (Laughter) I don't think about nobody when I drive. I'm so focused on trying to push the car to the limit. I mean, my family's here, my friend's are here. They've been here for the last four years in Montreal, Atlantic, IndyCar. It's been like that. For me it's a new challenge. I'm quite pleased that Paul (Gentilozzi) had confidence in me to put me in his car for his new team. He's investing a lot of money. He said many times, I don't invest in Champ Car to make friends. I can afford to bring my own. We're not here to just do a parade. We're here to learn very quickly and be very successful like everyone in Champ Car.

I have to produce results for him, for the sponsors and the team because when I see those guys, I think there's only one weekend all year when they haven't worked late on Saturday and Sunday, that's pretty amazing. For me to get a result like this, it's like a little bit of relief for them. Just have to keep it up.

Q: You're going to be doing different format in qualifying for a couple races this year. Each of you, when you go to single-car qualifying, does that change the way you have to approach that task?

Oriol Servia:  From our point of view, as drivers, it doesn't change much.
We just need to go out and push as much as we can.  For engineers,
definitely it's, you know, new challenge.  They have to let the car ride,
two warm-up laps.  I don't know exactly how it's going to work.  You only
have one chance.  We'll see.  We did it in Brands Hatch.  Actually I did
like it a lot.  I don't think it's a big thing for us actually.

Bruno Junqueira: I mean, I think is a good thing, single-car qualifying. But actually today was really good because we had 40 minutes and cars going out on the track in 40 minutes is good. Yesterday, everybody wait at least 20 minutes to do the first run is bad. The track today, was good in the 10-minute session. Everybody realized already that the track was very good. But very often that doesn't happen, especially on these street courses, and single-car qualifying is going to be a good thing. But to be true, I think everybody is concentrating tomorrow's race, and next week we going to think about Denver.

Alex Tagliani: Well, I think it's good. But there are some tracks like here, it's very easy to let people by because the straightaway are long so you can see who's coming up. Longer track, I mean, if you get blocked, it's unusual and people want to block you. Street courses, sometimes you're trying to get out of the way, but there's a sequence of three, four corners that when you're on cold tires and somebody come on hot tires, even though you're moving out of the way, you're still in the way. I think for Miami and Denver is the proper track I think to do a single-car qualifying. I think it was a right decision from CART.

Q: Tag, Oriol, you have been solo this year while everyone else has had teammates. Do you think that slowed your development? Is it now coming together for you guys?

Oriol Servia: Didn't slow us this weekend, that's for sure. Two cars has the good things, has the bad things. My personal opinion, I think it's a plus to have two cars if you have a good team, the team is working well together. Obviously, if you start with a good car like we did this weekend, it's not a big thing. But it helps to start with a good car. If you have two cars, you can definitely make more progress, like it's something you've seen with Newman/Haas or Player's. Sometimes on Friday they are not really great, but Saturday they are. It's because they have two cars, they're able to try more things, and they do it. When you see Tag or myself in Friday, it take us a little longer sometimes because you just cannot try as many things. So I don't know when that answer your question or not. It's definitely a little bit of a handicap we have, I think.

Alex Tagliani: Oriol answered the technical part very well. There's a plus and a minus when you're by yourself. You have a good result, you get a big kiss from the boss, but when you do bad, you get slapped around, too (laughter). I guess sometimes two teammates, they can share the bad success, but it's better to be by yourself when you have success, for the drivers.

Eric Mauk:  I have Bruno worried about going to the bathroom, I have Alex
getting beat up by his team owner.  Time to wrap this up.  Tomorrow's 75-lap
Indy Molson Montreal begins at 2 p.m.  Thank you for your time.

-cart-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia