Champ Car media teleconference with Newman/Haas Racing drivers: Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais Eric Mauk: Today we are joined by a pair of drivers from the Newman/Haas Racing stable. We are joined first by the driver of the ...
Champ Car media teleconference with Newman/Haas Racing drivers:
Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais
Eric Mauk: Today we are joined by a pair of drivers from the Newman/Haas Racing stable. We are joined first by the driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Bruno Junqueira. Thank you for joining us today.
Bruno Junqueira: Thank you. Good afternoon.
Mauk: And we're joined by his rookie teammate, a man who sat on the pole for both of the races so far this year, driver of the #2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Thank you for joining us today, Sebastien.
Sebastien Bourdais: Hi, everybody.
Mauk: First of all, let's go ahead and talk to Bruno a little bit. You come into the season as one of the pre-season favorites coming off a very strong year last year, in which you finished second in the championship. You qualified fairly well this year, but you've done well once the green flag has dropped, finishing fifth and third in the two races, standing third in the championship. Tell us about how you feel about how things have gone so far for you this year.
Junqueira: I'm very happy to have joined the Newman/Haas team. I think it's a very good team. We did a very good pre-season test that gives us a chance to be really competitive. But, unfortunately the first two races, we had so many problems in qualifying that couldn't give us a chance to win the races. But I think if you are strong enough, you're going to be strong till the end of the year. It's very important in the CART series to score points every race. I hope we can continue scoring points and trying to win some races.
Mauk: You talked about your new sponsor PacifiCare. This is their first motorsports venture and they come in with one of the series' top teams. You're heading out to Long Beach, a very important market for them, an important race for you. Tell us about what you have going on there. I know you're going in early to do some promotional appearances for them.
Junqueira: I think me and Newman/Haas Racing are delighted to have PacifiCare on our car this year. It's their first year in motor racing. They are putting a big effort and really doing a lot of things that's pretty nice. I'm going a week early to Long Beach because PacifiCare headquarters is in Long Beach. That's going to be their home race. I hope I can get a good result for them in Long Beach.
Mauk: Sebastien, your first two races in the Champ Car World Series, you had success in qualifying, achieving two pole positions - the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1993 to do so. Unfortunately, the race results haven't been quite what you expected yet, but you still have five points in the championship and are champing at the bit to get that first win. Tell us about your impressions about how things are going so far.
Bourdais: It's a lot higher than the expectations we could have had since the beginning of the year. We started very well. We had two poles. To be honest, I was really surprised to get these results. But during the races, we were leading in both of the first events, and we didn't succeed to get the final result. It's a bit of frustration. But, anyway, we were also competitive on both weekends. All I can expect is to finally win one soon.
Mauk: You're on your way back from Phoenix, where you tested on an oval for the first time. Bruno was out there, as well, shook the car down for you. You tested on the Phoenix International Raceway oval for a couple days. Tell us about that experience.
Bourdais: It's been really, really interesting. It's a bit scary when you start because you don't know really well the limits, between the driver and the car also. It's very difficult to estimate this. After a couple of runs, you can start to get some sensations and a better feeling, so you start to push a bit more, but always with a lot of precaution because it's really easy to do a mistake.
With the downforce we have on the cars, on the ovals, it's really quick. You really need to take your time not to do a big mistake which really can have a big consequence on yourself and on the car. It was really interesting. We finally got something pretty good. Now I can say that I really had my first experience and I know more where I am on an oval.
Mauk: Bruno, throughout your Champ Car World Series career you have done well an ovals. Did you give any advice to Sebastien on how to get around these courses?
Junqueira: I just told him to make sure where the end of the car is because on the ovals, you cannot have oversteer. He did well. It's something that takes a long time to be confident on an oval. But he did very well.
Mauk: Both of you come to the Champ Car World Series after winning series championships in F -3000. Sebastien is the reigning champion in that series. Having come from basically the same racing background as Sebastien, did you get a chance to tell him much about what he was going to expect, what kind of things to look for this year?
Junqueira: The Formula 3000 car and Champ Car, they are not very different to drive. The Champ Car has much more power. That's the biggest difference. But I think the Newman/Haas team gave him such a great car, it makes things easier. Then he has always Friday to kind of learn the track. He doesn't need to pay much attention to the setup because the setup is always very close.
I think what's going to be important for him is to get used to when you start, especially like in June, July, and August, those back-to-back races, you race almost every weekend; that is an issue. Formula 3000, you have like 12 races a year. It's kind of not the same race as the Champ Cars. But he's a good driver and for sure he's learning fast.
Mauk: Sebastien, you mentioned before that you were surprised to be on the top of the charts as early as you have been. Coming over from F-3000, did you have much knowledge of Champ Cars before you came over and has the racing met with what you expected when you got here?
Bourdais: When something is new, something is a surprise sometimes, especially about the organization, the general ambience inside the championship, which is really good, I have to say. Obviously, it's a long championship with a lot of track time, you can explore a lot of setups. It's really interesting when you come from the 3000, because that's an area where you're really restricted. It's always a really big opportunity for a 3000 driver to come to the US, especially when you have the opportunity to start with Newman/Haas. I just hope it's going to continue like this.
Mauk: Let's open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Sebastien, seeing as how I'm here in Wisconsin, one of the year's first oval races is going to be at the Milwaukee Mile. If that isn't daunting enough, it's going to be held at night. What are your thoughts about racing on an oval at night?
Bourdais: I can say now that I have an experience on an oval. I also tested in a night competition during 24 Hours of Le Mans. I don't know what's going to be the mix between oval and night, but I think is going to be a really nice show. I will just enjoy being in Milwaukee.
Q: (Question to Bourdais and answer in French.)
Mauk: Maybe you could paraphrase what was said.
Bourdais: He was asking me if I was surprised to be on the pace again. I told him that after the test, we all knew that it was possible to get some good results, but it's always a bit of a surprise to get two poles like that in a row, especially in Monterrey, because we started pretty far on the pace. It's been a bit of surprise to get the second one, especially.
Mauk: Bruno, looking ahead to Long Beach, the site of your very first Champ Car top ten finish when you started at 27th and made your way up to ninth; last year you started third, had a strong car, had a bit of a problem that kept you from making it to the finish. Look ahead to Long Beach, tell us about how you're feeling going into that race.
Junqueira: Long Beach is one of the nicest races of the season. I'm very excited. A very nice place, a very good street course. For sure to be PacifiCare headquarters, it's going to be even more special. Last year I started third. I like that track. I hope I can do a good race there. It's a good racetrack. You can pass there. It's going to be an interesting race.
Mauk: Sebastien, the Long Beach event is always one of the showcase events for Champ Car. It will be a huge crowd, a huge event. Do you have any knowledge of what you're getting into there at Long Beach, and have you seen any simulations or do you have any knowledge of the track at all?
Bourdais: Yeah, I watched the last races on TV. I think it compares a bit to Monaco. As I won in Monaco, had the pole, I would enjoy to do it again.
Mauk: We'll go ahead and cut everybody loose. Bruno, Sebastien, thank you very much for joining us today. Best of luck in Long Beach. We'll be following you closely out there.
Junqueira: Thank you.
Bourdais: Thank you.