CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH CRISTIANO DA MATTA, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND PAUL TRACY ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming to our post-race press conference. We have the top three...
CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF PORTLAND POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH CRISTIANO DA MATTA, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND PAUL TRACY
ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming to our post-race press conference. We have the top three finishers from the G.I. Joe's presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, round four of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Our top three finishers will be here. We'll start with our third place finisher on the day, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul finishes third today, earns his 65th career podium, his third consecutive podium here at Portland. His 65th podium, by the way, ties him for 10th on the all-time Champ Car list with Emerson Fittipaldi, also moves Paul up into the second spot in the points standings after four events. Paul, fairly eventful day for you. Tell us a little how it went.
PAUL TRACY: You know, start went according to plan. We got into second on the start, and that was my goal. And I just -- we were trying to make the mileage that we wanted. And I felt our mileage was good. But (Justin) Wilson was just checking out on me. And I had about the same gap to AJ. So I thought, you know, everything's going okay.
And I saw Wilson came in with when we did. He had enough gas on me that he was able to get in and out before us. I wasn't able to get the mileage we were trying to make to stay close enough to him. From there, I just couldn't go any faster than that first stint pace. I was just stuck at a specific lap time. Really just struggled with that the whole day. You know, the handling wasn't bad. Just couldn't go any faster. I was just stuck at that speed. Everything I tried to do, if I tried to push the car a little harder, the rear tires started to go away, and I was just creating more problems for myself.
I had a lot of problems with some of the lapped cars, especially Sperafico gave me a lot of problems. Three times I came up on him, it took me a long time to get by him before he'd move over. Sebastien got a run on me on the front straight. We had a nice clean dice down in the first corner. I really thought that was the race for the lead. I had no idea that da Matta was that far out. I didn't think he'd get far enough out on us to make up the difference that it was going to take. I mean, all in all, a half decent day. Moved us up in the points. Collect another trophy. So we'll go away with a smile.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Today's runner-up, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien's second podium of the season, 19th of his career. He is the points leader after four races, holding an 11-point advantage over Paul Tracy. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about how it went today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was a pretty good day. I mean, starting from fifth, to finish second. Was a tough weekend for us. Lost our best lap in the first qualifying really, I feel unfairly because the flagman told me go, go, go, and Cristiano was coming. You know, I wasn't going to sit at the apex of the chicane, but whatever.
Yesterday qualifying was a bit slower. You know, it was difficult. Really a bit frustrating. You know, just kept working and keep our eyes down, and we had a good race today. We made up a position at the start, following Paul who was always really aggressive. And then we started to stay with his pace, just tried to save fuel, save fuel, save fuel. I can't say I'm really fond of that kind of racing, but it's going well for us because every time we have to save fuel, we tend to save a little bit more than everyone else, and we also tend to be able to keep up with the pace. So that's giving us quite a nice advantage. And the McDonald's car was quite good today. We had the best lap time of the race. Not only that, but I think it was quite a consistent performance throughout the day. And I'm really happy for the guys.
You know, we went fast when we had to. We saved a lot of fuel when we had to. We just got the job done. Really thought we would run away with the win. As Paul said, I thought we were fighting for the win at some point. You know, I saw Cristiano was going away, but once I passed Paul, I was making up for the lost time, and apparently it wasn't the case. Just that kind of strategy where we know the fact that if a yellow comes out between the moment the guy who is stopped at the back and between our stop and his stop, then we're screwed because there is the pack and you lose all your advantage.
And he was right behind us, so once you pit, he takes over. I'm still very happy both for my team and for Cristiano, because I think it's been a long time. He's a good guy. He went through a lot of political crap. It's good to see him back at the top. It's a good day for open-wheel racing, I think, much better than Indy, for sure. You know, what can I say? Really happy to be there. We still have the lead on the championship. Although we don't feel so great, we finished strong, and that's what it takes to win the championship.
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien ran the only lap under 60 seconds in today's race, taking the championship point awarded for the fastest lap. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about how the Bridgestone Potenzas held up for you today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think the tires were pretty good. It was quite a close call between the alternate tires and the Bridgestone prime tires. The good reason is we saved enough sticker tires that we had sticker prime set of tires. We had five great laps on the option tires. So at the end of the race, I don't exactly know, maybe I lost a bit some intensity when I knew I wasn't in the lead or maybe it was just the balance that went away. The track kept rubbering in. But was really consistent and we could always go fast at the end of the stint once we saved enough fuel to go further than anybody else. It was good. I was really happy with both the consistency and the balance in my car.
ERIC MAUK: Cristiano will be joining us here in just a minute. A couple quick notes before we take questions from the media. Cristiano's 10-second margin of victory is the largest margin of victory here at Portland since 1995, when Little Al beat Jimmy Vasser by over 28 seconds. It's also the fourth different winner in the four races of the 2005 season. We'll go ahead and take questions from two of our top three finishers here.
Q: Paul, did you know Cristiano was way ahead of you guys?
PAUL TRACY: Not until the very end. When I got to the end of the pit lane there, I got out of the car. Where is Mario (Dominguez)? I thought Mario finished third. I saw Cristiano's car. They said, "Cristiano won." I didn't ask. They didn't tell me what position I was in the whole race. I just assumed I was racing Sebastien -- Cristiano was out of sequence. I didn't see him come out of the pits, so I figured, you know, he was too far behind for him to make up the difference.
You know, he had to make up the difference, and he was able to do that. You know, when you have a car -- if you're in that position because of pit strategy, you have to be able to pull away to pull it off. He had a fast car and was able to pull away. At the end of the day, my car wasn't as fast as his to be able to keep up with him, and that's what won the race for him.
Q: Paul, were you happy with the start of the race?
PAUL TRACY: You know, the goal is always to get off the line as well as you can. The polesitter is going to make the jump. I tried to time him when he was going and got away with him and was side by side, and was able to just pass the start/finish line. I had the preferred line getting into the first corner. So the goal was always to try to accelerate with your line. Hopefully your guy in front of you goes. If he doesn't, then you've got a problem.
ERIC MAUK: We are now joined by the winner of the GI Joe's presents the Champ Car Grand Prix by Portland, driver of the #21 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for PKV Racing, Cristiano da Matta. Cristiano led 50 laps today and takes his 12th career victory, making him 18th on the all-time Champ Car list with those 12 wins. This is his first win since the Grand Prix of Americas in Miami, Florida, since 2002.
Cristiano, congratulations. How does it feel to be back?
CRISTIANO da MATTA: It feels really good. Obviously, it's not like a normal win. A normal win feels great, but this being so far away from the winner's circle for so long, and also with a new team that we've been working together not for so long, so it feels even better than a normal win.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about the stint after the restart on lap 50. You built up a big lead, hanging a second a lap on the field. Tell us a little bit about that.
CRISTIANO da MATTA: Yeah, I think that stint for us was very important for the way the race unfolded at the end. I had a little bit less fuel, and I probably also had a little bit better heat on the tire because I those tires for a couple laps already. I had probably two gallons less fuel than those guys had. So I knew I had the quick tire in race conditions. I just needed a clear gap. That's all I was asking for the team since the race start, I was telling them to get me in a clear gap because I knew when I was stuck in traffic, there was not much I could have done. We decided to go for different strategy. At that time I knew that was the time I had to just go, push as hard as I could. We weren't worrying at that time -- worried at all about the fuel mileage, we were just going for it.
I was actually -- I was expecting -- because Paul and Sebastien were obviously very quick all weekend long, and really I didn't expect to be able to pull away that much. At a certain point, I think I had a 12-second lead. That was more than I expected. Obviously, I was happy about that. I think that was very important for the way the race turned out at the end.
ERIC MAUK: You did it without the power to pass at that point, too. You only had eight seconds left.
CRISTIANO da MATTA: Exactly. I had to use most of my 'push to pass' at the beginning of the race, because I made a bad start. We decided we were going to pit earlier. Pretty quickly I started to be able to get behind guys that were ahead of me. After I pitted, I went to last. Very early I started to catch you up the guys that were running at the back of the field. Though guys, I wasn't a lap ahead of them, I was actually racing them. So I had to use my 'push to pass' a lot to go through the few of those -- you know, to pass the guys that were running, let's say, 18, 17, 16, on the race at that time. So I had to use a lot of my 'push to pass'. I was just hoping after I had that lead, I was just hoping it would stay green because I knew if there was a yellow flag or something, I was going to be a little bit short maybe with push to pass.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. The top five unofficially after the first four races, Sebastien Bourdais is our points leader with 106, Paul Tracy at 95, Justin Wilson is third with 77, AJ Allmendinger is fourth with 74, and Cristiano climbs from 11th to fifth, he has 73. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q: Cristiano, tell us about your pit strategy.
CRISTIANO da MATTA: We talked about that on the pit strategy meeting. We were starting 10th with already borderline for the defense of strategy or not. We thought if we have a good start, we just play it normal. But as my start wasn't very good at all, I think I dropped down to 12th or 13th or something like that. So it was an easy decision then. I was telling them on the radio, "Hey, from here I'm not going to be make many positions. I'm just stuck in here and I feel like I can go faster. If you guys want to go to the alternate strategy we have, which is stopping earlier, I think we should go.
Then I was happy that at the end everything stayed perfectly for us. The yellow really helped us a lot in the middle of the race. There was nothing to complain about. We had our share of luck. When we needed to be quick, we were quick. I think was a perfect race for us as a team.
Q: Cristiano, were you beginning to feel pressure to produce some good results since you are coming back as a former series champion?
CRISTIANO da MATTA: Yeah, I think this weekend, the whole weekend, as far as speed goes, was definitely the best weekend for us by far. Even in Milwaukee, where we had a very good car for qualifying, we knew we were going to be kind of in trouble for the race. Here we knew we were going to have a good car for the race. We still have to make sure that we understand exactly how to be consistent everywhere we go. Like it's no good if we are just good here and then we get to Cleveland, and we don't exactly know what's going on and we're off the pace again.
I think it's a bit too early to put pressures on ourselves to be on the podium all the time. Obviously, we need to do that. The team is actually doing a great job on getting the car better, on all the development programs that we should have been doing on the off-season, we haven't been able to. So we're trying to catch up to the other guys now. We are obviously happy that everything worked so well here in Portland.
But we still have our question marks about some of the tracks left to come. Obviously, we're working hard on that. Hopefully it's not just a one-off race. Hopefully we expect to be quick again and consistently quick, not only quick sporadically. We want to be there to win the championship and beat those guys. Those guys I think we really can. We have to work really hard to get our cars, you know, same speed as what those guys weekend on and off so we can have at least maybe a dream to fight for the championship at the end of the season. We have a lot of work to do still.
Q: Can you tell us about how the lapped traffic affected your race?
PAUL TRACY: For me it was very tough, you know. I had a very, very hard time. The worst guy for me was Sperafico. He held me up a lot. At one point I had a five-and-a-half-second lead over Sebastien. I stayed behind. He wouldn't let me go. I went down to one and a half seconds before he let me go.
So, you know, frustrating because they see that you're behind. It's not -- there's a lot of sight lines behind you. It's not like you're on a street course, you're in between walls a lot of blind spots. You have long straightaways here. You know if the guy is behind you, you know you're a lap down. Can be very frustrating, especially with the pace here. The corners are all at 100 miles an hour. You can't get that close to a car because you'll lose all the downforce. It doesn't look like you're that close, but that's as close as you can get to the car. There has to be a little bit of a give, and there just didn't seem to be a lot of give and take out there.
Q: How long were you behind him?
PAUL TRACY: I think throughout the race I probably spent 15 laps behind him. That's three different occasions that I came up on him. I spent a long time behind him. So at least five laps every time I came up on him. They put a flag out. They weren't waving it with any authority to let him know. I mean, the flag stations on the back are so far off the track, it's hard to see them anyway.
CRISTIANO da MATTA: The nearest I got behind a guy, he was using the 'push to pass' not to let me lap him and locking the wheels like crazy.
Q: Do you feel that the pit strategy was the key reason for the win?
CRISTIANO da MATTA: I don't think it's too much to do about that. Obviously, I've always liked this track. But I think it's not like the way the teams set up the car and the way the weekend unfolded to us. We had a good race car. I've been to other tracks this year already that I really like, like Monterrey, Mexico. I've won there the only two times I've been there before. This year I started 10th or something. It's a team sport, right? If the team is not giving you what you exactly want and vice versa, the exchange of information is not very clear, you're not going to be able to make it. I think obviously there's a little bit to do. I feel comfortable in this place. But I bet Sebastien does, too, and Paul does, too. There's a bunch of guys that are quick here. It's just a matter of whoever gets it right for the race conditions, for most of the practice sessions, under very cool conditions. The race was hot and probably the track was a little bit slower. It was whoever got the car more balanced for the race.