CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Friday qualifying press conference

An interview with: DAN CLARKE CHARLES ZWOLSMAN ALEX TAGLIANI ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America...

An interview with:
DAN CLARKE
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN
ALEX TAGLIANI

ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America qualifying, round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

We are joined by our top three qualifiers today. Start with our third place qualifier, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Alex Tagliani. He puts up a quick lap of 1:57.517 seconds, 124.006 miles per hour. Alex definitely knows his way around this racetrack. He's finished on the podium three consecutive times here, including a win here in 2004.

Alex, tell us a little bit about your session.

ALEX TAGLIANI: It was pretty marginal at the end for slicks. I was hoping for a red flag when that car stopped in turn 13. I was pretty happy with the car. I think on wet conditions, we were very fast just running around, pretty much controlling the pace.

We were close to decide to go on slicks, as well. You know, we didn't know if we were going to be able to get enough laps in. Obviously, we decided to go with what we had. The last lap was the one that counted.

It was a pretty good session for us. I'm very happy with the car. I think when it's time to put slicks, we'll be in the front, as well.

ERIC MAUK: As you alluded to, you were quick in the rain. You were on top of the session for much of it in the early going. Given your success here in the dry, your run today in the wet, do you hope one way or another for weather tomorrow?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I don't really care actually. I think the most important is that the car is really quick. I think the team is doing a great job, considering that we didn't come here for testing. We came here pretty green. The car was good this morning with very few laps. Again, it was good this afternoon. I think the balance was a little bit too much understeer for this afternoon, especially when the track starts drying.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the car performing right now. I think I'm good either way, rain or dry.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.

Our second place qualifier, driver of the #34 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, Charles Zwolsman, the reigning Champ Car Atlantic champion from a year ago. His best lap, 1:55.599 seconds, 126.063 miles per hour. This is Charles' best ever Champ Car qualifying effort.

Good, strong run, Charles, how does it feel?

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: It feels okay. I'm a bit bummed out that I didn't get the pole because if it doesn't rain tomorrow, it's going to be worthless, I have to do it all over again. Right now I'm just praying for rain tomorrow and then it's going to be real good.

ERIC MAUK: You went out on the slicks at the end of the session. Tell us about the thought process that went into making those changes, how it worked out for you.

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Yeah, I saw some dry spots on the track. I thought, let's take a gamble and go out on the slicks, just stay out there, make sure I'm there on the last lap, put a good one in. That's what happened.

ERIC MAUK: Any tricky spots out there once you put the slicks on?

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Yeah, especially under the bridges, it was still wet. Those bridges are exactly on the turning point so you can feel the car moving around there. On the inside of some corners, it was still pretty wet. You had to take care of the car.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.

The leader of first round qualifying, driver of the #14 CTE Racing HVM machine, Dan Clarke. His first time leading a Champ Car qualifying session. He puts up a quick lap of 1:55.123 seconds, 126.585 miles per hour. Guarantees himself a front row starting spot for Sunday's race, his first front row starting spot of his Champ Car career, and the first time a CTE HVM machine has started in the front row since 2004 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started second right here at Road America.

Dan, great run. Tell us a little bit about it.

DAN CLARKE: Well, it was just one of those sessions where you use your head. As a team, we just thought outside the box. The session started like for everybody else. We did good on wets in the first practice session. Then we went out there this afternoon. It looked dry, but it just wasn't. It was really greasy. That was kind of puzzling.

Then by like 15 minutes into the session, I felt it changing. I came in the pits. Then we started discussing how long is it going to take to put the dry setup on because this is going to be dry any minute. Then we were just a bit cautious because by that time we hadn't done a quick time on wets. We actually went out and did a couple more laps to be sure. That put us P8.

We put wets on, it was slippery going out the pits first couple of turns. Before the end of that out-lap, it was just obvious you need to be on wets. There were a couple of corners that were still greasy, but speed that you make up on some of the others made it more worthwhile.

There must have been -- I think I did like two, three, maybe four laps on the dry. So at that point you're thinking -- I was thinking, God, somebody else has got to have figured this out and be chasing me. Now I've just got to keep pushing and pushing, finding the grip, getting more and more heat in the tires because that just gives you more and more grip over the damp spots. One second a lap, two seconds a lap was shaving off the times. I just kept pushing. The car was like sideways through most of the turns. It was like driving some '70s Grand Prix car. It was really fun.

Lucky, ran down to the last lap, the time was good enough. At the time there was no radio communication, I couldn't hear anything. Radios aren't working. Don't know where I am. Good we just pulled it off.

I'm pretty happy because at the same time we just announced my partner for the next race and for the next season is the Imagine Charity based back in Liverpool. It leaves the door open for some good cliche headlines I'm sure. I'm happy about this. Certainly seems to have brought me some luck and hopefully it will for the next two days.

ERIC MAUK: Circumstances aside here, end of the day, you're on the front row for a Champ Car race on Sunday. Talk about it what that means to you a little bit.

DAN CLARKE: Well, it's probably going to be pretty nerve-wracking, I'm sure. We've had some really good runs this year. Anybody in the paddock can say, if this would have happened, we would have been on podium. We've done it like three or four times in the whole season now. The more we run at the front, the more comfortable you get. Then you just get on with the job without thinking about it.

It is a daunting thought, to think you're going to be at the front, everybody's watching you. But you just get on with the job now. I think as a team, we've proved ourselves capable of being at the front more often than we already have. Me and Nelson have been pushing each other all year. He's got some experience, but sometimes there's not much between us. We're really pushing each other. It's a shame that he's not up there as well because he had a failure down there.

ERIC MAUK: Dan has finished in the top five in each of the last two races. His teammate Nelson has three consecutive top fives. The first time that CTE Racing HVM has put both its cars in the top five in back-to-back events in team history.

We'll take questions from the media.

Q: Alex do you think the dry tires were an advantage to Charles and Dan's results?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Looking at the lap time, I think so (laughter). Like I said, it was marginal. I can visualize in the future and know that it was going to be enough laps to bring the heat and to be quick enough on the dry.

It came down to the last lap because I was following Charles at a certain point. One lap before the end, I was catching him pretty quickly. He was on dry. At the start of the last lap, that's when, you know, basically the distance between both of our cars stay the same, and even a little bit less.

I realized that he was going a little bit quicker there, they could have get the pole by running on dry. Like I said, it came down to the last lap. So I think it was a gamble obviously because you never know. Sometimes it pays off when you risk, and sometimes it can bite you.

Q: For race day would you prefer the conditions to be wet or dry?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I'm okay with both. I mean, if you don't have a very good car in the wets here, it's a pretty long lap, not very fun. But if you have a good car, it's a really good track to improve. It's challenging, slow, fast, hard-braking corners. It has everything. It's a unique track. It's as fun on the dry.

I think, again, you really enjoy this particular track when the car works really well. It could be a pretty long day if the car doesn't work well in some of the corners. Like the carrousel, under the bridge, if you're struggling there, it can be not fun.

Q: Charles, Dan said his radio was not working, was yours? What kind of mental pressure does problems like that cause?

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Actually, my radio was working. I think it was something with him.

You know, the guys were just on the radio screaming, Push, push, push, it's going to be the last lap. I was on it. It wasn't perfect because you feel the car sliding away at some points over the wet parts, which is always slower. You know, I was trying to get that pole. Missed out by a couple tenths there.

Q: Dan could you compare what it was like running on the track this afternoon versus what it was like this morning.

DAN CLARKE: Yeah, in the wets, it's not as fun to be right behind the car. The closer you get, the less you can say. The only way you really know you're behind the car when you're close to it is because you can't see anything. You try to swap sides. You can't see what's either side of you either. I mean, it's not fun. It's not the best way to go racing.

No, it's definitely better in the dry 'cause you can see what you're doing. You can be a bit rougher with the car. The threshold of adhesion is a lot bigger with the dry. So you can slide the car. In the wet, you can't slide the car.

Q: When this track is wet, how does it drive compared to other Champ Car tracks?

DAN CLARKE: It was actually pretty grippy. This morning was very fun. You have fun when your car handles good. When you drive the wet line around here, there's a lot of grip. That was quite satisfying because you can have fun with that.

ERIC MAUK: Alex?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, I agree. The only biggest problem with tracks that fast is, again, the spray. It's fun driving in the wets when you're by yourself. If you would have to start a race in the wet, with the amount of spray because of the high speed of the cars, you can't see where you're going. Not sure you could even keep it full throttle the whole straightaway. You would have to lift and wait to see like the cloud goes down. When the car brakes in front of you, then you can see the corner. That's the biggest issue when it's wet.

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: For me it was difficult to adjust because this morning I didn't run. We have a mechanical failure. That's when it was raining the hardest. So when I got out in the afternoon, it was already getting drier and drier. The spray was getting lower. So I didn't have any visibility problems or anything like that, like we had in Montreal.

Q: How do you drive around a track when you realistically cannot see it, because of the conditions?

DAN CLARKE: What I noticed in Montreal was driving in the dry all the weekend, until the first -- until the race day. You use markers in the dry, like you know where you're going to brake. When you've had such experience on the track and you've never been there before, like in my situation, the minute it gets wet, those visual markers that are ahead of you go away, you suddenly start realizing, Shit, I should have really taken in some information of what's around me. You know, sometimes in the dry you brake under the bridges, but in the wet you want to brake before them. You don't see them if you're stuffed up the back of another car racing for position.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, it's the same thing. In Montreal at the start of the race, I was probably running around in fourth gear and never put fifth, sixth or seventh because there was no way for me to see. Even you're trying to see beside you and give you some reference points, but the cloud is so thick, I mean, the biggest bridge out there in is the one that's painted orange with Casino logo on. You only see when you get underneath. That's too late. If you brake there, you're done.

You just have to, you know, work the throttle till you can see something (laughter).

Q: How happy were you that Cristiano got to go home today?

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: That's really great. I mean, you know, in this situation, it's very bad because, you know, you try to duplicate an incident like that, and I'm sure we can't even do it. You know, the incident that happened has nothing to do with a failure or a mistake, just there at the wrong time. He could have hit the deer differently and walk out of there.

It was a bad deal. He was enjoying his time at RuSPORT, was a great opportunity for him. To end his season like that was not good. At a certain point, you know, we thought it could have been a lot worse.

Now that he's flying home, I think it's really good. He went to have lunch yesterday with Oriol, so that was really good. The recovery all of a sudden speed up. I think we're all happy for him.

Q: Are you guys confident the track has done enough to prevent an accident like Cristiano's?

DAN CLARKE: I don't know what happened since. Has anything happened? Yeah, I mean, it's a freak incident. Quite often when we're going at such high speed, you can't imagine some of the accidents that can happen until they happen. That's when safety improves.

I don't know what's happened since.

CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I think it might be pretty difficult to put real high fences all around the track to avoid this kind of thing. Just one of those things that happened. It's very unfortunate.

But it's a good thing to hear that Cristiano is doing a lot better again. I think he's the kind of guy you really need here in the paddock. He's the one that keeps everybody smiling. Hopefully he'll be back soon.

ERIC MAUK: All right, that will bring an end to our press conference. We set our final grid when the run for the Bridgestone pole position tomorrow. We begin that qualifying at 2:00. Thank you, gentlemen.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Dan Clarke
Teams Conquest Racing