CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Friday top-three press conference

CART Champ Car press conference from Friday qualifying at Road America with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy. Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and get started with the press conference for today's first round of qualifying, top-three...

CART Champ Car press conference from Friday qualifying at Road America with Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy.

Eric Mauk: We'll go ahead and get started with the press conference for today's first round of qualifying, top-three finishers press conference, for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton, round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We're joined by the top three qualifiers on the day. Third on the day is the series points leader, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, who used a lap of 1:44.725, 139.153 miles per hour to place third today. Paul will be looking for his fourth Road America pole position tomorrow during final qualifying. Paul, how did the day go?

Paul Tracy: It was okay. We had a little bit of imbalance in the car. We're still searching for the right setup. So we're having a few problems out there. But, you know, we're third. If you find just a small gain in performance, it can be quite a lot of lap time. We know where our problems are. We'll just try to improve it for tomorrow and make another run at it.

Eric Mauk: A lot of rain last night. A very green racetrack when you got here this morning. How different was the track from practice this afternoon?

Paul Tracy: Kind of funny actually. We tested here with Newman/Haas. The track was very quick. Nobody had run on it, there was no rubber on it. We came back this time now, there's quite a bit of rubber on the track. But it's maybe different rubber from us obviously because of club racing and things like that. And the rain, the track is quite slippery compared to the test. So we're just chasing the setup a little bit. Try to improve it for tomorrow.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier is Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Our rookie points leader used a lap of 1:44.722, 139.157 miles per hour to take the second spot, posting his best time of the day on his final lap of qualifying. Sebastien, that last lap coming through, you beat Paul by 3/1000ths of a second. Did you know you had a quick lap going at the end?

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, basically. I think it took me quite a while on the second set of tires to put in a quick lap. I take care of the 45 before trying to push a bit more on the one before the last. Actually the last lap is a clean lap and I got a 1:44.7. It was my quickest lap of not being the last lap because of the yellow. I think we struggled quite a lot this morning for many reasons - none of them we really understood. But definitely the track was way better this afternoon. When we put new tires on the car, the balance was back to something more normal. We still have to find something, for sure. Bruno is way quicker than us. I think he had even a better lap. Bu I don't know. I think this Newman/Haas Lilly crew did a great job again. There is a one and two. We're going to try to keep that for tomorrow.

Eric Mauk: You tested here earlier, a couple hours of practice today, then of course a qualifying session. Are you feeling comfortable with the track yet?.

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah. I felt more comfortable actually at the end of the day test we did last time. We were way quicker. But as Paul said, there is some other series testing on the track, and I think it has a big influence on the grip. I don't know. I think it's going to be quicker tomorrow if it doesn't rain, obviously. We still have to push.

Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Today's qualifying leader is Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He turned a lap of 1:43.917, 140.235 miles per hour, to lead a Newman/Haas Racing 1-2 sweep today. Bruno is looking to become the first driver to win back-to-back Road America poles since Michael Andretti in '98 and '99. Bruno guarantees himself a front row starting spot tomorrow, earns him a championship point, giving him 142 on the season, closing his gap behind Paul Tracy to 19. Did you have any idea you'd be that much faster than everybody today?

Bruno Junqueira: No, for sure not. But the PacifiCare car was very good since the first outing this morning. I was able to run faster than everybody. I feel really confident. The balance of the car wasn't good as on the test, because on the test I lapped much faster than today. But I think that was more the track being dirty because of the heavy rain yesterday, last night, than anything. Then we didn't made any change. I felt pretty good in the car. It went for the first set of qualify. I put a very good lap in 1:44.1. I felt that that was everything I could do. I knew that the track would improve a little bit, then I waited for the second outing. I was able to even improve another 2/10ths. Last lap I was a little bit faster, but there was the yellow flag and I slow down.

Anyway, I feel pretty amazed because the difference of lap time has been quite big. But on other hand, I think I was like 8/10ths faster than Sebastien and Paul Tracy. That means 4/10ths on another racetrack, because this track is longer. As Paul said, you make small changes to improve the car, it can improve the lap time a lot. Have to keep working and let's see how it's going to be the track tomorrow because they said other series running here and the different tire compound, plus the rain, maybe rain tonight, between here and tomorrow the forecast is for some thunderstorms. I hope not and the track can get better.

Let's see. I think I'm feeling pretty confident. I love this track. I'm very, very happy that Mario Andretti and some other people put the effort to bring back this race to Road America because for me that's my favorite racetrack in the championship. That's the highest point of the season for me. I have so much fun driving around here, even more because I always perform well. But even so, I like every corner. I like a lot to drive here. This I think why it goes well.

Eric Mauk: Definitely showed today. Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. We'll open it up for questions from the media.

Q: With the rains, are you concerned about using sets of tires.

Paul Tracy: No. I only ran one set this morning. I didn't do much running because the track was dirty. I ran a set at the end of the first practice, was P1, then ran the same set in the next session, then two qualifying sets today. So we're on the same program that we normally do.

Bruno Junqueira: It's sure it's going to rain, then if you use it...

Sebastien Bourdais: In qualifying, we all use two. This morning, we used only one.

Bruno Junqueira: I think the best track in the world, like Spa, Barcelona and Silverstone, the weather always plays a big part. This track is very famous for races that start to rain in the middle, then after the sunshine comes, it gets so hot, get hot, hot. I mean, everything can happen tomorrow.

As I said, I think as the forecast say, you going to have some showers between here and qualifying. I hope not going to rain in qualify because then that's pretty difficult, especially on Turn 11 here. But anyway, you have to try every day. I mean, you put the maximum effort. You just use the one set of tires this morning, as Paul and Sebastien, because the track was very dirty. I think this morning I lapped 1:44.9. I mean, the track improved so much from the morning session to qualify that is was not worth to spend another set of tires.

Q:: Paul, what changes are you going to make to the car before tomorrow.

Paul Tracy: Just basically had a little bit too much understeer everywhere. The rear of the car is stable. But, you know, it's understeering quite a lot in all the faster corners, especially through the carrousel. I have to get out of the throttle quite a lot. That leads on to the straightaway. There's a lot of time right in that corner. So I have to back off quite a bit for the bridge turn, the blind bridge turn.

They're all faster corners. We just need to improve the aerodynamics and get it right for tomorrow.

Sebastien Bourdais: The question was, "What are you going to do on the setup?" (laughter)

Paul Tracy: We don't know yet. It's tough to say. We thought the car was good this morning when the track was slippery. I was quite quicker, about a second quicker than everybody. But it didn't come once the track got more rubber. So the track is changing all the time. It's how you keep up with that.

Q:: Bruno, what makes you so fast at this track?

Bruno Junqueira: First of all, I race all my life on the road courses, and I think those are the kind of tracks that I like more. I like the high-speed corners a lot. I think very often those are my strong points. When the corner is very slow, those turns, second gear, I'm not very good on that. I always struggle. This racetrack is about high-speed corners. As Paul Tracy said, those corners that you need to just lift a little bit, almost flat. You have the kink after the carrousel, that's flat. Carousel, lift a little bit. The bridge, just a small lift. Those kind of corners, I like, like turn one, you just brake a little bit and get really fast through those corners. I think I always like those. Those are kind of tracks that I always did well in my career, like in Europe, when I used to go to Silverstone, or Barcelona, high-speed corners, I always did really well. I don't know, I think that's because road course and high-speed corners. One thing difficult about this track is to get a completely perfect lap because the track is very long. It's four miles long. Then to get a lap that you push hard in every single corner, it's very difficult.

Q:: Is this a track where you need to get a rhythm to be really fast.

Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, and I like that. There is a track in Brazil in Brasilia that the lap time is 1 minute 50, as well. Very, very long. I remember it was very difficult to get a perfect lap.

You never get a perfect car like this. You want to go to turn one, the car will be understeer. But some other corners, for sure the car will be oversteer. You have to drive the car with all kinds of balance around this track because you never going to get the car that has just the understeer or the car that just has oversteer.

Q:: Bruno, why didn't you run the warmup session?

Bruno Junqueira: I think I was pretty confident of my car, and I knew that the -- first, I didn't want to run on another set of new tires. My tires were already very old. I knew that the lap time would be really slow. Especially because the other series run on the track, I knew that the first three or four laps, the track would be very slippery, until the track starts to build up our tires, the Bridgestone tires grip. Then me and the team thought that was not worth it to go out there. We were thinking to go out with new tires, but then said, "You know what, I think the track will be not too fast. Let's save this set of new tires for tomorrow."

Sebastien Bourdais: Actually, he was right, because I went out with my old tires, which was completely junk, and it didn't work. Just gave me the wrong direction. For the second set of new tires, I had to change again the car.

Q:: Sebastien, you've only been here a couple of times, why are you so quick?

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, as Bruno said, it's a very similar track to the ones in Europe. It's very fast. You have a lot of spare time to think about what you're going to do in the next corner, and it's a lot of fun. You need to have a particular style to get used to that, especially with these cars. And I think it suits very well to Bruno. I still need to work a bit on that. But obviously I was way closer now to Bruno. In tests I was only 3/10ths off. I still think we still have a bit of room to improve if the conditions more with us.

Q: Paul, you came in here hot, are you under pressure to keep your roll going?

Paul Tracy: I think the team's confidence is high. My confidence is high. You know, we've had two races in a row where nobody could come close to us in terms of performance on the track. But that all stops today. You know, Bruno's a lot quicker than us, so it's time to start rebuilding again. What happened last week doesn't matter today. So we need to find where we're going to make up the difference on the track. And, you know, you don't get any medals for last week when it's the following week. You know, that's what's great about motor racing, you know, what you did last week doesn't matter.

Bruno Junqueira: I think that's what's great about CART. I think Paul, he did really well on the street course. I think we have been strong on the road course. And that's nice. But even me and Sebastien, and Team Player's, they've been strong on both. But the nice thing about CART is you have different tracks every weekend, and you have to be really able to adapt yourself and the team to adapt the car to be consistent on top three in every weekend on different racetrack.

Q:: Sebastien, do you and Bruno have similar driving styles?

Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, it's just more aggressive. He's just been driving in CART a longer time than I. Around that kind of track, just more aggressive on the steering wheel, basically the input on the entry of the corner which rotates the car. It's just a question of confidence. I just need a bit more experience. You know, it's not always easy. After when you looking for speed, you can introduce all sorts of entry issues. Kind of borderline for me sometimes.

Eric Mauk: That's a wrap. Tomorrow's final qualifying gets underway at 1:45. Thank you.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais