CHAMPCAR/CART: St. Pete: Top three qualifying press conference, Part I

Top three qualifiers for Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Interview with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez Part 1 of 2 Eric Mauk: We have the top three qualifiers in today's final qualifying for the Grand Prix of St. ...

Top three qualifiers for Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Interview with Sebastien Bourdais, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez

Part 1 of 2

Eric Mauk: We have the top three qualifiers in today's final qualifying for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season-opening race of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We'll start with our third place qualifier, Adrian Fernandez, driver of the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He is third on the grid with a lap of 61.749 seconds, 105.291 miles per hour. Adrian had two poles last year including one at last year's season opener at Monterrey, Mexico, no stranger to success in the season openers. Tell us a little bit about how things went today for you.

Adrian Fernandez: Well, it went better than yesterday. Yesterday, we didn't have any luck in qualifying. We had too much traffic in our first set. The second set, we never really put any laps with so many reds. This morning, the second qualifying, we waited more. It's just about luck really because you just never know when it's going to be right for you. But this time it worked for us. We had the right strategy. Maybe I needed a couple more laps to put a better lap. Probably would have happened the same to everybody. But I'm happy for the performance. It's been a while since I've been in a race car. I'm just happy to be here.

Mauk: Our second place qualifier, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Players Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, he earned the second spot on tomorrow's grid with a fastest lap of 61.476 seconds, 105.578 miles an hour. Paul's best start in a season opener since he won the pole for the season opener in '98 at Homestead. He had three front row starting spots last year. Tell us about the wind out there. Looks like it picked up in the last session. Did it affect what you did much?

Paul Tracy: No, the wind wasn't really a problem. The biggest problem was the amount of reds that there were. I think everybody will say the same thing. Every time it seemed I was on a good lap, the red came out. It takes me a little bit longer. I'm not a fantastic qualifier to go out and do just one lap. It usually takes me, two, three, four laps.

Fernandez: I'm the same. I think it's the age (laughter).

Tracy: It's the age (laughter). Usually takes me two or three laps buildup to do it. Every time I was on my quick lap, the red came out. My quick time was my warm-up lap. A little bit frustrated by that. It was a bit of a frustrating session I think for everybody. Overall, we had a little bit of trouble yesterday in qualifying. We were able to rebound today, set the car up and get the car more comfortable, had a good qualifying today.

Mauk: Yesterday a little bit of a struggle. Much better today in the practice and qualifying. Any major changes overnight?

Tracy: We made some changes overnight. The biggest issue we had yesterday was an engine problem yesterday, had to switch engines after the second practice. We missed the warm-up for qualifying, went out there, it went red, had a problem. Really disappointing yesterday. Today we did some setup change. Pat (Carpentier) was quite happy with his car, so we did some things to my car that he did. This morning the car was good. Pretty happy with the car.

Mauk: Our polesitter Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, wins the pole for Sunday's St. Petersburg Grand Prix with a top lap of 60.928 seconds, equating to 106.710 miles per hour. He becomes the first rookie to win a pole since Bruno Junqueira turned the trick at Nazareth in 2001. He is also the first look to win the pole in his Champ car debut since 1993 when Nigel Mansell completed the feat at Surfers Paradise. He now holds a two-point lead in the championship, having earned single points for each of the first qualifying sessions. Tell us how it feels to be on the pole for your first race.

Sebastien Bourdais: It feels really well. Actually, I think it was very difficult to expect a better result. The car has been great all through the weekend. For the moment, we are the really good car, really high (inaudible). It was a lot lower for this session, and it's been pretty good also. I don't have a big problem since it start Friday morning, so it's really good. It's so good to start the season that way, after a long wait. I was not sure to get a good ride. Now I'm there, in US, and just in the pole for the first race of Champ Car. So it's great.

Mauk: Big weather change from today's qualifying session from what you've seen through the weekend, a lot of cloud cover, high winds. Did that affect your thought process going out there today?

Bourdais: No. That's the reason we've been pretty good. I mean, the car was really consistent during the runs with all the new tires and was not really affected by the temperature. It's a big satisfaction for the race because it will probably change also during the two hours we will have for racing.

Q: How did the red flags affect you?

Bourdais: It was a bit difficult to manage the red. It was probably harder for the others because we were already sure to be at least in second place. I was just waiting to find a good lap. A few times we even had no time to start the run because before the third lap somebody spin or things like that. I think it was a perfect situation for us, definitely. We just saved the tires. We are ready for the race.

Q: How have you handled the quick move from your home to the U.S.?

Bourdais: Moving was a bit quick for sure. My girlfriend moved with me like one weekend, so it was a big help. I'm pretty young. It was my first time to move from my parents' home, I would say. It's a kind of different life. But we're also racing so much and traveling so much that it doesn't have a big effect because you stay such a short period at home - wherever the home is. It's not a big problem.

Q: Sebastien, you have a guy starting beside you that has a bit of a reputation for being a hard-nosed driver. Are you concerned with the start tomorrow?

Tracy: You know I'm a nice guy, come on (laughter).

Bourdais: If I look after the reputation, it's not a good way to approach a race. I mean, he's very experienced. He is quick. I am young. I still have a lot of things to learn. But I also have been racing since a long time. I mean, we're all professionals. We're doing a job. I don't know. We're all there to try to win. I will try to give my best in a sporting way. But I don't know, we'll see.

Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais