CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Friday qualifying press conference

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, ALEX TAGLIANI AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round ...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL TRACY, ALEX TAGLIANI AND SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the Lexmark Indy 300, round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined by our top three qualifiers.

Our third qualifier on the day, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul puts up a best time of 1:46.920 seconds, 94.108 miles per hour. Paul has qualified in the top four of each of the last nine events here at Surfers Paradise. Paul, pretty tough day to find some space out there, but tell us a little bit about it.

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I think it's just a difficult session to really figure out what to do. Obviously, the conditions were changing every lap. We went early and did a fairly long run, and, you know, second run was good. We were quickest on the second run. You know, really did my time, and then it went red. I thought everything would be great if it was a fairly lengthy red, but it was quick. When it went green again, our tires were done. Sebastien and Alex had fresh tires and the track was a little bit better. It was drying all the time. A little bit unfortunate. But overall we're happy.

ERIC MAUK: A little trouble with that first chicane out here. Short cut that a couple times. That was prevalent throughout the field. Tell us about the conditions going in there.

PAUL TRACY: As the track is drying, you're trying to brake later, push everything a little bit further. It's at the point now where it's not drying up for slicks, and it's not really the optimal conditions for rain. Most of the track has a fairly dry line. Half of it is wet. You know, you're really pushing the tire. It's really not suited to this type of condition. It either needs to be wet-wet or dry. You know, you're trying to get the most out of everything you have. There's compromise everywhere.

ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow. Our second-place qualifier on the day, driver of the #15 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Australia Racing, Alex Tagliani, puts up a top lap of 1:46.010 seconds, 94.916 miles per hour. This is Alex's best qualifying result of the year. Alex, a big weekend for you. You come up and run second first time out of the box. Tell us about how it feels.

ALEX TAGLIANI: It's very good for the team. Everybody is very happy. They've been working really hard to put this third car together. Everybody thought that they were going to have a little vacation, and big surprise, they have to work harder to put a third car. I think a result like this keeps everybody happy and motivated to continue to work hard for the weekend. Car was really good. Hopefully we can repeat it tomorrow no matter what the weather does.

ERIC MAUK: You were quick in practice at the start of today's session. You come out and run well in the qualifying session. Did you expect to run that well? Did you think you had a shot to run in the top two or three?

ALEX TAGLIANI: After we ran in the rain this morning, yeah, we thought we had a good car in the rain. This qualifying was a little bit different because, like Paul said, the track is drying not enough to put slicks on, but just enough to have only one lap on the rain. So at the end we put a set of rain tires that was cold, scrubs. That's what helped to put the lap time that we did. But I felt like we had so much more in it. When I look at the gap that there is with Sebastien, I'm a little bit sad because we caught traffic. There was nowhere to go on the last three corners of the racetrack. Coming back with this lap time, we're pretty pleased with the car.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK Cont. - To bring everyone up to speed on qualifying procedures before we talk to Sebastien, Sebastien by leading today's qualifying guarantees himself a front row starting spot for Sunday's race. However, tomorrow's qualifying, if the times are better for tomorrow's qualifying than they are today, the best time in the two sessions will stand as the final qualifying time. The only thing guaranteed by today's session is the fact that Sebastien will start on the front row for Sunday's race, although not necessarily on the pole.

Today's qualifying leader, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He is the defending Champ Car World Series champion. He puts up a quick time of 1:45.739 seconds, 95.159 miles per hour on his final lap of qualifying to lead the session today. He earns a championship point, widening his points lead to 68 over Oriol Servia. If he leads qualifying tomorrow, he will clinch the 2005 Vanderbilt Cup and the Champ Car World Series championship. This will also mark his fifth consecutive front row start. Sebastien, last lap, last chance, you pulled it out. Tell us a little about it.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, a pretty tense session, as everybody said. I'm not going to repeat what both Paul and Alex said. It's just, you know, tough conditions. You have to be at the right time with the right tires. You know, we just got lucky. I think being at pit out played a big factor for us. I'm very happy for the team Newman/Haas and McDonalds to give me such a great car because it was definitely not easy. We gave it all. We said we were going to be attacking very hard this weekend, and I think it outlines very well what our mindset is.

ERIC MAUK: Were you surprised that, given the fact that Oriol (Servia) needed to try to get a shot at this pole to keep his title hopes alive, he didn't come out for 17, 18 minutes of the session?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I think he was pretty smart actually because he was saving his tires for the end. It was pretty obvious that it was going to dry, unless it would rain again. It was a bit of a risk. But, you know, to get up front, you need to have a pretty risky strategy. I think he played it right. Just at the end, for some reason, it didn't come to him. But I'm sure tomorrow he'll be a lot stronger on dry conditions.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations, good luck tomorrow. We'll take questions from the media.

Q: Tag, you were trying to chase some times. I know you got blocked towards the end. At the end, did you get a chance to change the settings of the car or play around with it at all?

ALEX TAGLIANI: First of all, it was not intentional blocking, it was just being on the track at the wrong place. Everybody was pushing really hard to get that last lap in. When we come up the pit lane where we're parked, it's pretty bad because we're behind many cars. We did play around a little bit with the car - not much - because we had an idea of what the car did this morning in the session in the wet. We were thinking that there was going to be full wet when we were debriefing. It looked like it was raining pretty hard. We just fine-tuned it for the track change, but not much.

Q: Sebastien, could you elaborate a little bit about your aggressive mindset that you talked about.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm just saying that we basically coming here to try and win a race. No negative about it. Just going out racing, that's it.

ALEX TAGLIANI: We're very lucky he was not trying winning the races earlier in the season (laughter).

Q: Who actually makes the call on the tires, you guys, or is it your team managers in the pits?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I think it's a combination of both. I talk with the team, the team manager, that is my engineer. I make suggestion, he make suggestion. We're trying to come up with the best decision. Not always the case. But I think it's a very open conversation when it's times like this where you have to make a call.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Obviously, if you start to see an engineer fighting with a driver, that might explain why it's not that easy to make that call. No, seriously, it's very difficult. Obviously, the driver is inside the car. You know, he definitely feels what's going on. Most of the time he's got the ultimate call. But, you know, it's got to be a consensus between the driver and the engineer to be on the same frequency to make sure there's no misunderstanding.

PAUL TRACY: Pretty much the same. I mean, you just have to gauge what other people are doing. Obviously, when it's wet, it's drying, people make decisions sometimes early. At the time when, for example, Timo Glock went to slicks, I passed him. He was struggling to get around the track. I radioed the team and said, "He's on slicks." Two corners later he crashed. We were thinking at that time it might be a time to go to slicks, but obviously that's what caused the red.

A minute can change a lot of things. Sometimes when you guess the right way or come up with the right plan, it pays off.

Q: Are you guys expecting or planning for a wet race? Is that what your weather forecasters and teams are planning on this weekend?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You tell us, you should know (laughter). We're not from here.

Q: Your strategy at the moment is built on having a dry race on Sunday?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think that's what we all hope for. Not only for us, the drivers, the teams, but for the fans as well. I think everybody is hoping for better weather to come tomorrow.

ALEX TAGLIANI: We've been hearing it's supposed to be dry for the next days. Actually, the weather is supposed to improve in the next two days. That's what's word is.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was supposed to be dry today, so...

ALEX TAGLIANI: But I hope it's going to be dry for the fans. The whole Lexmark team put a lot of effort to make this race a big race. Hopefully they're going to have sunshine over their heads.

ERIC MAUK: We set the grid with final qualifying at 1:45 tomorrow.

-ccws-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia