CART Champ Car top-three qualifier press conference for Friday with Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira, and Alex Tagliani. Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our press conference for the top-three qualifiers from the first round of ...
CART Champ Car top-three qualifier press conference
for Friday with
Sebastien Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira, and Alex Tagliani.
Eric Mauk: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our press conference for the top-three qualifiers from the first round of qualifying, the Lexmark Indy 300 here at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia, Round 18 of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series by Ford. My name is Eric Mauk of CART Communications and we are joined by the top-three qualifiers in the first round today.
And just as way of reminder our pole-sitter during Friday's qualifying is guaranteed a front-row starting spot for tomorrow. No matter what happens, he also wins one Championship point for leading today's session. We'll start with our third place driver on the day the driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, who used a lap of 1 minute 33.321, 107.821 miles an hour to earn the third spot. Sebastien is currently working on a Series record for rookies as he has qualified in the top 6 in each of the last 11 events. Sebastien, first time out here, first qualifying session, what do you think of this place?
S. Bourdais: The place is definitely beautiful, no doubt about that. I mean, seeing this afternoon the weather was perfect but if it can hold like that, it's just fine. The course is really beautiful, it's fast, it's challenging, long. It's really a good place and in a great country, Australia. So it pretty fun.
Eric Mauk: Behind the wheel how do you feel about the way things went today?
S. Bourdais: Behind the wheel it's not been that good, obviously. But really didn't get a chance to put that together. First run was pretty good, but different -- second time out we had some things that happened and couldn't do my best lap time. During the second run just I left the pits and the pop-off valve was not wide open, but we were really down on power and we had to stop to reset the thing and lost all the chances to do a good lap time in the second run. So I am very frustrated.
Eric Mauk: Best of luck tomorrow. Second on the day, the driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing Alex Tagliani. Alex finished second on the day with a lap of 1 minute 33.265 seconds, 107.886 miles per hour. Alex has already earned two poles this season and will look for his first ever Surfers pole tomorrow in final qualifying. Alex, congratulations. How do you feel about the way it went?
A. Tagliani: Well, I am a little disappointed because the car is really, really fast and in the second set of tires, I don't know why, I just maybe was not putting the wheel exactly where I went all weekend. I lost the right front tires on my second lap and I just destroyed the two front tires. And I did a 33.2 in my second set of tires, with two tires that were completely damaged so I am a little disappointed because the car was really fast the second set of tires and the track was picking up quite a bit of grip so we -- I think we have a good car to compete. I think the team did good. For us it's always a little bit easier when we have tracks that are really grippy like this one and Long Beach and all the other tracks where we have been doing -- we have struggling on the low-grip tracks. So it's pretty good for us to finish this season here and hopefully in Fontana we'll be competitive also.
Eric Mauk: Very bright, very sunny, the first two practice sessions, you come right out before qualifying, clouds hit, temperature drops. Did it take long to catch up? Was it a big difference on the track?
A. Tagliani: The track was a little bit more slippery on the first run. The prequalifying, I think the Super V8 had really hard tires and it's just like take a little bit of rubber out. It's slippery at the beginning, but after a while, you know, when you have like 19 cars running with two sets of slicks, the track is going better very quickly so, yes, I mean, we were a little bit concerned for the temperature because if it rains you have to have a time in very quickly. So that's why we went out as soon as it went green. But we had a car to be on pole today and just a little bit sad that we didn't make it. But tomorrow hopefully it's going to be dry and we'll try to do it.
Eric Mauk: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. The leader of Friday qualifying is the driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno fired the first shot in the title battle today taking the Championship point for winning the Friday pole with a lap of one minute 32.708 second, 108.534 miles per hour. He guarantees himself a front-row starting spot by leading today's session and more importantly closes to within 28 points of series leader Paul Tracy. This will also mark the eighth time this season that Bruno will start on the front row. Congratulations. You wanted to come out and get every point you can; now you are on your way.
B. Junqueira: For sure. This is a really important weekend for me. I have to try to do my best and for the PacifiCare and Newman/Haas team. And today was a good day - we had a really fast car in the morning session, I guess, we were leading the session to the end. Ten minutes before qualifying we were the fastest by a big difference and qualifying was really difficult because we were afraid of rain. Then we were the first guys out just behind Tracy and I did a really fast lap, 33.4. I was on the pole by a big chunk and Tracy slowed down in the pit. I had to slow down and try another lap and we got traffic and then -- one lap later Tag and Sebastien went a little bit faster than me. Then I was concerned to have to wait by the last minute; afraid of it starting to rain again or a red flag. But I mean, that's was always the possibility. Wait until like the eight or nine minutes to go, I guess there was some traffic in the first two, three laps. The last two laps I had great laps. I put the safe lap, it was 33.1; that guaranteed me the pole by that time. But last year I lost the pole by a millisecond. I really didn't want to take any race and push really hard on the last lap. I got a perfect lap and I am happy with the results today. But I know that it's still a long way; since tomorrow qualifying track must be really better tomorrow. I am trying to do my best the weekend, in terms of the Championship for sure. I am in position that I not no depend of myself anymore. I need Tracy not to do well in one of the races. I will try to do the best of myself and see what is going to happen with Paul Tracy. I hope I can get out of this weekend close enough with Tracy and I do have a shot to win the Championship in Fontana. That's my goal.
Eric Mauk: The cameras had you pretty much your whole last lap. They were following you all the way around. Like you said, it looked like you were really hanging it out. How much faster do you have to go tomorrow in that car to get a pole?
B. Junqueira: I think the tomorrow the track is going to get better and it is going to be a second faster. I don't know. You never know if it's going to rain at night or not. I hope not. This is such a great place. I love Australia. The weather has been nice every day since I arrived here. Tomorrow can have sunny day again.
Eric Mauk: Thank you. Congratulations good luck tomorrow. Take questions from the media.
Q: Are you enjoying being in the Championship hunt or is it hard work at the moment?
A. Tagliani: Yeah, he would much rather be in Paul Tracy's pot (Laughter)
B. Junqueira: I am enjoy a lot this year, this big fight between me and Tracy for the Championship. And I just was really frustrated in Mexico because I mean, I was feeling really sick and I felt that even being sick as I was, I had an opportunity to finish second in the race, but that didn't happen. Then Tracy opened a big gap. As I said, I would prefer even if we have been ahead, put me in position that I depend on myself, to get him in the two races, and win the Championship. Now I need to beat him in the two races and hope that he will have at least one bad race. I think it will be exciting for the fans, this fight between me and Tracy, Michel, Sebastien, Tag, I think this year, I think the CART Series is one of the best years so far. A lot of different drivers winning races, and being competitive like Tagliani for new teams; new drivers like Sebastien and I think it has been a good year, a lot of overtaking because of no traction control. I mean, I just hope that I can have a good weekend here and have a shot during the Championship in Fontana because that's a pretty good race, 500-mile race and if I have a chance to win that race, it will be more exciting for the fans.