CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Top three qualifiers press conference

CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM SURFERS PARADISE WITH PAUL TRACY, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND WILL POWER< ERIC MAUK: Welcome to our post-qualifying press conference for the Lexmark Indy 300, Round 13 of the Champ Car World...

CHAMP CAR QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FROM SURFERS PARADISE WITH PAUL TRACY, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS AND WILL POWER<

ERIC MAUK: Welcome to our post-qualifying press conference for the Lexmark Indy 300, Round 13 of the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We will be joined by our top three qualifiers for today's event. Before we get started I'd like to before he call up Al Speyer, the Executive Director of Bridgestone Motorsports, who will give the Bridgestone Pole Award today to Will Power.

The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Pole Award given to each driver is $10,000 award with $5,000 of that going to charity. Mr.Speyer, we talked yesterday about the alternate tires that we had used here in Surfers Paradise for the first time, if you would tell the media about the tires and how they performed for you guys this weekend.

AL SPEYER: It is a unique track for us down here, and we did bring the alternate tires for the first time. The track here is unique just like all of the tracks are unique, and the beginning of the long straightaway, lot of chicanes along with tight corners means that the Australian Surfers Paradise track requires a harder street course tire than we would normally bring. It's the standard black wall Bridgestone Potenza and the Alternate red wall Bridgestone Potenza, are actually the primary tires that we ran at four different tracks this year including San Jose and Denver.

Again, it's a more abrasive track on these alternates which is a softer compound. They are certainly faster for a few laps, but durability in tomorrow's race could be an issue for drivers and teams. The red alternates do have to be watched very carefully and could easily be a factor in tomorrow's race.

I just want to congratulate Will Power again on a great pole position. It's great for the entire Champ Car World Series, and especially down here in Australia, we're thrilled that Will Power used that pole position partly by using the red wall Bridgestone Potenza tires, and he is the driver who gained the most time by using those tires running almost a second lap faster on the red, the difference between his best lap and around on the black is .057 seconds, and that contributed to his getting the pole award. Best of luck to all of the drivers in tomorrow's race.

ERIC MAUK: Our third place qualifier for tomorrow's event, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy, 1:31.959 seconds, 109.418 miles per hour. Way to rebound after a tough day yesterday. Are you happy with the way it went?

PAUL TRACY: I'm happy with how the performance of the team has rebounded from yesterday. Obviously yesterday was a huge disappointment not get to go qualify because I felt that we had been quick right from the drop of the flag yesterday. The car would not start for us yesterday. But you know, the session went out well, we went out early to get a lap time and the second run, I got kind of stuck behind Oriol Servia, and he held me up for two laps of the four laps we got out there before it went red. So it was a little bit frustrating, because I know there was still a lot of time left. I had a couple of laps that were much, much quicker than what we ran in the first set.

But hats off to Will and Team Australia. Tremendous accomplishment here in his hometown and there's always a lot of pressure to perform. I've been in the same thing in Toronto, and when you can score a pole in front of all your family and friends, it's a great feeling.

ERIC MAUK: Paul's comeback today puts him in the top four for the 11th consecutive event here in Australia, an unbelievable streak. And Paul, you've seen a lot of laps around this place, tell us a little bit how the racetrack today compares to what you have run out here before.

PAUL TRACY: Well, it's a great feeling. Again, like I said, the start, the only time I won here was in '95. I started ninth on the grid and won the race. So since is that year, I've qualified inside the top four, but qualifying inside the top four doesn't really guarantee you a better race than the year that I won.

But I think I've had a great streak here. I've always put on a good show for the Aussies, and they love me the way I drive down here. So, I'm excited for tomorrow. We had a rough first day. We've rebounded. We're in good shape for tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. Starting on the outside of the front row, two-time defending series champion, driver the No. #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He starts second by virtue of his fast lap yesterday which 1:31.774, 109.639 miles per hour. You started up front, but obviously a little rougher day than would you have liked.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I guess I'm the first one to be surprised to be there because you know, when I wrecked the car and I just came in the pit and was expecting to find myself somewhere in the Top-10, but nowhere near the front.

So it's a bit surprising. I know the car is in pieces, that's just the way it goes. Maybe a little over-optimistic, but at the same time, probably just over shot the apex point by, I don't know, five centimeters or something like that. And the plastic belt wrapped around the front tire and by the time I knew what was happening, the car was stopped without the left side. So a little bit of a tough break for the McDonald's team on that front, but very good starting position. You know, it's just up-and-down from yesterday and today and we're going to start second, so not that bad, not that bad a day really.

ERIC MAUK: You caught two breaks since A.J. had a time that would have had him start second, but he crossed the line right after the red flag came out so that lap was negated. Talk about how you approach tomorrow with the championship on the line; as we have talked about before, you need to finish ninth or better, and the guy that's chasing you as you just alluded to starts five spots behind you.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, if I had ended up in the middle of the pack, I probably would have asked if I could start dead last so I might have a chance to survive the start. But now that we're starting in the front row, it's a little bit of a different game. Obviously we'll start with Will and Paul and Bruno, so I guess Will's pretty experienced with how it goes around here. We'll try and hopefully be smart about the whole situation.

ERIC MAUK: Good luck and congratulations. The pole winner for the Lexmark Indy 300, driver of the #5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, for Team Australia, Will Power led today's session with a time of 1.31839 seconds. His overall fast time came from yesterday, 1.31.403, first pole for an Australian-born driver in Champ Car since Geoff Brabham in 1981 and the first Australian driver ever to sit on pole here at Surfers Paradise. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better here you are sitting on the pole. How do you feel?

WILL POWER: I feel awesome actually. It's great for Team Australia and to be in Australia and be an Australian driver, couldn't have hoped for anything better. The good thing is the car is quick. I think when we did a long run in being practice today, and the car was very consistent; I think in the race tomorrow we can maintain a good speed.

ERIC MAUK: You also earned a championship point for leading today's session as well, giving you 177 and more importantly boosting your lead in the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year standings to nine points now over Dan Clarke. You watched the first 15 minutes of the session, at what point did you figure you'd better get out there and defend this thing?

WILL POWER: Actually, yeah, we sat, because we had a set of blacks to go and when Sebastien did a 31.5, I thought we should go out and try for a time on the black and see where the car is at and see if it's actually possible to better the time from yesterday. And we didn't even get to do that run and the red flag came out with Sebastien. Then there was only 12 minutes to go so we had no choice, but to go out on the red tires and go for it, because we were not sure whether A.J. was going to go quicker or Paul was going to go quicker. So I mean, yeah, the car was quick enough to beat that time.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations and good luck tomorrow. Couple other things before we throw it up to the media. First pole for Team Australia, co-owned by Derrick Walker and Craig Gore, this is the first pole since 1999for Derrick, his last coming with Gil de Ferran in Toronto. Also the first time that two different rookies have sat on the pole in back-to-back Champ Car races since 1983. Last time that happened 1983 John Paul, Junior was on the pole in Vegas. Teo Fabi followed him the following week at Laguna Seca.

Q: Could you talk about your strategy for today, knowing that you have a front row position locked up, it looked like you were particularly in the morning session able to really focus maybe a little bit more on doing full tanks and doing race setup than you might otherwise have done?

WILL POWER: Yeah, that's exactly correct. We focused a lot on the race in practice, running around and see how long the tires last. But for qualifying, we talked about it and we thought, we'll sit and wait and see what sort of condition the track is in and how quick people are going. And like I explained before when I saw Sebastian do 31.5 on black tires, I thought for sure on red he's going to go quicker, and so we decided to do a run on black when the red flag came out.

Q: You both had problems with hitting the tires and crashing, I heard there's some wraparound the tires that causing some issues with the drivers; is that true?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think for me yesterday, it was the wrap that was around the tires was very tall and probably 20 inches tall, and it was rubber. When I hit it yesterday, I just skimmed on the inside tire and it just ripped the tire right off and then I had no steering and basically went head on into the wall. So we tried to make a change overnight. Sebastienhad a firsthand look at it because he went back and looked at it. Different system now, seems to be plastic now versus rubber cement, can't comment, I haven't seen it up close no.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's a piece of plastic that's about 10 mil. or something like that thick, and it's so stiff that it won't collapse or fold or anything.

PAUL TRACY: Like a step.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just like a big step. About that high and the thing just, I grabbed it and it's so sharp, the wheels's rubber went on it and the car took off. It not like I was out of control or anything. I just went a little too much on the right and the thing completely took off and by the time I touched the ground I was already on the tires.

Q: From the drivers perspective, would it be better to remove those tires all together?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well we could not remove the tires because the FIA would not regulate the racetrack like that, I think we had in '03 or '04 at some time the bales in the chicanes, so it's not the solution. But I think probably go back to what we used to have, which isn't really satisfying because when we stop taking these belts off, then we can use a little bit of the tires and all of the power starts to turn around, and it's a movable apex which goes once in, once out, and so it's never the same racetrack. So there's no really easy fix right now, but for sure, it would be about time to think for something better for the future.

Q: Having all this focus on Will and pole position, is that in some ways a good thing for your championship, the focus is off you, at least here?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think we went for it obviously. I think everybody saw that we were trying pretty hard, got pretty close for a minute, but got taken off because I caught the red flag and I was on the Bridgestone black tires. I think, you know, we've had a very good car and the team has been doing a good job again. But I made one small mistake yesterday on the braking for turn one and ruined my chances and today, I've got to call it a mistake. But I paid pretty expensive for it; at least the invoice is going to be pretty expensive. So, you know, it just too bad, because it's a lot of wrecked stuff for avoidable reasons I think.

Q: What kind of damage was done to the car, and are you confident that it will be right to go tomorrow?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it will take about an hour or so and leave it at that. Just that whole side is ripped off, the wing, left front corner, radiator, a lot of damage. But it still seems to be all right.

Q: How are you surviving the media pressure, particularly as the pole winner now, from here to race time, how many interviews do you think you'll do, and how will that affect you as far as the race tomorrow?

WILL POWER: Well, I mean, I've had it all week. It's increased a lot since yesterday. You know, it's something that you have to do and it's for the sponsors and great for the team to get as much coverage out of a pole position as you can. You know, I'm coping it with all right, it's all good. I'm on pole position, so it hasn't been too harsh.

Q: How about your family in the background, what are their thoughts?

WILL POWER: Well, I don't know. I haven't really spoken to them. I've seen them up there on the stands but I haven't had time to do anything.

Q: Sort of along the same line, and you alluded to it, Paul; that you are fairly used to this sort of situation in Toronto, and just maybe you could share some of your experience going into a little bit more detail about what it's like to be in your hometown race and have everybody cheering for you, but at the same time all the pressure on you as well?

PAUL TRACY: For sure, there's always a lot of pressure at any race. But you know, for me to come home to Toronto or any race in Canada, when you race in your home country, not a lot of guys get to do that. You know, the pressure is higher, the stakes are higher, you want to do well for your fans. But I know that for Will, he's got, this is the town he lives in. He's just up the road. His sponsor is from here. The whole team is Australian Vineyards. So there's a lot of media pressure that goes along with that.

I would say the fans in Australia are more intense than they are in Canada. The fans in Canada like to drink their beer and go to sleep. Here, they like to drink their beer and fight. (Laughter) There's probably a lot more pressure for Will to do well.

WILL POWER: If anybody has me off, you know what's going to happen (Laughter).

ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our press conference. We go racing here tomorrow afternoon, one o'clock, thank you.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power , John Paul , Geoff Brabham , Teo Fabi , Daniel Clarke