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Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Michel Jourdain, Jr.
Bruno Junqueira
Paul Tracy
February 23, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA

ERIC MAUK: We'll start the top-three finishers conference from today's season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first race of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Joining me now are the second and third place finishers in today's race. The third place finisher, Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He takes the third spot after starting seventh today. This is his eighth career podium finish and his best season opening finish in his career. Tell us about your day.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Had quite a difficult weekend. Friday I was second fastest, but still, because of the red flags, I couldn't get my best. Saturday was terrible. Couldn't get a lap at all. Then I start seventh. I really thought I should start from the front row, the pole, second. I think the PacifiCare car was good, we had a chance to do it. It was a long race. I felt I could do a good race. But the car was handling very well, but on the first pit stop, we had a problem with the right tires that cost us a lot of time. We went almost to last. Then I started passing people. That was really, really difficult on this track. I think I was one guy was able to pass people fighting for position. The car, the PacifiCare car, was handling very well. We went forward. The Newman/Haas team started to do good pit stops, good strategy, that helped me a lot to go forward. I think it's like 30, 35 laps till the end and I was third, behind Jourdain. I made a lot of pressure on him. The end of the race, the track was really slippery. I started to have a problem on my brakes. I thought it would be really difficult to pass him. If you can't brake really well, it's difficult to outbrake him. I said, "Okay, let's hang around, make pressure." But then I got traffic twice. He broke away a little bit. I just slowed down to keep it third place. After that, third didn't look so bad.

ERIC MAUK: You made some passes up through the field, had a couple of different battles with Mario Haberfeld, couple of inside moves, made some passes there. Tell us about those battles.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think on the second lap, I came inside Mario on turn one, on the straight. He started to squeeze me to the wall. I lifted a little bit. After the wall was finished, he still was squeezing me. I broke inside of him and said that that was my position. I didn't believe that he could block me that much. I was set to do the corner, then suddenly I see Jourdain doing the corner. I said that I had to go straight. I almost hit Jourdain. Oh, my God. I had to go straight, make Jourdain pass, then I turn right, then I went wide, but I passed him. I think that was really bad. Unfortunately, because of the first pit stop, we went to last, and I had to pass him again. Then I get a run on him at the exit of turn three, I went inside. He squeezed me until I was touching the right wall. I passed him again. But that time at least I was expecting him to behave really bad. I hope these stewards do something about it because that can be very, very dangerous. He already had a lot of crash in his past. If you want to keep alive, you have to behave a little better.

ERIC MAUK: Our runner-up today, Michel Jourdain, Jr., driver of the #9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, earns the best finish of his Champ Car career, taking home the second place trophy. His previous best finish came at Michigan where he placed third, that was two years ago. Tell us about your run today.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Thank you very much. I gave some money to Haberfeld this morning. It was like, "Okay, I don't want Bruno on my tail for the first laps, so do something with him. If you do that, I pay double." I got to give him some of the prize money.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: You're going to give him your prize money?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Mario.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Really (laughter)?

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Yes.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I thought you were going to give me half of the prize money because at the end of the race, I was nice to you. I keep you ahead with second place. Come on!

ERIC MAUK: Either way, money well spent.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: It was a very long race. The track changed a lot at the end. It was very, very slippery, like Bruno said. It was hard to stay on the track. It was very easy to make a mistake. There were a lot of yellows, especially in the last restart. The tires were so, so slippery, I made a couple mistakes. Paul really pulled away in those first couple of laps. Bruno was really on my tail.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: You almost crashed.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: Si (laughter). I'm very happy. We had a good car all weekend. I think we could have done a couple places better in qualifying. The result is great. It's great to have a start like this, especially going into Monterrey, Mexico. I love that track. The fans are great. Hopefully this helps. I'm sure this will help for the race. Last year we had a great year. We just need to qualify better, get rid of these guys that are too fast and we'll be winning a lot of races.

ERIC MAUK: We are now joined by today's race winner, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Player's Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He captured the 20th win of his Champ Car win, tying him with Earl Cooper for 16th on the all-time win list. Paul led 71 laps on the day, the most he has led on a street course since his 1999 win in Houston, where he led 85 laps. Tell us how it feels to get the win first out this year.

PAUL TRACY: It's a great feeling. To have my first win with Team Player's, I just have to thank them for all the work they've put in, switching over the winter from Reynards to Lolas, pretty much at my request. It was a lot of work, a lot of money invested. This is how I can reward them back for the effort that they put in. I had a good day today. No real trouble at all. You know, I just kind of was pacing myself the first bit of the race behind Sebastien. We did a different pit strategy. I was held up for a little while. In the end, Sebastien ended up taking care of himself and it pretty much was easy after that. I was just able to go at my own pace, conserve the tires, not have to push too hard. It was a great day.

ERIC MAUK: A couple laps after the last restart, Michel closed into 3.9 seconds behind you. Next lap you got another second and a half on him. From there, it was as close as he got.

PAUL TRACY: I slowed down a little bit because I felt I was going pretty hard in the beginning. I felt the tires starting to go away. I started to slide around a little bit, slide around. The car was getting very over-steery. I just slowed down for three or four laps. I lost quite a bit of time. I had an eight-second lead. It came down to just about four. I got my tires under control, kind of got the grip back, then I was able to pull away at the end to 10 seconds. I kind of gave him a little bit of a tease to let him catch up. I think he felt it, "I'll push harder." Maybe his tires fell off, and then I was able to pick it up again.

ERIC MAUK: Official margin of victory, 12.136 seconds. Let's open it up to questions from the media.

Q. Paul, what was your strategy?

PAUL TRACY: I tried to make a good start. We made a dead equal start. We went into the first turn side by side. He ran a little bit wide. I squared up, got on the outside of him the next turn. I was going to try to get him the first lap, but he was pretty quick on cold tires. After the first three or four corners, I knew that I wasn't going to get him. I just basically stayed behind him. I was about two or three seconds behind him, not trying to use too much fuel. At first we were thinking we were going to go all the way to lap 30. Then when that yellow came out, we decided not to. He had actually slowed down on the yellow. The yellow came out, and he slowed down, waiting for the pace car. It allowed a lot of people to pack up. I think we'd have been maybe better if he'd have kept the pace around on that yellow, but he decided to stay out. I came in. Pretty much the whole field came in, except for Adrian and Emerson's driver. I got stuck behind Monteiro for 20 laps. I lost a lot of time to Bourdais on that stint. He rocketed out of the pits right in front of me, cut right across the front of me, and I got him on the next straightaway. It was maybe two or three laps later that they radioed me and told me that he had brushed the wall and did some damage or something. From there, I knew that we were kind of in control of the race. I just had to pace myself, not make any mistakes. Like Michel said, the track was getting slipperier and slipperier. I was expecting to go faster and faster throughout the race, probably go quicker than qualifying, but it didn't really rubber up like I thought it would. You know, just kind of ran mid and high two's the whole race, tried to run at my own pace.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It just seemed like turn one got more and more slippery. When you went down there on the braking zone, as soon as you got on the paint, the car would lock the tire, then it wouldn't turn. You almost had to brake a whole half a marker earlier, slow down, be off the brakes before you got to that paint. It seemed if you tried to brake going into the corner, going across the paint, it would lock the front up. You know, just seemed like the track didn't really get more and more grip. It seemed to be putting rubber down, but seemed to get more slippery. At the end of the race, the last five, six laps I was still going at a good pace. I was doing low three's, trying to pull the gap.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: No. I mean, ultimately it's my race. I got to go out there and do my own job. From that standpoint, there is nothing I can do about him going out. I got to run my own race and do my own thing.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It was tough. I mean, the tires definitely you really had to manage, you know, your tires. No traction control, the engine, how much power it has, off that hairpin it was easy to come off that corner and light the things off, wheels spinning all the way out of the corner. You really have to pay attention. That middle stint, when I was behind Monteiro, I was really trying hard to get by him. I kept spinning the tires off the corner. The last couple laps of that stint I was really having a hard time because I wore my rear tires out.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think this track wasn't easy to pass. I made a lot of passing in this race because, first, I had to. I went almost last. If I would have stayed there, if I wasn't aggressive, I would finish really in a bad position. I had to take a risk. As Paul said, no traction control makes it really difficult, difficult for the guy in front as well. The nice thing about the track, it's very wide in turn one. The straight wasn't too long. I was behind someone, and I couldn't pass, I just stayed behind. Because the first turn is second gear, very wide, I couldn't out-brake in turn one. Every guy I passed was pretty much on turn one out-braking. Two guys I passed on turn four. That was a little bit more difficult because it was really slippery. But I was very good going out of turn three and four, turn two and three, then I could get a run on two guys there. I mean, it was really difficult. When I got behind Michel, I was maybe, I don't know, half a second faster than him when I was catching him up.

PAUL TRACY: The Mexican is hard to pass.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah. He was a Gigante in front of me, then I couldn't pass him. I mean, it's easy to pass when you are one second faster than someone. When you are a half second, then you play a big, big gamble, especially at the end of the race when you come from last to third. I took the points. It's better than to get nothing.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It's a long race. 105 laps is over two hours. It's great to go fast for 15 minutes or 20 minutes. When you've got to do it for two hours, it's a different story. I'm experienced. I've done these races hundreds of times. You learn when to go fast and when not to go fast. But on the other hand, there was a lot of experienced guys on tires today, Pat, Alex, guys having problems that are experienced. You know, it's a technical track, a difficult track. I think the cars are more difficult to drive this year because there's no traction control. The engine is very powerful. It's a long race, and you've got to be there at the end.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: He didn't pit, and I pitted. He stayed out in front of me.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I was significantly quicker, but I wasn't quick enough in spots. I made a couple of attempts, but I just wasn't going to risk taking myself out of the race. I was getting pretty pissed off. They told me I was 17 seconds behind. I was ready to launch the chrome horn at him. A couple times I got real close to his back wheels, I thought I'm just going to let off the brake and hit him and move him out of the way. "I better not do that, I don't want to end up getting a penalty." It crossed my mind a couple times that I need to move this guy out of the way because I'm not going to get by him. The next lap, he locked his brakes up, ran wide, I got by him. Then I ran away from him like crazy.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I don't think there's any modifications I would make. Maybe if there's one thing that would make the track significantly better, the tire was pretty hard here that Bridgestone brought. They don't know any different, first-time event. I think if we had a softer tire, it would make us go faster, for sure, maybe make it more nice to drive. I think the end result of the race was the cars were difficult and you really had to work hard at driving them. That's what we get paid to do. It's not supposed to be easy. The end result I think is okay.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think the track is pretty nice, as Paul said. For the first time to race here, the track be such nice like this I think impress me a lot. The only point that I don't feel really comfortable is coming out of the pits can be a little bit dangerous. They can study a better way. The guys on turn two going outside fast, the other one going out of the pits. Apart from that, it's very good.

MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR.: I like it a lot. It's a great track. Obviously, pit out needs to be improved. They were saying instead of going right, going left, turn one, it's a lot safer, and everybody can see what's happening when we were coming out. I mean, it's very hard to see if you are in the track or in the pits who is coming. I think they are talking maybe about the very fast chicane before the last corner, to open it up. I would leave it like that because it's a great corner. But everything else is great. It's a great track to drive.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It's a good course, a good street course. Street courses are always going to be a little bit bumpy, a little bit slippery. You know, I would maybe compare it to Vancouver, Toronto. Kind of the same atmosphere, same type of similar layouts, by the water, downtown, similar types of surfaces. It's a much, much better facility than what we had in Miami and what we had in Denver. It's much more similar to what we're used to in places like Toronto, Vancouver, Australia, Long Beach. Proper track, nice length, nice and wide, proper barriers, proper fence, wide pit lane. They did a very good job.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Well, a win is a win. That's what we're out here to do. Everybody's out here to win individual races. You have your own individual goals. That ultimately leads to hopefully what would be a championship. It takes winning races to win championships, being consistent. I mean, I can say that I've probably met all my individual goals, individual events, races that I'd like to win, say here and there. I've won just about everything, but not a championship. That's what everybody's goal is, is to win the championship. But we need to focus on trying to be consistent, win races, finish well, then hopefully that will come.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I've always started slow (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I hope we don't fall on our face the next race (laughter). No, I'm very happy. Normally it takes me four or five races before I get any points. You're 60, 70 points behind at that point. From this standpoint, I'm very happy. I'm happy for the team. It's what they've been working towards for three, four months, since I joined the team. So to start like this is great. It's a great feeling. It justifies all the work that the team has put in, and it justifies all the sacrifice that I've done over the winter training, riding bicycles for three hours a day. Sometimes you're out there by yourself, you're thinking, "What the Christ am I doing out here?" I call Jimmy, I call Michel, they're out partying at a night club, I'm pedaling a fucking bicycle down the street for three hours. I'm like, "What am I doing?" It's very satisfying.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Don't worry, Paul, I'm doing the same (laughter).

PAUL TRACY: I know he's not and I know Jimmy is not (laughter).

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Not really. I mean, I got by Bourdais. He came right out of the pits in front of me, but he was on cold tires. I got by him. But I knew I was going to have to pull away from him because we're on different strategies. That wasn't the deciding moment of the race. The deciding moment of the race is really when Bourdais went out and I knew at that time I was half a second quicker than the guy who was in second, Adrian. From that standpoint, I knew once Bourdais was out, we just had to be smooth.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I guess for me, I never down-talked CART. I never down-played where I wanted to be. So from my standpoint, I mean, winning this race is significant to me. It's an inaugural event. It's nice to be a first-time winner at a track like this, at a facility like this. It's an enjoyable moment. I guess I haven't really thought about it, but I saw Chris Pook run up to me, he had this ear-to-ear grin on his face. I know he's done a lot of work. CART has done a lot of work. They've done a lot of marketing, PR, press to get this going again. This justifies it to them that they have three of their veteran drivers up on the podium. We had a great first race, a great crowd. People can walk away from here, fans that came, can walk away and say, "I saw a great race today." They'll come back.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: It's great. I mean, we were separated for two years. It wasn't by choice. I had probably my best years of my career when I worked with him in '99 and 2000, I feel. We kind of got split apart, not by choice. I struggled a little bit the last couple years. I feel we could have won a lot more races than we did, but struggled somewhat to get the car the way I wanted it all the time. So to be back with Tony, to convince him to come back, is a huge benefit for me, not only mentally but also from the race standpoint, from the car standpoint. It's a big benefit for the team.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. This concludes our press conference. We'll see you in Monterrey, Mexico.



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