Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Topics: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
ERIC MAUK: We'll begin the first post-qualifying session of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign. We have two of our top three qualifiers here for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. We're joined by Oriol Servia and Bruno Junqueira. Oriol, the driver of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, ran the third best lap of the day, an effort of 1:02.062, that's 113.419 miles an hour. That would give him his best ever starting spot in this his Champ car career. Oriol, tell me about your run. How do you feel about the way things went today?
ORIOL SERVIA: Congratulations to Sebastien. I feel good. It's good to be here. As you say, it's been a while for me in a press conference. It feels really good. I think like Bruno, we were very frustrated because of traffic. Obviously, Sebastien was very quick, but he was smarter and got out of sequence and got a clear track. For the rest of us, it was just impossible. I mean, a lot of traffic. But you know how the rules are, and you got to play them. Maybe we didn't play our best. But I'm very happy with how the car is. In the 10 minutes of practice before qualifying, I was the fastest. I think it shows the car is pretty good on all kinds of rubber out there. I'm very confident, very happy with the team, how it's working. The guys had to change an engine just before qualifying because we lost it in the morning. They did it very quick, very good. Everybody is very excited. We're looking forward to start with the right foot.
ERIC MAUK: Thoughts on the racetrack?
ORIOL SERVIA: It's really, really nice. The back chicane, it's extremely, extremely quick, which is a lot of fun for the drivers. In the race, it may be a little bit dangerous, but right now it's very, very good. The rest I think will provide a good race for the fans. There's a couple of places that you can overtake, quite wide. These cars, it's easy to make mistakes. I'm sure you're going to see a lot of overtaking taking place on Sunday.
ERIC MAUK: We're also joined by Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, the second best time of the day with a time of 1:01.918, equating to 105.003 miles per hour. Bruno's second best on the day. Tell us how it went for you.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Qualifying wasn't too good this time. You went very early trying to get a clear track. Since my second lap, people came out of the pits. I did five time laps having to pass someone. I got one good lap, but still passing someone inside of turn one. I was like half a tenth behind Sebastien. I thought I could wait till the end of the session because I knew the track would pick up a little bit of grip. You wait until the end of the session. We made some changes on the car. The car was very good. Just came out, had a red flag, came out again, first lap, had a red flag again. The end of the session, I just could do one time lap. When I was clear to do the second time lap, they waved the checkered flag. I don't know why. Our team was supposed to have time left. After the last red flag, CART said on the radio they would just start the counting when the first guy cross the finish line, and they didn't do that. That took out my chance to get close to Sebastien. But, I mean, second place is not bad. I can't complain. I think the PacifiCare car was really good today. Whole Newman/Haas did a very good job to put cars 1 and 2. I'm quite happy with that.
ERIC MAUK: Two long practice sessions and a qualifying session under your belt, do you have some idea where the parts on the track are where you need to be good, where you can make up time?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: First of all, I like this track. I think CART and the St. Petersburg people did a very good job to prepare the track for the first time we came here. You're not going to need many changes for next year on this track. The track is already very good. I've been very fast, as usual, on the high-speed corners. It has some high-speed corners. But for sure I have to improve myself in a little bit the car setup like the Mickey Mouse path on turn four, five, six, those low corners. It's not that I don't like or I don't do good, but it's very difficult for me to find a car I feel confident to attack the corners. I think I did that for this afternoon. The car was better. For the second set of new tires, I think the car was much better. For sure the track has picked up a lot of grip. It's a pretty shame that I couldn't get a lap. I was frustrated with that, I think. I don't know if I could beat Sebastien or not. I'm sure it could be really close. But it's very frustrating when you don't know how fast you can go. That's a little bit sad. I mean, there's going to be 19 races and 38 qualifyings, a little less because some are going to be ovals. I'm sure I'm going to get frustrated a lot of times and I'm going to get happy a lot of times that the things go on my way.
ERIC MAUK: We are now joined by the provisional polesitter for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He earned the provisional pole with a best lap of 1:01.676, 105.415 miles per hour, picking up where he left off in spring training when he was the fastest over the three days of testing. The effort guarantees him a front row starting spot regardless of what happens tomorrow and puts him in line to be the first rookie to win a pole in his Champ Car debut since 1993, when Nigel Mansell turned the trick with Newman/Haas racing. Tell us about your run today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think we were not expecting such a good result. Newman/Haas gave me an incredible car, I think. We didn't change a lot on the baseline. The work we did with the car in Sebring was very good. We were up there. The balance was immediately good. I've been able to get the confidence, to push pretty hard straightaway. Once again, the experience of the 3000, with having no prepractice session, has been very helpful. That gave me the opportunity to push really, really hard straightaway and to start to work early. I don't know, but we did the first part of the job. Anyway, what is going to be the weather tomorrow, we will be at least in second position. It's a big satisfaction. I'm thankful for the team for the job they did. I hope to be like this many times.
ERIC MAUK: Last rookie to win a Champ Car pole is Bruno, winning in Nazareth his rookie year. You guys have been fast all the way through. Are you surprised how fast you have been so early on?
ORIOL SERVIA: I didn't expect Bruno to be fast at all this year (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No comment (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: We'll throw it open to questions for the media.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think Cristiano proved last year the car was really good. They didn't win the championship only because Cristiano was good. I mean, it's always a package. Bruno and I are also good also, I hope. Hopefully we will use the material we have as well as possible. We just hope to be like this in occasions once again. It's also a confidence thing, like when everything goes well, it's a cycle. I think we are on the positive way, so let's just keep going like this.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: As I said, I think this track is very good, a lot of satisfaction on turn 11, 12, that fast chicane is pretty cool. I'm quite happy because, to be true, last year when I went to Miami and Denver, the tracks were not that good, and they need a lot of changes for this year. But this track doesn't need any change for next year, I think. I don't know going out of the pits, maybe you can study something to be a little bit safer. Apart of that, the track is perfect. I'm quite happy that it's for sure one of the best street races of the year.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, I think about the same. To me, the best street race we go to is Australia, Surfers Paradise. This is not Australia, it's shorter. I think a good racetrack has to be a little longer. Apart from that, it's a perfect racetrack. As Bruno says, it needs no changes. Maybe for me the back chicane, it's fun, but they need to move the walls for next year so at least we don't have a big wreck there in the race if anything happens.
ORIOL SERVIA: It is very challenging. I mean, if any of you go there to watch the cars, I'm sure it's quite spectacular. Has to be.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it reminds me of La Piscine in Monaco a bit - even quicker.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not really. Once you did Macau once in your life, you will never get any trouble in a street course because it goes like wide as an airport and as small as the entrance of the building. You know, you don't struggle anymore.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, as I said early on, Newman/Haas won the championship last year, and it's natural that you continue doing well this year. Same in Formula 1. As Oriol proved in spring training and today, he's fast. I think the Forsythe team will be fast, Adrian Fernandez, Jourdain. There's going to be a lot of competition. Jimmy Vasser. Don't think it's going to be easy. Like this morning, I was fourth quickest and the car wasn't that good, then we had to improve. I mean, it's not easy. For sure Newman/Haas has a very good setup, that helps. I have some experience. Sebastien is very fast. It's a good combination to get another good year. We have to work hard to do it.
ORIOL SERVIA: I think it's not a problem. Actually, the biggest problem I had today in qualifying was many times with one of the most experienced drivers (laughter). I think as a rookie, they will make mistakes. This series is complicated. There are lots of things that you think you know, and suddenly they come to you. I think they are all very experienced and they are all quick. They are showing it.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: So far I have no problems with the rookie drivers.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just one.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Just one, Sebastien is going too fast maybe. He needs to slow down a little bit (laughter). I mean, on the track, I had to pass some of them. Every time they let me go. I mean, so far they are doing a good job. For sure, qualifying, I got traffic, and I had the red flag. When you put 19 cars in a one-minute track, it's always going to be difficult - especially when we start with cold tires, all these things. I think this is difficult, but they're doing a good job.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I would say it's a big 3000, not the one from the last year, but the one between 1999 and 2001. It was a wide track. It's just like more the force and twice the power. Power is not always an issue. Power is something you get used to pretty easily. For the first time I jumped into the Champ Car, I was just getting back from Europe, testing the F1, so it was not a big deal. It's more the weekend, the schedule, the organization, the general way of how it works, which is different. No, I don't have big problems about the car. I think it's just quicker, and that's about it. It's more technical. It's always more interesting.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. Last year I did four poles out of five on the first half of the season. The car was really good. I think it's an exercise I really appreciate. Today we were able to succeed very well. I just hope to continue like this. But for sure to be compared as a Mansell, it's really nice definitely.
ORIOL SERVIA: I think it's a driver's track. It's one of those places, at least for me, that you can really attack, you can really enjoy, go fast.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think it's technical, especially on the fast chicane. For sure it's not like a road course like Road America or Mexico City. But I think for a street track, it's quite technical. It's quite challenging. Fast corners, slow corners, medium corners. You have everything here.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I agree. There's a lot of variety. You have slow, medium and quick corners. We really enjoy. With the short track we have, to have such a diversity, it's really nice.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, the cars are a little bit more difficult. I think just once I went straight on turn seven this morning.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Lock the wheels, yes. I mean, I'm pushing, trying. Now I'm pushing more on the brakes than before and locking more. I think this track is difficult. You have to go to brake really hard on turn one, turn four. You have big braking, then high-speed corners. This year with no traction control, it's really difficult, especially the last turn, because the track has been repaved, just the airport runway is a different pavement. When you come out of the last turn, the front tires get on the airport pavement, then you get more grip, then suddenly it just snaps, it's really difficult to do the last turn. Same as braking to turn one because you brake with one level grip, then you have a transition between concrete and asphalt, then you lose a little bit of grip. It's kind of difficult to find a good balance to be good on these transitions.
ERIC MAUK: That concludes our press conference today. Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations. Tomorrow the Champ Cars are back on the track at 10 a.m. Final qualifying takes place at 1:45.
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