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Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix at Road America

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Grand Prix at Road America

Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix at Road America

Sebastien Bourdais
Bruno Junqueira
Alex Tagliani
August 3, 2003


ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN

ERIC MAUK: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We're going to go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America, presented by Briggs & Stratton. Before we get started, I'd like to give a round of applause to not only these drivers, but all the drivers of the CART Champ Car World Series that outlasted some pretty tough conditions and gave us a pretty thrilling race here at the end of the day for 34 laps. Right now we're joined by our top two finishers, not coincidentally from the same team, Newman/Haas Racing. The first 1-2 sweep for Newman/Haas Racing since the Grand Prix of the Americas in Miami last year when Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi finished first and second, except for those guys took one and two in Brands Hatch Sebastien Bourdais winning that one, Bruno coming in second.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Don't try to recover (laughter).

ERIC MAUK: We'll start with today's runner-up, Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Our rookie points leader ran the fastest lap of the day and made up nearly four seconds in the last five laps to finish just point 703 seconds behind our winner. This is the fifth podium of the year for Sebastien. Congratulations. Tell us about those last few laps. You really made up some ground and gave a challenge to Bruno at the end of the day.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, basically I think for the last stint, I thought the track was going really quickly, and I was really concerned about the fact that I could run out of tires for the end of the stint. Nobody was pushing in my back. I said, "Okay, let's take it easy. I'm not going to try anything silly on Bruno." And I wanted to finish this race. A podium, a second place, was pretty good. We're closing the gap for points. It was a good deal for us, the 1-2 for Newman/Haas Racing. I said, "Let's try to make it safe." The last five laps when I felt basically the tires were hanging in pretty well, I was pretty close from the checkered, I said, "Okay, now we can try to push a bit more." Also because Tag was closing the gap on me, I said, "Okay, now it's time to push a bit more." I closed the gap and I think Bruno was just trying to see the checkered also. You know, it's always the kind of races when everybody's trying to make a kind of compromise to see the checkered in good conditions.

ERIC MAUK: Last pit stop, a lot of radio conversations on whether you wanted to stay on the wets or go to slicks. How close of a decision was that for you guys?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it would have been pretty close. But we got some drops of rain just before the pits. I just changed completely our mind, and especially mine. I think definitely it was the right choice, and the safe one to stay on wet tires, especially because all the field was putting new set of wet again. It was just a bit of a gamble. When you are in P2, you don't want to play any gamble.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien stays in fourth place in the points but closes to within nine of third place. He has 116 on the season. Third in today's race, driver of the #33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing, Alex Tagliani. Alex takes his third podium finish of the season and the eighth of his career and finishes in the top-three at Road America for the second straight year. Alex, congratulations. You had a couple serious dices out there early on. Take us through some of that action.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, well, first of all, I have to say that I was quite pleased that they started the race damp because, I mean, our team decided to go with like 85% wet setup, and we were hoping to start the race early. When we were looking at our car in the pit lane, they were drying the track with the jet dryer, we were getting a little bit nervous. So for us with the decision that we made, we were quite happy that they started the race with wet conditions. I mean, my car was good early on into the race. Came from pretty far. I had to pass a couple of guys. But, you know, when you have a good car in the wet, it's a little bit easier. So I just had to make no mistakes. The toughest fight was with Patrick. He was quite quick in the straight line. I was quicker in the corners, but I was not able to get by. My team did a good job in the pits. We came in and came out in front of him. Then when I was behind Sebastien, I was hoping to save the tires a little bit and run into the wet all around the track. I could see him going into the dry. I was hoping he was going to blister or burn his tires, and I can come back later on. But the tires lasted. I had to push really hard to get close back to him. I flat-spotted the front tires up to the cord. I was done the last two laps. I was just hanging there. And that's it.

ERIC MAUK: Through your four-year career, you've been very good here. Three times started in the top three, a couple podiums now. What is it this about this track that suits your driving style?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I don't think it's the track that suits the driving style. I think, you know, if you go on a racetrack and the setup is good, you love the track, you like it. For the last three years, I loved it. Yesterday I hated it. And today I like it again, so (laughter). It depends how you're able to compete. We definitely struggled with a couple of things on our car this weekend that we keep on finding it and we're learning it. But for the future, I think we're going to get better and better. The rain was definitely an equalizer for everybody. But I guess it's, again, a track that you love are tracks where your car is fast and you're competitive.

ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America, presented by Briggs & Stratton is Bruno Junqueira, driver of the #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. Bruno claims his first win of the season, the fourth of his career, leading all 34 laps and claiming all 23 championship points available over the weekend. He takes the series points lead for the first time in his career. Bruno, big weekend for you. How does it feel?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It feels really good. First thing I have to thank Mario Andretti to bring this race back and give opportunity for everybody to stay here and give opportunity for me to get my first win this year. It was a very good weekend for me and the whole PacifiCare Newman/Haas team. We were able to get our first pole of the year. We were on the pole a lot of times Friday - never repeat Saturday. But this time we were able to get the pole by a big gap. That was pretty nice. The race was really difficult because the track was damp. I think CART did a good decision not to start the race early on because for me and Sebastien was okay, but for the people in the back, I don't think they could see much because of the spray. Then when the track get a little bit dryer, they blow the jets. Then when it start the race, really the racetrack was in a good condition. When they asked me about this, I said, "Is slippery, but is okay. Is not big spray. A regular wet race that's difficult, but there it is." Then they start the race. The early laps was really difficult because I was in front and I didn't have any practice this weekend on the wet. Then I have to find the grip of the track. And then Sebastien was following me on the first two or three laps. Then when the tires get a little bit hot, I start to feel the track, I start to push a little bit harder until I open a gap on him. Then came the yellow. We did the last pit stop. The team did another great pit stop. And after the last restart, I was able to pull away. I was pulling away a little bit every lap until with like five laps to go. The track -- like seven laps to go, start to rain a little bit. I didn't want to push harder. And like with five laps to go, stop rain. And then Sebastien did a very good lap. He was like one and a half seconds faster than me. Then when I look, I think he's getting close. I thought that five seconds was a good margin. But, you know, in a lap, it is very easy to go one second, one and a half second slower. Then I push a little bit harder - not too much because I still have like three and a half seconds over him. I knew that he was pushing hard. I try to build the speed a little bit every lap, but without make any mistakes because I knew there were three or four laps to go. And my car was in good shape. I know it will be really difficult for him first to close the gap, and after to pass. I improve the speed. I make a calculation the last two laps he be close of me, like one and a half, two seconds, but not enough to have a try to move on me. That's I think what happen in the end. I think was a very difficult race because the track was getting dry. Like seven laps to go, start to rain. But, anyway, I think I had completely the dry setup apart of a little bit left front wing, and brakes. Didn't put any more downforce or didn't put any other change on suspension on the car for the wet. You were not thought that the track could dry out. You thought it would be like a very heavy storm and then it dry out. I don't know it make any difference. But I think the basic setup of the car was good, no matter what, the dry or the wet, was good. I think was really good for all the Newman/Haas team. Another 1-2, and good for me for the championship that I got this. I think after Vancouver, I said that I lost the concentration in the race. My dad and my mom, they said, "Bruno, come on." I said, "No problem." They thought I was giving away. But I think through all my life, everything I go after was really, really difficult. I had really bad times. Sometimes when I have a difficult moment, I get some inspiration inside of me that I became stronger than before. And I think that's what happen. I think after Vancouver, something happen on me. I was a little bit shake for everything that's happen. I said, "I'm going to be strong." Nothing's better than my favorite racetrack, that's Road America. Nothing better to have a perfect weekend, 23 points, pole on both days, lead all laps. I'm quite happy. Still a long ways to go in the championship. I think Paul Tracy is looking very strong. Michel Jourdain is very consistent. Sebastien is very fast. Now he's starting to be consistent and get on the groove. And then I think it's like four very strong guys for the end of the championship. Then have to keep working hard and to get a great result in the end of the year.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Bruno leads the way with points with 164; Paul Tracy is three back with 161; Michel Jourdain, Jr., 125 in third; Sebastien is fourth with 116; and Patrick Carpentier of Player's in fifth with 98 points. We'll take questions from the media.

Q. Sebastien, during the first two yellow flag times, you were saying on the radio that you really thought the conditions were okay to go racing, that you didn't think we needed a red flag. Hindsight, how do you feel about that now? Do you think you could have gone racing at that point?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Oh, yeah. I didn't change my mind. I mean, we had a very good setup on the car. It was hard conditions. It was rain conditions. I don't go over what we did after that, the rain break. It was damp. It was not wet. Then I think it's just a matter of knowing if we want to do rain races or not, if you want to compete or not. Then maybe it's not worth buying rain tires.

ERIC MAUK: Alex and Bruno, you went through a similar situation last year in Australia where the start was along the same situations. We went ahead and started it. We all know what happened there.

ALEX TAGLIANI: No, no, no, no. It was not the same situation.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's not a street course.

ALEX TAGLIANI: I mean, it's different. Street course, you're surrounded by walls and you don't have any lateral visibility. On a road course, that is wide open like this one, yes, you have fuel fume in front of you and it's difficult to see, but you can still see laterally because there's a lot of open spaces. The wet in Surfers Paradise, I mean, there was not even one place that thereas no puddle. I mean, there was about two inches of water everywhere. When they red flagged the race here, there was no puddle. I heard comments on the radio from the truck going around. They say, "There's no standing water." Okay, it rained, but it rained, like a rain race. There's difference of opinions. There's one section on the racetrack, the kink going to Canada corner that there's walls, and it's a tunnel, so it's pretty difficult to see. But I think the track did a great job in not having this little river in the back straightaway. So without standing water, I didn't really understand why we had to red flag the race.

ERIC MAUK: Bruno, your thoughts?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think when you try to do the first lap, the track was doable for race. But I think Lavin spun just before going green. And then after the rain pick up more, for me that was leading the race, it looks okay. But after talk some drivers that were a little bit further down the grid, they told me that they couldn't see the spray. For my experience, after 130, 140 miles per hour, the spray of the cars is so big that the guys behind you cannot see. And in some street courses, in some racetracks, the rain, you go like 140 miles per hour, 170, 160, one or two seconds in one straight line, that time on the racetrack you cannot see. But like on this track, the straight lines are so long, you going to do like 180 miles per hour even in the rain. You going to spend like five or six seconds in each of the long straightaways above 130, 140 miles per hour, then you going to stay a long time without see a thing. Not me, not Sebastien, but the guy that's starting 10th or 12th, you know. And you have a lot blind corners.

ALEX TAGLIANI: 13th (laughter).

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: 13th, yeah.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's a problem.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Let me finish (laughter).

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's always been like that.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It's always been like that. But I think the decision of CART to wait a little bit, wait the track get a little bit dryer, with less spray, was good because at least today you can everybody go home in one piece. In Surfer's, for sure, is a street course, is more difficult. There are some guys that couldn't go home in one piece. I've been in some road courses, like Hockenheim, long straightaway in the rain, there was a massive accident, as well. I think is difficult to say what could happen if we start the race earlier or not. But that was -- the CART decision was this one. Nobody get hurt. Thanks, God. Let's looking forward.

ALEX TAGLIANI: I had a suggestion. Street course, in my opinion, are pretty dangerous when it's really wet, when there's puddle. I mean, you can't see anything. It's not wide. As soon as there's a cloud of fume in front of you, you can't see on the side. You have no reference. You're in the middle of walls. You're afraid to turn the steering wheel because you don't know where you're going. I understand, but what I would suggest is we have to make a rule. If it's not visible, then we are only going to start the race when it's damp, or we're not going to start the race until it's dry. Then people know. Because what happened today, again, there was like probably four or five teams make up their mind an hour before the race, and then they're drying the track. So we have to know those things before. I don't mind racing when it's dry only or when it's wet, but we have to know before.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm exactly the same mind than Alex. Basically it's just a matter of being fair for everybody. We have to choose the setup for the race. Knowing the conditions really wet, I was one of the guys that picked wet setup, okay. The race is supposed to start with heavy rain, they supposed to put the green flag. If they don't want to do it, they don't have to start the race and they don't have to put you on the track. It's the only thing I said. Now, for sure it was the safe thing to do. But the second question is, do we really want now to say, okay, do we want to race in these conditions or not? But if we don't want to, let's not start the meeting. This is all I said. Leave us changing the setup when you dry the track.

Q. Bruno, last weekend when you said after a race that you really thought you could win here, favorite track, very important race for the championship. You really needed to beat Tracy, who was quick here. You achieved all those things, fastest all weekend, did that. What is your comment from that point of view about really achieving that particular goal that you wanted to do very much here?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, that was very good. I mean, last year I lost the championship in three races: Cleveland, Toronto and Vancouver. They were back-to-back races, three races that I didn't score points. And I was kind of not very confident for those three races, and got in problems. But Tracy did very well and get a lead on me on the championship. But I knew that I had to win a race this year to keep motivate and keep the team believe that you can do well the championship, you know. I know that my best shot to win a pole and win a race was this racetrack because I always did well here, did well in the test. And Tracy was for sure after win two race in Canada really strong on his head, and know that in any sport is very important in the moment if you're very strong or not in the head. I think he came here very confident that he could win again, especially because of his success in the past. And I was very confident I could win, as well, because of my success in the past. I was pressuring myself extra this weekend to do very well. I knew I had to turn the table and start to do better than him. I think everything came great for me this weekend. I mean, Tracy raced twice in Canada. That's his home. I don't know, I think because of this is cheese head here, this place has been my home. In my state in Brazil, we are famous with cheese, as well. I think here is my home in the US, you know. Then I got my win at home. But I also consider Mid-Ohio my home, and Denver, and California as well (laughter).

Q. With the pit coming so late and so close to the checkered, were any of you at all concerned, particularly the speeds that that you were running the last few laps with fuel towards the end?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. I think the pit windows, the new rules, are really good because you don't have to think about fuel. That was great. Even if this race start on a dry racetrack, maybe we'll have to save fuel a little bit for the first stint because of the two parade laps. But I mean because of the rain, you don't spend as much fuel as you used to. And that's good about the CART rules of the pit stops. Sometimes make it a little bit complicate, but is make much more difficult for someone win from the back, and you don't have to save fuel, then you can go race. That's the best thing.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's easier. The plan was saving a bit of fuel in the first stint if it was try, we were pretty okay.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, same thing.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Same engine, same car, don't have much chance to be different.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations, gentlemen. Thank you for attending.



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