Champ Car World Series: Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver
Topics: Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver
ERIC MAUK: Welcome to our post-race press conference, the CENTRIX FINANCIAL Grand Prix of Denver Round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents Champ Car powered by Ford. We're joined by our Top-3 finishers in today's event starting with our third-place finisher driver of the #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno earns the 21st podium of his career, the fifth of the year. He led 39 laps on the day before settling for the podium spot. Bruno, tell us a little about your race today.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think it was an okay race. Didn't have really good balance on the car. I took the lead at the start. I tried to stay field out, between one and two seconds, maybe two seconds on Paul Tracy and kept that. I was doing very good mileage, but like just two laps before, got like three cars in front of me, and then gave the opportunity for Tracy to beat, to came to the pits very close of me. He did a good pitstop and just passed on the pitstop. Then my car was really bad on the second set of tires, I couldn't brake. I had a lot of traffic, and I lost one of the brakes, just pass a guy and went wide and Dominguez, I was not even close, but still pass me, because it was mistake. I tried just to keep the car on the track, it was really difficult like in the front -- after Sergio, he had a flat tire had to pass him outside on Turn 1 and 2 and got a little marbles on my tires then Sebastien came to pass me and there was nothing I could do. Then I just tried to keep the fourth place. Then there was the yellow and Sebastien and Mario had a contact in the restart. I went third. And I tried to make some (inaudible) Tracy, but my car wasn't that good. I couldn't attack the corner though. I was just not feeling comfortable to drive. I was more make sure that I would be maintain the car on the track. Then it's a different situation when you cannot attack the corners; especially when I tried to pass someone like Paul Tracy at the end of the race, then I settled for third, and I think it was okay result, didn't have the car to win today. Going to work very hard for Montreal, which I can get a good car again and get a win.
ERIC MAUK: Still in second place in the points, you head into Montreal that will be race 10 of 16 races on schedule. When does it get to a point where you start thinking I have got to start getting a couple of wins here to stay in the title hunt?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I am trying to win from the first race of the year. Unfortunately I think there was maybe three races that I was the strongest guy out there and for some reason I didn't win, you know, and today I wasn't the strongest guy out there, I was maybe second or third, and I finished third. I finished pretty much where I deserve to finish. Maybe Montreal going to be another story. I hope I can be strong there and get a first win.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Today's runner-up, driver of the #1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, the defending series Champion, Paul Tracy. Paul led a race high, 40 laps today and earning the 62nd podium of his career. He's just three behind Emerson Fittipaldi for the most podiums in the Champ Car modern era, 65, that would be fifth place on that list. Paul, runnerup finish, you ran strong for most of the day. How do you feel about the way it went?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously it, you know, it went better than I expected. The car was not handling well throughout the whole race. I thought we had the race won in hand until the yellow came out, and you know, really it was a shame because we were able to just keep Mario and the rest of the field at bay. I was able to hold it at about four to five seconds. The car was -- it was okay. It wasn't the fastest car in the field, but it was adequate enough to maintain a consistent pace and I could run the same pace from the start of the stint 'til the end; which is important. My team did a great job on the first pitstop. I was running behind Bruno and trying to save fuel and saved quite a lot of fuel because we were able to do quite a shorter stop than Bruno and got out ahead. It was my first opportunity to have some clear track for myself with not having a scar in front of me. I was able to open up a gap for about 6 or 8 seconds. Then from there Bruno had some problems and Mario got by him. Mario started closing but I was able to hold it between 5 and 6 seconds. From there I felt that we had everything under control, then the yellow came out and Sebastien obviously had a fantastic car today and in the last five or six, you know, the last 10, 15 laps of the race he was able to come from -- the 6th, he just had a superior car and was driving better and once he got to me, there was really nothing I could do except give way and just try to get the best finish I could.
ERIC MAUK: The pit rules in place for this event today, worked pretty much the way you thought they would; any problem with those?
PAUL TRACY: I think it was a great race, entertaining race. Obviously the first corner we said yesterday there was going to be action, so I think it made for a very entertaining race. I think it was probably one of the best race on a street course that's hard to pass, that I think we have had in a long time.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations on the run. The winner of today's CENTRIX FINANCIAL Grand Prix of Denver, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, our current points leader Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien takes his fifth win of the year; the 8th of his career. He also earns his 7th podium finish of the season in just nine starts. Sebastien, five minutes this year but this one likely one of the most satisfying you have had?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it is the most beautiful one for sure, when you start on pole and have a difficult start and then work your way back from 13th to 14th to first, I think it's pretty amazing; especially since the rules couldn't help us out to try and gamble the strategy we just had to pass guys on the racetrack. And we have achieved that with the car. We had an awesome car the whole weekend, straight out of the track. As Paul said, I think we just hit the setup right and we're probably the fastest guy out there. I don't have the lap times but I think it's probably the case. So I am just -- terrific weekend for us and I am very, very happy to be up there at the end.
ERIC MAUK: Go back to 13th on the first lap spin. Within 6 or 7 laps you are already starting to make your way back in the Top-10. What point in the race did you get in your head -- that you thought you could come back and win this thing ?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think once I got to fourth, I saw I was many coming back on Bruno and quite quickly and I thought it was possible. I knew it was going to be difficult to pass but if I could come back very quickly and don't stay behind for a lap or two and watch, you know, the tires, and pass straight-a-way, I could do something. That's what I did. Pushed to pass, obviously helped me big-time and I think, as Paul said, that was probably the best street race we have seen in quite a long time now.
ERIC MAUK: Take us through that final restart, going into Turn 1, got by Mario. What did you see there? How did you get through ?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think now the rules are pretty clear, you are not supposed to change your line and he was kind of staying in the middle of the racetrack. I used the push to pass; he used it two seconds later, so I had kind of a jump. I was off of my car alongside him. He squeezed me in the braking and made the turn when I was still there. I tried the curb, but there was really nothing I could we had a contact. I don't know what happened to him. Been very, very -- very lucky to stay on the racetrack. I thought it was pretty much over because the steering wheel was -- the front suspension was bent and the steering whole was not straight anymore. But well, two laps difficult and then I think Paul should have made small mistake, probably went off-line just very slightly and put some (inaudible) on the tires. From then he was struggling so bad and I thought I wouldn't have a hard time to pass him, but it was surviving basically and I took the shot and passed him and from there, nobody could really stop us. I don't know what happened at the end because I think we had a suspension failure or flow failure, whatever, but the thing was bottoming very bad and was pulling to the right, so right before the last turn of the last lap so I think I am pretty happy that we didn't have 107 laps or something like that, because probably we would not have make it.
ERIC MAUK: This is Sebastien's 6th win from pole in his career making him just one of seven drivers in the Champ Car modern era which is from 1979 to the present, to win as many as six Champ Car races from pole. Paul Tracy is obviously one of those gentleman. Our Top-5 unofficially in points after 9 events, Sebastien Bourdais has 248 points; Bruno Junqueira is second with 192. P. TRACY moves up to third with 180. Alex Tagliani is fourth with 164 and Patrick Carpentier rounds out the top 5 with 154 points. We'll now take questions from the media.
Q. Bruno, and Sebastien, both could you tell us what happened on the first lap?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think Bruno told you on the podium. Said it was not -- I couldn't agree with that, so I am not -- it's not my job to kind of treat that kind of concern. It's a team issue. There's going to be a meeting and we'll sort it out later.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think I did a very good start and right to Turn 1. Came outside of Sebastien, gave him room, but I don't know, he tried to outbrake me and I brake -- was clean, I mean, I don't know, I play hard, but clean, and I said we're both lucky that we keep in the race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You are very lucky, Bruno, that I am a gentleman because I could be pretty hard on you.
Q. Sebastien and Eric, you might want to confirm this, but my understanding is that you set the fastest lap of the race, two laps from the end, which isn't too bad for a car that wasn't -- where the steering wasn't straight. I think that's right.
ERIC MAUK: That's correct. 61.256 on lap 89 of 90.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I didn't say the car wasn't handling fine. I said the steering wheel wasn't straight. I think it probably put some torque in on the left front. But it kind of reduced from the understeer of the car, so it was helping me out a bit. But something definitely broke just before the last turn of the race and I think I got pretty lucky on that one.
Q. Paul, your pitstop on lap 40 did you short-fill there or what?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think so. I think maybe just a hair short-filled, but I was making very good fuel mileage. Obviously I was running in Bruno's draft the whole time, was trying to save fuel the whole time. Our goal was to go long, Bruno started to get away from me a little bit because of some traffic, in the first few instances he got through traffic well and I just kind of caught it at the wrong place on the track and held me up a little bit. So at one point he got two and a half seconds ahead, but then towards the end, five laps before we were going to pit, there was quite a line of cars, I was able to close right on his gearbox and we just had -- I think we had more fuel in the tank. We probably could have gone a lap more, but didn't want to risk it.
Q. This is for Sebastien and Bruno, is this a result from a grudge match that might have started a week ago in Road America?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think we said it is enough comments about it so let's not talk about it. It's enough I think.
Q. Sebastien, before you passed Paul, did you just get a run on him from the previous corner or did you need to push to pass to catch up to him?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think we both used the push to pass.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, we both did. I was really struggling. We both used it. My rear tires came up the temperature quite quickly but the fronts just wouldn't grip. I couldn't get the car to turn. The thing was going straight for the wall, coming on the back straight-a-way. I had to slow down and then he was coming and I hit the push to pass to try to defend without blocking or moving over and there wasn't really anything I could do about it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Have to thank Paul, he has been very fair. He didn't move at all. He gave me plenty of room to try my move and I braked later and it's been very, very fair with Paul.
Q. Paul, can you talk about how much the yellow flag really hurt your chances of winning this thing. You were leading at the time or do you think Sebastien was running so well that he might have caught you anyway?
PAUL TRACY: I think it would have been very difficult at that point of the race with 15 laps to go, with no yellow I think at that point I had a 20-second lead on Sebastien and he was fourth or fifth at that point. So I think it would have been extremely difficult to make up that ground. Basically he would have to go a second and a half faster a lap to catch me. This was after the pitstop. At that same point if the yellow hadn't of come out and we had done our pit stops and there was no yellow, I think we would have been in good shape, but it just kind of bad luck. And you know, that's kind of how things go. It just didn't go our way today and right now, Sebastien has got -- everything he touches turns into a gold notch (sic), so it's just kind of the way it is. I had some of that last year and you know, a lot of times I was very lucky when reds came out during qualifying and I always seemed to get my lap right before the red came out. It's just not happening that way this year. It's his turn right now. We just have to keep focused and try to -- hopefully it will come our way.
Q. How would you assess the changes in the track this year and how it drove compared to previous years here?
PAUL TRACY: I think for sure it makes for an interesting race. This is the type of track where there's so little downforce and the grip level is so low that it's really -- it's all about driving. I would say it's probably 80% the driver and 20% the car because the car is never going to handle well in these conditions with the lack of downforce and the lack of grip, so really it comes down to driving and that makes for an entertaining race. You see guys slipping and sliding all over the place, sideways and locking brakes, it's really an exercise in driver control and discipline not to make a mistake. It shows there's a lot of passing, guy makes a little mistake and another guy can get by. Some of the other tracks we go to, even if you make a little mistake the guy can't get by you even if there's a little grip that he can defend.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: As I said before, really good at the people that organized the Grand Prix here, proved the track again they improved from 2002 to now. This year they did all the changes I think Turn 1 better, turn 5 is better as well. Turn 9, as PT said it is kind of the angle that you brake always kind of dangerous still. But maybe they should return the way it was last year. For sure, the great thing is the push to pass, I think that extra power gave the opportunity to have more pass in the race and I think it was exciting race today.
PAUL TRACY: I just want to reiterate what Bruno said, this race has in three years they have basically set the standard for promotion for our series. This race rivals any track that we go to, whether it's Australia, everybody talks how great the Australian race is as an event, the Molson Indys in Canada. This is, by far, rivals or is better than any of the races that we put on. They have just gotten better every year and the fans love it, and the local sponsors in town here whether it's Coors Lite and CENTRIX, you know, car dealers, all have displays here, everybody supports it. I think it's a fantastic job that they do.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: As the last guy, it is difficult to say something new, but I think the big point also the big progress this year was the Bridgestone tires. I think it gave us more grip and also more mechanical grip so more passing opportunities because you are not so much on the edge, on the tires and so much slip, sliding all over the place so you kind of able to try something at least. Last year it was very difficult. For sure the changes to open a bit, the apex and to push the walls and everything helped a lot to try something.
Q. Given the recent tension between the two gentlemen on your left and the tension that's clearly continuing were you sitting back there something might happen at the start of the race?
PAUL TRACY: That's what I said yesterday. I think something is going to happen. So I can't really comment on how they feel. From my standpoint, I mean, it's difficult racing. We're all racing for the Championship. I have been in the same situation, me and me teammate Dario we had plenty of run-ins with each other but we seemed to be able to give each other a hug at the end of the day.
PAUL TRACY: To me, it was clear that Bruno was gauging the start and made a better start. He hung back and before Sebastien went, he went and got off the line better and looked to me like he was ahead going into the braking zone and left room on the inside. Not the whole track, but he left some room and it looked like they just touched at the apex and Sebastien was, you know, spinning.
Q. You probably heard this because you are always starting up front so it seems like you are always leading the race and not really put in the position that you have to pass. Now you have shown everybody what happens when you are in a different situation. Can you comment about that.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I have not been in that position so many times, but last year it happened like two or three times, I guess, Monterey, when I worked my way from 16th to 5th in like 15 laps something like that, and also Portland when we had the puncture at the beginning of the race and worked our way back to third and unfortunately couldn't put together a win because of the rear wing failure. I think I proved today that it's possible to come back. It's obviously very difficult and it's requesting a -- when I have to do it, I think I showed that I can do it.
ERIC MAUK: That will wrap up our press conference.
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