Champ Car World Series: Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate presented by Banamex
Topics: Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate
November 7, 2004
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we will go ahead and get started with our post race press conference for the Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate presented by Banamex, the season finale and Round 14 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We will have our top three finishers with us today. We are joined by two of those top three at the moment. We'll start with our third-place finisher, the reigning Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year, the driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, AJ Allmendinger. AJ finishes third today. He moves up to sixth in the points. As I mentioned before, he won the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Award. This is his second podium finish of the year. AJ, you end the season on a high note. It has to feel good for you.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, this weekend has been great overall. We made a mistake in qualifying yesterday with the car setup, and that's what put us back in seventh. I figured we were probably third quickest in qualifying yesterday, too. But overall, I mean, the team has done a great job throughout the whole year, rookie team trying to learn the series, finding out how difficult it is. Today, you know, we just got through the turn one wreck and after that, saved some fuel early on, and then the car was absolutely amazing throughout the first two stints. That's what allowed me to get in third and get to the back of Bruno. Then the last stint, the car just had way too much understeer. But, overall, I'm thrilled with the finish. It's a great way to end the year. And also important to start next year with a lot of momentum. So I think this will do that.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us about that first pit stop. You made up three spots on that first pit stop. Tell us a little bit about that.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, Sebastien and Bruno had kind of got away, but Justin and Jimmy and Oriol were kind of staying close. So basically all I did was sit behind Oriol for about 20 laps and just save fuel the whole time. Then I was able to get around him and got to the back of Jimmy right as he pitted. But being behind Oriol for that long and saving that much fuel allowed us to do basically two laps longer than most people, and then we also short filled during the first stop to get ahead of everybody. And after that, we just had to feed out right to pull away from Justin and catch Bruno.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us what you saw on that first turn of the first lap. It looked like a little bit going on ahead of you.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, overall, everybody, the last couple years, has shown it's aggressive to get into turn one. You go from such a wide straightaway into such a narrow corner. It just looked like I think Jimmy was on the inside of turn two in the left-hander, and then Paul was on the outside. Looked like Paul tried to squeeze down on him and tried to stay ahead of him. Jimmy really had nowhere to go, was up on the curb, trying to miss him. They just got together and Paul spun. Overall, it was good for me.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Our second-place finisher, the driver of the #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira. Bruno finishes second, earns the 10th podium finish of the season for himself, the 26th of his career. He is the first driver, first Champ Car driver, since Johnny Rutherford in the years 1974 through '76 to finish as the Champ Car series runner-up in three consecutive seasons. Bruno, you gave it everything you had, came up just a little bit short. How do you feel about the way it went?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel a little bit frustrated, for sure. Finished again second in the championship. So still a great result. But I think this year I drove perfect, made no mistakes. Maybe I didn't have much speed in qualify, but I had seven of the fastest race lap, and half of the race I was the fastest car out there. But unfortunately, I didn't win the championship so kind of frustrate. Sebastien did a very good championship. I have to congratulate him, not take anything from him. But was a close battle, close championship. Well done for Newman/Haas, 1 and 2. Today's race was kind of hard. I think we didn't find the right -- today my car didn't have the right balance, and I had way too much understeer, especially on the alternate tires. I couldn't follow Sebastien. I made a mistake going into 14, like a stint of (inaudible) 12 laps. So I decided that I was taking too much risk to follow him. So I save a little bit of fuel and pull away, and just try to see if we had any problem. I said, I'm set for second, and let's see. He spun, he almost wrecked. Was very lucky to keep the car on the track because turn 14 is very wide. So he was lucky that he could return to the track. After that, I mean, when I put the last set of tires on the hard compound, my car was feeling better, and I start to get close to Sebastien. And both of us, we got traffic. So was a shame because they didn't penalize the people that didn't let me and Sebastien race. It was pretty shame because the last 10 laps I was racing traffic instead of racing Sebastien. Other way, I think it was a good season and I'll work harder next year.
ERIC MAUK: Take us through the first turn on the first lap. Did that go about the way you thought it might? Just give us a little insight there.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think me and Sebastien did a very good start. I didn't want to take any risks in start. I gave Sebastien turn one. He was inside. I said, Okay, it's a long race, and I will have a chance. And I knew that he needed to have a problem for me to win the championship. So I keep running second and waiting to see if he had any problems. So, unfortunately, he didn't. Or when he did, he was very lucky not to crash. So that was it.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: We'll now take questions from the media.
Q. (Question in Spanish regarding Formula 1.)
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: He asked if we have any possibilities about Formula 1.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: For myself, I'll only go to F1 if it's the right opportunity. But at this point in my life and in my career, I'm solely focused on Champ Car. I got a lot of goals I want to have completed in Champ Car, and that's many victories and many championships. If Formula 1 was ever an opportunity, I would only do it if it was right for me. But that's not even in my plans right now.
Q. AJ, I know that the team -- I was talking with Carl and Jeremy this morning, they sort of broke off and said, "We got to figure out what we can do today to get up front." That strategy in that first run, was that sort of played out ahead of time? Was that planned the way you started the race, or did it sort of develop as the race went on?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, for me, my engineers, Chris and David Brown, you know, they have many different strategies for different situations. You know, if there was something that -- if I crashed in turn one and I had to go to the back, the strategy might have changed. But overall, we knew we had a good car, and it was just a matter of getting through turn one. And then after that, just saving as much fuel as possible in that first run. Like I said, it was good for me to really pace myself and not really have to press Oriol that hard because Justin and Jimmy weren't getting that far away from us. Once they started to, that's when I immediately pressed it and got around Oriol. But that was basically the strategy that we had set for us in that situation, if it worked out, getting through turn one and being clean.
Q. I would like to ask AJ, during your second pit stop, you enter a lot earlier than the leaders. You were a second away from surprising Bruno when he went out of the second place. Do you feel the results would have been a little different for you if that strategy would have panned out?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No, because for us, that's the strategy we had to do. When we went long in the first stop, we short filled to make sure that I got out ahead of Jimmy and Justin. So, no, I can't say that if we'd have filled full, that I wouldn't have even gotten ahead of those guys and then there would have been no chance of getting around Bruno. So that was the strategy we went on. It was fine because the way it worked out, I was able to put a faster lap on the new tires and have a chance at Bruno. So I don't think it would have been any different if we would have went just as long as Bruno.
Q. Although everybody probably focused on Bruno trying to catch Sebastien, I mean, in that last stint, AJ, you weren't all that far behind Bruno. Did you think you could catch him? And, Bruno, were you aware that AJ was also closing on you at some stage, in the traffic and what have you? Could you talk about that from your perspectives.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, for me, I thought after the second pit stop, we really had the chance. But we just missed the setup just a bit on our harder compound tires, and I had way too much understeer in the car. And Bruno was able to get away from me the first, I dont know, five laps after the second pit stop. And for me, I was kind of focused on Justin, making sure I kept the gap with him. I was able to do that. And then I really started pushing hard once I saw Bruno in traffic. But, you know, I mean, if the traffic wasn't there, I think he would have probably had a bigger gap on me. My car got a little bit better at the end, but it wasn't going to be good enough to get around him. I think if we would have had the setup -- if the setup would have stayed the same after the tire change, I really had a shot at him, because the car was really good on the second stop, I guess. So overall, it was more just trying to keep the gap with Justin than trying to catch Bruno until he got in the traffic.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: For me, it was the opposite. I mean, my car was not very good on the alternate tires. And I tried to save fuel on the first two stints, then I could go long. And after I saw that Sebastien spun, we put the hard tires, and my car was good. I thought I could even catch Sebastien. But then I catch traffic. I knew that AJ was getting close to me on the second stint, but I knew that he had short fuel, as well. So he was running like 3/10ths faster than me, which he maybe had like four or five laps short of me on fuel. So I knew that he was running faster because he was lighter. So I just -- I had to push, not make him get too close to me, until he stopped. After I did my third stop, I pushed hard. I put some fast laps, and I was able to pull away from him. And, unfortunately, I got traffic. That made the thing very, very hard until the checkered flag.
ERIC MAUK: We're going to excuse our second- and our third-place drivers. We will bring our champion in. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Congratulations again. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure and my honor to introduce to you the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien led all 63 laps in winning today's race, the first driver this year to win wire-to-wire on a road course. His seventh win of the year, the 10th win of his career - his first win here at Mexico City. He also has 10 podium finishes this season. He is joined to his left by Mr. Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing, and your left, Mr. Paul Newman, the other co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing. These gentlemen are celebrating their fifth Champ Car World Series title today. Sebastien, you won this championship like a champion should. You went out and dominated a race that you had to win. Tell us how it feels.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it cannot be better, to celebrate the championship by winning the race, having done the pole position and set the fastest lap of the race. It's just been a dominating weekend. I was so scared about, you know, not being able to give it a clear shot with an incident at the start or mechanical failure. Really a well-deserved championship for the whole McDonald's team and a fantastic achievement from the Newman/Haas Racing team. Really just a perfect day for us. Really just scared myself and probably the rest of us when I spun the car going into the stadium. The sun was going down and the shade was gaining on the racetrack. I was trying to pass Mario. I thought he was going to let me by, and he didn't. Probably didn't see me. And then I hit the bump with the rear setup, and when it came back on the racetrack, basically the rear touched the grass and I spun immediately. I was so afraid to kill the engine at that time that I kept my foot down, spun the wheel as bad as I could. When it came back under control, I was facing the tires, used the reverse and went back out again. It was just a scary moment for a minute or two, then it came back to normal. I'm so glad it's over.
ERIC MAUK: Can you tell us at what point during the race did you feel comfortable with where you were, or did you ever feel comfortable with where you were?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I was really comfortable after the start. You know, really, it was a fuel economy race for 10 laps or so in the first stint. And then after we had a strategy to go as fast as we could to try and enlarge the gap. That was working perfectly. The car was handling as well as we could imagine. It's just that kind of day when really everything is going into place. I just cannot be thankful enough, you know, for Carl and Paul to give me the opportunity to drive in such a fantastic team. And, Craig, thank you for all your work. My engineer, he's a pretty tough guy, but he's definitely the best this year, and we've been the best team overall. So it's just a fantastic feeling right now.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. The Newman/Haas team finished 1-2 in the championship, the first team in the Champ Car World Series to do that since 1998. Mr. Haas, your fifth champion, 1-2, you guys were the dominant team all year. Tell us why you think you were so dominant and how it feels to be sitting up here with a championship title again?
CARL HAAS: I guess we had a lot of good people, drivers obviously, Sebastien and Bruno, great team of engineers that we have, mechanics. A lot of them have been with us for a long time. Good sponsors. Knowing this kind of racing, the drivers were just superb all year.
ERIC MAUK: Mr. Newman, even from the very first training session we had this year, we saw you out at Sebring watching Sebastien and Bruno. Tell us a little bit about what you think makes Sebastien special and why you think he's done as well as you have.
PAUL NEWMAN: I'm glad I got a question. Usually the guy talking, everything has already been answered. Sebastien was quick from the very beginning, but more than that he gave really marvelous feedback to the crew. It was pretty quickly decided that he would drive for us if the pay was right. It was. And it's going to get better.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. We're going to have to talk about that (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: We'll let Mr. Haas and Mr. Newman go. They have a big night of celebrating planned for us. As many of you know, we have the awards banquet this evening to celebrate this championship. A round of applause for Carl Haas and Paul Newman.
(Applause.) Thank you and congratulations. We'll now take questions for Sebastien, our new Champ Car World Series title winner.
Q. The last lap going into turn one, Alex had to lock up his brakes not to hit you. Why were you pushing it so hard to pass him at that point?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, he didn't have to lock up his brakes to not hit me; he actually locked up his brakes not to hit Michel. He went wide. I was completely on the far right to try and be out of any kind of incident in the last lap. But, you know, when you have Paul Tracy behind you, you've got to be careful. I was not really going to take it easy. I was expecting a bit more cooperation from the guys in front of me, but it was pretty tough. Bruno was not very far. I had been stuck in traffic for the last stint pretty much. I was kind of frustrated that they didn't move. You know, it was also a fight - probably going to say this is pretty ridiculous - but it was the fight for the Corona Cup. It was not only to win the championship, but for the Mexican Cup. I guess I really wanted to win it bad, and I think I showed it.
ERIC MAUK: As Sebastien mentioned, he also wins, by winning today's event, the $100,000 prize put up by Corona, winning the inaugural Corona Cup.
Q. Sebastien, could you take us through those final 10 or 15 laps when you were in the traffic, you knew Bruno was closing, so you needed to be aggressive to stay ahead of him, but yet not too aggressive to put your lead in -- to have the worst thing happen, which would have been to have an accident.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: These 10 laps absolutely may have been the worst of my whole career. You know that you can take it as easy as you want because you're still going to win the championship. I guess at some point it becomes a question of honor, you really want to win the race bad, and it's tough to give up. So I was in the middle of a big pack of traffic. The car after that was pretty difficult to handle. I've been running in clean air for the whole race, and all of a sudden you're in just completely different conditions. I think for sure it was the dominant car because we could save a lot of fuel and still run away. But, you know, it only takes one mistake to ruin it. I was really afraid that anything bad would happen at the very end and I couldn't prevent myself, you know, from thinking about a crash or anything like that. I had that pictures coming to my mind. So I just drove hard and tried to keep concentrated because when you're try to take it easy, that's the best way to mess it up. So, you know, I'm really, really, really glad it's all over. I cannot be more happy really.
Q. You made a superb race from the beginning to the end. At some stage did you think maybe you wouldn't get the title today?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, when the gearbox started not to upshift from second to third at the end, I was feeling pretty bad in the car (laughter). Once every little while, this thing would come back to second gear when I wasn't shifting. I thought the dog ring was broken, maybe it was the case, I don't know. When you use the rear gear pretty violently as I did after the spin, you have a good chance to damage the ring or whatever, and to break it in two. That's pretty unfortunate. But I'm very happy that the thing kept running. That's the last thing, the worst scenario.
Q. We saw Paul Tracy actually pull over and let you go by. Did he actually wave you by? Did he indicate what he was doing?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. I think I used the 'push to pass' because I had plenty of time on it, and he saw me closing on him. But my seventh gear was a bit too long, because we had a fairly strong tail wind that we didn't plan on, you know, at the start of the race. So I was hitting the revv limiter pretty much after the third quarter of the straightaway. So I really couldn't get the best out of the 'push to pass' at the very end. If the guys were not trying to ease a bit my pain, it was pretty difficult to make a move on anybody safely. Paul was pretty kind to let me by when he saw I was very close to him. Then, you know, I was behind Tagliani, and it was not very easy either. It took every time between three and five laps to go by, and I knew Bruno was not very far. So it's always very frustrating, you know, when you're fighting for so big of a challenge at the end. You know, the win, the Cup, the championship, it's a whole lot of pressure on the 25 years old guy.
ERIC MAUK: We've just been notified that the results of today's events have gone official, things can't go awry, and you are officially the 2004 champion.
Q. Have you ever been so dominant in an event in your life?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, in different series. Probably not here in Champ Car. I guess my first appearance in St. Petersburg in 2003 was very impressive, but we did not make it through. So, you know, when you don't put the win at the end of the weekend, it's not the same thing, I guess.
Q. Do you feel amazed to see that your six-second advantage over Bruno, are you surprised that six seconds remained?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You know, after that, I took it a bit easier really. I was trying to regroup myself and really keep my concentration. I don't know, it's really weird. I really rarely do mistakes like that, and I guess this time it's really a question of shade on the racetrack. When I went by the next lap, I had a good look at the racetrack, and actually there was a lot of shade gaining on the racetrack, and you could barely see the white line. I was really surprised I did that mistake, but I guess all that really counts is I recovered and I've been a lucky guy this weekend.
Q. How do you feel being supported by a person like Paul Newman?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: He's a great guy, you know. First of all, he's a nice man, sure. But he's really an honest and humble guy. He's working really, really hard for charities and for kids. I think if every superstar was doing as much as he's been doing throughout his life, maybe the world would be a little bit better, for sure.
ERIC MAUK: For those of you who may not know, he's not a bad race car driver either. Next week, he's going to go run the pre-event for the Baha event.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: 79 years old guy, not pretty bad, huh?
ERIC MAUK: Ladies and Gentlemen, that will conclude our press conference today. Again, congratulations to Sebastien Bourdais. Thank you all very much for your attendance this weekend.
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