Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of Monterrey
Topics: Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey
May 19, 2006
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post-qualifying press conference, first round of Bridgestone pole qualifying for the Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey, presented by Roshfrans, round three of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Joined by our top three qualifiers in today's situation session.
Our third place qualifier, driver of the #10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, A.J. Allmendinger. He puts up a top lap of 1:14.860, 101.181 miles per hour.
AJ, as you alluded to, you haven't been in here a whole lot this year. A real strong performance throughout this weekend, a good way to start it off.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I haven't been here at all, Eric, not a whole lot.
ERIC MAUK: Trying to help you out.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: So far it's been a good weekend. We were quickest this morning in practice. You know, RuSPORT has just prepared me a great car. I think this track is so slippery, so hard to get ahold of, it's a fine line between being a great car and a good car and a really bad car.
In qualifying, we were just a bit off. I think that's what hurt us. You know, I was fairly pleased with the day. Got at least some notes to work off of tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: How is the track today?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Slippery as always. I think if you ask all the drivers, we're just happy because it's smooth. I think because of that, it's been good. Bridgestone, I've actually been really pleased with the tires. It's always a tough track to get ahold of. They've done a great job to bring a tire to at least have a consistency so you can keep working on your cars throughout the weekend.
ERIC MAUK: Nice run. Good luck tomorrow.
Our second place qualifier, series points leader, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. His best lap 1:14:658 seconds, 101.455 miles per hour.
Sebastien, talk about that first stint a little bit. Looks like you were having a little bit of trouble, then all of a sudden after running a couple laps where it was kind of keep the car on, you snapped one off. Tell us about that first run.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You know, if not for the result, I'd call it a miserable session. It was really bad. The first run we went out, I was just about ready to stop and go fast. I caught Mario. He was definitely not willing to let me by. It seems to be the story of the season so far. Then I got pissed, made mistakes, one small, couldn't clean the tire, got into somebody else, backed off, made another mistake. I just couldn't seem to put it together. Like the last two laps were going to be good. I did one good and made again another mistake. It was like, it's going to be really difficult.
Came in the pits, was a little surprised. We had pole. Also very, very slightly because Justin was one-hundredth of a second or something like that behind us. I knew it was going to be a tough fight. I was pretty confident the car was good.
Went back out, did one lap. The McDonald's car felt really good. The red flag came out. You know, from there on, it was kind of the end anyways because Justin was on option tires, and seemed to be a big (indiscernible) this weekend. Went back up to speed extremely quickly. I kind of did the sweeper for him in turn 10 and 11. I just couldn't do it on the last lap.
Congratulations to him.
ERIC MAUK: You've been here three times before. You sat on the pole all three of those times. Always been very fast in qualifying here. Tell us about what it is about this track that suits your style.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I think I like the flow. You really can push your car. It's very slippery, but I just think you have a great time and be able to play with it. When I can get it right, it seems to be working exceptionally well.
This week and this year I think RuSPORT has definitely closed the gap. We should see that throughout the whole weekend. I hope we still a little bit ahead. We'll check it out tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. Good luck tomorrow.
The leader in the first round of Bridgestone pole qualifying, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. He runs a quick lap today of 1:14:305, 101.937 miles per hour. He did that on his very last lap of qualifying. Earns a front row start for Sunday's event and a championship point giving him 49 for the year, closing him to within one point of second place Mario Dominguez in the championship standings.
Justin, take us through that last lap. It was a good one.
JUSTIN WILSON: It actually wasn't. I owe a lot of it to the Bridgestone tires. The option story was working really well. It served us well today. It was a gamble we went for. We knew we were very close. There was still time left in the car and myself. Like Sebastien, I never really got a good run.
So we decided to gamble and go with the reds. You know, even on my first lap, I wasn't pushing hard. I was up a 10th. Then the red flag came out. At that point we thought we'd lost it. We thought we lost the pole and our one set of red tires for qualifying tomorrow.
You know, like I said, got one more lap. The RuSPORT car has been working great all weekend. Managed to get one lap in and make it count.
ERIC MAUK: Correct me if I'm wrong, it looked like about halfway through that last lap you came up on Bruno Junqueira, he stepped aside for you and let you continue that lap.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah. It was difficult, because you're trying not to drop behind, not get a lap at all. So the out lap, you're trying to stay reasonably close to the cars in front. But, you know, I backed off for the last part of that out lap, tried to go for it, ran him down pretty quick. At that point I was thinking he was on his lap and he was just going to stay there and hold me up. Fortunately I think he made a mistake, got out of the lap. Thanks to Bruno for not hindering my lap.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I'm going to have a word with my teammate (laughter).
ERIC MAUK: This will be Justin's sixth front row start of his Champ Car career as we go off Sunday. Also a quick note, Dan Clarke was penalized two laps during today's qualifying session, one obviously for bringing out the red flag with three minutes to go in the session; he was also penalized another lap for interfering with a qualifying lap. He will get up two laps on his day.
Questions from the media.
Q. You trailed Sebastien and you reserved the whole strength for the last lap or was it just a case that you got the last lap?
JUSTIN WILSON: Sorry, I don't understand what you're trying to say. Did I save it up for that last lap?
Q. Yes. Do you save the last lap or you trail waiting the occasion came?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we've been waiting for the opportunity to go out there and put a time in. You know, coming from Houston, that was a difficult weekend. We had to regroup and get everything sorted here. But we seemed to understand the road circuits a little bit better. You know, I was able to work on the car. Like Sebastien said, you kind of get into a flow around this place. It's so low grip, you're trying to let the car flow, keep working on it, bit more speed, pick up the power earlier. When it feels right, it goes good. You enjoy driving.
Q. Before the last lap, do you have power to pass Sebastien?
JUSTIN WILSON: I don't know. I think I had more if I had gone on blacks and had another run. But we all feel the same way. It was quite a messy session with the red flag, certain driver coming out of the pits, holding those people up. It's just difficult to get a good run in. That's why we went for the option tire because, you know, we felt even if it wasn't a great lap, which I don't think it was, they have enough in them to carry that little bit and hopefully make up the difference.
Q. Justin, you mentioned you were on the red tires. Did you do very many laps? When the red flag happened, it seemed like everybody came in, went right back out.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think it was my first or maybe it was the second lap. It was my first lap I was actually pushing on the red tires. Already, you know, even when the pressure down, the tires were gripping. I was quicker than my previous lap, which was 200ths off pole.
I knew the reds were quicker. The red came out, so we got one more. I think I did a total of maybe three quick laps.
Q. In comparison, how long does it take the standard tires to get up to temp?
JUSTIN WILSON: I don't know. My first run on the standard tires, I was trying to find a gap. Every time I went to start a lap, someone would pull out of the pits, fill the gap I'd made.
It took me six laps before I even attempted to go quick. I don't know if that's the tires. I think it's more just that's when I decided to go quick.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Justin got a good point. Definitely it looks like, you know, used to be in the past that all the front-runners would wait, then go at the very last minute. Now it's like the whole paddock is doing it. Guys who aren't so quick, they pull out of the pits when you already are doing your quick laps, which is kind of upside down. It's really bothering. They obviously don't go fast up to speed as you do. They pull out the pits. Like, you know, they can't get out of the way, they're blocking you. That's just a really upsetting way to do it definitely.
JUSTIN WILSON: It's kind of changed the whole strategy of qualifying, you know, from before you would. Like Sebastien said, the quicker guys would wait for the very last second. The not-so-quick guys would go out early, just try to get a good run. Whereas now, you know, everyone is waiting for that last minute. The speed difference between some of the cars out there is causing us problems.
Q. I wonder if all three of you or any of you could comment on how the grip level is coming up this year as opposed to the last couple years. In the last couple years, there have been Mustang races, a lot more cars on the racetrack, more series on the racetrack than this year where it's just you and the Atlantic, although the Atlantics are double what they have been in the past. Can you compare how the grip level has come up?
JUSTIN WILSON: It started well down for the first part of practice this morning. Everyone was slipping around. But it seems like it's come up. You know, my impression is it's a high grip level even with cars on the track.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's better, too. I think the other series, all they were doing is taking the rubber off the track. Basically the only car that put rubber on the track here are the Champ Cars. Even the Atlantics are too hard a tire to put any rubber down. They just take it all away. That's why, you know, it took so long for us to just even think about putting a lap together this morning 'cause it just wasn't any rubber at all.
ERIC MAUK: It's your turn.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I agree.
ERIC MAUK: Nice work. That's why you don't get up here (laughter).
AJ ALLMENDINGER: They're taking it all. They've been the two guys to beat. I'm going to take it all in and chill. I'm enjoying just being here for once (laughter). What else we got?
Q. Did the heat affect you in some way?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's going to do it in the race, that's for sure. But in qualifying, you know, it's hot. The tires go up to temp quicker. That's all.
JUSTIN WILSON: You know, the race is going to be tough. But I think it's nothing that we haven't seen before. You know, just got to take the usual precautions, don't expect anything out of the ordinary.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I just drank four Red Bulls today because it was hotter, so (laughter).
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I guess we'll have to have a cold session to do that, just to compare, to say. There's nothing you can anticipate.
Q. I'd like to hear from all three of you, but start with AJ. Can you talk about what the racing line is going to be like. It seems to me in the past once you have a racing line, the slipperiness of the track makes it hard for anyone to pass. Are you going to be able to pass here?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I think because of the nature of the track and how slippery it is, it makes a lot of the cars -- there's a lot of cars that have good setups and a lot of cars that have bad setups.
When you're coming up through the field or if you have to start in the back, which unfortunately both years I've had to do that, you know, some of the cars are going off a lot quicker, so it's easier to pass them. Once you get into the top eight or top nine, it will probably be the same thing. It's tough to pass.
But at the same time it's also real easy to make a mistake. On a pure racing line, it is a lot harder to pass than most tracks. But mistake-wise, a lot of guys are making mistakes so it makes it easier to get around them.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, obviously I think we've seen quite a bit of passing on this racetrack, mostly because people do tend to make quite a few mistakes. It's not impossible. Especially with the 'push to pass', with 75 more horsepower than normal, I think it's a big gaining that you should see some passing definitely. It all depends if everybody is saving fuel, what the race is turning into. If it's like last year where you've got yellows and strategy all over the place, obviously it becomes a crazy race, you know.
JUSTIN WILSON: I agree (laughter).
Q. From the point of the 'push to pass', can you notice a difference?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It feels different when you come behind the car. It looks like you are closing at a higher rate than you used to be. But it's tough. You know, you don't really feel it because, you know, it's 25 horsepower. It's very difficult to pick. It definitely looks like when you use it, you tend to close the gap a lot quicker.
Tracy was saying in Houston, it was getting loose when he was using it because the jump is so big.
Q. You haven't used it back? You don't have it in qualifying?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No.
Q. Can you notice a difference?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, not really. I mean, you know, 25 horsepower, you know, it looks a lot, but it doesn't feel like very much. It's very hard to pick. It's a couple of miles maximum, especially around here on a slow track.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, gentlemen. We go qualifying tomorrow, set our final grid at 2 p.m. Thank you.
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