Champ Car World Series: Grand Prix of Houston
Topics: Grand Prix of Houston
May 13, 2006
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post-race press conference from the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston, Round 2 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined by our top three finishers in today's event. We'll start with the third-place driver, driver of the #7 (indiscernible) de México Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Mario Dominguez. Mario started from the pole, led 63 laps today. That is a personal best in his Champ Car career for a single race. He comes home third. His 10th career podium, first since Denver of last year.
Mario, good run. Didn't end up the way you'd like, but tell us about how it went.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It was a tough race. Sebastien, he did well. I give him credit. He pressured me pretty good. He was saving fuel. I knew he was saving fuel. I had to save fuel and at the same time stay in the lead. That's where I got caught. I locked up the rear tires, just went straight into the runoff, lost first place.
I was really fighting for it, doing my best to save first place. Sometimes the car would get really sideways, especially on restarts. Saving fuel wasn't easy.
I was doing it. It's unfortunate that I lost the race, but at the same time I think it's very positive that we showed today that we can be the fastest, we can get the pole position, run at the front. If I fine tune a couple things like that... I hadn't led a race since 2003. That adding to having to save fuel, I got caught in the middle of it.
I think for Monterrey, I'm very motivated, focused. I really want the revenge over there. I'm going to go over there and give it my best shot.
ERIC MAUK: Second place finisher, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul finishes second, earns his 70th career podium finish tonight.
Paul, tell us a little bit about how it went.
PAUL TRACY: I think it went well. Obviously we weren't the fastest car on the track, but it was a steady night for us. The car was balanced pretty well, just a tick off of Mario and a tick off of Sebastien. You know, the middle part of the race was probably the most interesting for me when Sebastien was on reds, Mario was blacks, I was blacks. It seemed that Mario, we were both quicker in that stint. I was able to stay a lot closer to Sebastien on blacks, and the car felt better on the blacks than it did on the reds. The times had picked up from the first stint.
Then when we switched over to the reds for the end of the race, Sebastien was on blacks, it just seems like his car became more consistent and my car became harder to drive. A little bit more oversteery. I just kind of settled into knowing that we needed to get points and come away with a second.
It was a tough race physically for me. My hips and pelvis took a big bashing. I'm sitting on the floor of my car. I'm bigger than these guys. The track just beat the hell out of me tonight. My hips go from carbon to carbon sitting in the tub, there's no seat in between. Really pounded me tonight.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about the last lap. Anything for Sebastien at all?
PAUL TRACY: Well, on a one-lap shootout, it's always tough. I think my best opportunity was when he was fighting with Mario on the first couple laps. The first lap after the restart, he tried to make a move on Mario. It was a touch-and-go situation going into the fastest corner. I was able to get a run. But it was going to be a pretty dangerous move to try to squeeze down the inside when it funnels down into one car width, and really one car to get through this. I knew what we needed to do tonight. That was to get some points.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations, good run.
The winner of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien led 33 laps on the evening, comes away with his 18th career win, puts him 16th all time, one behind Jimmy Bryan. His laps led gives him over 1200 for his career, also moving him into 21st, moving him ahead of Jimmy Bryan in the all-time career laps led listing.
Sebastien, you came from fifth, take the win. 18-point lead in the series. Pretty commanding lead after two races. Tell us about how it feels.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It can barely feel any better than that. I think the McDonald's car was really awesome tonight. It's all this hard work that's been being done during the winter that really pays off.
I really quite honestly never would have believed we could have won that race at the start. It's just one of these situations where basically you start and you feel really, really strong. I just pushed really hard while I was 100% fresh. I knew at the end of the race was going to be a little bit more difficult. Everybody was going to be a little bit more on its toes. I really felt like I had the edge on the pack when the green flag was waved at the beginning.
I just went for it, used the 'push to pass', got great runs out of turn four going into turn five. The car was feeling great. I just used it. After that, was kind of an uneventful race with quite a few yellows. One of these, you can basically go either way. We took the lead, then we lost it in the pits thanks to a patch that broke down, the jacks, the car didn't go all the way up. I was a little bit frustrating (sic).
It was a little hard, but at the end of the day, as I said, when races go your way, they go your way. It was true again tonight. Now it's second win out of two races. It's great. In the meantime, we know it's going to be a long season. We need to shy away from getting too excited because the wheel can turn around very quickly. Let's make sure we don't get too crazy about that. It's a long way to go.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us about that last lap. You got a great jump on the restart here. What was going through your mind on the last lap?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I was really, really focused on the task ahead. I think, you know, we've had quite a few yellows and restarts. I knew I could keep these boys behind me. I was more worried that something would break on the car because it was so rough on us and on the equipment that anything could happen until it was over.
There was always this little thing in your mind that tells you, I hope this thing is going to make it to the end. But it did and I can't be any happier than that.
I also want to take my hat off to the medical center. I got there sick like a dog. They really took good care of me, found some patches on my hips because I was beat up before the start of the race. I knew it was going to be a tough one. Thanks to them.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. A couple notes before we get started. Sebastien is the first guy to open the season with back-to-back wins since Paul rolled off three in a row in 2003, the only year he won his Champ Car World Series championship. Sebastien is also the first defending champion to start the year after he won his title with two consecutive wins since Rick Mears in 1982.
Our unofficial top five in points, Sebastien with 68, Mario second with 50, Justin Wilson third with 48, Andrew Ranger fourth with 40, Alex Tagliani is fifth with 35.
We'll take questions from the media now.
Q. Sebastien, the TV tells us all you three finishers had 'power to pass' time left. How many times did you use yours and for how long each time?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, there's a timer, but basically it was allowing you to use it for the whole straight. There's no straight here. For the whole corner in turn four, all the way to turn five, I think it was about nine seconds. I used it quite a bit at the beginning of the race. My team was like, You know, it's a long way to go still, so take care of that.
In the meantime, I knew it was probably my only chance to pass these guys. I just kept like 19 seconds, 20 seconds, something like that, for the rest of the race. I was more or less just in case I just needed it for restarts or things like that. Once you're in the lead, really no need to use it any more.
Q. Do you know how much you had left?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I finished with 19 seconds.
PAUL TRACY: It was actually tonight kind of hard to use because the track was so bumpy. The 'power to pass' tonight, they gave us more 'power to pass' in terms of horsepower. We had 75 horsepower versus 50. I mean, you would hit the 'power to pass', it would start to break the tires loose at fourth and fifth gear going around the sweeper.
Mario had a moment right in front of us. He was on the 'power to pass'. The thing stepped out sideways at about 150 miles an hour on him. When I tried to make the move on Sebastien coming up the front straightaway through the kink, I was kind of on the outside, hit a bump. There's a big bump out there. The car jumped sideways and broke the tires loose on the 'push to pass'. It was kind of difficult to use it tonight 'cause it was just too powerful for the grip of the track.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I guess it made for a good show.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, obviously when you come to a new venue, you come with kind of a generic setup. We know our street course setup, the base is very strong. We didn't really know that it was going -- if it was going to be good enough to win. When we unloaded the car and put it on the track for the first practice, we were in front, so that gave us quite a good confidence. Then it really felt like the weekend was going to hell after the first qualifying when we qualified on pole and got disqualified for three pounds. It was kind of a tough break.
Then, you know, it kept on going bad because we were quickest on every single session, and the second qualifying session we struggled. I made bad choices and mistakes and qualified fifth. From there on, I really didn't think I was going to be able to win that race. I'm just glad it turned out that way for our team.
ERIC MAUK: Note to follow up on that question. The last five Champ Car races that we have run on brand-new tracks in the series, Sebastien has won all five of those dating back to 2003.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, the biggest problem seemed to be quite a big shift on the balance. I really got caught yesterday. I think the car was extremely well-balanced on the standard tires. When we put the Bridgestone option tires for qualifying, you only have two sets, so you can't test. You put them on the car, the car was just upside down. I couldn't drive it. I made mistakes. I locked up the wheels. It wasn't working for us.
Then it was a big panic. In the pits, I came in. I knew I was never going to be able to adjust the car accurately enough to make it work for pole. We grabbed an official and (indiscernible) the second option set, switched back to the standard. We kind of lost 15 minutes. When I went back out 12 minutes to the end, we were kind of excited, frustrated. There was a big confusion in the pits. I kind of went in a big pack of traffic and couldn't get out of here.
You know, you can't have the tires outside. They were in the air conditioned atmosphere. The tires were cold. We put them out. The pressures went up. It was just miserable. One of these days where you feel like you might as well just stay home.
You know, we pit, went back out, then I made another mistake. It was just a bad qualifying. Realistically, the option tires didn't seem to work as well for us as they did for Long Beach.
PAUL TRACY: I think the reds were maybe just a tick quicker for one lap in qualifying. But in the race, for sure the balance shifted around a lot during the course of the run. You'd start out with a good rear, then the car would start to understeer more, then the rear would start to go away more. It seemed like the blacks were more consistent. Maybe just to do one lap just a little bit slower than the reds, but more consistent. It's usually the opposite. Normally the reds are very consistent and faster all the time.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it was kind of give and take really. The one place where Sebastien was really fast compared to everybody was the turn that led onto the back straight where you go around the stadium. He was really fast in and out and around that corner. He was able to stay close to other guys, accelerate well out of the corner.
You know, I would kind of catch him up in the first two corners, he'd really pull a bunch on me in the next two, then I would kind of catch him up again in the slow stuff. He was pretty fast in the last corner, too.
It was a little bit of a give and take. My car was kind of like that all weekend. The one spot where I was not very good all weekend was that corner that was leading before you went onto the back straightaway. I wasn't very good there all weekend. Just never found the right balance. My car was a very stiff setup. Mario runs a softer setup than me. That corner is very choppy and bumpy. My car would just bounce up and down off the ground as I was going through the corner. I couldn't really carry a lot of speed into the corner because the front end was always jumping off the ground, it couldn't turn. I had to overslow the car to get it turned, then try to get out of the corner rather than carry a bunch of speed in.
Q. Paul, I wasn't able to hear all of your television interview. It seemed like you were upset with Sebastien for blocking.
PAUL TRACY: I wouldn't say upset. It's one of those things where I got a run. I wouldn't say he was totally over on the braking zone line; he faded a little bit. But that's kind of the way it is, you know. It's just one of those things.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just a wide car.
PAUL TRACY: He was wide. You know, it's one of those things where we've been told not to make your car wide. You know, I kind of know what happens when I make my car wide. I usually get a drive through the pit lane. I just kind of questioned that because I know what the protocol is when my car gets wide.
Q. Given the roughness of the track, have you driven other tracks that are rougher? How do you change your driving style?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think there's anything you can do to change your driving style to compensate for how rough the track is. The track is rough all the way around. I would say this is a fantastic layout. We had a great crowd tonight. The surface needs to be worked on for next year. We're here for five years. We want to make this race a big success.
But, you know, for a first-time event, we had a great race tonight. There's work to be done to make it really right. You know, these cars aren't meant to be smashing into the ground like that for the course of a hundred laps. Even though we had a good show tonight and a good crowd and a good race, it doesn't mean there's no work to be done.
With some smoothing of the track, working the track over, this is a fantastic venue and a great track.
ERIC MAUK: To follow up on that, I've been given the attendance numbers for the weekend. The total three-day attendance, 127,729. I've also been given a medical update. Alex Tagliani has been sent to Herman Hospital for precautionary x-rays complaining of mid to lower back pain. We'll try to get an update in the morning. He, of course, went into the tires in the runoff at turn three which is what extended the caution flag we had at the very end of the race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not his fault. I think he had his throttle stuck or something like that. He was all wheels locked and the car kept on going. It wasn't a driver's mistake, for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That corner, I was really feeling strong in three, getting a good -- as PT said, getting a good run out of three. I was carrying the momentum through four. I used the 'push to pass'. I was close enough. I had a great car, really stable in the braking for turn five. I was a little far, but I could see I could make a great jump on the guys. That's where I pretty much passed everybody else. Once you've done it three or four times, you know what kind of margin you've got. I was pretty confident I could pull it off.
I also knew, you know, he was going to be advised of that because I had done it like four times before. It was kind of a game where I was hoping he wasn't too aware of what was going on 'cause for sure once I had done it once and I could see PT and Mario after that, they were kind of a lot quicker through this section. I was not going to be another shot at it for sure. It was a one-time opportunity.
Q. Sebastien, you mentioned about being sick. Was that this morning?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, no, when I came there. We flew from France. You spend 12 or 14 hours in the plane. Probably was a little bit sick from the weekend, tired. When I came there, the beginning, kind of went downhill from there. First two days, I was really feeling bad. I just kind of picked up a little bit last night and I was better for the race.
ERIC MAUK: This brings an end to our press conference. We go racing again next week in Monterrey, Mexico.
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