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Champ Car World Series: Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland

Champ Car World Series: Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank

Robert Doornbos
Neel Jani
Paul Tracy
June 24, 2007


CLEVELAND, OHIO

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll get started here with our post race press conference. One quick note for the media. Total attendance this year was 151, 426, with more than 65,000 fans in attendance today. Overall, a 28% increase in attendance over last year in 2006.
We'll get started here with our drivers. Neel Jani, rookie in the series, your first career Champ Car podium. How does it feel right now?
NEEL JANI: Great. Had a very tough season beginning, especially Las Vegas and Houston. We were fighting for a podium until something happened, technical or a shunt. So I'm really happy to be on the podium this weekend.
The weekend began quite well, but then we had a bad qualifying. In the race we were at the back, to the front, to the back, then again at the front. It ended well.
THE MODERATOR: Our second-place finisher, Robert Doornbos, fourth podium in five races. Almost getting old hat for you. You're only three points back from Bourdais for the championship lead.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I think consistency is always very important. I couldn't have planned this afternoon. I think it was the longest afternoon out of my career. I couldn't believe it that I got a drive-through at the start of the race because I had a good start, passed Graham.
If you ask me, I know in Europe we race a bit tougher than we do here in the States, but I still feel nothing went wrong. We might have to talk about it afterwards.
Anyway, I got the punishment, so I went to the back of the field. Pushed really hard. The team did a great job to calm me down because Michael Cannon, he knows me now a little bit. He said, Just don't make mistakes and push till the end. Yeah, great pit stops. So I have to thank the team more than anybody else.
THE MODERATOR: And our winner today, Paul Tracy. Paul, your run was anything but spectacular out there (laughter). Why don't you take us through what it's like to go through two front wings.
PAUL TRACY: I guess this is why the series pays me to stay here, to create some excitement (laughter).
You know, I'm still kind of in shock with how the race went. I got off to a really bad start, got into the mix with Robert and Graham fighting. They both kind of ran wide in turn three. Graham was kind of way out in the dusty part of the track.
When he turned to change directions, go the other way, he basically had to come to a stop in the middle of a corner without kind of half spinning out. I was coming pretty hard. I knew he was going to have to slow down at the apex, but I thought I could kind of cross under him.
He basically parked the car right in front of me to avoid spinning out. I ended up running into him. We both went out in the grass. That was wing number one (laughter).
Got going again. Kind of the same thing with Bruno and Oriol. Oriol made a move on Bruno. Bruno tried to cross under Oriol at the apex of turn one. Basically, had to come to a complete stop in the center of the corner to cross underneath of Oriol.
I thought, Okay, I can kind of swing through the corner here and get a good run on the straightaway. I ran right into the back of him. That was wing number two.
You know, we came in. We were at the back of the field. We had lots of fuel when other guys didn't have fuel. A little bit my spirits were down for six or seven laps. I kind of stayed at the back and didn't do anything. I just sat at the back of the field. The team really rallied and said, All right, come on, let's go. We can do something here with our strategy.
I passed the five cars that were in front of me. I pulled away and caught up to Graham and Justin towards the end of that stint, really started to turn some good laps. The rest was really just strategy. We had the fuel at the end of the race that other people didn't.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions from the media.

Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I got a drive-through penalty for blocking. In this championship, blocking is a big word. It was with Graham. Something happened with Graham. Yeah, I didn't see it was a dangerous position or a move.
Anyway, I got the penalty, got on with the race. Maybe it was meant to be because we could change our strategy and I'm here now.

Q. Why didn't you use your 'push to pass' at the end, Robert?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I knew exactly how much Paul had and how much I had. I also knew how many laps were left. I did struggle on the black tires with my car, the balance. I sort of had to wait a long time for the heat to come into the tires, to turn in some good laps.
Six, seven laps from the end, I was really pushing, catching Paul every lap. Then I decided to use my 'push to pass'. Of course, I ran out at the time when I needed it. I could see Paul's light flickering, which means he was using it.
Yeah, very frustrating. I mean, it's a game. But he lives in Vegas. He's used to gambling, I think (laughter).

Q. Paul, what did you think of that?
PAUL TRACY: I knew he had a lot. After holding off Graham for that 20-lap stint, I pretty much had killed the tires on the car. When I saw Graham had peeled off the track and we had three or four laps to go, I had a three-second advantage, I kind of tried to protect the tires.
The more I tried to protect them, the slower I went. I was really, really struggling in turn one. I couldn't get the car stopped without locking the front tires. I couldn't get the car to turn through the apex. So I was very slow through the apex. But I knew he was coming. They told me every time he was using 'push to pass' to gain ground, gain ground. I think going into the last lap, we were about equal on 'push to pass'.
You really have to get down the last straightaway from turn one to the end of the back straightaway. It's very difficult to get by anybody the rest of the lap unless you make a mistake. I had enough to use it on the last lap. We were safe.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I don't know. This track has always been good to me. I don't know how many times I've won here. I think it's three or four times now that I've won here. It's always been the race leading into the Canadian races. Usually it was before Toronto.
It's just kind of a motivator that you want to finish up well here before I go into my home country. I've always kind of done that here. I've always kind of run strongly here, then had strong races in Canada.
Today it was by no means a nice, comfortable, easy, pretty win. It was ugly. It was messy. It's not the way I would have liked to have won a race. But we've lost many races with silly things happening. The sand slips through your fingers and you can't get it over the last two years.
To come through today and have to drive the way we did, the races I had with the people we were racing with, with Alex, we were fighting like crazy, fighting like crazy with Graham. You know, it's a satisfying win because we really had to push ourselves to win here. It was by no means driving around and dominating the race. I really had to fight, which was good.
THE MODERATOR: To clarify, this is Paul's third win here at Cleveland. He also won here in 1993 and 2005.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, he was good off the last corner and good under braking, good into the hairpin. That's where I was okay, the last corner, but very poor under braking into turn one and very poor through the apex. That was really his only good shot at me.
He had one shot at me in four. I made a small mistake. I was pushing. Had to get off the throttle before dropping a wheel off the track. Once you drop a wheel off the track, the guy is going to go by you regardless.
He had a couple good shots at me. It seems like he wasn't -- you know, when I was behind him, I could tell -- in the rest of the track, other than turn one, he couldn't brake as late as I could. For him to get by in the places where he was going to try, it was going to be difficult except for turn one. He could get in there pretty good.

Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, I'd been pressing the button really, really hard, and nothing came out (laughter). I don't hope there's a problem in the system, which would be disappointing.
But, no, yeah, I tried. I thought I ran out.
THE MODERATOR: To clarify on that. The timing and scoring page received its power to pass numbers through telemetry. If an antenna was down, sometimes those numbers freeze up and give false readings.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Thanks for that (laughter).

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it's hard to say. We're quite a lot behind in the championship in terms of points. The team was really enthusiastic to start the season.
We got off to the start of the season great in Vegas. Talked to everybody here. To get off to such a good start, get injured, have to miss two races, really the team didn't develop the car in the period I was out. We didn't go testing with the other teams at some of the tracks they tested at. We kind of basically shut the development down. We've fallen behind in terms of development.
This last test at Elkhart Lake has helped the team. We found a direction with the car. We're not where we need to be. But looking at the race today, we had fifth quickest race lap, so we're closing the gap. In terms of understanding the car, we're a little bit further behind than some teams, but we're working at it.

Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah. Well, I think there's a famous phrase: To finish first, first you have to finish. Never give up, always push to the end. What makes Champ Car spectacular, because in Europe you race from start to finish flat out. You don't think of fuel saving. I think if you will come on the radio to somebody racing in Europe now and say, Save fuel, I think he won't understand, for sure.
I struggled as well in the beginning. It is a different way of racing here. Strategy is very important. Obviously you can gain a lot or lose a lot on cold tires as well, which is different to Formula One. So, yeah, the races are very long. 1 hour, 45 is the longest race I've done so far. I think you just have to keep your head down.
I start to understand the strategy more and more. But I still think they're doing an amazing job on the pit wall to understand also what your competition is doing, the drivers in front of you, behind you. You're racing all the time people who you might not even see in front of you.
Yeah, it's a great championship. I really start to enjoy it, as well. It would be obviously great to do a clean race. I mean, it's crazy that you come from the back and still finish on the podium, of course. I kept my head down and we're here.
NEEL JANI: For me it's more or less the same as Robert said. It's about learning fuel saving. Today I actually had a fuel leak. The fuel was getting into my cockpit. I had it on my bum. It's burning quite a bit after some stages (laughter).
It was really all about fuel saving for me actually in this race. I had to be really careful. I guess I figured that problem now, how I can save fuel.
The rest is strategy: Don't give up, just concentrate on not doing any mistakes. It's crazy, as I said. You're last, you have a fuel leak, and suddenly you're at the front, then at the back, then again at the front. You wouldn't get that normally. It's really this type of racing in America which gets that. I guess that's more spectator friendly, and driver friendly, too. I don't mind too much.
In the end, yeah, as I said, it's also team strategy bringing you up.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I mean, I can tell you coming into the championship, you know, you read what people say, you hear what people say on the Internet, that the series is full of drivers that are nobody. I can tell you, these guys are tough. It's as tough of racing as I've ever done in my career today, to hold off Graham at 18 years old and me being 38 years old. It's not easy.
These drivers, I mean, it's just really an evolution of younger drivers, guys coming from Europe who currently have Formula One contracts. Their people are looking for them to get more experience. They're obviously very talented or else they wouldn't be at the level of being a test driver in a Formula One car, winning races at the junior level in Europe, whether it be Formula 3 or GP-2 here in the States.
Guys like Graham and Pagenaud are winning races in Atlantics. The competition level is high. It's as high as I can remember right now. There's a lot of drivers that not a lot of people know about. It's easy to assume they're not very good, but it's not the case.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: It was pretty close to an accident. There were a lot of cars with interlocked wheels going into turn one (laughter). Justin, he made an unbelievable start and came flying down the inside, kind of slid in there. There was a lot of cars kind of on the verge of running into each other, but it didn't happen.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I think it's good. For me, I'm kind of disappointed with how we got away off the line. I felt like I got away pretty well. Obviously Justin came by pretty quickly. I didn't really progress on any of the cars in front of me.
You know, it's very new to me. It's not new to Justin. It's not new to the guys beside me. They've been doing this their whole career. The last time that I did standing starts was back in 1986. I'm still getting it right, you know.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, no, 1986, I didn't do any standing starts (laughter). But thanks for the compliment. I think you look great for 38, man.

Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Servia, a big crash in the chicane. He lifted for that. I passed him. There was the team telling me to let him pass again. Anyway, so I passed all the guys again. I did many passes this race.
Then, yeah, I made sort of half a doughnut into the hairpin because I was struggling on the brakes. The rears locked. It was like complete silence. Then suddenly the car just got into gear. Yeah, I just kept it nailed, saw a lot of smoke, then continued racing.
My mistake. Made up for it with some good lap times afterwards. But, yeah, I had to start all over again.

Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Rolling starts I was getting used to. I think the standing starts, it is something we learn obviously in Europe. I'm still not happy with the clutch in this series because I do struggle. They're not the best starts you can make. It's always sort of you keep your fingers crossed that everything goes well.
Yeah, they have a lot of horsepower, these cars. The wheel spin is quite intense, especially with the hard compound tires. It's not easy to make a good one.
NEEL JANI: Two standing starts, I always gained positions. Actually, I almost hit Paul in the first corner. So I lost a position again. But I think I gained two or three positions until the first corner, but then I fell one back. So standing starts definitely helped me.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: No, no, no. They were saying, Hold him off, hold him off. Basically Neil was coaching me, saying, Keep pushing, keep pushing. They were basically telling me when he was on 'push to pass', when he was close to me, close enough to out-brake.
I was basically at that point, towards the last five laps before he pitted, pretty much driving in my mirrors most of the time, on the front straightaway, looking to see where he was.
That's where our weak point was. The rest of the track was okay. But just leading onto the front straightaway, he seemed to have a big advantage on the brakes to me.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I'm excited about it. For me it's a track that I raced at when I was young, when I was a kid. I think the last time that I raced there, had a race, was in 1985. It's been a long time.
There's a journalist here that was actually there when I was there. I don't see him. There's a couple journalists here from Canada that were there when I was racing there. It will be like a homecoming. I'm excited about it.
The track is fantastic. The ski area, the village, the surroundings are beautiful. We're going to take my wife and kids, take a small vacation beforehand, be up there for a bit doing some training and enjoy the week in Canada.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I think it's a great circuit. I made my debut now on all the circuits. I raced now on an airport, so I can check that box as well. Looking forward to Mont-Tremblant a lot, because it's very similar to my favorite track, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, in Europe, also like it's in the Ardennes, in the mountains.
It's great with the difference in height. We did one day of testing. The car was quite quick. We finished fastest. I'm looking forward to that race for sure.
NEEL JANI: Mont-Tremblant, I couldn't go testing at that time because my passport was at the U.S. Embassy for a visa problem. I missed that test unfortunately. I guess I'll see the track the first time next week.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.



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