Champ Car World Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
April 9, 2006
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the post race press conference for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, opening round of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Right now we are joined by today's runner up, driver of the #9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for RuSPORT, Justin Wilson. Justin's fourth career podium, his first here at Long Beach.
Justin, a good strong run to start the season. Tell us about how you felt about how it went.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, obviously it went pretty good. The crew have been working hard all weekend to get the car competitive and to get it ready. We've made quite a few changes chasing the setup. I just want to thank them for putting all the effort in and making sure we can be here on the podium.
The race itself went pretty smoothly. I managed to get through the first corner. I looked in my mirror coming out of the first corner, I could see someone hit Bruno, he was flying through the air, collected AJ. Quite disappointed that AJ had a disappointing race. I'm sure he's going to bounce back pretty strong at the next one.
ERIC MAUK: Laps 61 through 64, you ran your four fastest laps of the race, were still losing ground to Sebastien. At what point do you say, "I'm going to run second"?
JUSTIN WILSON: I kept pushing harder and harder, got to the point where I locked the left front into turn one. The front gave away. I couldn't hold the apex in any of the left-hand corners. I had to back off a couple of 10ths and not do anything stupid and hit the wall.
ERIC MAUK: Great way to start the year.
Our third place finisher, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Australia, Alex Tagliani. He earns his 13th career podium in his Champ Car career, his first here at Long Beach.
Alex, you probably had one of the best seats for the first turn incident. Tell us about what you saw there.
ALEX TAGLIANI: Well, actually, I mean, I anticipated the start a little bit. I went left to go between Mario and the wall. There was no room. I had to lift. Went back towards the middle. PT was already in the middle. I was following him. He was probably the best guy to follow.
Then I got to turn one, and I said, "Uh-oh, he's not the best guy to follow." When I saw that Oriol was on the outside, everybody was going on the outside, I just overbraked and just went over the curb and caught the inside. I think it was the best way to go. At the exit of turn one, AJ was almost over the fence. It was pretty bad. We were very lucky that we came out clean.
ERIC MAUK: A lot of people want to talk about Newman/Haas, Forsythe, RuSPORT. You come out of Long Beach with a podium. Tell us what that means to the team.
ALEX TAGLIANI: I think there's a little more depth in our team. We have two new engineers. One came from RuSPORT last year, the other one came from Forsythe. There's definitely more experience on board. I think we'll get more consistent in our results this year because of that.
With the lack of testing, we're still searching all weekend long what was going on. Unfortunately for us during the weekend I never had a chance to do a lap on the red tires. At the end when I put them on, we realized that the car was quite loose with them. We were not very prepared for it. I was able to follow Justin early into the race when we were both on black. At the end it was just not a great car to drive, so I just decided to bring it back home and do enough to stay in front of Dominguez.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good result today.
The champion of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, second consecutive year he has won this title, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien led 70 of 74 laps, ran the fastest lap of the event and comes out of this weekend by gaining the maximum points available to a Champ Car driver, getting 35 points to his total as he tries to become the first driver since Ted Horn in 1948 to win three consecutive Champ Car titles. This is his 17th career win, his 10th from the pole. This ties him for 20th on the all-time list with Ralph Morford and Danny Sullivan.
Sebastien, couldn't have been as easy as it looked.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I guess it was a little frustrating from the inside. Every time a yellow would come out, it's like, okay, well, do it again. It happened quite a few times. As I said, the McDonald's car was just awesome today. There really wasn't much we could hope for any better than that. We just stayed focused and hang on there.
It was perfect from the very beginning to the end. I think the lap time we set during the race speaks for itself. We just -- the car was just great. I was able to just pull away every time there was a yellow flag. It was just a little bit of a shame for Bruno really because he did a great job, he had a great drive all weekend, for him to come back, to come and crash like that at the start, it's really a shame. I'm sure he'll bounce back and be strong.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us about what it means to you to come out of here, you just hung 30 points on three of the guys that were tipped to challenge you for this championship.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, it's a great way to start, don't get me wrong. It wasn't the most exciting race ever obviously because it was kind of a straightforward shot. You know, on the standings, it could not be any better than that for sure. We are scoring max points and three major opponents fell this weekend. What a way to start the season. It was a great turnout. I think a huge, huge crowd today. Thanks to everybody here in Long Beach, Bridgestone, for the series for making it happen.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
Before we get started with questions, obviously Sebastien holds the championship lead. He holds an eight-point cushion on Justin. Justin has 37. Alex is third with 25. Mario Dominguez fourth with 23. Cristiano da Matta is fifth with 21. Also Katherine Legge finished eighth today. This is the highest that a female driver has ever finished in Champ Car competition. The old mark for Champ Car competition was a ninth place finish for Janet Guthrie in the 1978 Indianapolis 500. Also the fifth place finish for Cristiano da Matta in the Dale Coyne Racing machine today, the highest that a Dale Coyne car has ever finished here at Long Beach. Also we will be bringing Katherine in to the press conference room for media questions at 4:15 today.
Questions for our top three finishers today.
Q. Sebastien, when you have a race like this where everything is so perfect, what is going through your mind? Are you worried something is going to go wrong?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That's exactly right. It's like, "What is going to go wrong?" It's been like that all weekend. I kept saying, "Craig, this thing is going way too well." It's panicking at some points. The perfect weekend, absolutely no drama around.
I've been in this situation many, many times before. Trust me, so many things can go wrong during a race, especially here, season-opener like that, street course. I just couldn't stop myself from thinking, "Oh, God, what's going to go wrong today?"
Just very happy. I was not worried at all about our performance level or anything like that, I was just worried of a mechanical failure, (indiscernible) in the pits. I'm not perfect. I can make mistakes, too.
I'm just glad everything went right and we scored the max points. It's been a smooth weekend all the way through.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think it was -- I always drive 200% when the car is right, and it's been just that the whole weekend. I think it very important for myself because I can get in a good rhythm. I don't have to push myself to go to the limit. I was just playing with it the whole time, been lucky enough not to overshoot it. I think it paid off. At the very end of the race, I was just having a great time and I didn't need to turn that kind of laps. I was trying to drop it in the 67. When I did that, it was fun. It was like three laps to go. I said, "Okay, now it's time to back it off a little bit."
No, I didn't sandbag at all. I think the team did a great effort. My job is to bring the car on the top of the charts every session, especially during the race which we did.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's always tough to say. You can't judge how the competition would have been hard to beat. I think Justin was second on the grid. I think we probably would have been difficult to catch. PT had a pretty major issue with his car during qualifying. I think they discovered (indiscernible) was welded together. Probably didn't help him all the accidents he's had this weekend. I think Bruno would have been strong and AJ showed some speed.
It's tough to say. I don't know if Justin has been struggling a little bit or if he was just happy with second. It's always difficult to evaluate who could do what and when and how. For sure, I wasn't expecting to have a second in the field on best lap time.
Q. Sebastien, is a weekend like this, with everything going perfect, the best revenge for the slap you got from Renault this past year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't get any slap any more from Renault, especially the last winter. I know I don't belong there. I don't expect anything. They've got their own policy. I'm not a part of their strategy. It's fair enough. I was just a little disappointed that they kind of nail me like they did during the winter.
I don't expect anything. I'm just doing my job, enjoying myself here. I kind of hope at some point somebody is going to say, "This kid deserve a chance." It's going to have to happen pretty damn soon. I'm 27 and getting older. The window is getting very narrow for me and I know it. If it doesn't happen, fair enough. I'm going to have a great career in Champ Cars. I think all the positive talks we hear these days are very encouraging for the open-wheel series in America. We'll see what happens.
Q. Justin, when you realized you couldn't catch Sebastien, how difficult is it?
JUSTIN WILSON: I still try to run as fast a pace I could under the circumstances. I lost it at the front a little bit, started to get understeer those last few laps. It would have been very easy to charge too deep into the corners and wash out and hit the wall. I had to leave a little bit of margin at the crucial corners. The rest of the time, I pushed it as hard as I dare under those circumstances.
Q. Sebastien, how does this win in Long Beach (indiscernible)?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Last year was very special because last year I never won it. Second, it was great to be able to pass actually to win the race, pass PT for turn one. I think it was very special.
This one was kind of more, okay, you got to make no mistakes. That was the key word and the mindset for the whole weekend, more even in the race. This one was just kind of a go-through race for me because I knew we had everything which was required to get the job done. It was just a matter of -- it was ours to lose pretty much this weekend, and we didn't.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Not really. Not really. I never really felt that comfortable here in Long Beach. I was very happy.
Q. Sebastien, when you and your team have a weekend like this, everything goes right, you know in the back of your head something could drop. The shoe didn't drop. You're going to a place nobody has been at. What kind of confidence does that bring to you for what happens a couple weeks down the road?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, first I'm going to get married. That's a pretty big thing. We're going to enjoy ourselves. We just going to start another weekend. As you said, it's an unknown one. We know we have a very strong street course setup. We can't deny that. Every weekend is different. We're going to show up over there and we'll see if we're the benchmark. If we are, great. If we're not, we'll walk out. See if it's good enough.
Q. When and where are you getting married?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We're getting with Claire, my fiancee, I've been living with a long time, in LeMans, May 6th.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, obviously I was trying to get close. Every time we went into the hairpin on cold tires, I'd turn in and nothing would happen. I'd just go straight on. I'd have to just flip the throttle to turn the car. As soon as that happened, Sebastien just left. He had maybe five car lengths every time at start/finish.
We struggled a little on the cold tires. Sebastien was able to get straight on it. That's where we're quite weak. Had to keep pushing. Every yellow, there was an opportunity. Just maybe he'd make a mistake and I could capitalize.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: His car has been fantastic. He's done a great job. He didn't make any mistakes. I was just trying to make sure I was there if and when there was a mistake. It didn't happen today.
Q. Alex, last year was your first race for Team Australia (indiscernible).
ALEX TAGLIANI: In the last couple of weeks, I realized that we are miles away from these guys because when you meet with the engineers and they're telling you what they've done, it's a wake-up call.
In a way, for us it's a way to try to get more consistent. Last year some places we were quick and other places we were completely lost. I think with these two guys, they're definitely bringing some experience where we're going to have answers where we were struggling and get more consistent.
This weekend we started, first session was good, then we made some changes. We got completely lost, and we came back for the race and the car was good. All race long I was two seconds from Justin, not able to get closer, keep him in the sight. Every time I tried to push a little bit harder, the car won't take it.
We're there. We know there's a lot of work to do to catch the strong teams. Now it's going to be up to us in the next month to make some changes and to try to see if the budget allows us to get some additions on what we know we're behind. From there, try to get closer and closer.
Q. (No microphone.)
JUSTIN WILSON: I think it was probably about eight or nine laps from the end, he went out of sight. I was hoping he'd pitted at that point (laughter). That wasn't quite right.
Q. What is your opinion of turn one, after the race is over?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's very exciting for the drivers. It's extremely fast. It's great fun. But I think for the show I'm not convinced. I think we might want to give a second look at it because I think it definitely makes passing for turn one a lot harder. We all agree, I think I can speak in one voice, that the braking zone is so short, the corner is so fast, basically if you commit and try to pass, first you won't have time to get out of the thing, and second you have to make a split decision. You've got to be very, very quick to decide whether you go or not.
Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, I mean, we were a little bit surprised. We got caught off guard on that second stop. I was pretty close to Justin on the second outing, focusing on staying in touch with him. In the meantime, Dominguez was behind the wheel at the time, probably was saving lots of fuel. He went a lap further. When I saw his board, I started to go quick on the last lap I had. It was not enough. So we came in the pits. He was out in front of us. Just caught him coming into the hairpin. He went wide on cold tires. Used the 'push to pass'. I got the inside line, but I realized I was on the outside going into turn one. I just had to brake very, very deep to make the pass.
It was probably the most exciting moment in the race for us.
Q. (No microphone.)
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, I mean, I just took a quick look in the mirror. I saw that he braked earlier because he was on cold tires. I was lucky on that. I don't know on which tire he was. We were on red at the time. I know where I could brake. As soon as I saw that he lifted, I just went a little bit deeper and it was enough to get in front of him.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I don't know. I felt like at some point the engine didn't sound right. It was delivering the power, but it didn't sound the same. Maybe I was just getting completely crazy in the car waiting for something to break.
No, we had the pop-up valve light which usually signals a pop-up valve (indiscernible) or that it's going crazy. We were lucky the pop-up valve is not doing anything. I'm pretty convinced the pop-up was broken or something.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you.
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