Champ Car World Series: Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoor
Topics: Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoor
June 10, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the post race press conference for the Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoor. We have our second- and third-place finishers, Justin Wilson and Robert Doornbos. We'll start with Robert.
Robert, you had a really good start and actually pulled right up next to Justin. How was it?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah, it was just how I expected it to be really. I mean, the start, there was such a big fuss about it approaching the weekend. I think we proved just that you can make normal starts without any hassle as long as you are just relaxed. I think the procedure went very well with Champ Car.
I thought I had a better start than Justin. I proved it because I was alongside him. Then I just got a bit too excited with a miss-shift so the advantage was gone.
But all credit to Justin. He braked late. You don't win or lose the race in the first turn. Yeah, it was quite clean. I came out second. Then I immediately felt that definitely the red tires were not working for my car, struggling with oversteer. Just saw the gap growing and growing. Very frustrating moment. Justin was just cruising away. I was just trying to keep second place, which was quite easy in those conditions, but I could definitely not push harder. So I was just waiting for the first pit stop to come.
Then on the black tires, the car was a lot more easy to drive. The guys did a good job with the pit stops, very consistent. So, yeah, up to my third podium in four races. Obviously, it's great. It's good for the team. We proved today that if we want to win races or challenge these guys, Sebastien or Justin, we need to improve the car more. For the next jump to make, we have now two weeks, hopefully the guys can work hard and in Cleveland we can be even stronger.
THE MODERATOR: Robert currently sits third in our points standings. You haven't been to Cleveland, but what do you expect the team to be able to do when you get there?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: You know, they have the experience from the race. I've been watching the DVD of last year. Looks like an airport (laughter). Yeah, see how it goes when we arrive. It's a surprise.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Robert.
Justin, you started from pole and were in a big lead before the first pit stop.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, like Robert said, the start went well. He got a slightly better get-away off the line. I got a little too much wheel spin. I was just watching him alongside. When he braked, I braked. Made it pretty simple. I was on the inside. Got through. First stint was working really well. Just cruising really. Very comfortable with the car. It felt really nice to drive.
Then the second stint I was expecting to pick up the pace. It never happened. I was a little bit surprised at that. But, you know, ultimately weren't quite quick enough. Sebastien just slowly ate into my lead and eventually after the second pit stop he managed to get by me.
Pleased to get on the podium. I think everyone on the #9 CDW car did a great job all weekend. I'm really proud of them. Hopefully we can be up there and challenging for the win at Cleveland. In the meantime we'll be working on getting our car down to weight because we know we're giving away a lot of lap time and it only gets worse when we fill the tank. We got some work to do to make sure that we're competitive in the race situation. But at least we know qualifying is a lot better.
THE MODERATOR: This is Justin's second runner-up finish in a row here at Portland International Raceway. With the second-place finish, he moves from eighth to fifth in the championship points.
Justin, you've run at Cleveland coming up. What do you think the standing starts will mean, especially going into turn one, which is always treacherous at Cleveland?
JUSTIN WILSON: I think the standing starts will be good. Plenty wide enough, lot of room for everyone to go. I think it will be positive there.
The main thing is turn one is so open, it's so easy to get lost. Last year I think they put markers in on both sides of the track. That improved things to no end. As long as they keep enough references for the drivers to know where the corner is, you won't get caught out. There's a better chance of us all making it through.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Justin.
We'll now open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Justin can you be more specific what was it with you car, being fast at the beginning then not as much afterward?
JUSTIN WILSON: I wish I knew a little bit more. The car was working great. Everything was just fine. After a while we started to just lose a couple of 10ths. We dropped from 60.3 pretty much every lap to 60.6. We just leveled off there for a while, then 60.8. You know, they kept telling me over the radio that Sebastien was catching. There was nothing left. I was already flat out.
It was just hoping that we could do something once we got to the pit stop. I was hoping we were heavy on fuel and he was light. After the next pit stop, we went no quicker either.
I don't know if the temperature, when it dropped, the track temperature dropped, I don't know if that was a factor. Just certainly a little bit of understeer. At this place, it lasts for a long time. Yeah, not much you can do.
Q. Ever had a race like that before?
JUSTIN WILSON: No, you know, I've had races last year where I overheated the tires or wore out the tires. At Denver we struggled very badly, and a couple of other circuits. At that point I was just glad I was able to maintain the lap time. In the past when it starts to get away from you like that, it wears out the tires very quickly, you're in trouble. You start losing 4/10ths a lap until you're three, four seconds off the pace. I was quite pleased that didn't happen. It's an area we've got to work on.
Q. You talked about your car being heavier than the others, can you explain?
JUSTIN WILSON: I'm just bigger than the other drivers, unfortunately. The tech inspection will give a driver and car weight to meet. Obviously, the lighter drivers add more ballast to their cars. We all have the total weight the same. Unfortunately, we can't get down to our weight. It's a spec car. There's nothing we can take off it or bits we can take off to make it lighter. With the Lola, there were certain bits we were allowed to make it lighter. You could change the weight of the car and also where you put that weight. We just don't have that capability.
Q. Stop eating doughnuts...
JUSTIN WILSON: I'll cut out the doughnuts (laughter).
Q. Robert, in the second half of the race it seemed like a relentless pursuit of Will Power, looked like you were reeling him in, can you talk about that?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: You know, it was a good moment of the race for me because basically we knew that the top two guys were too far already. We gave up too much in the first stint. Lost definitely too much track time there. Then once the pit stop was gone, it was just a bit slower than the Team Australia pit stop. Will just got me there in the pit lane. Then I was sort of chasing him down.
At the end of the race when the track was rubbering in, my car was actually getting better. I really could start pushing. I could see him getting closer and closer. Obviously the team was keeping me informed about lap times. At one stage, I was doing the fastest laps of the race.
Yeah, then I could make the pass on him. That's always fun to make a good move for a good position. I just did it on the entry of the chicane. So, yeah, it worked out well. Afterwards, just could pull a gap of 10 seconds, which was also quite easy.
Again, I just see the times here, the difference with the top two cars, it's fairly big. We still need to improve the car. For sure we got some maximum out of it, maximum points, and that's important.
Q. Portland's contract is up this year would you be upset if Champ Car did not return here next year?
JUSTIN WILSON: For sure it would be disappointing to lose this track. It's one of the better tracks in the U.S. to race on as far as permanent road circuits. I think it's been an important part of Champ Car's history to come and race here. Hopefully it will be a part for the next number of years.
Q. How does it feel to do the standing starts?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, brought back some good memories. At first I saw the lights, I thought, I'm meant to do something now (laughter). I let the clutch out.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: That showed. That's why I was a bit quicker (laughter).
JUSTIN WILSON: I have to work on my reactions.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It's fun. Like Justin says, it's fun. The fans enjoy it. It gives us this extra adrenaline boost. You're being tested for your reaction, see how big the brain is to remember what you need to be doing.
Q. Justin, Sebastien got bottled up in the first stint, were you surprised afterwards with the speed he reeled you in?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, I think initially it stayed stable, then it was one second after maybe 10 laps, then it started coming down very quickly. At that point I was trying to do the calculation. At that point he sat right behind me. It turned out right after the second pit stop. It was just frustrating that we couldn't go any quicker. I was already running the maximum every lap.
Q. For the moderator, when was the last time we had a caution free race?
THE MODERATOR: The last time we had a race with no yellow flags was Elkhart Lake 2000. Last year we ran with a yellow start here. After the yellow start, we ran caution-free as well. We ran 105 laps last year and 103 this year caution-free. We're at 208 consecutive laps here caution-free laps at Portland International Raceway.
Thank you, guys.
Now we have Sebastien Bourdais, today's winner. You've gotten your 26th win, and the 100th for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. What does it mean to make history, to make the hundredth for such a renowned team?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't think I made it; I think I just participated in the history of that team. It's obviously a fantastic organization with three great team owners. Mike is a new addition to the team, but I think he's going to be the future of it. It's very important.
You know, couldn't be any happier for the whole team, the owners and McDonald's.
THE MODERATOR: How good was your car to be able to go out in the race with a 15-second deficit and turn it into a 15-second lead?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think we just didn't seem to be able to put it together either on Friday or Saturday. Always something happened. On Friday I think to be very honest with you I'm pretty positive we got one flat tire. That's something that happens very rarely with Bridgestone, but I think it definitely happened to us. Today the reds were quite a bit quicker and we only had one set. At some point, since we had started on it, I was a little worried it was going to bite us, especially since they were more consistent and a little quicker.
I would seem to have enough of an advantage to hold and sustain and extend our lead. It was really good. But the first stint was a typical game of fuel saving. Nobody from the outside could even believe we were saving so much fuel. It was made very hard by Alex because he wasn't playing the game. He just beat himself because he passed us, yeah, great, but there were another two cars in front of him that he didn't seem to be able to attack. After that, he was the first one in the pits. It's not the first one that he does that. He just doesn't seem to get it. It was really frustrating because at some point I saw we were not going to go further due to that. At some point I had to use 'push to pass', braking, saving fuel, do this, do that. It was getting a little tricky. Save fuel but don't get passed. Get passed, still don't save as much fuel as you want. It was a little tough.
I was very happy to see we actually did go further than everyone else, which got us in front of Robert, Will and Alex. From there, we just short-filled the car, put our reds on, started clicking some very fast laps. It was pretty even for the first five laps of the stint with Justin, but his tires went off quicker than ours. We were just catching him after that, 8/10ths of a second a lap. That was pretty impressive.
Then when I got to the second pit stop, I looked at Craig, and I was like, Boy, I can smell blood here coming. We did catch him and pass him. I knew I had a pretty small window to get it done because he was coming out of the pits and struggling a little bit. I was already on hot tires since I pitted earlier with the short fill on the first stop. We just got it done. From there it was just a pull-away game because I had to pull about four or five seconds' advantage on him to be able to sustain the lead.
We did just that. We just seemed pretty clear after a while, the McDonald's car was superior and we were just able to maintain the advantage. Pretty sweet win. No. 100 for the team. Just very, very honored to be a part of this.
THE MODERATOR: Looking ahead, at Cleveland last year you had a very short race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, probably the shortest of my career.
THE MODERATOR: How do you think the Newman/Haas/Lanigan crew will look going for 101?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Looks like we have a very competitive car. We don't always seem to be able to get the best out of the Bridgestone tires on one lap, which is somewhat of a problem. It's not the case on street courses, but definitely the case on road courses. Probably the way I like to drive the car that does that. With the fuel saving and the rest, we seem to be able to make a big difference in the race.
I think we proved to ourselves in '03 and '04 that we could get it done in Cleveland. Obviously last two seasons we've been struggling a little bit. I'd really like to be back on top over there. It's a Mike Lanigan promotion race over there. A bit like home over there. Really like to be able to put on a good show.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. You have been negative about the standing starts, what do you think now?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, I'm just very happy that my dark visions didn't happen and nobody stalled, which is good. It doesn't mean it's never going to happen. It means I was a little more pessimistic than the truth, so it's a good thing. Definitely put on a good show.
On the flipside, pretty worried if Will is going to pull a start like this, if he didn't stall it, which seems to be the case, at first I really thought he jumped the start, he was starting from so far behind, didn't seem he was going to be able to pull it off, but it seems like it's the case. We're definitely going to have to give a look at what he's doing. It was pretty impressive.
I definitely took it really easy. I took it easy on the grid and was afraid we were going to get penalized. I took a miserable start. Still, never would have taken me from six or seven.
It was just a big surprise because everybody kind of took the same start. First, second, third, fourth, then Will, you know. So I don't know. I don't know what he's doing. Obviously he found something that we haven't.
Q. Do you think it was a brave move?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, but he made it stick. It was pretty impressive.
Q. Are you happy that there were no caution flags?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think it would have been a little easier had we had the caution because we had to run Justin down from 15 seconds. That wasn't the easiest way to do it (laughter). I think the McDonald's car was good enough to pull it off. Definitely put on a good show. Also it's a very good example of how good road racing can be. It's not always boring. I hope the fans enjoyed it because it's probably been one of the most exciting road races we've seen in a long time. Hope that all the fans liked it. I know we did.
Q. Is this one of your best races?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think I'll probably never be able to top Denver '04 because that was very special. Yeah, I think it's definitely right up there. We put on something fairly similar last year, except we were coming from too far behind. We ran Justin down just the same way. Just came short of passing him. There was another guy in front.
It's definitely the way I love to race, just be pushing the whole time. At some point in the car, you can smell it, it's coming. It's right there. You're working at it really hard. You know if you keep on pushing and trying, it's going to get there. It's very satisfying, very motivating thing for our championship expectation. It's also very good. We've shown now we cannot only do it on street courses, but we can surely do it on road courses. We've had a great test at Mount Tremblant. After Tuesday, I'll be driving the car in Tuesday in Elkhart. Might be the most challenging of the year.
I think it's very, very good for our expectations, our effort in the championship. It feels even sweeter since the whole thing changed with the new car. Everybody was pointing fingers saying Newman/Haas had a big advantage. Kind of shut all the rumors saying we had the best equipment.
We've got the best team. We've got the best combination. It's not only driver, but for sure team and mechanics and the whole nine yards. That's how you win. You don't win with a solo effort; you win with a great group of people.
Q. We are hearing that Portland might not be on the schedule next year, can you talk about that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I think every year it's the same deal, right? Every year we say we're not going to come back here, we're not going to come back there. We do. Champ Car was dead. It's not. This and that.
I think we're just plugging away, we're doing our job and trying to put on a good show. You know, it's all thanks to the fans that we're still there. The fan base is pretty strong here. They're definitely diehard Champ Car fans. They came today. Maybe it wasn't the biggest crowd we've ever seen, but it was still pretty decent. Like we talked about many times, it doesn't cost all that much to put the race together here. The racetrack is here. The facility is what it is. It is there and everybody is there, volunteers trying to put the thing together, trying to make it a success. I think it's as good a race as any other.
Q. Would you be disappointed if you don't come back?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Hopefully we come back. There's no doubt that we need a good combination between street courses and road courses. It seems like it's balanced. We lost the only one oval we had, which is a really sad thing. But it would be even sadder if we end up not coming back here. If we keep losing our heritage and history, it's not going to serve us well.
We also need to be careful what we do. It's good to be going where you're desired. It's also good to stay where people want you to stay.
Q. Do you know what caused your car to creep, were you on the downhill?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I have no idea. I think you've seen a lot of creeping on all the practice starts. That's the reason why we came up with the brake lever in the car, which was declared illegal. Now we're creeping just like the other competitions, I guess. It's a tough thing. Once you are in the car, you're fully on the clutch, you see that car rolling. I was looking for Scott. I was like, What am I supposed to do? Put my hand on the tire or something? You just hope that you're not getting busted for it because obviously that would ruin your day.
That was one of the concerns. If the car was going to creep too much, then you were going to have to not accelerate with the right foot but put it somewhat on the brakes, which then makes it even bigger challenge. It's obviously been done before. I've been in these positions before, but usually puts on a pretty crappy start, to be honest. When you are competing against all the others who have the same equipment as you, you just hope you don't look even worse than the others, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for being here, Sebastien. Congratulations.
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