Champ Car World Series: San José Grand Prix at Redback Raceway
Topics: San José Grand Prix at Redback Raceway
July 28, 2007
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We will go ahead and get started with our post-qualifying press conference for the San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway. We're going to get started with our third-place starter today, Mr. Dan Clarke.
Dan, you're making your top start of the year. Last year here at San Jose you started ninth, but were running in the top three and looking at a podium finish before mechanical problems. What is it about this track that allows you to run so well?
DAN CLARKE: If I knew that, I wouldn't be telling anybody (laughter).
But you're right, I mean, we just seem to get a good vibe here, not just with the team and the location, but the car seems to like it as well. So we're happy being in San Jose so far. Everything is going well. Being top three for tomorrow, that should do what you want to in the race: really work on strategy and not get tripped up by too many people.
But it was really close out there. Yesterday everyone was covered by a second. I haven't seen it just yet, but I hear the top seven are within a couple of 10ths of each other. It's really tight. With everybody trying to squeeze onto a small circuit, it was a real - well, there's a lot of words you can use but not many you can print for what it was like out there just trying to find space for a hot lap.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Dan.
Qualifying second, based on his qualifying run yesterday that earned him a front row starting spot and a point, is Sebastien Bourdais.
Sebastien, before we get started talking about qualifying, why don't you talk about how the Newman/Haas/Lanigan racing announcement with Robert Yates Racing affects Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Champ Car team.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's pretty simple: it doesn't. I think a lot of people interpreted the fact that Newman/Haas/Lanigan was going to bring some engineering into the team has been interpreted as the team is going to move into NASCAR, which is not the case. They're just going to bring some methods and some organization and some knowledge.
So it's just a combination of things and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is in Champ Car for good. It also is completely unrelated to what I will end up doing in the future. So I just think people are getting everything mixed up a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sebastien. Now let's talk about the day today. You were only able to go sixth quickest among the qualifiers today. Was the track not just coming in for you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, trust me, it's better than this morning. You know, we've been basically struggling all day with realistically one bad rear tire. We only understood our problem when it was too late. And then when we checked -- wanted to check the car on new tires, we got a flat in 15 minutes. So it just looks like nothing was going to be right today.
Slowly on the first run, I tried to get things worked out and got another flat spot, so that didn't work. Then we made a pretty sizable improvement for the second run, and that got close, but it was nowhere near good enough for the pole. We had way too much understeer.
So I think realistically we're pretty happy with the way it went because we were completely lost this morning and it doesn't happen very often, but it's pretty easy. So I think it puts things back in perspective. That just shows it's very easy to end up P10 in Champ Car. Just very glad we actually pulled one off yesterday because it would have looked pretty bad otherwise.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Sebastien.
And earning his sixth career pole and second pole this year in the CDW car is Justin Wilson.
Justin, it was really tight out there. You were able to get that one quick lap in.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it was a very difficult session. Like Sebastien said, you know, we got lost this morning. We were struggling. Had a pretty good lap in early on, but after that we went downhill pretty quick. We literally went back to yesterday's starting setup and it seemed to work well again. We could start moving forwards.
We got there quite quickly. We put the option Bridgestones on. They worked very well for us. The first stint was good. The second set was working well, but there was somebody ahead of Will Power who just slowed up every lap for no apparent reason. Backed Will up, Will backed me up, I think I was backing Katherine up. It was just a mess. I'm not sure who that guy was, but he was the person causing everyone hassle throughout the session.
But, you know, fortunately he backed us up so much that I saved enough fuel to do one extra lap and that was the only clear lap I got in the whole seven laps. That allowed us to get pole on the very, very last lap.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Justin.
We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Dan, obviously you were very frustrated at the end of the race last year. Do you still have good feelings coming here because you had been doing well before mechanical problems last year?
DAN CLARKE: Yeah, that's right. You know, we were cruising really well. You know, really can be happy with today and how the weekend's going because we're third for the race tomorrow. Last year I had to work my way up from ninth, then I was running second. So we've got a good car. I feel good. I've got two good feet still (laughter). I think, you know, we're going to get to it tomorrow and we'll see how we go.
Q. Sebastien, on your second run, correct me if I'm wrong, you did not use your second set option tires, right?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Right.
Q. What was the thinking there and does that then put you in a pretty good spot tomorrow with a brand-new set?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, well, that's the thought obviously. We had a feeling that we were kind of far enough on the balance for the first one that we were probably not going to be giving it a real shot. For us it seemed like the option tires just gave us a little extra understeer, which is already the problem we were suffering, so it was not exactly what we are looking for.
We just tried to optimize - or minimize - the damages, I guess, and get some kind of confidence back and feel for what we had. Because, yeah, it was extremely confusing. I think if you had asked me what kind of lap time we would have done this afternoon, I probably wouldn't have picked a 49.2. So pretty happy with the outcome.
Q. Sebastien, you said earlier you were struggling with the car, with setup. Was it maybe not possible to go basically back to the setup you were running here last year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Do you have any idea what you're telling right now? I mean, these cars are just completely different. There is nothing that you can apply. You can apply philosophies, but the setups are just different. And obviously our teammate is running fine.
No, we had a big issue this morning with one set of tires. We identified that. And basically we have done nothing on the setup. We've just kind of got lost doing nothing, which was the reason why we're really lost.
You know, it doesn't take much. And that's the reason why we just said, you know, just try and get a feel for what it's going to be. And the car is running all right. It just needs to be doing the little fine tuning that we usually get to do, which we didn't this morning.
Q. Obviously it's a different car from last year. I know that. When you're struggling, maybe that gives you an idea which way you can work also with a different car?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, completely different characteristics. Like I said, it's pretty much the baseline setup, so we haven't done anything to it.
Q. Whoever wants to answer, is there any concern tomorrow for the standing start, given the width of the straightaway, the first turn, how sharp that first turn is?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah (laughter).
Fortunately for us two, there's nobody to dodge or miss in front of us in case anyone stalls. Further down the grid, it's going to be tight. I believe they've made the grid spacing larger for this race to allow for people to react in time in case somebody stalls.
Let's just hope it doesn't happen to anyone and we get a good, clean start.
Q. Justin, can you tell us a little bit about the advantages of starting on the pole on such a short, tight street course like San Jose?
JUSTIN WILSON: The obvious advantage of hopefully being first to the first corner, and after that dictating the pace. You know, just get into a rhythm, start pulling away. Whereas in the past, you know, last two years I started 9th and 12th. It's been a tough battle of just trying to leapfrog the cars in front either in the pit stops or on the racetrack. You're always trying to catch up. You know, now we have the advantage of just being able to sit back and relax and see how the race unfolds.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone. With that we'll wrap it up.
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