Champ Car World Series: San José Grand Prix at Redback Raceway
Topics: San José Grand Prix at Redback Raceway
July 29, 2007
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's post-race press conference for the San Jose Grand Prix at Redback Raceway. We'll get started here with our third-place finisher, Oriol Servia.
Oriol, your first return to the podium since your '07 debut at Long Beach. Seems like things are coming together here for team Forsythe.
ORIOL SERVIA: They are. I'm glad you noticed. I think all weekend we were very strong. We definitely had one of the I'd say top two cars every session. We did all right in Toronto, you know. I thought we had the race there. I thought we had the race here. But, you know, only the last lap counts.
In Edmonton we gained lots of spots in the pit stops. Today we had a problem with the (indiscernible) and we lost two spots in the pits at the end. It hurts because it was the win. Anyway, Neel and Robert, they were both very strong.
I think it was a question of whoever was in the lead after all the fuel savings, had clean air was just going to win. You know, I think was pretty easy for Robert at the end.
THE MODERATOR: And finishing second was Neel Jani, who tied his career-best Champ Car finish with a second place. It's his third podium in five races. Neel, for you it looked like those Bridgestone reds couldn't hold all the way to the end.
NEEL JANI: It looked like at the end we had the wrong tires. Well, coming off Friday, you know, I was last in free practice and qualifying. Then in the pre-qual only Saturday, I was last again. In the end, I'm quite happy to be at least up on the podium. The team did a great job.
Today's race, first stint, I had a set of reds and they were actually very good. We tried the blacks in the middle stint. I was struggling a little bit there. So we thought maybe go back onto the reds. But in the end, the reds were just way too bad and they went on me big time, just understeer, oversteer. It was hard to keep Robert.
In the end, he had a good run and he was so quick in the end. So I was just looking that I could keep maybe Oriol behind me. But definitely I'm disappointed after leading so many laps. I was hoping to finish it off and get my first win. But, well, next time we know we put on the blacks.
THE MODERATOR: Our race winner today, Robert Doornbos, who earns his second win in Champ Car, sixth podium in nine races.
Robert, what was it like chasing down Neel in the end?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Good afternoon, everybody. It's a great way to feel after such a difficult weekend. Also in Edmonton we struggled a lot last week. Coming into this sort of mini Monaco street circuit, I sort of pushed the team very hard to find a good setup. We also struggled in the first free practice, and in qualifying we were sixth. The Saturday qualifying or free practice, we put it up the front and found a really good car. Come the real qualifying in the afternoon, we had a gearbox failure. We really struggled to put in any lap.
We started 15th. Normally it's like the weekend's over on a street circuit. Going into the hairpin as well with 14 cars in front of you, I almost stalled the car. I was driving so slow. I was just trying not to hit anybody. I was still able to break my nose, so I don't know what happened there.
Anyway, went back to the pits. The steering arm was a bit bent. When we were on track with the black tires, we felt so quick and so comfortable. My engineer and the team basically when we had the pit stops said, Boys, now is when it matters because normally we lose positions in pit lane, but we came through. So thanks very much to the team. They did a great job.
When I was on track, Michael told me to push, my engineer. I had 10 qualifying laps of 49.9, 50.0. I gained many positions with that. Yeah, coming into the last 20 laps of the race, I saw Neel on the reds and I was thinking, Man, you have the wrong choice of tires because the reds for me didn't work. I saw him going sideways a bit. I just lined them up, fair and square going into the hairpin, then I just pulled away. The team was sort of trying to calm me down, like, Bring it home, bring it home. You know, the minutes couldn't go quicker.
It's just a great way to finish the weekend, to continue the rest of the season like this. It's a big motivation boost for everybody. So thanks a lot to the team. Looking forward to the rest of the season.
THE MODERATOR: And with your win, the bonus championship point for gaining the most positions in the race, you're now just 10 points back of Sebastien Bourdais. How does it feel to make up some ground there?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Obviously it's very important. When I saw Sebastien struggling in second practice on Saturday morning, I mean, he was more in the runoffs than on the track, so I knew he had a braking problem. Reading the press release as well. I knew our car was quick, so I thought, Okay, now we need to capitalize on this, see if we can qualify in front, try to score more points than him.
Yeah, to do it in this way is obviously even better. It's a dream come true. I mean, I'm still my first year in the series, and all the circuits are new. It's just a great way. I'm really enjoying myself racing here. The team is just getting stronger every weekend. Newman/Haas will definitely not back off. We still have a lot of good races left in front of us.
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Robert, after qualifying, one of your quotes were that you also were struggling with grip. Was there a dramatic improvement with the setup or anything with the car concerning the race?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Oh, yeah, that's correct. We did try the red tire in qualifying. It's a bit what like Neel said, understeer, oversteer at the same time. We couldn't really produce anything. The laps we got, we only got like five minutes of practice because I was spending most of the time in pit lane fixing the gearbox.
So, yeah, the tires are strong. The black tires were stronger on our car this weekend than the reds. But we did decide this morning with my engineer to go for a bit of a risk, to take off some downforce and go for some good speed on the straight so you can pass people going into the hairpin, which is the best place to pass anybody really. So we gained like four or five miles in a straight line. It's sort of like you have every lap the 'push to pass' on.
Unfortunately this morning after four laps in warmup, I felt the car was quick, we were quickest in warmup, but then the clutch failed. I couldn't really try the limits on full fuel and everything. We still went into the race a bit in the unknown. But then, for sure, after a couple of laps, when I got a new nose, I felt that the car was quick and had a good balance all the way through.
Q. Robert, I don't know if it was a glitch on the monitor, they said you only had two seconds 'push to pass', and on restart Neel had you down the inside. Neel had 20 seconds, you still had two. I wonder how the hell you got past him.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It was like the opposite what happened. The restart I did was very poor, my mistake. Cold tires. I struggled to get good temperature into them. I had a bit of a moment coming out of the last turn. Basically when I looked in my mirror, when I shifted through the gears, I already saw the yellow Red Bull nose in my gearbox. So I thought, Okay, this is not going to work. I learned my lesson about blocking, so I left Neel space into turn one because he did a better restart.
And then the next safety car, he had the red tires, and I could see him really pushing to warm up the rears. He had a moment coming out of the last turn. I was so much quicker, I sort of had to lift as well when I was behind him, not to push him down the straight. And then he moved over to the left and I dived down the inside, then I just pulled away and never looked back in the mirrors.
It's the same restart for both of us. I was the lucky one in the end.
Q. Neel, seemed like a lot of yellow flags. How did all the caution flags affect the race?
NEEL JANI: Well, definitely me and Oriol, I think we had quite a gap to some other guys at some stage. We were fighting each other for fuel saving, playing chicken and egg actually a little bit at some stage.
Through the yellows, I guess -- well, it belongs to Champ Car, so you know the guys always catch up which have problems such as Robert and with some out-of-sequence fuel strategy get back on top. Definitely you can never be sure you win until you're safe of fuel for the last stint because the yellows can always change everything, as you saw also today. And that makes it interesting, I would say.
Unfortunately, like last race in Edmonton where I needed some yellows, they didn't come. This time they came. Maybe next time when I need them, they come.
Q. Robert, at the end of the first lap, the first turn, you had an accident and I guess were last. What were you thinking at that time? Did you ever think you could come from last to first to win?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, no, you never think that. I mean, it's true that in Champ Car anything can happen, and we proved that again today.
When I was 15th or 17th, it doesn't really make a big difference, you're at the back of the grid. We just topped it off with fuel, got a new front wing. I told the engineer, I said, It's great if we can go off the red tire and go on the black ones because then the car is just really quick. It was very easy to pass people and to save fuel. That's the best thing you have to do for strategies.
And then basically when everybody jumped into pit lane, I heard the voice of Michael saying, You have to push 10 laps like it's qualifying. That's a lot of fun for a driver to do because sometimes fuel saving is a bit boring. You tend to fall asleep on the braking points. When he said, Push like it's qualifying, you get a big smile on your face and you just go onto the limits.
I did 10 laps exactly the same. That was, you know, the key in our race. And then some strong pit work, as well. Suddenly, like Neel said, you're up the front. With yellows, when they come at the right time, you just need to capitalize on that.
We do make it difficult for ourselves, and I hope in the future we can start at the front and finish at the front because it's hard work.
Q. Robert, were you at all worried that your day was going to be over after that first turn? Secondly, did you have to get towed all the way back to pit road or was it just towed to get started again?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: No, just to get restarted basically, then just back up, make sure you're not a lap behind, then you finally start racing once you have a new nose on. You should never give up. I mean, the race is so long, it's the longest I've done in my career. I raced in F1, I raced in junior formulas in Europe. 1 hour 45 is really, really long. Anything can happen. Street circuits are physically and mentally very demanding so you can, you know, wait for other people to make mistakes.
I just feel, you know, very comfortable. I feel very fit. I just think, okay, if the team believes in me, I believe in the team, we can make it happen.
Q. Robert, what did you think of the street course out there? You said it's a mini Monaco. Doesn't have a beach, but...
ROBERT DOORNBOS: No, I didn't see a beach yet (laughter).
Yeah, it's actually really nice to be here. When I arrived on the Thursday morning, I could see -- I checked in the Hilton and I couldn't believe I was sleeping in pit lane (laughter). And then, you know, it's also nice, you can wake up late and just walk down. It felt really comfortable.
The circuit obviously was another new one for me. I heard from other drivers they were sort of more in the air the last couple of years than on the track. So I was waiting for physically a tough track with bumps. But, yeah, I think they did a great job. I have to thank the organizers and also the safety, the security boys. The runoffs, no big accidents have happened.
You know, it's a short circuit for sure, 48 seconds in qualifying is not the best with 17 cars on track. But it's a great circuit to drive, a lot of fun. Maybe you do get a bit dizzy after a hundred laps, but I look forward to racing on more of these type of circuits. It's a lot of fun.
Q. Robert, I know this is your first time racing in San Jose. Is this your favorite circuit so far or which one is your favorite?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: I sort of have to say now it's my favorite (laughter).
No, I prefer driving on both type of circuits. Street circuits like this one is a lot of fun, but also a circuit like Mont-Tremblant where I got my first victory. It's a high-speed track, more what I'm used to in Europe. We're going next or in two weeks' time, another fast one, Road America.
You sort of have to shift also in your mind, you change setup, and the car has so much more speed around the turns as on the street circuits, you have to be more delicate and precise.
I tend to like both, no? I can say now that I've won both type surfaces. Yeah, looking forward also to Road America. That's another great circuit. I mean, all the tracks are new this year for me. But, yeah, I seem to like them. I'm sure it's going to be a great season.
Q. Neel, around lap 33 or 34 you passed in one of the hairpins Oriol. It looked on the screen quite easy. Was it quite as easy or did you have to prepare for a safe passing maneuver?
NEEL JANI: Well, I saw that Oriol was lifting off always early for fuel saving, so I thought, Well, maybe I can save more fuel afterwards by being quicker. Well, I tried it with my 'push to pass', I had so many. I made the move stick, also Oriol gave me nice space, which you have to with this wide lane. So it wasn't really difficult in the end.
Well, I had afterwards two, three more moments with him down there: him passing me, I'm repassing him on the exit. We had nice fights down there.
Q. Robert, on the restart after Wilson had to go slow to pit lane, did you check your mirrors? Did you know Dan had just come out the pits and was about to dive bomb you basically?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah, I did saw Dan sort of behind me. At the restart, I don't know what he was thinking, but he was sure -- sure he wasn't going to make that turn. I sort of saw him fly by on the inside. I think he just went in with a new nose and within 10 seconds he managed to take it off again.
No, not a good race for him, not a good day. I don't know what happened at the start with him. But for sure it was as tight for him as for me going around the hairpin.
There's no point. The race is so long, you just have to sort of pace yourself and attack when you think you can actually make it.
Q. All of you have sort of talked about the white line thing in turn one. Could you sort of talk about it. Do you think it's a good thing or not?
ORIOL SERVIA: I'll answer this one. Nobody's asking me anything (laughter).
ROBERT DOORNBOS: You can take this one.
ORIOL SERVIA: Well, if the rules are that you cannot block, at least it's an easier way for the officials to police, you know. It's black and white. You have to stay on the left side. It gives better racing.
Like today we saw many overtaking. I can assure you that if the rules would be like in Europe, you would not have seen one because you only have one shot of overtaking and you just block the guy behind, either both crash or there's no overtaking.
I like these rules. With the white line, it's a way for Tony to police us better. Plus it was my idea, so... (Laughter)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Don't be shy (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone.
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