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Champ Car World Series: Vegas Grand Prix

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Vegas Grand Prix

Champ Car World Series: Vegas Grand Prix

Robert Doornbos
Will Power
Paul Tracy
April 8, 2007


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we will start our post race press conference for the Vegas Grand Prix, Round 1 of the 2007 Champ Car World Series. We are joined by our top three finishers.
Our third-place finisher, driver of the #3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul's 73rd podium of his career. Paul, good strong day. You ran up front early. Were in the top five most of the day. Tell us about how it went for you.
PAUL TRACY: It went really well. Obviously, to lead the beginning of the race, I made a good start, was able to get by Will on the start. We spent a lot of the first part of the race under yellow. Then once we got going, I made a small mistake, hit the curb, the chicane, bounced up high off the ground. Will really capitalized off that, drafted up on me. I got a slow entry onto the straightaway. Really couldn't put up much of a fight about it. Really, I just sat in behind him saving fuel. Came to the first stop glued to the back of him.
We came in and did our first pit stop. The car didn't take any fuel for us. We spent 15 seconds and ended up getting like four laps of fuel. So that was a bit frustrating.
We came back out and chased, then had to come straight back in and take fuel again. That really took the fight out of the race I think for Will. I think we could have put a lot of pressure on him. Obviously, by then we were 45, 50 seconds behind him after doing another stop.
We just had to fight, push hard all day, continue to catch people up, get by them. It was a good day for the Forsythe team and Monster Energy.
ERIC MAUK: How important is it for you to come out here and have a start like you did this weekend after what you went through last season?
PAUL TRACY: Well, it's good. Obviously, you know, we had a bad season last year. It didn't finish very well. Come out, hometown race, qualify front row.
We have little problems to work through. Obviously we got to get the pit stops right. If you're going to win at this level in any sport, everything's got to go right on the day. We have some things to do for next week.
But, you know, we're here, we're in the game, right there where we want to be running. .
ERIC MAUK: Our second place finisher, driver of the #14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarketen/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Minardi Team USA, Robert Doornbos. Robert finished second. He is the first driver to podium in his Champ Car debut since Nigel Mansell won the season opener in 1993.
Robert, great run today. Tell us a little bit about it.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Thank you very much. Good to be back here. Different seat. I'm moving up maybe for the next couple of races (laughter).
No, I really enjoyed it. A great start to the weekend. Already yesterday to have qualified in the top three, we couldn't have dreamed of a better start really. Was a bit worried this morning because it's a different routine that you have than in European racing with these rolling starts. At the end of the day, I thought it was more like a safety car start.
It did cut me out a little bit in turn one when I saw Junqueira with I think a smoked wheel coming on the inside. I thought, I want to have a long afternoon, so I let him go. I got him back in the end. It took me a couple of laps. It was quite tough on these red tires. We had no idea how long they would last.
I mean, my engineer is a great guy, Michael Cannon. He's so calm on the radio. He tried to calm me down. He said, No worries, the race is long. Keep on pushing, this and that. It really just came towards us. Obviously the safety car situations, yellow flags, never seen so many in one race to be honest.
The pit stops went well. A very long one, the second one, because we had a different strategy. Then I had to save fuel, which is also a new thing for me because he kept telling me, You have to save more fuel, more fuel. I was like, I'm racing, what do you want me to do (laughter)? Valet parking or something?
Just came to us. I'm so pleased for everybody, especially for my sponsors here, they come all the way from Holland. It's been a long winter. Really a good decision to go racing in Champ Car.
ERIC MAUK: Looking back at what you may have expected, what you thought you were coming into, and now that you've been through it, how did what happened meet with your expectations out of the entire weekend?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It's a relief to be straightaway competitive and hopefully people start pronouncing my name right like this. You're doing a very good job, by the way.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It's a good start. Gives confidence, especially because we have three weekends in a row now. Then I have to go back to Europe for my F1 duties.
It's great fun. I can't wait to go to Long Beach. Might have a go to the casino tonight.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Vegas Grand Prix and the Champ Car World Series points leader after Round 1, driver of the #5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Team Australia, Will Power. Will becomes the 246th different winner in Champ Car history. He wins from the pole today.
Will, congratulations. Tell us a little bit about how it feels.
WILL POWER: Yeah, it feels really good. This is the first of a long marathon 'cause, you know, we really want to win this championship. But I lost the start to Paul. I was a bit worried about it because we were on the dusty side. You know, I was sort of expecting to get wheel spin, and he got me there. Then, like he said, he made a bit of a mistake in the chicane. I got a good run on him with 'push to pass', passed him. He pretty much pressured me all the way to the pit stop, especially at the end when my tires went off. I struggled with the rear tires. I expected him to come out behind me. But I think he had a bit of a problem in the pits.
After that, I mean, I was pretty much alone. I caught Katherine Legge for a while, she held me up. But after that, it was a pretty cruisy race really. We had a good car. It handled well all day. The only issue I had was a really long brake pedal at the end of the race. But we had an 18-second lead, so we just brought it home and brought Derrick Walker his second win since '99. It's his birthday. So a pole and a win, I think that's a pretty good present for him.
ERIC MAUK: Talk about what you felt the last three or four laps of this thing. You had a 18-second lead and you did have to deal with Bruno Junqueira coming up trying to unlap himself.
WILL POWER: I didn't even know he was behind me. I backed off after I went through the checkered flag. The guy came past me. I was like, Oh, shit. I thought, yeah. I wasn't even looking behind. All I was was just saving fuel and saving brakes because the brake pedal was getting pretty long.
ERIC MAUK: How close were you on fuel at the end? Was that a concern?
WILL POWER: No, not really. Easily saved enough fuel. I had plenty more to push if anyone wanted to attack. It was just one of those days. When you got a good car, if you just do a good job, get all the pit stops.
We did actually have a bit of a moment in one of the stops. I knocked the right-hand guy over because the brake pedal was so long, it just locked up. We lost a fair bit of time there. It still wasn't an issue.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Great win today.
WILL POWER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Will also earned a bonus point for posting the fastest lap, along with the point that he got for leading yesterday's qualifying, giving him 33 on the year and a six-point lead over Robert after the first round. Paul is just one point behind Robert in third place. Also Alex Figge earned a point for gaining the most positions in today's event.
We'll take questions from the media.

Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: Yeah, I guess our fueling was better than everyone else or the same as some people. But the toughest part of the race is probably the end when the brake pedal was getting long, you just want it to end. He kept saying, 15 laps to go. There's no one pressuring you, there's no one to attack. You're just sort of cruising around hoping nothing is going to go wrong.
It's good when you have someone on you early in the race, you're really pushing. That's racing. That's the fun bit. You also have to save fuel, as well, to stop at the same time as the guys. Yeah, I would say the end was the toughest bit.

Q. Any problem at all with the black tires?
WILL POWER: No, the black tires were really good. I mean, they were really good. At the end it was just like driving on new tires every lap because the track rubbered up pretty good. The reds went off pretty badly at the end.

Q. Paul, since you live here, you have a certain familiarity with the whole area, what was your take after going through this race as far as what this race means, and what could be better next year to make it a better event?
PAUL TRACY: I think the city and the organizers and the promotors, everybody, the workers that paved the track, when they first said they were going to have a race in downtown, I said, Man, there's no way you could have a race down there, the roads are so rough, you can hardly drive a nice car on them.
You know, the city got behind the race. They made the track beautifully smooth. We had one small issue with a bump on the track. They came in and worked all night and fixed it.
You know, I guess talking to a lot of friends here, no complaints about anything except the difference between the Fremont Street and pit area, trying to get back and forth from there, it's a very long walk. The lines for the shuttle bus are very long. I would say that's probably the only thing that I heard people complain about, is trying to get back to their hotels on Fremont.

Q. Paul and Will, because Robert didn't drive these cars last year, your report card on the new cars after racing them?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's like anything, it's a new car. I've been in the series long enough to know we went through a stage there where we ran the same car for six or seven years, and everything was dialed in on them. The cars handled perfectly. Rolled off the trailer with the thing perfect all the time because you knew all the numbers on it.
Back in '99, '98, '97, we had a new car every year. We'd have these niggling problems every year. You would have a gearbox issue, you would have this problem, wheel bearing problems, all kinds of things that you'd have to work your way through. So that's part and parcel with working with a brand-new car. Robert has probably experienced that in Formula One. They're constantly evolving cars. There's problems you have to work through.
I think the racing is good. Obviously we've been able to get our car figured out for the most part mechanically. It's just today our fuel rig didn't want to put the fuel in the car. That's just one of those things that we need to work on.
WILL POWER: I think this car, it's a lot quicker than last year's car. It's got a lot more downforce. Yeah, like Paul said, there's always little niggling problems. All in all, it's pretty good. Surprising how little problems there are. I think after the first three races, the rest of the season, I'd be surprised if anyone has any problems.
I really enjoy driving it. It's a really nicely balanced car when you get it set up. I think Panoz did a real good job of a one-make series.

Q. Paul, the issue with the refueling, was that a mechanical issue or a team issue?
PAUL TRACY: You know, I don't know. I think it's the way the fueling system is set up internally in the car. Some other people had the same problems. I haven't really dove into it because I was just really concentrating on pushing and pushing in the race, keeping the lap time up, trying to catch up. I was hoping for a yellow sooner or later but it never came.
The first part of the race was so many yellows, one after another, and then once we got behind, I was like hoping for a yellow. I saw Bourdais' car was stopped on the track, another Red Bull car stopped. I was hoping another yellow would come out because at that point in the race, that half distance, my car was just handling really well. By how Will sounds, he had some brake trouble, I think I really could have attacked.

Q. Talking about the track, it seems very fast. Was it very fast?
PAUL TRACY: It's a very quick track. Obviously it's a lot of fun to drive. Temporary track, I think it's one of the best tracks I've ever raced on.

Q. Robert, how is racing under Champ Car rules compared to Formula One rules? Stoddart got a podium. I was wondering what his reaction was to that.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Obviously, Paul was very, very pleased. I'm happy for him as well to give him this because he gave me the chance in Formula One and now he gives me a chance here. Yeah, that was a good result for both of us.
Concerning the rules, yeah, the blocking, in the beginning of the race, I had a moment after the third safety car or the second, Wilson tried to pass me. I didn't see him pass me. I heard on the radio that I had to let him by because I was supposed to have blocked him. Basically I'm not familiar with these rules.
(Cell phone ringing.)
Switch off your phone in the meetings, Mate! (Laughter)
I'm used to making one move on the braking or whatever. But, no, I was just myself. It's Champ Car rules; I have to respect them. Hopefully I'll do a better job in Long Beach.
ERIC MAUK: F1 rule: You have to shut your cell phones off. We don't have that in Champ Car.

Q. How much 'willpower' did it take to win this race?
WILL POWER: It takes a heck of a lot (laughter). Takes a lot of willpower to eat well, do a lot of fitness, get up early every morning.

Q. What time did you get up today?
WILL POWER: 7:00 today. Not that early, but I didn't have to be at the circuit till 7:30. It's good.

Q. Will, did you get a full fuel load on that first stop?
WILL POWER: Yeah, both stops the fuel was good.

Q. Any problems?
WILL POWER: No, we had problems all weekend. They kept working on it trying to get it right because we were having problems with it. For the race it was good. My teammate had problems I'm pretty sure with the fuel.

Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, at Sebring, the first test, we had problems with the gearbox and an engine. We weren't really on the pace. Houston we were quickest. Laguna we were second quickest. We were basically under pace everywhere. It was where we expected to be, somewhere in the top four, top three. You know, this is our weekend.

Q. Will, on that pit stop where you had just a little problem, what happened there?
WILL POWER: The brake pedal became really long. I went to hit it, and it just went to the floor and locked the wheels up. I went in on an angle, hit the guy on the front right, knocked him over. Then it was really hard to get fuel in, it was hard to get that front tire off. You know, we probably went 10 seconds longer than normal.

Q. He wasn't hurt, I suspect?
WILL POWER: No, no, I don't think so.

Q. Because Will and Tracy had the Lola before, the new car, the Panoz, the design was supposed to make it so you could get closer to another driver. Is that working?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's great, the bigger (indiscernible) in the car. The Lola on a track like this, where the corners are all kind of medium speed, aerodynamics are important. I don't think you could run as closely as Will and I ran together in the beginning of the race without really destroying your tires and disturbing the car a lot.
When Will made the pass on me, I mean, we came out of the tunnel and through a fifth-gear, 160-mile-an-hour blind-sweeper corner that's pretty tough to do flat when you're in the front. He was tucked right up behind my gearbox. That's the benefit of having the ground effects, the tunnel, doing the work, instead of all the wings. I think it's created much better racing.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I didn't get a chance to follow him really closely. I was behind Katherine Legge for a while. She was quite a bit slower. I actually got a lot of understeer from it. But I think Paul was probably a little bit further back.
Yeah, it's hard to say. I mean, I'll see in the next couple of races - well, hopefully not (laughter). Yeah, I think it's definitely got to be better because the front wing is smaller. It's got more downforce from the tunnel. It's going to be better than the Lola.

Q. Will, take me around on that lap after you saw the checkered flag. What was going through your head when you heard, P1, race is over, slow down?
WILL POWER: I was just really relieved. You know, when I was only three to go, I was sort of relieved. I was thinking, yeah, we're definitely going to get this. And, yeah, I was relieved.
You know, I set my mind for three races. I'm not really celebrating heaps because it's the start of championship. I'm not going to go out and celebrate tonight or anything. I just want a good night's sleep, focus on Long Beach because you know, I want to go there and do the same thing. You don't want to have a big high and then have a big downer. I'm just going to keep on going about it.
It's great for the team. You know, we're going for the championship. We just got to keep doing it every weekend, same thing.

Q. Paul, you got out front early on, looked like you were trying to be conservative with the brakes and rear tires. Was that the case?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, when I was in front of Will, we had that little stint in front, I was really just kind of coasting through all the twisty corners, not even getting to full throttle, really taking it easy, not using a lot of brake. Then kind of the same, when Will got by me, I gave enough of a gap to where I could drive comfortably, not to have push on the tire. When they said we're going to pit in five laps, I just closed the gap up to Will to come in behind him.
I really was able to make the red tires last pretty good on the first stint. You know, looked like Will, with six or seven to go, he started to slide. He was struggling to put the power down. The tires looked bad. You know, just on the first stop, didn't go for us.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much.



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