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July 29, 2006
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our top three post race qualifying press conference, final round qualifying for the Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose presented by Taylor Woodrow, round number nine of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Joined by our top three qualifiers on the day. Before we get started, likes to introduce Mr. Joe Barbieri who will award today's Bridgestone Pole Position Award to the driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais.
ERIC MAUK: Joe, our qualifying times are almost five seconds a lap faster than they were last year. Obviously, as Paul alluded to, they made a number of changes in the track. But you've done your share this weekend as well with the Potenzas.
JOE BARBIERI: We're certainly trying. Once again we're utilizing the red Bridgestone alternate tires. I stand up here a lot of races and tell you how much difference there is between the blacks and the reds. Sometimes it doesn't always work out that way. The track changes, sometimes more rubber gets laid down, it's gets hotter, whatever. Certainly seems to be a difference this race. It should lend for a lot of excitement for tomorrow. Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you.
We'll start with two of our three top qualifiers as we wait for A.J. to join us. We have our front row starters here. Starting on the outside of the front row, the driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. The 2003 Champ Car title winner puts up a best lap today of 49.810 seconds, 104.292 miles per hour. He was penalized at the end of the session for blocking so lost his fastest lap. Made no difference in the standing. Paul was guaranteed a front row starting spot by virtue of leading yesterday's qualifying. It's his second front row start of the season and his first back-to-back front row starting spot not only this year but dating back to the Cleveland-Toronto events from last year.
Paul, you're starting on the front row tomorrow. Tell us a little about your qualifying session today.
PAUL TRACY: I think it went okay. Obviously we didn't have the kind of speed that Sebastien had, the 48. We didn't really have an chance for that. But we did a 48.6 earlier on in the run, in the first run. The second run, 48.4, I think. I had some cars in front of me, some cars behind me. Nobody seemed to want to let anybody go by, so I wasn't letting anybody by. We ended up with a penalty for holding up another driver. You know, just kind of the end of the qualifying kind of deal out there.
We're pretty happy. Obviously we would have liked to have been on pole, but we didn't have enough today for that. We were fortunate enough to lock up the front row yesterday. We didn't have to use our tires too hard today because we were trying to save them for tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Third qualifying session in a row dating back to Edmonton last week where you've been the first car out on the track in qualifying sessions. Is this something you're getting comfortable with or something you're kind of searching for some sort of edge? Tell us about that.
PAUL TRACY: No, it's just, you know, Edmonton, we went out early because I felt if I could put a clear lap together, I could benefit from it.
Here really there's been so many reds and so many people in the runoff zone, I felt it was an advantage to go out and establish a lap time. If reds fell, then maybe we'd be looking good.
Kind of didn't really materialize both days, but we were able to establish good times. I went early. It seemed like after I got done, everybody went right away, right after me. There was a lot of time left, and all the main players were out of laps. There was a red at the end, which pretty much ended the session.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow.
PAUL TRACY: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: We are now joined by our third place qualifier, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. A.J. put up the second quickest lap of today, 49.264, 105.448 miles per hour. A.J. is the only driver in the series to start in the top four in each event so far this year.
A.J. you put up a good, strong lap. Tell us a little about your day.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I think it was a really good day for the whole Forsythe Indeck team. Congratulations to Sebastien. That was an amazing lap. My car on the Bridgestone blacks is really good. After we used the reds yesterday, I did my first run on the blacks and was really quick, was ready to put on the Bridgestone reds, was excited about it. When we put them on, it just seemed like we could never get the tires to temperature. That's all I had in the car.
I'm really pleased. I think we have a great race car for tomorrow's race. It's going to be obviously a long, hot race that just lends itself for a lot of mistakes. I think the Forsythe team, we've got a great car balance-wise that will allow me not to make a lot of mistakes. We have the best pit crew in the game.
I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about race strategy for tomorrow, obviously without showing your cards. You talked about it, there's been a lot of incidents, a lot of off-track kind of things. Long race tomorrow, hot race tomorrow. A lot of potential for mistakes. How do you balance sitting back waiting for mistakes and staying out of trouble with desire to win the race?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I think it's a bonus starting up front as far as I am. The biggest key I think we all agree is to get through turn one. It's going to be a tough corner to get that. From then on, hopefully you have a great balance and if you're able to do that, you can just kind of pace yourself.
Obviously, Sebastien gets through turn one leading, he's going to be the one setting the pace. You kind of go off of him, see if you have the car to stay with him or to try to pass him, just try to figure it out. That's really what it comes down to.
As we saw last year and throughout this year, everybody's got so aggressive and such a lot of speed right now, it's hard to kind of just lay back and just run a decent pace. You have to almost be pushing a hundred percent all the time.
It's going to be a tough race tomorrow, but I'm really looking forward to it. I think we have a great car to at least have a chance to be on the podium if not win the race.
ERIC MAUK: Good luck tomorrow.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Bridgestone Pole Position Award for tomorrow's event, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He is the defending race winner here at San Jose, the two-time defending champion of the Champ Car World Series. Puts up a top lap of 48.989 seconds, that will stand as a new track record, 106.040 miles per hour. He gets a championship point for winning the pole, giving him 222 on the year, widening his lead to 24 over Justin Wilson, 27 over A.J. It's his fifth pole of the year, the 23rd of his four-year career, ties him for eighth all the time with Johnny Rutherford.
Sebastien, 48.9, did you have any idea you had that kind of time in you today?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think it's been a very good day overall. This morning, the McDonald's car was a lot better than yesterday. We fixed most of the problems we had in the braking. Bridgestone red tires fixed the rest for qualifying. Very happy with the way things went. As you said, it was a really good lap. But it was a very good first run, I'd say, because it didn't come like one lap. It was building up slowly and steadily, without making any mistakes. It was a few 10ths every lap. It seems like the more I was running, the more the car was giving me. I actually would have loved to keep on trying because it felt like there was some more in it. It was an awesome feeling.
Then the second run kind of felt like you we were in a good window the first time. The second run was just a waste, completely waste, you know, people in the runoff, coming out the pits, spinning. Never really got going. We are fortunate we could put it together at the beginning.
Had a great day. Very happy to start that way for tomorrow because obviously the opinion is there's no better place to be than on the pole. If we get hit, we get hit, but at least we did everything we could to avoid that. A.J.'s third, but Justin's 12th. Champion-wise, it's a very good operation, so we'll try and keep our nose clean tomorrow and have a good result.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about the Bridgestone Potenzas, the difference from where you sit between the blacks and reds, how you use them in tomorrow's event.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That we don't know yet for the race. Definitely the Bridgestone red tires were quite a bit better this time. We felt we could brake really much deeper in the corner. So it's always tough to say if it's the track that picked up or if it's the tires that got so much better.
A.J. did a 49.4 on blacks, we did a flat 48.9 on reds. It was quite a bit closer to us than that in the morning. I'm pretty sure there's a nice improvement. We'll see what it does tomorrow on the long runs. It seemed like it was very reliable and consistent. Hopefully we can use the two sets and feel good about that.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow.
We'll take questions from the media.
Q. A.J. talked a little bit about mistakes. Long, tough race tomorrow. Last year's race was pretty tough. Paul and Sebastien, in particular, can you talk about what kind of a race you expect tomorrow?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think, you know, obviously we have to get through the first corner. That's the most important. The last few races have been kind of saving fuel, going as long as you can till the first stop, then really after that everybody goes as fast as they can go.
It really all depends on how the yellows are. If there's a yellow that makes us pit early like it did at Toronto, then we have to play the fuel game to get to the finish on two stops. It all depends on how the yellows fall. If it goes green the whole way, then it's a different story.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think the race is going to be pretty significantly different than last year obviously a lot of wreckage because of the track falling apart, having a lot of debris. People, as soon as -- I guess you can ask A.J. As soon as you would put a wheel offline, it was the end.
I don't think this time it's going to be that way. It's going to be more in line with what we usually see on a street race. As P. T. said, it's going to depend a lot on where the first yellow comes out. If it's lap between 10 and 15, it's always a real bummer because from there on you've got to save fuel to make it to the finish.
We'll see how it goes. You know, I think it's going to be quite different. There should be quite a bit of passing. Hopefully an exciting race.
Q. Yesterday we talked about the condition of the track. How about passing zones? How does it compare to last year? Do you see more areas or is it the same as last year?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think we talked about that yesterday. The turn one opportunity is probably the one of the season. Obviously we're going to have to talk about the line that Tony asked us to maintain in the main straight. It's quite bumpy. The line right now, it's kind of in the middle of the track until the marker 500. I guess it might make it pretty difficult to pass because our cars are really wide and the track isn't that wide.
We'll see what happens. But for sure, if you get a good exit off turn seven, you're on the 'push to pass' for the whole way, in the tow of the guy in front of you, you'll definitely have a shot at him. But after that, it will be about the guys that can be smart. It's a give-and-take game, just like P. T. said yesterday.
PAUL TRACY: It's a question of getting stopped in the end. With the 'push to pass' and the draft, you're probably going eight, nine miles an hour faster into the braking zone, trying to brake later than you've ever braked before. The question is whether you can stop.
Q. Paul and Sebastien, what do y'all think about I guess Justin Wilson, the main guy not up here in the points chase? Seems like he had a bad qualifying run.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It can happen to any of us. But I think it's exactly what you need to stay off of, you know. You can't afford to make a mistake in that kind of championship battle when it's right now a three-man battle, but it could easily change. If any of the three front-runners get a bad race in the next few ones, all of a sudden you bring other people back in the chase. Quite honestly, you can't afford to make any mistakes and go down. I guess if there is one to make, it's better to do it in qualifying. You still have some time to recover in the race.
I'm sure Justin will be quite anxious to start in mid pack like this for that kind of race.
Q. Sebastien, a question concerning Formula One. Much earlier in the day at the German Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone was quoted saying he'd like to bring you over into Formula One in the coming future. Do you have any comment on that?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Going to Aguri Suzuki, right (laughter)? Your car that you've had for four years, you should have to pay the price when you go to Formula One - the opposite way.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Maybe I should stay there then (laughter).
No, obviously everybody talked to me about that rumor, linking me to BMW. I have to be very honest, I don't know where this thing came from. I did talk to Mario Theissen, and I appreciate him a lot, we've been talking for the last year now. But, you know, as far as I'm concerned, we met again in Indy and nothing came out of it. I'd still like to have a test with any kind of good teams that could foresee me in their cars.
It's very nice to see that Bernie is thinking of me. But right now nothing's materialized yet.
Q. For the layman watching out there at home, not as big of a race fan as here, what's the importance between you and the pit crew? You talk about going around, trying to qualify, increase the performance on your car. Can you speak a little bit about that?
PAUL TRACY: We're always relaying the information back and forth of what the car's doing, what we feel as a driver is our problem areas, where can we improve the time, where can we go faster, where can we pick up time. We're always looking for something on the telemetry, in terms of driver feel, where the driver could feel more comfortable to be able to go faster.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Come on, A.J., are you going to say "I agree" again (laughter)?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I agree - a lot (laughter).
I think Paul covered it. It is a team sport. Although when we're in the car on the racetrack we're out there by ourselves, you know, without having a great engineering team and having a great relationship with them, you're never going to have a good car. Even if you have a good car and you come in the pits, your pit crew is slow, you're not going to win a race.
As much as it is a single sport when you're in the race car, it is a full-team effort. Without a great team and a great effort from everybody, every person on the team, you're never going to be able to win.
You know, I think it's very important to have the best team out there.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You see, you can do it. I agree.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: All right (laughter).
Q. Sebastien, two things. First of all, yesterday you were pretty unhappy with your braking and so forth. You complained about that. Is that much improved today? Is that fixed? Then the other thing was about two-thirds of the way through that last session, you had a big sideways moment at one point. We thought you were going to get the wall. You kept it off. Could you tell us about those two things?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, regarding the braking issues, I guess you can relate it very easily to the number of times I end up in the escape road. This morning wasn't perfect. I still had a few occurrences. Yesterday was terrible. I spent half of my sessions in these things. During the qualifying, I didn't visit it, so it's a good sign.
Coming back to the moment, yeah, it was -- I was pretty close. You know, it was my last lap obviously on the first run. I was still getting a little bit quicker and quicker. I overshoot turn three. When I got in there, as soon as I turned in, the front didn't respond as I quite expected it. You know, when you go offline, it's just not a good deal.
The thing didn't make the corner quite well. When I got back on the throttle to rotate it, it really turned around. Yeah, there's not so much room to do that kind of maneuver. It was pretty close call. That's what it's all about, getting to the limits without overshooting them.
Q. For all three, Paul had mentioned getting that extra five or six miles an hour, getting down to the end of the straight to the hairpin. You now don't have that chicane to deal with. Now you have the outside bumps. I noticed a lot of wheel lock on the right side, then a little hopping on the left side from most of the cars that were going through. How do each of you deal with that type of situation mentally? And then also for the car, how do you prepare for that?
PAUL TRACY: I think, you know, like you said, there's a fairly substantial bump on the outside right at the braking point into the hairpin. Sebastien had alluded to it earlier. The line kind of goes down the middle of the straightaway, then you kind of cut to the left after the bump for braking. You know, making a pass down the inside, you're going to be right up against the inside wall if you're side by side with somebody. So it's going to be hard.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, as I said, it depends a lot on what blocking is going to be issued like. If Tony says you got to stay on the left side if someone is running on your back, give him some room if he wants to try to do a move on you, yeah, it will probably happen. If he doesn't say anything, you can hold the middle of the straightaway, I guess that's going to become a little more critical.
It would be great. I guess that's probably one of the last improvements we could dream of for passing opportunities. If the main straight from the railroad tracks to turn one was really smooth, it would definitely elevate the issues we have and kind of generate some more passing opportunities.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I agree, again (laughter). They pretty much covered it. When you qualify third like this, they take all the good answers.
Q. You guys have all kind of alluded to the first turn and how tough it could be. What can you three do, since you're up front, to help make sure that everybody gets through there?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Well, Paul can move Sebastien in turn one. Helps me out a lot. What do you think? Yeah, no?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Don't think it's going to look a little too obvious (laughter)?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: No.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think we can -- Tony was talking about trying to get more space between the rows when I was talking to him about that start like a couple weeks back. I think it's probably the safest way to approach it without ruining the show. Obviously, I think the fans want to see a nice start, paired-up people and everything. If you lose half of the field at the first turn, I don't think you achieve much of anything if you start losing half of the crowd also after lap three.
It's a tough deal. You can see both ways: people coming here to see a big wreck at turn one, and people coming to see a nice race. We'll have to wait and see what Tony decides.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, obviously we've been knocked out of the first corner a few times. After all the work you put in on the weekend, to lose out in the first corner is a shame. You know, I want to get through the first corner as well as everybody else because I feel that I have a good chance to score good points tomorrow. The last thing we want to do is have a problem.
Really will sit down, Sebastien, myself and Tony Cotman, and figure out what the best solution is to spread the field properly.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Again, I don't think people realize enough, like P.T. and I have been taking a lot of starts together. Usually it goes really well when we're starting up front. It's more these spring or (indiscernible) effect that goes from one row to another, like a neat pack, you have to end up breaking at marker 600 if everybody is bunched up.
PAUL TRACY: Really, the big danger zone is row three, four, five is where everybody wants to get racy and make a position. That's usually where the trouble starts. It's the guys at fifth, sixth, seventh is usually where all the action is.
Q. A.J., since you haven't been getting any questions, I thought I'd give you a chance to say something other than "I agree." How difficult is to run a fuel race yet to try to overtake these guys?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I mean, it's difficult. I think these guys said it the best. When you get an early yellow that makes us pit, it becomes in a way kind of boring for us because we're just saving fuel. We want to race, we want the best show for the fans is when we're pushing flat out. But there's always going to be fuel saving in a race. You're never going to get away from it because that's the best way to make a position is going one lap longer.
It's been the races that we have that early yellow which allow us not to be able to race the second and third stint. A lot of it's based on the first stint, you know, how far you can go, and then you go racing from there.
You pace yourself off of what the car's giving you. You pace yourself off of what these guys in front of you are doing. When it comes down to the end, you're always going to be flat out by the end of the race.
It's difficult, but that's the part of racing that you always have to learn and deal with. That's what has made Sebastien and Paul guys like Justin so good, because they know how to pace themselves, they know when to go and how much fuel to save. That's part of life.
And you agree, that's good.
Q. Back to Justin, where he's starting. How tough is it if you start 12th?
PAUL TRACY: Well, it's not an easy position to be in, especially this is probably the worst track that you could start that far back in terms of getting by people. You know, Justin has struggled this weekend.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That's the biggest problem.
PAUL TRACY: He hasn't been particularly fast this weekend. That was compounded by having a crash in the warmup. You know, he's in a tough spot obviously, starting 12th. He's been eighth, ninth quickest all weekend. Regardless of whether the crash or not, you know, that's pretty close to where he's been, so he's in a bit of a tough spot.
Q. If you were in the same car as him, the same situation, what would be your goal?
PAUL TRACY: I don't think I'd fit in the car with him. I'm a bit too big. He's too big and I'm too big. Maybe the new car, we'd both fit in (laughter).
Q. Do you gamble or...
PAUL TRACY: You just got to go for it. He can't afford to have an accident because he can lose 30 points in a heartbeat.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think, like any of the three, between A.J., Justin and I, we're in the same situation. When you're in an average or bad weekend, you just got to make the best out of it. That's what wins you a championship. If you can come out of this kind of weekend, you know, bring some 15 points home or 20 points, because it's going to be a tough race tomorrow, people are going to make mistakes and fall off. If you have a mistake-free race, you'll pick up some spots.
It's all about making sure you don't dig yourself even further, and just finish, finish, finish.
ERIC MAUK: All right. That will wrap it up. We go racing 97 laps tomorrow. We begin at 12:45. Thank you.
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