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July 9, 2006
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll get started with our post race press conference from the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto, round seven of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Joined by our top three finishers. Start with our third place finisher today, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. He finishes third. He maintains his championship lead. It is his fourth consecutive top five finish here in Toronto, and he is only one of three drivers to ever finish in the top five the first four times they have ever raced here in Toronto. His sixth podium of the year, the 30th of the year.
Sebastien, tell us how it felt today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's been a little bit of an up and down day. I think I really missed a shot at the start. I had a pretty good reference point for braking, but unfortunately got on the brakes and locked up the right front. Just couldn't make it stick, so had to give up second place. After that, it was all about fuel consumption. The whole race, we ended up saving fuel, saving fuel, saving fuel. When we took that early yellow, it got even worse from there on. Didn't get so many yellows, only one towards the end. We had to save fuel really, really hard. I guess it kind of really threw the race in the end of how you going to catch traffic and who was going to lose the tires and when.
Quite honestly, I just missed another shot on Justin. Two laps later PT got me. That's really a shame. But it's one of these days where you just got to think "championship." We took some risks, we've been aggressive, but didn't get desperate and try something stupid. When Paul got a run on me, I just, you know, kept enough room for him to sneak in, and he went around. After, the only problem was Alex took advantage of that, and now I had to pass two cars to get back on the podium. Felt that at some point we were going to get only five out of this thing. Still managed to bring the McDonald's car up front. All in all, it's not that bad.
ERIC MAUK: Early on, you had a little bit of contact I believe with Justin. You appeared to emerge unscathed from that one. Tell us how close a call it was.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was turn three. But, yeah, we were fighting with Paul. Got to turn three pretty deep. I don't know what Justin did, I guess he screwed up, too, went all the way to the end of turn three, he was kind of facing me like that at the very end of the corner when I was running a little wide. You know, I couldn't anticipate him to be at that place. We had a small contact. I'm just happy that I didn't puncture his tire. That was a good thing 'cause that would not have been fair, but in the meantime he made quite a big mistake. I don't exactly know what happened, but he was definitely not where he was supposed to be.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good run today. Sebastien maintains his championship lead as he looks to become the first driver since Ted Horn in 1948 to win three consecutive Champ Car titles. He holds a 23-point lead over today's race winner.
Our second place finisher, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. His second podium of the year, the 71st of his career, the 11th top 10 finish in his 15 Toronto starts in his illustrious career. Paul, you really needed to answer the bell and came through. A good strong performance.
PAUL TRACY: It was a good race for us. I'm happy for team Forsythe. To come away in Toronto with a 1-2, it's great. I did that back in '02 or '01 with Dario. It's a great feeling to know that our team has rebounded this year. We've got performance back in the car, and the team is up.
You know, I had a good race today. AJ was strong. There was a point in the race where everybody was saving a lot of fuel. AJ was starting to pull out a little bit. I knew I could get by if I just tried to use a little bit of fuel for a couple laps. But I was able to get by Sebastien and Wilson, but then had to save a lot of fuel.
You know, we had a pretty big margin after the last pit stop, over Sebastien. I was able to really just run at my own pace and try to pace off of AJ. But all in all, happy. You know, it's been a rough year so far. But to come away, we know we can perform, we know we can run with the top guys in the series. To come away with a podium in my hometown is great.
ERIC MAUK: Talk about that second stint. You put the blacks on, started eating up ground. You got Sebastien, you got Justin. When you moved into second, AJ's lead is somewhere around the five-second mark. You had it down to two. You talked about going into the fuel-saving mode a little bit.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it was pretty much, you know, we decided right away we were going to try to do it on two stops. I knew that I could get by the two guys in front of me. I felt that I was making better mileage, but I needed to find a way around. I used to 'push to pass' twice, which eats up a lot of fuel on a straightaway to get by both of them, which kind of put me at a small disadvantage at the end of a race. The final five-lap shootout, AJ had more and Sebastien had more than me. The first couple laps, I was really just watching my mirrors and watching Sebastien because I knew that he had more than me. I really wasn't able to be on the offensive.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good result today.
PAUL TRACY: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: The winner of the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto, driver of the #7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, A.J. Allmendinger. AJ led a race high 38 laps, his third consecutive victory here in the Champ Car World Series. As most of you saw in the broadcast, the first time since Al Unser, Jr. in 1994 that an American-born driver has won three consecutive Champ Car races. And with the result, AJ got himself into second place in the season standings after seven events.
AJ, everybody could talk about, is this a dream, a fluke, blah blah blah. That's pretty much over now, three straight races, you've looked awfully strong.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, the whole Forsythe Indeck team, they've been absolutely doing a brilliant job every weekend that I've been with the team. The crew guys, they worked really hard and keep plugging away, and the whole engineering staff, they just did -- this is definitely the hardest weekend to go through because the car wasn't great right away, we had to keep working at it. Seems like every time we get in race mode, they hit it perfect, and the car's just brilliant to drive, nice and smooth, and we can keep the pace, not abuse the tires. Everything's just falling into place so far during the races. It takes a lot during the Champ Car races to have a lot of luck with timing of the yellows and everything that can happen. It's just we've been fortunate, made the right calls, had the car to beat. Just want to keep doing this.
ERIC MAUK: This is the first 1-2 finish for Forsythe Championship Racing in Champ Car since 2003 when Paul won at Mid-Ohio and Patrick Carpentier finished second on that day.
AJ, tell us a little bit about late in the race, lap 74, 75, looks like you have everything under control, we have the caution, all of a sudden you have these two right behind you. What's going through your mind?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Edmonton last year (laughter). I mean, as Paul and Sebastien said, it's more of a fuel game at that point, so I was just -- Paul was pacing off of me, I was pacing off of him. When he would get closer, I would use a little bit more fuel to get away. But I think we were going to be fine on fuel. Then when the yellow came out, it was just kind of reliving last year at Edmonton.
But this time I had the confidence in the car and in myself that as long as I just got through the first set of corners coming onto the front straightaway to get a good restart and then get through turn one, I knew I had a lot more 'push to pass' than Paul. If I just got a clean shot, was able to get away into the braking zone in three, we were going to be clean, then I could just steadily pull away, and that's what we did.
As I said, thanks to the whole Forsythe team, and Red Bull being a great sponsor that's been able to -- I've been pleasantly happy to share three victories with them. I just look forward to Edmonton and trying to continue this streak and get closer to Sebastien in the points.
ERIC MAUK: Most of us saw this on the television broadcast, but at the very end of the race, tell us how close a call it was with the birds that planted themselves in the backstretch.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Man, well, they were having a party out there (laughter). I would say that probably --
PAUL TRACY: Red Bull gives you wings (laughter). Sitting in the middle of the back straightaway trying to take you out. Needed some Red Bull. You should have stopped and gave them some.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Exactly.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Sure they're going to give you a meet in the (indiscernible).
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: What else are you going to say to that?
ERIC MAUK: Nothing.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Thanks to Red Bull for getting them out of my way finally.
That would have been the last thing I was thinking of as I was coming down the straightaway, to avoid some birds. If I would have hit those birds and taken off the front wing, I don't think we would have been able to air the rest of my race on the radio, I would have had some choice words for those birds afterwards (laughter).
No, a little bit of surprise, but got away with it and happy.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
Unofficially after seven races, Sebastien Bourdais is still your championship leader with 191 points, AJ moves into second with 168, Justin Wilson is third at 165, Andrew Ranger maintains his hold on fourth place with 110 points, Alex Tagliani moves into the top five with 109, Paul Tracy jumps all the way from 11th to 6th with 108, just two points out of 4th after seven races.
We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q. AJ, a month ago you were unemployed. A month later, you have three wins and a championship contender. Are you (indiscernible)?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: And engaged. That's the most important thing, I'm engaged. I wouldn't have ever thought that could be just the way it went. But when I showed up at Portland, I think if you asked me, as I was driving from the airport, could I win three in a row to start with Forsythe, I would have said no way. But I think after Friday qualifying at Portland, just the energy of the team, how well we were already working together, just how comfortable I felt in the car and out of the car with the team, I would have said there's definitely a chance.
But there's so much luck and skill and everything that comes into play to win three in a row. To win one, but to win three in a row...
So, as I said, I just want to keep this streak and continue it because when you start winning like this, you kind of get spoiled and keep wanting to do it. Right, Sebastien?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Because you've won way too much in the last three years.
Q. You went 31 or 32 races without winning, now you won three straight. What is the difference in you?
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I mean, it's because of the team. I wasn't very happy at RuSPORT, and we weren't improving as a team. I wasn't improving as a driver. You just kind of -- when you're in such a tough series like Champ Car, you got such great drivers and teams, if you're not always improving, you're going to start falling behind. I think that's shown with Sebastien, that the guy has won two in a row, came out to start the season, was better than ever. You always got to keep improving.
I wasn't happy, and we weren't improving, so we just needed a change. When you're able to come into Forsythe and be able to do this and have a sponsor like Red Bull stick behind me and give me confidence that people believed in me because they said they were going wherever I went, it just -- it's kind of -- you get in and it's not easy, but it just seems easier to come into a team and just believe in yourself again and have them believe in you and know that, say something like at Cleveland, we had a problem at the start, go to the back, you can fight through it and still win. When you're able to do that, it's a lot of confidence and it's nice to be in the car.
Q. Paul, speaking of confidence, was there ever a time in the first seven races, Am I ever going to get back on the podium again? Were you always confident of that?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think you always -- you know, in the back of your mind, in your gut, you always know that you can do it. But obviously from the midway point of last season, we came here, Toronto last year, leading the points. Then from about mid-season, we've just had one thing after another happen, just a string of bad luck. It just seemed like it wasn't ever going to end. So, you know, it's always hard when you're down. You know, you're not feeling good about how things are going.
You know, we've been in position to do well this year. We've had mistakes. We've had problems. We've had mechanicals in the last six months. It's been a frustrating period. You know, I've never given up on my ability or my desire. That's why I signed a new contract with Forsythe, because this is what I love to do, these are the kind of cars I love to drive. I know that I can contribute a lot more to the team.
ERIC MAUK: Just a note, this is Paul's 130th consecutive Champ Car start, tying him with Mauricio Gugelmin for the ninth longest consecutive start streak in Champ Car history.
Q. Paul, how does it feel to be chasing your teammate?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's great. He's obviously shown -- he got let go from Carl's team because they felt they needed to find a guy who can challenge Sebastien. Now he's going to need to find a guy to challenge the guy he fired. I think it's pretty poetic justice really. I get a laugh out of things like that.
You know, it's great to have him on the team. Him and I get along great. Him and his dad, his mom, are great people. You know, it's good to have him on the team. It's elevated the level of our team and the confidence of the second team. You know, the whole team is up. Everybody's much more motivated and much more on top of their game.
Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I think it's fantastic. Paul has had some difficulty the last few races, but he's a big reason that I'm able to come into the team and be as quick as I am and have the success. It's basically his setups that we started with when I joined this team. His driving style is fairly close to mine. I was able to get in the car and feel comfortable, just kind of work off that to make my car better and be quicker.
Without everything that he's developed on this team over the last four years, there's no way we would be having this kind of joy and these victories. I'm glad that he could finally get a result that he deserved and be here. It was kind of one of those things that he was the first guy I wanted to see behind me on the restart but the last guy I wanted to see behind me because I knew we had the same kind of cars, but it probably didn't matter at that point because he probably wanted to win so bad.
His will come for sure. We know how great Paul is. Hopefully we can just continue to work well together and make Forsythe the best team in the series.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: No, you see he's matured a lot since last year. Obviously, Edmonton was a big surprise to everybody. Just kind of a fluky thing, both the RuSPORT cars had problems, one on the restart and one on the pace lap to the restart. That was like a huge surprise to me.
You know, it just goes to show, you don't realize how difficult these cars are to drive. They're probably more difficult to drive around the track behind the pace car when the tires start picking up rubber, your anticipation is high, you want to make a good restart, you're spinning the tires trying to keep heat in them, they're picking up rubber off the road, they become extremely difficult to drive at 50 miles an hour because the cars are so high-strung, they're not meant to be at that speed.
He's done a great job this year. He came into the team in a time of doubt where he thought maybe, you know, maybe his time was up here. Some things fell into place. Everything has turned out like a storybook. I think it's great for the series, it's great for AJ. It just adds a new dimension to the championship, which is great.
Q. (No microphone.)
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: No, I mean, I think the special thing is my pit crew. I said it here yesterday when we were sitting here, if I came in the pits behind Justin, right behind him, I knew I was going to beat him out because that's how great this Forsythe Indeck team is. If you watch them practice pit stops, all the work they do to be prepared, you know why they're the best in the game.
I was just sitting behind Justin the first stint saving a lot of fuel. I could see he was kind of burning his tires up. My car wasn't exactly perfect at that point, but I was just saving fuel. When the yellow came out, I knew there was a good chance to beat him out. We probably could have beat him out more, because we were making a wing change. They got the tires and fuel in so quick, we were basically having to, as we were doing a couple of turns of the wing, wait for that and finish that up because they had stopped so quick.
I knew once we beat Justin out, if I got clear of him on the restart, we just needed everything else fuel-wise to fall in place. Without a mistake, I didn't think I could get past.
ERIC MAUK: Champ Car's widely known as an international racing series. You look at the driver roster, the places we go run. A lot of talk about there not being a lot of US representation in the series. Now, not only representation, but you're out here doing things that get you mentioned in the same breath with Andretti, Unser, Rahal, Sullivan. Talk about what that means to you.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Obviously those are names, in Champ Car, that mean a lot, a lot of history behind it. If I can be mentioned with those names, I know that I'm doing something great.
I think me being the only American driver right now, yeah, that's tough. But I take that with pride and try to put that on my shoulders, do the best that I can for my country.
If I think if you see in the Champ Car Atlantic Series, there's a lot of young American drivers. The whole open-wheel system, Champ Car especially, I think we're strong with American drivers, they're just young. You got Graham Rahal, Jonathan Bomarito that finished on the podium today. You have guys like that that will be in Champ Car one day. If I got to just kind of uphold the American flag for right now, I'm willing to do that and take pride in it.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. This brings the press conference to a close. We go racing in two weeks at Edmonton. Thank you very much.
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