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April 7, 2007
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
ERIC MAUK: We'll begin our post qualifying press conference. We have our top three qualifiers for the Vegas Grand Prix, which will be the season opener to the 2007 Champ Car World Series campaign. That race will take place here tomorrow on the streets of Las Vegas. We're joined by our top three qualifiers.
Starting with our third place qualifier, member of the very talented 2007 Champ Car rookie class, driver of the #14 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Minardi Team USA, Robert Doornbos. Quick time of 1:18.515, 111.877 miles per hour. I should also add, Robert's #14 is sponsored by Murman's, Jumbo Supermarket, and Media Mall.
Good strong run today. Tell us about it.
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Yeah, first of all, it's great to be in the Champ Car World Series. It's obviously a new category for me and also for my team, Paul with this Minardi outfit. We started the weekend not very competitive. I've been sitting down with my engineer, which is going really well, our relationship. Basically he turned the car to my liking. We improved every session.
It's a great feeling to race between the streets of Vegas. I always enjoy driving open street circuits. We only have one really in Europe, which is Monaco, only once a year. I'll be more lucky this season, I think.
Yeah, it went really well. Just in the end we pushed hard. The red tires was a new thing for me. I had no chance to try them in winter testing because obviously they were not there. So the first outing wasn't great. Then the second run on the red tires, we made some adjustments to the car and it was a lot better.
So, yeah, up in third place. It's good to be here, especially because it's the first weekend. Hopefully I'll be here tomorrow as well.
ERIC MAUK: Awfully early to think about this. You're starting in the second row in your first Champ Car race. Have you thought about how you're going to approach the race tomorrow?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: It's going to be the first rolling start of my life actually. It will be very, very exciting (laughter). Obviously turn one is exciting because it gets very wide. People can get very optimistic there. I hope everybody plays it smart and lets everybody race and don't make any sudden moves.
Yeah, I'll talk with my engineer and my guys in the team because they have a lot more experience with this type of racing. Then we can go. So it's been such a long winter, I can't wait to go racing.
ERIC MAUK: Starting on the outside of the front row, earned his spot by leading yesterday's qualifying, he posted a quick lap today of 1:19.625 seconds, 110.317 miles per hour, 10th best in today's session. He starts on the front row, driver of the #3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy, the 2003 series champion.
Paul, maybe a tougher day than you would have liked. Tell us a little bit about it.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, it was a little tougher for us today. Obviously we made some changes from yesterday. But it just seemed like my car suited going over that big jump in the chicane (laughter). We just never really got a chance to capitalize on the tires. We seemed to either catch a red at the end of the first set of tires, then the second set of tires I had some traffic with Pagenaud, which didn't help. That kind of just killed our qualifying effort.
I think we didn't have anything for what the time that Will did. I think we could have made a better showing. Really the opportunity didn't come up. We're happy to be on the front row.
ERIC MAUK: Talk about the start of tomorrow's race. Surrounded by young chargers, then in fourth and fifth, Tagliani and Dominguez. How do you enter that first corner tomorrow?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's going to be important for everybody to get through the first corner and go racing. I think this is the start of a new era for Champ Car. You've got a bunch of new young drivers that are in the series, obviously showing that they're quick. It's not the scenario that everybody thought it was going to be where everybody was saying in the off-season, Sebastien is going to run away with everything. He's starting near the back. It's going to be quite an interesting race.
ERIC MAUK: The polesitter for the Vegas Grand Prix, driver of the #5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone for Team Australia, Will Power, winner of his first pole of the year, the second pole of his young Champ Car career. Will puts up what will stand as a new track record, 1:17.629, 113.154 miles per hour.
Will, an amazing lap. Tell us about it.
WILL POWER: Yeah, I mean, on the red Bridgestone tires, at the end I think the track also gripped up. But our car worked really well on them. I mean, we struggled yesterday with just niggling problems with the car. Not to do with the handling or anything. We were quick yesterday. We just didn't get a fair go.
We worked on it, worked on the setup all the way up until qualifying today. Pretty much nailed it at the end, got a good run in traffic. Yeah, we did a mega lap.
But it all started in the off-season. I think Craig and Derrick Walker from the end of last year till now, they've been working really hard. They got -- they really want to win a championship. I want to help them do that.
ERIC MAUK: Looking at just the spacing, you talked about the lap and the speed you got out of that lap. Almost a full second ahead of Robert, who put up the second quickest time today. What does that do for confidence heading into tomorrow?
WILL POWER: Actually, the setup differences between qualifying and a race setup are a lot different because the tires go off fairly badly around here. Yeah, I mean, we had a good car in qualifying, but we also did some race stuff early in the practice session this morning. We also have a good race car.
We'll see. We'll get through the first corner. Good start, get through the first corner, we'll just go about our strategy. We're after the championship. We're also after our first race win.
ERIC MAUK: Sebastien Bourdais starting 17th, this is the first time he has not started in the top 10 in the last 54 Champ Car events.
We'll take questions from the media.
Q. Paul, because you already had a front row spot guaranteed, were you able to get more laps in race trim today than you would normally have?
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I mean, we looked at some of the stuff that Mario tried yesterday with the car in terms of the rear tires are a little bit of an issue here. They seem to be going off pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time today and did some longer runs, seven, eight, nine laps trying to get the rear of the car more stable. Maybe that cost us a little bit because we went with that type of a setup for qualifying 'cause that was probably one of my issues, was rear power down. Probably cost us a little bit in terms of the outright lap time. But I think I've got a good race car.
Q. Paul, because of your experience in Cleveland, do you think you have a better shot as a good start here? Are you going to tell the drivers at the drivers' meeting?
PAUL TRACY: That's really up to Tony Cotman. This a lot different than Cleveland. It's a fairly quick corner at the end of the straightaway. You get down in there, it's actually fairly quick.
It's not like where you come to Cleveland, you come to virtually a stop. It's really wide. So there's a lot of speed that rolls through there. If you get on the inside of somebody, you hope they can see you, not turn in across you.
Q. (No microphone.)
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Well, yeah, I have to thank Red Bull that they actually let me go and race this year, because otherwise it would have been a very long and boring season with so limited test days with the new regulations. I did a day in Bahrain. The car is two completely different animals really. Luckily I raced in Formula 3000 in 2004, which is quite a heavy car, a Lola. That's more like this series, to be honest. I'm learning still about the tires. Obviously in race trim, we never done a race condition. We have to see how that works tomorrow.
But, yeah, my experience in Formula One helped me a lot to get to learn this car quickly. It's good on one side that you don't have all these gadgets because it's more fun for the driver. Obviously your right foot is now your traction control instead of a button on your steering wheel when which you have to turn up. There's no power steering, which my trainer helped me get over that trouble. You get a bit lazy in Formula One with all these gadgets.
Yeah, just two different series really. You shouldn't compare them. I know in Laguna Seca, Sebastien Bourdais broke the lap record. I think that was more showing a demo run of the Toyota. Anyway, it's the fastest series I think in the States. It's very competitive. The drivers are very strong. I think the racing will be very exciting.
Q. Will, what is the difference in this team from when you first started driving for them?
WILL POWER: I mean, it's got stronger every year. I wasn't there for the first year. The second year was my first year. I think not only did the team come on, but I also came on. It takes a while to learn how to drive these cars. They're a real driver's car. You've got to really drive them. You've got to learn what makes them go quick with the setup.
Everything combined, plus a lot of development over the winter, it just keeps moving ahead and we're where we are now. It's just hard work.
Q. Can you talk about the atmosphere, the competition of the Champ Car series?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: The Minardi team I know really well from my Formula One days. They rebranded the name. Paul gave me the opportunity to make my debut in F1 racing, which was a dream come true in 2005. To be back with him, to live this together, for both of us it's our debut in the series.
Yeah, he looked really happy. He was smiling. I think he will go to the casino tonight for sure (laughter). Yeah, I mean, it feels like a family, it feels like coming home. I'm very proud that all my Dutch sponsors are here, as well. It was a long winter. It's just good to get racing again and to start with a good result in qualifying.
Q. The difference between Europe and Champ Car atmosphere?
ROBERT DOORNBOS: So far I'm very impressed with the atmosphere. It's very relaxed. The drivers get along well with each other. Formula One, it's so big, so much bigger, so much more people on the team as well. I think I know all the names of my team members already. In F1, it's 500 people. I just call them all Mate. Hi, mate. It's more small, but more fun as well. I think we'll really have a good year and enjoy it.
Q. Paul, how good a job did they do on the bump?
PAUL TRACY: It's not there any more. I think that was one of the advantages I had yesterday, was that big bump. I really attacked it yesterday and made a lot of time there. Now there is no bump. The only thing that throws you off is if you get out of sync and hit a curb, like what happened to Graham this morning.
The one issue that there was with the track, the city completely fixed it right.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: We had a gearbox pressure problem. We got out. I was lucky. Sebastien caused the red, yeah. Same as Australia.
Q. Will, you said at the beginning your goal for the year is to go after the championship. Obviously you have to win the first race. How could you describe to us your approach to this year?
WILL POWER: I'm fitter than I've ever been. I'm probably in the best driving form I've ever been. I've got a really good team around me. It's just all working together. I feel good about the season. I think it's going to be a good championship for us. I really want to win Derrick Walker's first championship.
Q. Is the chicane like Australia or more violent?
PAUL TRACY: I think it's just really very similar to Australia. It's quick going in. You're up around 150 miles an hour on the entry, then kind of braking into it, having to change directions. The track is slippery. They repaved last night, which took the rubber away that was already there.
One of those things. That's really the beginning of the lap, the start/finish line for timing and scoring is back behind that, just behind. Really you want to make your first corner your best one because that leads up to the longest straightaway. Guys are really trying to push the issue, be as quick as they can through it.
WILL POWER: It's a bit more violent than the Aussie chicane. The curb is bigger. It's really hard to find the sweet spot there. It changed overnight. You had to approach it a bit differently. Like Paul said, you didn't actually jump the last one -- jump the bump. It will be interesting in the race because if you kept pounding it hard, I don't know how long the car would last. You have to be smart about it, but also people can get a tow and pass you as well. If you're not quick through there, you're going to be attacked.
Q. Paul, after a season that you weren't too thrilled with last year, how important is it for you to get off to a fast start this year?
PAUL TRACY: I think my focus really is all this championship right now. I signed a new contract last year with Forsythe Racing, made a commitment to the series and my team. Probably looking back at it now last year, probably spread myself a little bit too thin, doing too much stuff, during endurance racing, seven or eight NASCAR races on off weekends. Really I think, like anything, I've kind of stayed away from that my whole career. A lot of people have tried a lot of different things. I was in a position with the team I'm with to have the freedom to do that.
Probably -- I don't think it was probably my full -- my full concentration wasn't totally on this. That's what we're looking at this year. I've been totally focused on my team, building the team around what I need to be competitive, assembled the people that we wanted on my car, came out and we're right there. At any top championship, you got to focus totally on that championship. That's what I'm doing.
ERIC MAUK: We assume you cut golf cart racing out of your schedule, as well?
PAUL TRACY: Yes. It was a sour end to a sour year (laughter). A lesson learned.
ERIC MAUK: You'll have to explain that to Robert when we get done.
Q. Paul, with the new cars and little problems development, is there an undercurrent of concern?
PAUL TRACY: I think everybody is having little problems. We haven't had one problem yet this weekend. One test we had, we had a multitude of small problems. Our Sebring test went fine with no problems. Houston didn't go very well for us. We had some problems. I had a couple of offs. One was into a big lake. Really cost us a lot of time in terms of getting time on the track. We haven't had anything that stopped us from running since Laguna. We've worked really hard. Like I've said, we've really gone over this car with a fine-tooth comb, really put a focused group of guys together to go over this thing.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL TRACY: I think it's his decision.
ERIC MAUK: It's Will's decision.
WILL POWER: It will be the inside, for sure.
Q. You've raced every street circuit that Champ Car has run. Can you compare this to the others?
PAUL TRACY: I mean, this is a great street course. This is probably one of the finest circuits - not only from a driver's standpoint. A lot of the tracks we go to, we go to the city, the city wants to have a race, but they don't want to give up too many streets, they want to limit you to a certain area where there's not a lot of traffic. A lot of the tracks we go to are compromised racetracks. They're in a parking lot. They're on streets they don't use. They make them short. Most street tracks are a mile-and-a-half to a mile point seven, which is a fairly short lap for these cars.
This track here, other than Australia, which is 2.7 miles, this track is 2.45. It's one of the longest street tracks we've ever raced on. They've done a perfect job. They've gone around and looked at what it takes to be successful in this market to put on a great race and a great show and a festival, to get fans behind it.
I mean, what else can you say about what they've done here? We had a problem with the track. They didn't just try to Band-Aid it and fix it. They tore the whole intersection out last night and repaved the intersection, that's great.
Q. (No microphone.)
WILL POWER: It's surprising how little problems we've had for a whole new chassis and a paddle shift, all that. I think Panoz has done a great job. It will be interesting to see in the race tomorrow. In all the tests, no one's had major gearbox problems and the car hasn't got a major handling defect at all. I think all in all, it's been a really good package
ROBERT DOORNBOS: Full credit for Panoz for making this new race car, for sure. There were no issues. Obviously being a test bunny in Formula One, you know what reliability counts for. I think I've blown up six engines. It's big spectacle in the winter testing. Finding the limits on the parts, the life, everything.
I think with the time they had, Panoz, like Will said as well with the testing we've done, there were no big issues. Hopefully it will be like that in the race as well. I think they're still working flat out on spare parts. That's not important.
Q. Paul, can you say what situation with you and Bourdais right now?
PAUL TRACY: I guess the situation today is I'm at the front of the grid and he's at the back. That's a first, I think.
He's going to be quick. He's going to be fast. You can see today wasn't a good day. Probably the worst day he's ever had in the four years he's been here. I'm sure he's frustrated. But usually when he gets frustrated, he's going to drive good tomorrow.
I would expect him to be a challenge tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts