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July 20, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's post-qualifying press conference.
Today's qualifying session was halted five minutes early after Tristan Gommendy required medical attention out in turn seven. The only way to access that scene was for the ambulance to go out onto the racetrack. We'll have an update on his condition as soon as we can. Preliminary reports are just slight back pain.
We'll get started with the program.
Qualifying third today, making an appearance here in the press conference, is Graham Rahal. Graham, you started third in the Atlantic race last year. What is it about this track specifically that allows you to go fast?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I'm not sure that there's anything specifically about this track. I mean, I've always liked the airport circuits, here and Cleveland. But at the same time, you know, I think after the last two weeks, the whole MEDIZONE team has taken time to recover, get caught up on some rest. I think we've come back here refocused for the second half of the season. I think it's showing.
Today was an awfully good day for us. I think it's unfortunate that we couldn't run a second set of tires because I certainly think we could do better on our time, but certainly that's how it works. We're just happy to be third.
THE MODERATOR: You were here for a media day approximately a month ago or so, able to spend a lot of time in the simulators. Did that help you out at all?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, because the simulator is awfully hard to drive. It was more embarrassing than it was any good (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Graham.
Second quickest today, Simon Pagenaud. Simon, you actually got your one and only Champ Car Atlantic win here at Edmonton. Talk about what it is at this track that makes you go so fast.
SIMON PAGENAUD: First of all, it's again a very different track compared to the Atlantic because it goes a lot quicker and we're much more busy with the Champ Car. Just some corner which was flat last year in Atlantic are not. So it's just a little bit more tricky. You just need to be more on your game.
You know, it's just been a very good day for us because this morning it was not that good, we had a couple issues. The whole Aussie Vineyards team has been working really, really well, making my car working for this afternoon.
When we came in practice this afternoon, the car was great. I just said, That's a great car, just do a couple of change, but we're not far away. Put new tires on, it was great. Great, great feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien Bourdais, our provisional polesitter, earned a front row starting spot, his fifth front row of the season, along with a championship point that now ties him for second place with Simon's teammate Will Power.
Sebastien, you were one of the drivers that actually spun out in turn seven earlier today. What is it about that corner that's tricky?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I still have no clue what happened over there. Pushed for the whole season session, the whole morning, then on one lap it just stepped out. One of these things where you kind of, Well, all right, didn't hit anything, collect yourself, go back out there and try harder, but keep it on the right direction.
No, it was a good session for the McDonald's team. It didn't look good at all for most of it. But the last two laps we did on the run, we were fast and consistent and the balance was reasonably good. So, no, I was pretty happy. Obviously, I hope Tristan doesn't suffer a major injury. But for the ones who had put a good lap on the first run, it was pretty good for us that it didn't go back green because obviously it would have been really hard to get a gap, being so far down pit lane because of our pit selection from the bad result we had in Toronto, it would have really hurt us.
I was not too upset that the session didn't go back to green, to be honest.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Sebastien. Now we'll open it up to questions from our media.
Q. (Question regarding Sebastien's consistency.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, obviously, you know, there's one on me from Vegas where I made a mistake, and that's it. There's nothing against there are, I just screwed up. Then in Cleveland, we had a mechanical. Then we made the whole loop around, I guess, of bad circumstances. We got taken out in the last one.
For sure it's not the way our season needs to be going if you want to be a championship contender, but we're still in it pretty much starting from scratch from this weekend. It's a new season again, I guess, on a much shorter period. So we're just going to have to hopefully get cleaner runs and no problems anymore, and that should work out.
But, yeah, for sure, basically we've had as many problems in the first half of the season than we've probably had in the last three seasons. So it's not perfect, but we'll try and make the best of it.
Q. (No microphone.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, we were here last year in Atlantics. In these cars, as Simon rightly said, they are far different.
I think it definitely suits my style. I like the fast corners. And being that it's pretty physical, it plays into my hands. Being a bigger guy, I think I have the upper edge when it comes to physical strength. So I think when you look at it that way, it's a good weekend for me (laughter).
But, no, I think it seems the airport circuits always work well for me. Cleveland last year, won both races in Atlantic. Then this year unfortunately P.T. hit us. But we came back, had a strong run. And then here finished second last year. I think so far things are heading the right direction.
I don't know if it's just the airports or what it is, but I certainly like it.
Q. What is the difference between a street course and an airport course?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I mean, certainly if you look at the circuit, number one, it's quicker. Number two, as far as how wide open it is, I mean, there's a lot of room here, although less so than, say, Cleveland because Cleveland doesn't have the walls necessarily. I mean, it's got one wall. But other than that there's a lot more room.
I don't know. I think it's similar in the way that it's rough. But I think the speed is the biggest difference. Street courses, it's a lot more 90-degree corners, hairpins, stuff like that. And here, even though, you know, we see that there are a lot of 90-degree corners, they're a heck of a lot faster than we'd normally be used to. In that respect, it's more like a road course that we would go to like Portland or something like that.
I think just about, you know, the only similarity would be the bumps, and that's about it.
Q. (Question regarding standing starts.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, yeah, it's something we're going to have to discuss because it looks like it's the series favorite to put the polesitter with the worst starting spot because there is, again, a big painted number right in front of the box. So basically you're going to be starting on paint if you pick the inside.
It's a little bit of a shame, but I think we might be able to talk about it with Tony and give up on that spot, just move everybody back. But if we can't do that, maybe the best spot is actually going to be from the left side. But, you know, we're not quite there yet. Hopefully we'll stick around for pole tomorrow. We've got a long ways.
And, you know, as far as standing starts go, I think it's a good thing and a bad thing. Right now it just seems to be very hard to police because all the cars are kind of creeping on the grid. So it's a little difficult to say false start, no false start. And that's a little bit of a problem.
But I think the series is working on trying to find a system to stop the cars from moving at all, and then it's going to become a lot more clear if somebody makes a mistake at the start.
Q. (Question regarding standing start in Cleveland.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It wasn't Cleveland. It was Tremblant. Tristan had an issue. They didn't connect something on the car so he never started. Then Will and Simon and somebody else stalled the car. I think we escaped a major problem.
But, you know, it's always the risk. Obviously when you have standing starts, it's not bulletproof whether you're going to start or stall. You're taking chances basically. And that's what I was a little afraid of, and I still am obviously because I'm one of the safety representatives for the drivers. I don't want anybody to get hurt because a car stalls from the first row and gets hit by someone who starts at the back of the pack.
It's never black and white. It's always going to be some good and some bad about it. And hopefully it's elevating the show and nobody gets hurt.
Q. (Question regarding turn seven.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was six for me. I lost the car in six. I think right now it became a lot harder today because we had the tailwind. So the car maybe, you know, I got a gust and it took off on me. I mean, I'm just assuming.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Although, I mean, seven in its own is slick.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I got wide once, just like six inches or something, and the car just did not want to turn. I mean, if you watch the race from the last year, it's the same thing. You don't have to be very far off, but if you are, you're done. It's so easy to hit there.
It's easy to lose it in six really, and most of the people you see that spin, it's usually caused by something in turn six.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: But if you want to look for an explanation of what's going on in turn seven, you just look at the other side of the fence, behind the wall, and you're going to get your answer. It's just a dirt pile over there. Basically when it rains, it looks like all the water is bringing all the stuff on the racetrack. And the track, before it re-rubbers in, is really slick on the line. And then the problem is it becomes really different between the line and the side. So as soon as you put one wheel off the line, you're done, which is what pretty much happened to me the first year over there. I just missed the line by a bit and that was that.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Basically the same. If you're a little bit off, you're going to go in the wall straight. I think that's maybe what happened to Tristan. I didn't see the accident.
I mean, on my part, I don't have as much problem as these guys apparently. No, I mean, it's a tricky corner. It's maybe the slowest one, but this is where you can really destroy the car. So you have to be careful even in the slow part. So that's why this track is very tough for everyone.
Q. Sebastien, talk about your F1 test.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I mean, nothing's changed. Obviously I'm really happy that I got to drive Formula One at Spa. If there's one place you want to be testing, it's over there. It's a great track. It was an awesome feeling. I had a ton of fun.
Doesn't matter really from now what happens, I got to drive it there, so it's great (laughter).
No, more seriously, nothing's changed on the status. They're still due to give us an answer by the end of July. That still stands.
Q. (Question to Simon and Graham regarding standing starts.)
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, as said Sebastien, the problem is it's creeping so it's hard to say if you do a right start or a false start. So at the moment, we still have this problem, everyone.
So, I mean, basically I think we all just trying to do the same and try to take off correctly. But, you know, we've got so much horsepower that it's really hard to avoid any wheel spin. But on another part, it's really good because it makes a good show for the fans. It spread the field before the first corner a little bit more. I think it's a little bit safer. And, as I've said, you've got a little bit more passing. So I think for the fans it's a little bit better.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Just to complement that, basically the problem why we stall is because when you put full power, you're going to spin the wheels forever, and the car stands still and nothing happens. And so basically you're trying to start on the fine line between building the boost and not building the boost. And without the boost, you only have about 300 horsepower and you're trying to spin wheels about that big, so that doesn't do it. So it's either the stall or you're trying to limit the wheel spin, which then you take chances of stalling the car.
GRAHAM RAHAL: I mean, it's different, you know, obviously than Formula One or anything like that. You're kind of fighting an uphill battle, as Seb said with the turbo, right? Because if you do spin the wheels and you lift, then you stall, right? So whereas Formula One, with the naturally aspirated engine, all the other controls they have, it makes it a lot easier. So here is comes down more to driver feel and stuff like that.
At the end of the day, I think it's been pretty successful so far. I'm hoping not to jinx myself here. But, I mean, I've had a lot of fun with them. I mean, I think it's good for the fans at the end of the day. I mean, it is tight. You know, I mean, with the cars being as long as they are, it's difficult when you get them all -- you know, if someone were to stall, it's tough to get around. But it's exciting and it's fun.
Q. Simon, is there a reason why both you and Will Power stalled at Mont-Tremblant?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, basically it's what we tried to do. I don't think we're doing anything special, or if we are, that time it didn't work at all (laughter). No, on my part, I don't know exactly what we did.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Will was just trying to (indiscernible) himself from the backing up and things like that.
SIMON PAGENAUD: So on my part, I just tried to control the boost, but apparently I didn't do it enough and I just stalled. So it's still not very clear about what happened, so we're still trying to understand to avoid it to happen again. And it's basically a reason why Toronto was not a very good start for me, because we are trying to avoid to stall. So we took a very cautious start and we got caught because of that.
But I think we're going to look at the data even more this weekend and try to get a better start. But for sure Will had a good start in Portland, so we'll have good data for that.
Q. Do you use a different gear ratio with rolling and standing starts?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: On the rolling starts, you don't really start in first. You start in upper gear, second most of the time.
Q. Is it a different gear ratio?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Maybe, but we would have to kill you if we tell you (laughter).
GRAHAM RAHAL: It becomes more important, it does, to make sure that you have the proper gear. Because if you had like -- I mean, you could do it either way. If you had like a super long first gear, because you never use it, well, that just isn't going to work, right? You'd just stall it. It depends on the track and stuff like that, but it is different.
I'm not telling you anything (laughter).
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: See, we can't tell you (laughter). Sorry.
Q. (Question regarding standing starts and the danger into the first turn.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, the problem is, we were supposed to have two car lengths between the rows in the rolling starts, but every now and again you would find someone just tucked in there. So obviously if it's a rolling start and everybody gets bunched up, it just becomes stupid and so packed up that it's impossible.
But if it had been that everybody was respecting the car lengths that were supposed to be enforced, it would have been no different. But, yeah, it's just easier to police on the standing start because obviously everybody start with a gap and it's established so everybody is the same.
GRAHAM RAHAL: It actually does seem to cut down on first-corner incidents. Even in Atlantic, I mean, when we did it in Atlantic, I mean, if you're going to have any rookie mistakes, it was going to be in that series, being that everybody was so young. It just never really happened once we started standing starts.
Q. (Question regarding the wideness of the track and whether there will be cones placed.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: They have cones sitting out there on both sides, and that's pretty much it. The way you see it is the way it is.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's really wide coming off the chicane, I think. But then after that it funnels kind of back. It's got the curb on the right side and you've got the cones on the left, so there's only so much room. You've got to go on the left of the curb anyway.
GRAHAM RAHAL: It's not as small as Cleveland, though. You know, Cleveland, they take the cones and really make something that's huge not so huge. And here it's still pretty open.
Q. Is there anyplace on the particular course where you have to be particularly courageous?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Courageous or stupid?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Or both (laughter)?
Q. Where you have to keep your foot flat but your mind is telling you you've got to lift.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I don't know. I mean, the fast chicane, for sure, it's one place where you're like, Oh, yeah, sure it's going to be flat. You get in there, first lap, shit, it's not flat. Second lap, no, it's not flat. You try and you try and you try. Sometimes you do it. I think I've done it like once or something.
It's really just -- the cars are so aero sensitive, you really need kind of the nose to go down. It's not that hard. When the car is going full throttle and you turn, it kind of wants to go straight, not turn. So it's quite hard. But this and turn nine.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Turn nine.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Turn nine, there's a big, big bump right at the turning point, so it makes things quite interesting.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Especially for us coming out of Atlantics, the amount of speed difference is huge. So it makes it even tougher.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys, very much.
End of FastScripts