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February 22, 2003

Sebastien Bourdais

Adrian Fernandez

Paul Tracy


ERIC MAUK: We have the top three qualifiers in today's final qualifying for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season-opening race of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We'll start with our third place qualifier, Adrian Fernandez, driver of the #51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone. He is third on the grid with a lap of 61.749 seconds, 105.291 miles per hour. Adrian had two poles last year including one at last year's season opener at Monterrey, Mexico, no stranger to success in the season openers. Tell us a little bit about how things went today for you.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Well, it went better than yesterday. Yesterday, we didn't have any luck in qualifying. We had too much traffic in our first set. The second set, we never really put any laps with so many reds. This morning, the second qualifying, we waited more. It's just about luck really because you just never know when it's going to be right for you. But this time it worked for us. We had the right strategy. Maybe I needed a couple more laps to put a better lap. Probably would have happened the same to everybody. But I'm happy for the performance. It's been a while since I've been in a race car. I'm just happy to be here.

ERIC MAUK: Our second place qualifier, Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Players Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, he earns the second spot on tomorrow's grid with a fastest lap of 61.476 seconds, 105.578 miles an hour. Paul's best start in a season opener since he won the pole for the season opener in '98 at Homestead. He had three front row starting spots last year. Tell us about the wind out there. Looks like it picked up in the last session. Did it affect what you did much?

PAUL TRACY: No, the wind wasn't really a problem. The biggest problem was the amount of reds that there were. I think everybody will say the same thing. Every time it seemed I was on a good lap, the red came out. It takes me a little bit longer. I'm not a fantastic qualifier to go out and do just one lap. It usually takes me, two, three, four laps.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I'm the same. I think it's the age (laughter).

PAUL TRACY: It's the age (laughter). Usually takes me two or three laps buildup to do it. Every time I was on my quick lap, the red came out. My quick time was my warm-up lap. A little bit frustrated by that. It was a bit of a frustrating session I think for everybody. Overall, we had a little bit of trouble yesterday in qualifying. We were able to rebound today, set the car up and get the car more comfortable, had a good qualifying today.

ERIC MAUK: Yesterday a little bit of a struggle. Much better today in the practice and qualifying. Any major changes overnight?

PAUL TRACY: We made some changes overnight. The biggest issue we had yesterday was an engine problem yesterday, had to switch engines after the second practice. We missed the warm-up for qualifying, went out there, it went red, had a problem. Really disappointing yesterday. Today we did some setup change. Pat was quite happy with his car, so we did some things to my car that he did. This morning the car was good. Pretty happy with the car.

ERIC MAUK: Our polesitter Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, wins the pole for Sunday's St. Petersburg Grand Prix with a top lap of 60.928 seconds, equating to 106.710 miles per hour. He becomes the first rookie to win a pole since Bruno Junqueira turned the trick at Nazareth in 2001. He is also the first look to win the pole in his Champ car debut since 1993 when Nigel Mansell completed the feat at Surfers Paradise. He now holds a two-point lead in the championship, having earned single points for each of the first qualifying sessions. Tell us how it feels to be on the pole for your first race.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It feels really well. Actually, I think it was very difficult to expect a better result. The car has been great all through the weekend. For the moment, we are the really good car, really high (inaudible). It was a lot lower for this session, and it's been pretty good also. I don't have a big problem since it start Friday morning, so it's really good. It's so good to start the season that way, after a long wait. I was not sure to get a good ride. Now I'm there, in US, and just in the pole for the first race of Champ Car. So it's great.

ERIC MAUK: Big weather change from today's qualifying session from what you've seen through the weekend, a lot of cloud cover, high winds. Did that affect your thought process going out there today?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. That's the reason we've been pretty good. I mean, the car was really consistent during the runs with all the new tires and was not really affected by the temperature. It's a big satisfaction for the race because it will probably change also during the two hours we will have for racing.

ERIC MAUK: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was a bit difficult to manage the red. It was probably harder for the others because we were already sure to be at least in second place. I was just waiting to find a good lap. A few times we even had no time to start the run because before the third lap somebody spin or things like that. I think it was a perfect situation for us, definitely. We just saved the tires. We are ready for the race.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Moving was a bit quick for sure. My girlfriend moved with me like one weekend, so it was a big help. I'm pretty young. It was my first time to move from my parents' home, I would say. It's a kind of different life. But we're also racing so much and traveling so much that it doesn't have a big effect because you stay such a short period at home - wherever the home is. It's not a big problem.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: You know I'm a nice guy, come on (laughter).

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: If I look after the reputation, it's not a good way to approach a race. I mean, he's very experienced. He is quick. I am young. I still have a lot of things to learn. But I also have been racing since a long time. I mean, we're all professionals. We're doing a job. I don't know. We're all there to try to win. I will try to give my best in a sporting way. But I don't know, we'll see.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Almost, almost (laughter). Not bad for an old man.

Q. (Inaudible)?

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: It's getting better. It's not what I would like to be. It takes time, especially after the two biggest accidents of my life. Both of them could have cost my life. I spent a lot of time in physiotherapy, coming back in the car, had another one. I couldn't do any go-karting, any type of driving, until the end of January. The type of exercises I was doing, it was very different from what I've used to. I was not building any muscle, things like that. I've been trying to make that deficit up as quick as possible in the last few weeks, but still it's difficult. I'm not a hundred percent there. I hope I can get into a rhythm tomorrow in the race, just get to the end. Apart from that, my speed is coming back. I've been trying to make no mistakes, just trying to take my time, not pressure myself to be there. I just want to have a good season, nothing out of the normal. The team is experienced. It's our third year. 99% of the people who are in Fernandez Racing are people that have been with us since the beginning. We're starting to get some consistency. I think that's very key.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Out on the racetrack, it's still the same thing. You're pushing, you're like this, to the limit all the time, regardless. Maybe the field is right now not as deep as it used to be. In the front eight or nine guys, it's everything you have when you're out there for qualifying. It doesn't change. It's still the same.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: I agree. At the front, it's not going to be changing. I mean, a lot of these rookies, like Sebastien, he has a lot of experience. A lot of them, they have very good qualities, very good curriculum. We expect a lot of them being competitive. Right now, to be honest, for me, it's hard to recognize the cars, know who they are. But I'm very excited, to be honest, about the future of CART now. All the past things are over. Chris and the whole CART group has done a tremendous job of putting this race together in St. Petersburg. I think it's one of the nicest tracks we race in a street course. It's a new thing. It's a new future. I'm up for it. I think it's going to be a good start from here.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: No, I don't feel that. I mean, you know, I'm just doing the best I can. I've won a lot of races, 19 wins. But the championship has eluded me. It's not for a lack of trying, lack of effort. From my standpoint, I do the best that I can every time I'm in the car. I'm human, I make mistakes sometimes. But, you know, that's what has enabled me to stay in the championship for 13 years, is that I give everything I can. That's what the team expects from me. Along the way, everybody makes mistakes. We're just out here doing the best we can - everybody is.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I don't know about that. I'm not surprised because I watched TV, I saw the races that he won last year in Formula 3000. I knew he was testing in Formula 1. You don't get an opportunity to do things like that unless you're a talented driver. He's in a great team, a team I've driven for before. They have a championship-winning effort, a solid group of people. When you're able to put yourself into a situation like that, it makes life a lot easier. He's in the best team, and he's showing that he's got the talent. He deserves to be there.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: I don't have a new engineer. We lost my engineer last Friday, he quit. That was a little disappointing. Tony is my race weekend engineer, but he's not shop-based. My shop-based engineer, Kelly, quit last week, so we're actually kind of in a little -- we were dropped in a little bit of a hole this weekend. On Friday afternoon, the crew chief was supposed to receive the starting setup, and there was no engineer around. We're looking for a replacement. We're talking to a few people. We haven't nailed down who we want yet. We have a couple weeks before the next race. We have some good options. I think it will be a good change for the team, as well.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think it's a big satisfaction. I mean, to be on the pole at the first event has not been a thing we saw very much. Definitely, as Paul said, the car and the team is very experienced. The package was very good. Even if I'm young, I'll still be pretty much full of experience with different cars, like endurance cars, sports cars, experience in F1. It's just difficult to compare during the history. But, no, I feel very proud. I just hope it will continue like this. I remember that Nigel did the first pole in his first race, but he also won the championship, so what I can expect is to do the same.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I hope not. I don't have to take care about the others. I just hope to keep going, you know, and beat the race. But it's always a big challenge in the first race to see who's strong, who is not. It's always changes also from one race to another. We'll see. Everybody is going to push as much as possible, try to win the race. It's difficult to have a prediction of how the classification is going to be.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, for sure it will be different. First of all, it's a lot longer. It's a two-hour race. I never did a single race two hours long. I don't know. It's probably going to be tough, especially with the concentration. The street course demands a lot from you, the concentration. As soon as you make a small mistake, it takes a big consequence. But apart from that, a race is a race, you're pushing from the beginning to the end. The key in the Champ Car is to manage very well the yellows. I hope it won't be full of them tomorrow. For sure, it will happen. I just expect that I will work very well with the team to get the best of it.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We trained in spring training a lot on this.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Well, his setup was a little bit different from mine. Springs, shocks were different, different motion ratios on the rocker arms, suspension. We both kind of had different setups to start with. My car was okay yesterday, but not fantastic. He ended up fourth. Because of our limited running yesterday in qualifying, we weren't very happy with the car, we decided to start with his setup this morning. We made some changes, and the car was good. We started out, the car felt good, made a few changes in the session, made it better. The changes we made, he put on his car for qualifying.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PAUL TRACY: Very common.

Q. (Inaudible)?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think I'm pretty well prepared. I trained a lot since the last few months. Anyway, I used to train a lot all the time, especially to prepare for this first race. I don't think so. I feel this track is not really grippy. The effort on the steering wheel is not really hard. It's more about the concentration during two hours long which will probably be more an issue.

ERIC MAUK: That wraps up our final qualifying press conference. Tomorrow's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, 105 laps around the streets of St. Petersburg gets underway at 1 p.m. Thank you.

End of FastScripts...

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