Post Race Press Conference - Long Beach
Participating: Newman-Hass' Sebastien Bourdais, Forsythe's Paul Tracy, and Newman-Haas' Bruno Junquiera
Q: Paul, how do you feel about the day went for you?
Paul Tracy: I think it went great, but we could have had a little bit more. You know, we're right there. I had a good first stint, then it seemed like my car didn't really improve all that much and we didn't really get a big chunk of time. Once the track started to rubber in, guys started going faster, and I kind of ran the same pace the whole race. The whole race, every stint was the same pace. I couldn't seem to break out of the 70.2 second range, 70.1. Got into 69s a couple times.
When Sebastien came, he came hard and there really wasn't much to do. We're not allowed to block. I kind of faded him a little bit, but gave him enough room and was fair with him. He was able to pull away. I saw that he was on the red tires, the options, and I was on the standards at that point. I thought, "Well, if I can hang with him and stay close, then maybe on the next stop, you know, my final stop, we were going to be on reds. When we came out of the pits, I closed a little bit of ground on him, on the out-lap and the next lap, but he was just able to maintain that distance, that was pretty much it. We just tried to keep pace, keep it there.
Q: Did your pre-race strategy hold up pretty much the way you planned it or were there surprises in there?
Paul Tracy: There were surprises. Twice during the race I pushed the pit lane speed limiter on. That's when Bruno went by me. I came out of the hairpin and accidentally bumped the speed limiter on with my hand. We're below 50 miles an hour in the last corner, and then I accelerated up, and the thing was on the limiter. Then it was misfiring and backfiring. I was hard into the limiter, and I couldn't get it to turn off, and then Bruno shot by.
I was fortunate enough that we had a restart right away after that. You know, I got off the line really well, used the 'push to pass', and got by Bruno on the restart. All in all, I mean, not where we wanted to be. We wanted to get that elusive fifth win, but we didn't. I think all in all, just a fantastic day for the series and a fantastic day for the City of Long Beach.
Q: Congratulations Sebastien, you kind of tricked everybody with the qualifying performance, but it looks like you definitely had the setup today.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think we tricked us ourselves. We were not expecting to be out of the top three. It was a long time it didn't happen to us, so it was quite a surprise. I thought I was going fast. It's been like that the whole weekend. And for some reason, we are fast in practice, and for the qualifying it didn't seem to come to us, at least not very easily.
I had to overpush and did a lot of mistakes. As I said the first day, maybe just because I didn't practice enough during the off-season or something like that. But definitely got a bit pumped up for the race and did one of the very best races of my career, went from P4 to win that race, passed PT and a lot of people. Very happy for that. Very happy for the McDonald's crew and very happy to bring home this win for Newman/Haas. It's been a long time here in Long Beach. As PT said, what a crowd, what an event. We definitely want to be back here no matter what it takes.
Q: You were right on Paul for a couple of laps and were able to get by.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think I have to be pretty thankful to the Bridgestone alternate tires. They came very fast. PT already did a few laps, so he had time to warm them up. I was just out of the pits. I was kind of worried that I couldn't keep up with him, and it was the opposite. The tires came up so fast, I had a great run on him. I passed him. I think it's been the best pass over PT I've ever had. Doesn't happen very often to pass Paul, so I'm very happy about that. Definitely a great race and very exciting for me.
Q: Bruno, you finished third, you had a strong race, ran up front all day today. How do you feel about the way it went?
Bruno Junqueira: I felt it was okay. The PacifiCare car started really well in the race. I was just following Tracy, saving fuel. Then I had a chance to pass him, and was still saving fuel. Pulling away from Dominguez, Tracy was just right behind me, but I knew it was more important to save fuel. After the first yellow flag, I didn't use the 'push to pass', and Tracy got a run on me and he passed me. I think I got a lot of marbles on the tires when I came outside on turn one. My car never handled as well until the end of the stint, so I had to burn a lot of fuel to keep up with PT. The car lost a lot of grip, so couldn't go as further as Sebastien might have did. But I had a good lead on Mario and Sebastien.
But after I was going out of the pits, the yellow came, and Mario and Sebastien just were going out of the pits. So I get some guys, slowing down in the middle of the track, so they passed me, so I went to fourth. Then, I don't know, I guess I passed Mario again at some stage, and I was going behind Tracy, and again Mario passed me in the pit stop. There was Jimmy and another guy in front of me, as well.
So when I had a free track in the end of the race, the car was good - not good as has been throughout the weekend, I had too much understeer. But I was able to finish the race on the podium. I was able to pass Mario when I had a chance. Today I think the strategy worked better for Sebastien who was able to pass PT, so well done to him. I think it was a great race, great race for the fans, and I hope we come back here in Long Beach next year.
Q: Paul, Marshall seemed to hold you up on the last restart? Did that bother you?
Paul Tracy: The chief steward had given him the signal to -- they told me on the radio that he was supposed to drive through the pits and be out of the way of the leaders. The lap before we were going to go green, he didn't do that, he stayed out, and then it went green. You know, Sebastien just waited on the pace car a little bit to get away, built his speed up around turn ten, and he (Marshall) didn't really go. Sebastien got away from me probably a couple seconds right there, then he pulled in. That pretty much decided the race. It was really the only legitimate shot I had to get by Sebastien again, but it would have been hard. His car was fast. I don't think we had the pace that it would have taken at the end of the race to out-race him. And after that I just settled in and decided to take what we could get from him.
Q: Did you tire strategy play out the way you planned?
Sebastien Bourdais: Actually, we had that planned, to use the alternate tires back-to-back. I think it was pretty even, you know, between the alternate tires. These tires were scuffed, then we got two sets of brand-new regular tires. It wasn't a big deal either way. But definitely the fact that we got the alternate tire for that restart definitely helped me because they were coming a lot faster. That's probably the reason I got around PT.
Q: You guys put on a great race today, had a huge crowd. What would you tell the people at Dover Entertainment that may want to go another way next year?
Paul Tracy: Well, you know, I guess maybe I could comment first because I've been here the longest. I've been here at this race since '91, was my first race here. I saw more excitement this weekend and more enthusiasm from the crowd than I've seen in a long, long time. It's probably one of the best events, in terms of entertainment, that the Long Beach Grand Prix and Champ Car has put on since I've been here.
The fans were here to support it. We've got a new package of events, the drifting was a huge hit with the fans. Support series are strong. The fans love it. There's not much else that Champ Car can do. I mean, they put their best foot forward and did everything -- they've done everything they can do to try to keep this race.
Now it's not up to the fans. It's not up to the drivers or Champ Car; it's up to the media to help us and print positive things about this event because it was a great event, I think it's probably one of the best that has ever been here, and plead our case to the city and to Dover. It's going to turn into a political fight now, which isn't what it should be about. It should be what the fans want. But that's a fact of life, it's going to turn into a political money fight. That's what the whole thing has been over since the split with the IRL. We just hope that we're going to be back. I would feel very ashamed if this was my last time here.
Q: Bruno, any thoughts?
Bruno Junqueira: I think like Tracy said, he explained everything. I would like to add a couple things. First is the lap that we did after the race, the top three drivers lap that you do in every racetrack, today was the most exciting top three lap around the track in my Champ Car career. How many pole do I have, Eric?
Bruno Junqueira: From the 22, 23 times that I did that, today by far is the most exciting. The fans were still in the grandstands and cheering for us. I think that means that the race today was very exciting, a lot of passing. And another thing is, like I had dinner last night, I was trying to return from the restaurant to the hotel, and took me more than half an hour to get a cab. The people in the city were all saying how good the race is, how many people, all the restaurants, the hotels, the taxis, how much employment the race generates for the Long Beach Grand Prix.
I hope the city and the organizers realize that and don't want to take a risk to change the series because the way it is, it's just getting better. I hope next year can be in Long Beach again, and even with a better race and better show.
Sebastien Bourdais: Yeah, I think it was pretty good and pretty clear. Yesterday night we had dinner in the restaurant, and the boss recognized me and a lot of people wanted to take pictures. Took me quite a while, but not for the same reason, to get back to the hotel. It was quite exciting and definitely if they switch the series it's not going to be the same.
They have the habit over there (IRL) to give away a lot of tickets. We are selling tickets because people want to be here. That's how exciting this event is, that the fans love it, and there's a regular exchange between the drivers and the fans. What can we say? It's just pure racing. That's what we all like and that's what we want to see in the future.
Bruno Junqueira: Let me add one thing. The race is going to be very happy. I think we set the standards of a street race with passing for the first position without bumping each other, clean passing for first, second place.
Paul Tracy: We heard some IRL drivers last week say that they set the standard for street course racing last week, and I think we've set the standard here.
Bruno Junqueira: Yeah, I think it's been set way up high.
Q: Sebastien, according to the screen we have, you still have 24 seconds of 'push to pass'. How does that make you feel for the rest of the season?
Sebastien Bourdais: Well, the 'push to pass' is not something you have to use. You use it if you feel that you need to pass someone. I still don't know how, but I managed to pass Paul without using it, and that was a big surprise. I guess after once you're in the lead, you don't really have too many opportunities, too many reasons to use that 'push to pass'.
I think another point is how reliable our package is, thanks to Cosworth and Ford. It's been a great package. We didn't see any blown-up tires or anything like that, and everybody was really happy with the Bridgestone tires. I think it definitely was a great race. I didn't really have to use all that just because everything fall into place for us. Once I got behind PT at the restart and passed him, was a pretty straightforward deal where I had to push as hard as I could and just pull away.
Q: Talk about the pass for the lead.
Sebastien Bourdais: I don't know. I think as the tire came so fast, I really had a great run in the hairpin, the traction was perfect. I got the tow from PT very early in the straight. Took me all the way over there to the braking point. He was very fair. He kept his line, as it's written in the rule book, just gave me a clear shot to try and pass him. He braked really late, but my car was fantastic. The McDonald's crew was pretty surprised that I had that shot on PT. I was, too. Came on the radio and said, "How about that?"
Paul Tracy: As you can imagine, my reaction was the opposite (laughter).
Q: Were you holding back a little in qualifying?
Sebastien Bourdais: No, no, no. I was not sandbagging at all. I was just really trying hard - probably trying a bit too hard during qualify. I couldn't put it together when I had to. You know, this racetrack is so sensitive. We were talking after the race together, and at some point they all had good cars, the cars went away and they didn't change anything. We didn't change anything after the warm-up. The team wasn't fast enough. I wasn't upset about the balance, but it wasn't fast enough. At some point, not to save fuel any more, I just went for it and the car responded. It's just that kind of deal where it's so close from one another, that a very small difference will make it happen or just ruin the race.
Q: Can you talk about why we had more passing here than we have seen in recent years?
Paul Tracy: I think the difference now is that the rules are very clear on blocking, which the drivers are acting more fair now. Before you'd see guys weaving and blocking all over the place. Nine times out of ten when the guy would attempt to pass you, you'd crash into the guy. The rule is very clear that if a guy has a run on you, you can't deviate the normal racing line. I think that's why you see, once a guy realizes he's being had, there's not much you can really do other than try to out-brake him.
Everybody is playing very fair. There's differences now between the cars. We have 'push to pass', which is a help. We have option tires versus standard tires. So it mixes a lot of things up and creates a lot of variables.
Q: Did you leave anything on the track yesterday during qualifying?
Sebastien Bourdais: No. What you can leave on the track is a hole in the fence or something like that if you try any harder than that (laughter). No, personally, as I said, maybe I just tried a bit too hard. Maybe that's the reason why I didn't.
Bruno Junqueira: To be honest, the difference between Tracy and me in second, and Sebastien, is pretty small. When you go to the race, if your car has a little bit better balance than the other one, the guy that was in fourth can have the fastest car and the guy that was in first could be the slowest. The fine-tune is very delicate when you're talking about one or two tenths of a second a lap. And I think Sebastien's race, and I guess myself as well, we're good drivers, if you have a good car, you're going to go fast.
Some days Tracy's car works better, some days my car works better, like it was Friday. Today Sebastien's car work better. Each day, one of the drivers took the edge. I mean, between all of us, it's been very, very small difference. It's just a matter of maybe a little small shock adjustment can make the car be good or be bad - not bad, but not that good. The difference are really small.
Sebastien Bourdais: I think that's how competitive the series is right now. You have a lot of people ready and able to win the race. It just takes a small adjustment and fine detail.
Paul Tracy: The difference, one tenth is like blinking your eye. That sometimes separates the top three guys. I mean, you try so hard just to find one tenth. You're pushing yourself to the limit, pushing the car to the limit. Just trying to find a tenth is so difficult sometimes.
Q: Paul, back to the tires. When you were on reds, Sebastien was on blacks, were you surprised that you couldn't gain more time on him?
Paul Tracy: I was surprised. I thought that we could challenge. At that point, I thought, okay, in the middle of the stint, when Sebastien got by, I was on the black tires, he was on the red. He got by me. We knew that the tires were faster. For some reason, my car just didn't want to react today. My first stint, I was running 70.1, 70.0, the end 69.9. The second stint, same pace on the blacks. But my car never really got steadily better as the track rubbered. I seemed to be just stuck at the same pace.
You know, I just - that was all I had. It wasn't like I was letting him pull away from me. I was going as hard as I could go. I wasn't saving fuel the whole race. I went as hard as I could. That's just as fast as the car would go. So something we need to analyze, look at. These things we're creeping up on we need to figure out in the next test and figure out for Mexico.
Q: Newman/Haas has not won here in many years. What did Carl Haas and Paul Newman say to you?
Sebastien Bourdais: I think we were pretty happy to bring the Long Beach trophy back home. It's been 19 years. A long wait. There's not so many races on the tour we didn't win for such a long time. I'm sure they were delighted to win that event.
Q: Your thoughts on the elimination of the pit windows?
Paul Tracy: No problems today. I mean, it could have been -- things could have gotten dicey I think for maybe Sebastien. He was in the pits when it went yellow. 30 seconds earlier, it could have been race over for him. You know, this is what they've decided on. This is the way it's going to be. We just have to work with it.
Sebastien Bourdais: When I saw the car stopped on the racetrack, I was like, "Here we go." Exactly what we were expecting. But for some reason, they've been smart and they waited slightly to allow me probably to get in the pit. Just gave us a shot to stay in the race. Got to be pretty thankful for that.
Q: Can you tell us about your thoughts on having the alternate tires?
Paul Tracy: I think it's great. I think it's great for the sport. It's not much different in other series where they have a choice between hard or soft. That's all it is. It's a hard-compound tire and it's a soft-compound tire. Everybody's going to use the softer compound in qualifying. I think it just adds another dimension to the race.
Obviously, Sebastien went about his tire selection different than I did, and that's probably what won him the race. So their strategy was better than ours. Ours was to do them first, then do them at the end. I think it gives a lot of variation, and it creates a lot of opportunities for teams. That's what they're looking for.
Sebastien Bourdais: The thing you've got to understand is you're always smarter afterwards. It's good to say that we had the right strategy, but realistically you're never sure before it really happens.
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