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Champ Car World Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Champ Car World Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Bruno Junqueira
Alex Tagliani
Paul Tracy
April 16, 2004


LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA

ERIC MAUK: We'll get started with today's post qualifying press conference, first round of qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. First round qualifying, season opener for the 2004 Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, we are joined by our top three qualifiers on the day. We'll start with the third place qualifier, driver of the #8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth from Rocketsports Racing, Alex Tagliani. Alex put a lap of 69.450 seconds, 102.013 miles per hour, to take third spot. How do you feel about the way things went today?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Fairly pleased. But I also have some disappointment since this morning, it's pretty difficult to get a clear lap in practice. Put a new set of tires at the end and managed to get it cleared up and same thing this afternoon in qualifying. That is a little bit of a disappointment. But on the other end, we are still third and it's good for our team. We worked really hard this winter in trying to be more competitive consistently, and I think starting the season, being third, it's pretty good for everyone and all of the hard work they did this winter. It's good motivation. But hopefully, tomorrow we'll be able to have a clean lap.

ERIC MAUK: Do you feel uncomfortable with the car or are you happy with the performance of the car today?

ALEX TAGLIANI: So far, so good. We also made a major change in the car between practice and qualifying, because we were so confident that the car was really good this morning that we could have just improved it. I think we made it a little bit worse and we had to work really hard to get this lap in. So I think tomorrow we should go back to what we had this morning and I'm pretty sure that we'll have a fair shot to try to get the pole.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our second place runner on the day, our defending series champion and defending champion of Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Paul Tracy, driver of the # 1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth for Forsythe Championship Racing, he put a lap of 69.156 seconds, 102.447 miles per hour. Second on the day, first session out, how do you feel?

PAUL TRACY: I feel good. Again, like Alex said, it was difficult, it was everybody on the track in the last nine minutes. So it was difficult to get a lap. I got held up a couple of times, but, you know, that's the way it is. I'd be more disappointed if I didn't have any cars out there to hold me up, so I'm glad we have a good field. That's, I guess, a good problem to have. I'm pleased with how the run went. We were good on our first set of tires. We were never able to get a complete lap on the second set, so that was a little bit disappointing. But we'll try again for tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: You ran 69.1 tomorrow, pole today at 68.9, if you get that pole time, what could it be tomorrow.

PAUL TRACY: I felt I could go a little faster. My first set of tires was on my last warmup lap and then it went red and then we sat and waited and decided to switch tires. We went out with eight, nine minutes to go and there was just a lot of traffic. It was difficult to put a lap together without coming across somebody or somebody coming out of the pits. It just didn't seem to flow right for me. So, you know, that's the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes the track is crowded. We waited till the end and that's the risk you take.

ERIC MAUK: How did the tires hold up today?

PAUL TRACY: Good. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We have a good balance on the car and the track is going to improve. We'll just try to improve the car tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: Best of luck tomorrow. Our Friday qualifying leader, driver of the #6 PacifiCare/Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Bruno Junqueira, and the current 2004 championship leader as he wins -- (Laughter) -- he wins a championship point for leading.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Whoa, give him the trophy right now.

ERIC MAUK: Take all of them you can get. They don't ask how; they ask how many.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Is there a banquet tonight?

ERIC MAUK: Yeah, but it's a much smaller version. That's the problem with that. Bruno Junqueira, he put a top 1:08:913 seconds, 102.908 miles hour. You guarantee yourself a starting spot for Sunday's race. How do you feel?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I feel really good. I think the PacifiCare Newman/Haas team did a great job during the winter. We had such a long winter, but you're still working hard and it's pretty good to come up in the first day of competition and show up, very competitive and end up the day in the front. That was a great result. I think that the race is very close between everybody. My first set of tires, we went two out on the second lap and the red came in. I did two laps and got traffic. Then I was looking on the second set of tires, I could do the lap quite quick, my third time lap, I already put my best lap and then I had a little bit of traffic. The time was there and hold until the end. I think my car is good. Out of the box this morning, it's very, very quick and let's see if we can keep it up for tomorrow and Sunday's race.

ERIC MAUK: How much is left in the car? How much faster do you think you have to go tomorrow to keep that pole?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I couldn't go any faster today. I think I went as fast as I could. For sure, tomorrow I can improve and the lap times improve. Like last year, I think pole, was on the pole Friday with 90, 91 and then the pole was like 81, and then I'm expecting tomorrow that we can go 8/10ths, a 12th second faster.

Q. Did you guys use the compound in qualifying -- inaudible -- and if you didn't, is that something you might do tomorrow ? -- (laughter.)

PAUL TRACY: I use them and I was happy with them. Obviously I didn't get the lap that I wanted to get. I felt I could have gone quicker than the first set, obviously, because they are softer. But I think everybody experienced the same problem. It was everybody on the track at once and it was difficult to get a lap. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get the lap together, but, you know, we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q. Was the support race a factor or was traffic still the big issue?

PAUL TRACY: I don't think the support race is a factor. I think the series has a structure now with BMW and Atlantics and Trans Am and obviously the Pro Celebrity. These are what the fans come here to see and that's something that we have to deal with. This is the type of track, the more rubber it gets, the faster it gets. I ran right after the Atlantics ran. I went out in the warmup and it was pretty quick, so the track was good.

Q. After such a long winter and so much uncertainty, how does it feel to finally be out on the racetrack and know not only are you out there now, but there's a very competitive series coming up?

PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it shows everybody is out here, there's no joking around. It's gotten real serious real quick. We've all had a lot of time off and a lot of time to think about what we need to do this year. You can see by everybody, even like a lot of the guys like even just to give you an example Mario Haberfeld had not driven a car until two days ago and he came out ready to go today. So a lot of guys are very motivated. I think the series looks good.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I agree with Paul. I think now the real thing has started, the series is very competitive, a lot of good drivers, good teams. Today, a nice sunny day in Long Beach and a lot of crowd for Friday. You could see around the paddock a lot of people, a lot of big race fans, a lot of autographs and some people in the grandstands, I think it was a pretty first day of the season, pretty good.

ALEX TAGLIANI: Those two guys did a good wrap, there was a lot of effort made of the people this winter. I was one of the guys that was very worried. Unfortunately I'm not like Paul with a couple of Ferraris in my parking lot and I can -- inaudible -- if I don't have a job. (Laughter). They worked really hard. I saw Paul and I talked to him about four times this winter, and you can ask Bronte (ph), she's going to miss him a little bit, too. It was hard work, but when we were at the press conference on Wednesday, the mayor of the city said she was quite excited because when Champ Car comes here, it's almost having two Super Bowls in the same year for the economy. So there's no other series in the world that can be proud of that.

Q. You mentioned all of the traffic in qualifying, maybe for tomorrow, do you go out early --

PAUL TRACY: Like I said, you can complain about it, but, you know, we'd be complaining more if there wasn't traffic, if there wasn't enough cars. So I guess it's a good problem to have. You just have to plan your strategy right, try to find the right hole. For me, today, it didn't happen. For Bruno, he got a good lap in. It's just a lot of it is strategy and a luck game.

Q. When there are move cars out there --

PAUL TRACY: It's improving every minute. So the longer you wait, if you're the last car out there, it sometimes can be to an advantage.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I mean, qualifying is always difficult in racing, you know, because everybody wants to wait to the last minute to get the best grip on the track. Sometimes you decide to go a little bit early, but then the track is not up there and you lose the pole for one or two tenths and you get mad. And sometimes you wait to the last minute and you lose the pole because somebody else got the good lap. Other days, like today was my day and hopefully it will be tomorrow, as well. (Laughs).

PAUL TRACY: Keep getting your hopes up. (Laughter).

Q. When you come into the pits at the end of the session, was there a lot of the people trying to congratulate you and you're waving them off, what's going through your mind?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. Because I saw that Tracy's car wasn't there and I knew that the in lap counts and a lot of people want to celebrate and I saw a lot of times, people celebrate before they finish, the thing really finished. I think auto racing has learned throughout 17 years, it just finish when the car is on the finish line. I knew that Tracy had a shot and people didn't realize that, because the session was already in, but now I think they did a good change to put the time line just after the last corner, and then the in lap counts as well. That's why I said, calm down, let's see what he does; respect, he's a great driver, and I wait until then.

Q. I can't remember whether Alex was in this situation last year or not, but I know you guys were, provisional pole on the first day and then you're assured of a front row start the second day. How does that affect the way you approach the second day?

PAUL TRACY: Well, it all depends. Like last year here, I had a provisional pole. I had quite a few times last year, provisional pole on the first day. You can sit back and wait and see how things progress in qualifying. You're not so anxious to get on the track and get a lap. You can sit and wait a little bit, because the worst you're going to be is second. But I can tell you, the most -- one of the most disappointing things is to know that you have a good car, and that if you wait, sometimes you're rushed to try to got the lap in. If there's a crash or if there's a red, it can really throw things off for you. So, the last thing you want to do when you're sitting there on provisional pole is see it slip away in the last minute. So you're out there giving it everything you have. But it allows you to sit and wait a little bit.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Pretty much like that, because if you are on the pole Friday, you will have to take the risk Saturday to be out on the track on the last minute when the track is going to be at its best, to get the best lap. If there is a red flag and someone just gets a lap a little bit before, then you get a little bit frustrated. But there is no point to do what I said, go a little bit early, do a clear lap with maybe like 2/10ths off on the track and then lose a pole because of that. It's a good thing to be guaranteed front row is because you can take a big risk Saturday no matter what.

Q. Inaudible?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Well, I think the series is the same, Champ Car is Champ Car. There are some changes, people left, people came, and, you know, Long Beach is Long Beach. When the series is back, you have like fans that are interested in seeing what's happening. So for me, I'm not really surprised to see that there is a big crowd already on Friday.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think, as Tag said, I think the most -- the thing that really stressed throughout the winter and the thing I couldn't believe is that Champ Car is going to have like eight or nine really good races on the schedule. When I'm seeing eight or nine, like maybe a 100,000 people on race day and over 200,000 on the weekend. Like here, like the Canadian races and the straightaways, even at Cleveland, people come -- inaudible -- because the grandstands does not fit, but last year was great. We have so many good races, so many good events, and in my mind, it was really difficult to believe that those events were not going to be here this year. I think because of the good racing that Champ Car has and the good events, the good -- the people came to the race and everything, I think that's the strongest part of the series and that's what made us believe and that's why we are here. I think that's the most important thing.

Q. Tag, you were holding onto your hand before, somebody said to me that you had some acupuncture, when was that?

ALEX TAGLIANI: I wish it could be acupuncture. No, I have tendinitis and I have to get a shot this morning and this afternoon.

Q. Every day?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, it's every day. But, you know, once you are in the car, there is no pain. But when the product goes away, I guess it's a little bit painful. Not so concerned about this weekend, because after that, we have a month to rest it. So, I mean, it's just a bad timing to get this tendinitis out. But what if you were a tennis player and you had tendinitis on your elbow? You have to live with it, so it's the same.

Q. A tennis player can take a week off .

ALEX TAGLIANI: We can't afford to take a week off.

PAUL TRACY: I think your wife is still working too much.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: First week off.

ALEX TAGLIANI: She's not taking as good care of me as last year, but that's the way you have to leave it. (Laughter).

Q. This place has changed in the last 30 years but is it still one of the great tracks as far as street courses go?

PAUL TRACY: No, it's a lot of fun. This is a fun track. The basic course hasn't changed in six, seven years. But the one thing that sticks out in my mind that really hasn't changed in all of the years I've come here since -- my first race in '91, is the fans here, they are crazy about Champ Car racing. These are the type of fans that hold, held this whole series together. That's one thing about Long Beach is that they are crazy about racing and they love coming out and they love having a party here. When we were here for the spring training, the photo sessions, the Fan Fest we had, the passion that the fans have for this series in this little town right here is tremendous.

Q. Can you talk about the rivalry that might develop between you and Paul, picking up where you left off last year?

ALEX TAGLIANI: Well, what about me? (Laughter).

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: We start the rivalry like two weeks ago when we went to Miami and we were cycling and I beat him and I told him, this year I'm going to beat him, any kind of wheels, two, four, six, anything.

PAUL TRACY: No, Bruno, him and I, we get along real good. We have a good rivalry on the track. We've raced each other fair and clean and we have good fun off the track. We get along good.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, that's really important. Ask Tag, I've been to his house in Las Vegas last year --

Q. How did he treat you?

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: He treat me very well, I mean --

ALEX TAGLIANI: I definitely didn't took for him. Want to make sure you guys know that. (Laughter).

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: But I think that's one thing that is really important to say. I don't think the championship is going to be just between me and Paul. I think Tag is going to be really good, Sebastien is going to be good, and the other teams look pretty strong. Pat is going to be good, as well. We have like eight to ten drivers, A.J. and Michel and that team, I think A.J. was good today. When they got the right setup, they are going to be strong. I mean, you have like ten drivers that are capable to win races, and I think the championship is going to be really difficult this year, more difficult than last year, I reckon.

Q. I think this track has a lot of history, your first race was here, and now you come back as the champion, talk about your career?

PAUL TRACY: Well, my first race was here. You know, my first win was here. You know, this race has a lot of tradition and a lot of great names have been on the board here. So even today, I saw little Al and had a chance to talk with him. He's here with his son. It was good to see him here, as well. You know, from that standpoint, I mean, I'm just proud to be a part of the series and proud to be part of the legacy that has run here.

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