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Champ Car World Series: Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank

Champ Car World Series: Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by U.S. Bank

Sebastien Bourdais
Cristiano da Matta
Paul Tracy
June 25, 2005


CLEVELAND, OHIO

ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started our post qualifying press conference, the final grid has been set for Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, round five of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined by our top three qualifiers. Before we start the formal part of our press conference today, I'd like to bring up Mark Robinson, director of communications for Bridgestone who will join today's polesitter, Mr. Paul Tracy, for a special award. (Award given.) We will start with our third place qualifier today, our series points leader, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien puts up a quick lap of 57.559 seconds, 131.719 miles per hour. This is Sebastien's third top three start here in Cleveland in his three starts. Sebastien, tell us a little bit about how it went today.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's good to be here. It's been a bit of a struggle. Finally made it to the top three. But, no, I think we really worked hard both days, yesterday and today, and made the McDonald's car work pretty well. I was fairly happy with the balance. Paul spun around, just didn't see me. So kind of ruined a bit our run. And then after that, was a tough choice: either you want to stay out or you want to wait. It's been a bit too optimistic and stayed in the pits for too long. Then when we went back out, many cars on the track, couldn't do a lap. It's kind of a repeat from yesterday. A bit of a shame, but, you know, we've got two fast cars in front of us, and we're just going to have to battle it out tomorrow.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien, red flag came out, shut the session down three minutes early, you were 14-hundredths off. Did you think you had a shot?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The last run is always a struggle here. I think I really had a little going on in the first run, I was really frustrated. But, you know, so it is. You just have to put on a good race tomorrow and try and pass these guys.

ERIC MAUK: Sebastien started third here a year ago, went on to lead 88 laps and won the race here. He is the defending two-time Cleveland race winner. Our second place starter, driver of the #21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for PKV Racing, Cristiano da Matta. Cristiano starts second after putting up a time today of 57.424 seconds, 132.028 miles per hour. This is Cristiano's first front row start here in Champ Car since the Surfers Paradise race in 2002. Cristiano, tell us a little bit about how things went today.

CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, had a good session. First run everything went pretty smooth. On the second run, I think, as everyone -- as Sebastien is talking, there is just lots of cars in the racetrack, difficult to get a proper gap. I don't think I got everything out of what my car could have gave me on the red tires. I think on the black tires on the first run is where I did my time. So definitely there is a couple more -- a little bit more left in the car. I'm very happy still just to know that last weekend wasn't just a spell. We come back here and we run strong again because we never knew what we were going to get until the first session we started to get going, then we saw we were up there. We were really happy. So just the fact that we're getting more consistent overall as a team, I'm very happy about that, very happy about second place. Obviously Paul beat me by five-thousandths of a second. I think I beat him yesterday by three-thousandths of a second. Everything indicates it's going to be a very close race, if Sebastien, too, and some other cars out there are going pretty fast. Seems like the field actually looks a little more spread out than what it's going to be in the race.

ERIC MAUK: This will be your first start on the front row since we instituted the new 'power to pass' in the Champ Cars. A little different animal on the start. Have you thought about how you're going to attack that start tomorrow?

CRISTIANO da MATTA: Well, the start I think is not too big of a secret. Everyone is on the 'push to pass'. I'll be on the 'push to pass', too.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our polesitter, the third time he's won a pole here at Cleveland, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul hangs up the day's best time, 57.401 seconds, 132.(check) miles per hour. This is his 24th career pole, seventh place all time on the Champ Car list, breaking a tie with Johnny Rutherford. Another strong run today. You're on pole. How does it feel?

PAUL TRACY: It feels good. The first session we decided to go out early. I felt that I could probably get the best out of the car, was good in warm-up on old tires, so I thought we'd go out early and see if we could get the best of it on a clear track. Had a huge spin in the last corner, flat spotted the tires, ripped the front wing off in the grass. So not the way we wanted to start our first run. You know, I got in the way of Sebastien. So we lost the fast time for the session. The mindset really then was we have to do two fast laps. We decided, again, to go early, just as everybody was starting to pull off the track, and I had, you know, four really quick laps in a row. Two were good enough for pole. The one was just a couple hundredths behind that. We're very satisfied.

ERIC MAUK: Tell us about the performance of the Bridgestone Potenzas today.

PAUL TRACY: It was impressive. Normally my style of qualifying is to bring the tire up, hit it hard for one lap, maybe take a cool-off lap and take another one. Having to do with taking our fast lap away, you have to put a couple of them together. I was able to put three fairly quick laps together that were just -- that were all good enough for the front row. The way they performed was great.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Paul is the first driver this year to win multiple poles during the Champ Car season. He won the pole season opener in Long Beach. He earns a champion point for qualifying, giving him 96 for the year, closing the gap between him and Sebastien at the front of the standings to 10 points. We'll take questions from the media.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: Well, I guess I hope nobody hits the barrel like a football and kicks it into somebody. We'll have to see what the plan is in the drivers meeting. You know, Tony has been pretty proactive on what he's been doing this year. He's going to tell us what he wants to see. We'll see if we can do it in the first corner. Our goal is to try to get to the first corner first and then try to be out of the first corner first.

Q. (No microphone.)

CRISTIANO da MATTA: They shouldn't be able to do that anyway. The barrel is there's like a yellow line, I guess, in the middle of the racetrack. The barrel is going to be right over the yellow line and you shouldn't be able to go over the yellow line in the new rules.

Q. (No microphone.)

CRISTIANO da MATTA: I think they are doing the wrong thing. You shouldn't be there.

Q. (No microphone.)

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I think something needed to be done to try to narrow the racetrack so it's not so tempting and you don't have the wide-open racetrack, so you don't have the P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6 and P10, and obviously everybody is shooting for the same apex, didn't make it. I don't know about the barrel. But for sure if somebody crosses the line, he should be penalized and he should know about it. Then he should not even try to make the corner; just try and reposition himself afterwards. If you try to sneak back into the pack, for sure is going to be a big crash.

ERIC MAUK: Paul, any thoughts?

PAUL TRACY: Pretty much the same. I don't know what the situation is going to be. I didn't hear about a line. I just heard about the barrel. I'm sure it will catch somebody out.

ERIC MAUK: Cristiano, you were here last time we set up cones, I believe it was '01 or '02, where they tried something similar going into turn one. Your recollections on how that worked out?

CRISTIANO da MATTA: I remember they're trying to do something similar, and I don't remember how were the results, but I remember they were trying to do something similar. If you imagine it makes a little bit of sense if you have a very wide track and the hairpins right here, the way it happens on the start, there are some guys on the inside, right on the right side of the racetrack. You can imagine the difference on speed going into the corner of a guy that is taking it, you know, all the way tight and a guy that is taking it all the way wide. Plus the tempting factor that Sebastien mentioned. I think it makes sense to narrow it a little bit. It just makes the minimum speed for everyone sort of more similar. Give it a try. We know the other way doesn't work (laughter).

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: I mean, we'll just have to see how our cars perform. Our car is good. We'll just see what the pace of the race is. I mean, it's hard when you have guys like these two guys. You're not going to drive away from anybody. You know, the question mark is always how much fuel do you burn or how fast do you go. We'll just have to see how our car starts the race off handling-wise, try to go from there.

Q. (No microphone.)?

PAUL TRACY: It's fast for sure, that's for sure. Hasn't changed much. The track is fast. There's a lot of different series here this weekend, so there's a lot of rubber on the track compared to years past. The track is getting quicker and quicker.

ERIC MAUK: Pole time this year is lower. This is about a 10th lower, a little over a 10th lower than it was last year.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean for me, I don't feel that -- there wasn't much that I could do. A car came from three or four rows behind, kind of out of control, locked up. One car saw it and swerved out of the way and ran into me. You know, hopefully with what is going to happen tomorrow we'll alleviate some guys trying to go up the inside and not be able to make the corner.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: I've actually been pretty lucky in turn one, in fact, for getting through there. I started races from the back and gotten through big crashes and picked up 10, 11, 12 positions. So career-wise I've been pretty lucky to get through unscathed, and last year was for sure a disappointment, especially when you start from the pole.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: I think just one.

CRISTIANO da MATTA: I race here four times in Champ Cars before. I race here in Indy Lights. I've only got taken out once, and I've never taken anybody out. So don't want to try to change this statistic tomorrow.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: Well, I'm sure everybody has their little issue with them. For me, it's throwing a yellow at the end of Milwaukee for no reason. It didn't really satisfy my feelings. But, you know, for sure he's going to make a call here or there that people don't like. But, you know, that's I guess his job. Not everybody likes when they get a penalty. Today we took a penalty. At least he's proactive in doing something. I think Mexico maybe got a little bit crazy, it got out of hand there, there was a lot of incidents throughout the whole field, and not really much happened. But since then, you know, everybody's been driving pretty clean. It takes a few penalties to get thrown out and then people realize they better not do something.

Q. (No microphone.)

CRISTIANO da MATTA: No, I think I agree with Paul. I think he's doing a good job. It's been a little bit tougher than the other guys that have been there before, but in a good way. I think -- I mean, is making work. He's just like making the rules work the way they should work, like Paul said, sometimes maybe a call or two may upset a couple guys, but I think overall, the percentage they've been getting everything right in the percentage of guys that have to do his job I think is much higher than before.

PAUL TRACY: The bottom line is he's doing a job that whatever he does, somebody's not going to like it.

CRISTIANO da MATTA: Yeah.

PAUL TRACY: You have to be tough enough to make that call. I think he can stand the heat.

Q. (No microphone.)

PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, if there's a yellow line and you treat that like a wall, I mean, if that's what they call the rule, if you go over the yellow line, you're going to get a penalty. That's been at NASCAR, at Daytona, the yellow line on the apron of the track, you treat that like a wall. If you go under it, you're going to get a penalty. You know, we'll just have to see what happens tomorrow. If it was a street course, you wouldn't run yourself into the wall.

Q. (No microphone.)

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, very well. I mean, I've known Oriol for a very long time now. We raced from the same categories. We went through Formula (indiscernible), Formula Renault, Formula 3. I know him since '94, '95. He's a good guy. I really have a lot of respect for him. We're working well together. It's just it's always tough to just be thrown in the team like that and just have to take over for Bruno who is a very good driver. It takes a bit of time.

Q. (No microphone.)

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's not up to me to say anything. But he's doing pretty good. I mean, you know, it's going to take some time. I guess in a month he probably could drive the car. If he gets another hit, you take a chance to be paralyzed. It would be not the way you want to approach the problems.

ERIC MAUK: That brings an end to our press conference. We go racing tomorrow 94 laps. We take the green flag tomorrow at 2 p.m. Thank you.

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