CART FedEx Championship Series: Honda Indy 300
Topics: Honda Indy 300
MERRILL CAIN: Let's get started with our top three press conference following provisional qualifying for Sunday's Honda Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia. Before we get started, we're joined by Paul Tracy, I wanted to go over quickly with some of the journalists new to covering the CART series this weekend, we want to review the revised qualifying procedures that CART put into place this year. Basically this is provisional qualifying this afternoon. The polesitter who wound up to be Bruno Junqueira earns one championship point for his effort today, guarantees himself a front row starting spot for Sunday's race. Final qualifying will be held tomorrow afternoon, and another championship point will be on the line. If his time betters Bruno's time today, he will start ahead of Bruno on the front row. We'll welcome in Paul Tracy, qualifying second this afternoon, driver of the #26 Honda/Lola/Bridgestone, second today, with the first qualifying run of 1:31.575 seconds, a speed of 109.877 miles per hour, a mark that betters the existing track record set by Dario Franchitti in 1999. If Paul can back up his effort tomorrow, it will be the fourth time this year that Paul, who won in Milwaukee earlier this year, will start in the second position. Paul, it seems the car came off the track quickly early today. You had a great run. Again, the run would have held up as the new track record had Bruno not bettered it later on.
PAUL TRACY: It was a great effort by the team. I was able to do it right away, first set of tires. I think we got too conservative. We decided to wait, wait, wait. I went out with six minutes to go. They told me to circulate because nobody was getting close to the time. Bruno put a lap in with a minute or so to go. I didn't have time to respond. The car was really good. I feel I know where I can gain more time. But there wasn't enough time for me to respond to Bruno's lap. We'll just have to go at it as hard as we can tomorrow and try to take it back.
MERRILL CAIN: Can you talk to us, why do you think we saw the times continue to fall? Was it a matter of the track improving? Dario's time held up quite a while as a track record, but was broken twice today.
PAUL TRACY: I think the cars are evolving, getting better. Obviously, we have less power than we used to have. The cars are evolving, getting better. The teams are understanding the cars better. Also the track this year, we don't have the mounds of concrete that were on top of the chicanes that we had for the last couple of years. A couple of the chicanes are much quicker than they were in previous years. It allowed us time there. Surfers does a fantastic job. They always put together a first-class facility. When we break the lap record, just for a while, it's good to see the crowd when that happens.
MERRILL CAIN: We're joined by Bruno Junqueira, provisional polesitter, driver of the #4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he wins the provisional pole with a new Surfers Paradise track record with a best lap today of 1:31.515 seconds, a speed of 109.949 miles per hour, beating the old record of 1:31.703 set by Dario Franchitti in 1999. His effort guarantees him a front row starting spot as we set up for Sunday's race, giving him one championship point, boosting his total for the season to 144 points on the year. Bruno, an excellent effort from you this afternoon. As opposed to Paul who turned his quick lap relatively early, you waited till later in the session, came out on fire. Talk about your effort this afternoon.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: Yeah, well, a pretty exciting session for me because I waited a little bit to go to the track. When I went, on the first lap, there was a red flag. Wait again. I went on the track, red flag again. Wait again, red flag. Then I change, put new tires. On my first lap, red flag. Then like seven minutes to go, I didn't have a lap. I was pretty worried. Then I did my first lap very conservative to guarantee a position on the grid. Then on the second lap, I pushed as far as I could. I knew I had three laps. Then I got a very good lap. I thought it was so great because Paul did 1.5. I thought that was unbeatable. I said, "Okay." On the next lap, my last lap, on the chicane I even slowed down a little bit because I didn't want to be in a crash. I did some corners at the end of the track a little bit better, and I was faster than my best lap. Then it got difficult because I start with 20 seconds to go, and still some guy is doing a lap. I came out of the car, I start to pray that I hope nobody beat me. Luckily, nobody did it. I'm quite pleased to be on the pole here.
MERRILL CAIN: Congratulations. Bruno's team Scott Dixon driver of the #44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone takes the third spot in today's provisional qualifying with lap of 1:32.143 seconds, a speed of 109.200 miles per hour, a spot that if it holds up tomorrow, will be the third time in the last four races that Scott will start in the first two rows. Scott, it has to feel great for you, a native New Zealander, having great fan support here, great performance by your teammate, you finishing on top three of the podium today.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, good job for Bruno. I think we probably had as good a car, weren't able to get any laps together, frustrating early, as I'm sure it was for everyone. We had a lot of out laps, no actual timed laps. The car, basically we had a lot of brake problems. Still very happy with how the team has worked, you know, just hope to improve tomorrow.
MERRILL CAIN: Let's open it up for questions.
Q. Paul, you always qualify well here. I know you're keen to make the breakthrough and be the first driver to grab the two wins here.
PAUL TRACY: That's for sure. This is a track that I've always gone well, I've always qualified in the top four or five here. This is my favorite street course we go to. It's really a track you can attack on and push the car to the limit. They've improved the track every year, gave us a little bit more room every year, and you see guys out there pushing it to the limit. A lot of street tracks we go to, they're so slippery and so tight, you really just have to finesse your way around the track, not make any mistakes. This is a track where you can really push it to the limit. I enjoy that.
Q. Bruno, Paul thought he had a bit more left in the car. You have a whole day till qualifying now. Is the track going to improve a lot more, unless there's weather?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No, I have nothing left (laughter).
MERRILL CAIN: Strong, silent type.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: You can always improve. We have to see how the track is tomorrow. Today, we had quite strong wind. That makes a little bit of difference. I have to see how much grip the track will pick up tomorrow. I think you can see in qualifying, it's really difficult to get a clear lap. I'll try to keep the pole.
Q. Scott, any particular areas in the track that you might be able to improve on tomorrow, do you think?
SCOTT DIXON: We had big braking problems, like turn one, going into the complex, it was very long. We were missing downshifts. There's always room, and everybody is the same. Basically that's what I'll try to improve tomorrow.
Q. Bruno, when Paul did his 31.5 lap early, he had seven 10ths over the field. Did you think then it was possible to get a mid 31 out of your car?
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: No. Before qualifying I thought high 31s, 31.9 would be on the pole. Cristiano did 32.9 in the morning. When Paul did a very early 31.5 I was quite impressed. I thought it would be really difficult to beat. I know Paul. I said, "Man, this guy must be going through the chicanes like crazy." My style of driving, I can't like attack the chicanes that much. I have to be really hard to get a lap like this. I like more to go around and use the grip. But when Paul did that lap, I thought he had the pole already.
Q. Paul, the lap after you did your 31.5, you missed the chicane.
PAUL TRACY: I missed the chicane. I was a couple 10ths up, just lost the brake going into the first chicane on the back, had to go through the grass. Just one of those things. We were pushing hard, didn't get it. The next lap around, I was a little bit more conservative and just was a 10th off. You know, we really didn't do a lot of laps, nor did everybody else. We'll attack tomorrow. I mean, I want to finish off the year strong for the team and hopefully we can get a couple wins.
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: It will be very different because Paul is much lighter, and he's really going fast with his new hair (laughter).
PAUL TRACY: I'm going to trim it up tonight for tomorrow. Make it a little shorter tonight, give me another 10th (laughter).
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