Champ Car World Series: Road America
Topics: Grand Prix of Road America
September 23, 2006
ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN
ERIC MAUK: All right, ladies and gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference, final round qualifying, Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, round 12 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
Before we get started, I'd like to introduce Mr. Al Speyer, executive director of Bridgestone Motorsports to come up and give the Bridgestone Pole Position Award to Dan Clarke.
ERIC MAUK: Mr. Speyer, if you would, Bridgestone has had quite a challenge this weekend. It's dry, it's wet, it's dry, wet. Keeping you on your toes. Tell us about the performance, how things have worked out for you this weekend.
AL SPEYER: I don't think it's much of a challenge for us. I think it's a big challenge for the drivers and team dealing with the different conditions. We kind of sit back and watch everybody.
It is unique in that we're going into tomorrow's race, and I don't think any team has put significant laps on the alternate tires. That's going to be another challenge for them as well. I hope it's dry tomorrow.
Going into a little bit more depth, Dan and Charles yesterday put on dry tires right at the end of the session. Still a little wet out there. I'm a little surprised no other team tried that. They ended up about two seconds quicker than anybody else. It underscores just how important tire selection still is in the series, and how much of a difference tires can make in different changing conditions. I just wish them all the best of luck tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: While I've got you here, let's talk a little bit about Bridgestone stepped up, made a commitment to the recovery efforts for Cristiano da Matta, put together a great race package for a family to bid on on eBay. We have our award winners here today.
AL SPEYER: Ron Dooley is here. He presented the pole flag award to Dan Clarke. They were the winners on the eBay bid for Cristiano da Matta, raised over $1400 through that effort. We're trying to give them a special view of Champ Car activities. Turns out they're very big Champ Car fans. We auctioned off some tires, a special bicycle last night. Tomorrow during the race we're going to be presenting Cristiano's neurosurgeon, Dr. Johnson, with an autographed tire from all the drivers.
Happy to be helping out in all those activities to support Cristiano in his recovery.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you. As always, we really appreciate the support from Bridgestone. Welcome to Road America.
We'll get started with our top three qualifiers. Our third place starter, driver of the #34 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, Charles Zwolsman. His quick lap today, 2:11.121 seconds, 126.063 miles per hour. Starts third tomorrow. Best ever starting spot in the young Champ Car career of Mr. Zwolsman.
Charles, tell us a little bit about how you feel about starting third tomorrow.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Feels great. Yesterday I was happy, but I was a bit like could happen today that it dried up and I'd lose the spot. Today I'm really happy because now it's final and I'm starting in third. Really looking forward to that.
ERIC MAUK: Have you thought much about how you approach tomorrow's start?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: No. Just go out and race. At the start, you always have to anticipate what happens there. You have a million of preparations in your head for every scenario. Out there you just got to go with what feels right, just see what happens.
ERIC MAUK: Still kind of unclear as to what the weather is going to look like tomorrow. You got to run a full dry session this morning. How was your car?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: It was pretty good. I think we can still make a little bit of improvement there. All in all, we were looking pretty strong in the dry, as well. Also in the end of this session, I opted to go out in the wet to get some feel for it because yesterday morning we didn't run a session when it was fully wet. Also there I just found some lines, some stuff to work on for tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Thanks.
ERIC MAUK: Starting on the outside of the front row, the leader of today's qualifying session, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, two-time defending champion in the Champ Car World Series. He puts up a quick lap today of 2:06.460 seconds, 122.517 miles per hour. His ninth front row start of the year, his fifth front row start in a row. It also gives him a championship point, boosting his total to 311. Much more importantly, widening his gap to 63 over A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson as he looks to close in on the third consecutive Champ Car title.
Big run for you today, Sebastien. You needed a point. Went out there and got it. Tell us about the run today.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think as everybody saw, these conditions were really nerve-wracking. The whole team was just monitoring radar and everything to see when it was going to be optimal to run. It was extremely unclear. We elected to go right off with the used tires that we had yesterday. We could only afford to use one set of new tires, rain tires, otherwise if tomorrow it's raining we're going to run out.
It was a little complicated. We just happened to be the track at the right time. Pretty quick lap, which ended up being good enough.
That was quite a hell of a session. Just glad it turned out this way because yesterday was pretty frustrating. We had probably the fastest car in the morning session. It was wet. We were fairly happy. We parked it. Then it dried all the way. Just hats off to these guys. They decided it was going to be good enough on dries. I didn't really think it was going to be. On the last lap they got us.
We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. It surely feels good to start from the first row. That point is also very important. We'll see how it shakes out tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Talk about tomorrow a little bit. You need to outscore A.J. and Justin by seven points to clinch your third consecutive Champ Car title. Obviously you're a race car driver, you want to go out and go as hard as you can and win the race, but is there a little bit in the back of your mind that is going to do some scoreboard watching? Are you going to keep tabs what the other guys are doing or do you keep it out of your mind and wait for somebody to tell you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm sure the team will be on it. The truth is you're really going to try and win that race, see where our opponents are going to end up. If we get our job done, we'll need a little bit of help from whatever happens, wherever the other guys are finishing.
We're going to need to be a little lucky tomorrow. We start in a better starting position than they do. Hopefully it plays well for us.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
The polesitter for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America, driver of the #14 CTE Racing HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Dan Clarke. Dan earns the first pole of his young Champ Car career. It is the first time a rookie sat on a Champ Car pole since Sebastien Bourdais won the pole in Australia in 2003. Also the first time CTE Racing HVM has been on the pole since Ryan Hunter-Reay took the top spot in Milwaukee back in '04.
Dan, now it's completed. You're on the pole. Tell us about how it feels.
DAN CLARKE: It feels really good. You're right, it's great for the team 'cause I think it really signifies that they're on the up, we all are together. We strained to have some really good results this year, now we've got a pole award to add to that, a nice sticker to put on the car.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us what was going on through your mind. You saw the Atlantic session. The track was starting to get damp. When did you know you were in pretty decent shape?
DAN CLARKE: Well, you know, we were just waiting really. If it was going to go dry, we knew we'd have to go out. It was just a case of sitting in the car waiting for a whole hour. In the end, I didn't have to go out.
As the session was panning out, I think by the end of prequalifying, it looked like we were going to go quicker overall. But then it rained a little bit, then it dried, then it rained again. That was pretty much certain that we were okay.
It was just waiting and waiting. You know, some of the mechanics thought that we'd done it early, like 15 or 20 minutes to go, so they started to take the helmets off. That's just asking for bad luck.
In the end, it worked out. It's still raining now, I think.
ERIC MAUK: It's a little early. I'm sure you haven't delved into your race preparation yet. Can you tell us about your early thoughts on starting on the pole, how you attack that first corner in the morning.
DAN CLARKE: We've had some pretty good starts this year. I mean, Portland we got into second place by the first corner. I'm confident that we can get a good start and still be in the race. It's going to be a two-hour race. Really got to nail down and work on our strategies now. We've got warmup to do that tomorrow, as well. It's going to be a different ballgame tomorrow.
It's great to achieve this milestone right now. The ramifications of what we've achieved already haven't really settled in. We just got to keep our heads down and get ready for a race.
I'm really pleased so far because we announced a new sponsor with Bradford White on the car for this event. That's really cool. It's great for them to see us achieving and being up there because it just works great in all ways.
I'm happy also to announce a new partner charity, the Imagine Charity, based back in Liverpool. Just feels like it's all I guess giving me good luck, so we want to stick with it.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations, best of luck tomorrow.
As I failed to mention yesterday, the championship point that Dan earned for leading yesterday's qualifying moves him into a three-way tie for 10th in the championship standings. First time that Dan has been in the top 10 in this, his rookie season. He's also second in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, 19 points behind Will Power.
We'll take questions from the media now.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: There was nothing to lose. We were pretty happy with the car. We had some fast laps in the 15 minutes in that kind of conditions yesterday. We had some fast laps in the 15 minutes today, then we parked it early, then the track (indiscernible). We lost the lead in the 15 minutes.
Every time we've been (indiscernible) kind of after that in the same conditions, and on dries, we've been quick. We only missed it yesterday when it really got drier.
No, we were pretty sure we could get that and we went for it. Just very happy it worked out.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAN CLARKE: Well, a lot of it actually is quite familiar with what I'm used to back home. It's quite similar to Spa and Oulton Park in England, as well. I'm sure a lot of people are going to be making connections with that.
All year a lot of other tracks have been really difficult because they're street circuits, and I haven't had much experience at that.
As part of a rookie in this championship, you just kind of have to meet the standard, keep slugging it out, trying your best every time. That's really what we've been doing.
This just feels like a continuation of that. It feels good in a way yesterday because we actually kind of outsmarted the rest of the paddock. That felt pretty good. We understand where the time came from, but it feels good to have made our own decisions as a team, gone off our own idea, I guess. Nobody else really seemed to think of it except Charles as well. Credit to Charles and Conquest Racing.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Wasn't I first out (laughter)?
Q. Dan, what is your preference tomorrow? Full dry? Full wet? Considering you pulled it off in the 'tweener conditions, you want a weird race like that?
DAN CLARKE: It seems our advantage comes when it's a bit in between or changing. We were the ones that took advantage of it before anybody else.
Just going to take it as it comes. Seems like we're pretty good as adapting, but we'll see.
Q. Is it difficult, especially over the course of a two-hour race, to anticipate some wet, some dry? Is that pretty hard on the mind?
DAN CLARKE: Starting on pole, I don't think there's going to be any peace of mind until the checkered flag drops, especially if we stay at the front. Whatever happens, you know, it's going to be a tough race. We're rookies for a reason. That's still because we have yet to get the experience. The guys are going to be closing up behind us at the start. We've just got to do our best, both of us, to kind of close that gap, get on with the job.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Obviously, having Sebastien there, Dan himself this year is pretty good, it's a great feeling seeing a lot of those guys behind us which have been up there all year. You know, in the other series, I've been driving, I've been up there, been on the pole several times. It feels good to also be able to do it in Champ Car. We needed the slicks, the whole situation here, to make it happen. Nevertheless, it feels pretty good.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Very confident (laughter). No, someday, you know, you always have to have the belief to do it, otherwise there's no point in going out there. So definitely I'm working hard. The team is working hard. We're making steps forward. Who knows, someday.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Yeah, I think, you know, me and Dan being from Europe, we're used to having rain races over there, especially Dan in England. Must rain all the time - at least everybody say (laughter).
But, no, I think it will be okay. Haven't had much experience in this car yet in the rain. I think we'll figure it out. We'll have to see tomorrow.
DAN CLARKE: We did really well in the practice morning yesterday when we were fifth. We were running in the top two for a while, as well. That's confidence.
I don't know what you guys have seen of England, but it's not raining as much as you think it is (laughter). The day that we get cold racing over here, that's when you're going to see the English drivers coming out, yeah. But, no, we do well in the wet. We're happy.
Q. You talked about the possibilities, the prospects of wrapping up the championship. Is it important for you to get it done, to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think quite a lot of people didn't understand yesterday. The one reason why we couldn't really gamble going on slicks is because, you know, we've got everything to lose in these kind of conditions. You see A.J. going on wets, you see Justin going on wets. (Indiscernible), it's the best way to get yourself beat.
If it works out, you're the hero. Again, good job. It just paid off on the last lap. So one lap, that was that.
It's just one of these conditions where you really have to think about the championship. Sometimes it's frustrating. For sure if we can go two races at the end of the season without being in championship mode, I like it a lot better. But, you know, we can only do so much. We'll have to do our own race tomorrow. If we can win and wrap up the championship, that would be awesome, especially with the way it is, with the guys being from around here, the families are there, it would be a hell of a party. McDonald's down the road. It would be awesome for the series also. It would be a lot more exposure on the U.S. market than in the middle of the night if we end up wrapping it up in Australia.
We probably won't choose, so we'll just have to get on with the job and get it done. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, just keep trying.
Q. (No microphone.)
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think everybody's going to try to win the race tomorrow. In the meantime, you know, they can't throw it away. They're good drivers. I trust their abilities to get everything done. We just going to go racing. Obviously the last thing we want to see is a wreck somewhere. It usually doesn't happen on the first row. I'm just happy to start where I am, next to Dan. I've got no problem with that. We'll have 51 laps to debate it. It's going to be a long race.
ERIC MAUK: All right. That will wrap up our press conference. Thank you all very much for attending. We will go racing tomorrow, Round 12, 51 laps here at Road America. Thank you very much.
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