Champ Car World Series: Molson Indy Toronto
Topics: Molson Indy Toronto
ERIC MAUK: All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, we'll go ahead and get started with our post qualifying press conference for the first round of qualifying for the Molson Indy Toronto, round six of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We will be joined by our top three qualifiers today. Currently we have our provisional polesitter here, our championship points leader, and two-time winner of the Molson Indy Toronto. Driver of the #3 Avalanche Bay Indeck Ford-Cosworth Lola/Bridgestone, Paul Tracy. Paul put up the fastest time today of 58.887, 107.290 miles an hour, guarantees him a front row starting spot in Sunday's race. It will be the fourth consecutive year he has started on the front row here at the Molson Indy Toronto. Also earns him a championship point, giving him 129 for the year and widening his lead over Sebastien Bourdais to two points after five races. Paul, tell us about how today went.
PAUL TRACY: It was a good session. Obviously, it was very busy at the end. We went out in the middle of the session. The track was quite busy, but we found a gap in the track where I could run a couple laps, you know, get a good run going. But the last set of tires, everybody was just accordion-ing, backing up and going, backing up and going. It was hard. I didn't get a lap the second run on the tires, so that was a little bit frustrating. But we had enough gap to Sebastien. I guess he brushed the wall and really couldn't challenge. We were fortunate that we didn't have to try to do a second run because I was never able to get the time because of traffic.
ERIC MAUK: You went out on the second stint almost the same time Sebastien did. Is that by design or just coincidence?
PAUL TRACY: No, we planned to go then. And Sebastien left like a couple seconds before us. It seemed like we just went right out into a group of traffic. Some guys were coming that I had to let by. Then they caught guys in front of them. It just was all backing up. It was a good session. Obviously, it's where we want to be. The car is good. So we'll just keep working at it for tomorrow.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations.
PAUL TRACY: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Our third place qualifier, driver of the #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Australia Racing, Alex Tagliani. Alex puts up a best time today of 59.248 seconds, 106.637 miles per hour. Alex, third place run. You've run here very well in the past. Tell us about how you feel about how it went today.
ALEX TAGLIANI: I'm very pleased. I mean, for us, the first day, it's always accumulating lots of datas and try to understand what we can do to go faster the rest of the weekend. Our first set of tires was pretty good. We did okay time. I did a little mistake in the hairpin. I went wide. I was surprised to do that lap with that mistake. Then on the second set of tires, we went very similar time, but I was not able to go as quick. I was trying really hard. When I saw Paul trying hard, locking tires, I said, "He must have the same problem I have." We felt pretty good. Finished the session P3. So it's pretty good for our team.
ERIC MAUK: You put up your 59.248 on your second stint. Paul said he was having problems with traffic. Were you having problems with traffic or was it a situation where you weren't finding as much speed as you wanted in that second stint?
ALEX TAGLIANI: Yeah, we did a little change as well on the car. Like I said, I don't know why. Maybe we missed the tire pressure or the track was not as quick. But I was pushing really hard and the times were not coming very easy. So we improved, you know, like marginally very, very small. It was enough to keep us in third, but it was not the easy second run, for sure.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck tomorrow. Our second place qualifier, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais, the defending winner of the Molson Indy Toronto. Sebastien's fast time on the day, 59.010 seconds, 107.067 miles per hour. Sebastien, tell us about how your session went.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's always an interesting qualifying session here. I guess a lot of people are getting frustrated by traffic and things like that. It's also pretty difficult to put a lap together. But we knew we had a good car. It was very similar to the baseline from last year. You know, I guess the other makes sense. PT was on pole Friday and we were on second. If we can repeat and be on pole tomorrow... You know, it's a very small (indiscernible), you make it all happen. It doesn't come easy. Obviously, the traffic was pretty dense today. Probably didn't get the best out of the McDonald's car. But we try again tomorrow and see how it goes.
ERIC MAUK: That second stint, you had one 59.09 lap in there. Did you think you had anything for Paul, or just the traffic bottled up?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think this lap could have been potentially a bit better. But I was about a hundred meters from Bjorn Wirdheim, his HVM car. You know when you're about that close, you're losing probably 10% of downforce. You know you're screwing yourself up. There really wasn't much options. I had people in front, behind. You just have to do what you can and hope for the best. But it wasn't good enough today.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Good luck tomorrow. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q. Paul, how much pressure does this take off the whole weekend that you can spend maybe tomorrow a little more time on race setup rather than worrying about whether or not you're guaranteed a front row spot?
PAUL TRACY: It definitely takes some of the pressure off. Obviously, tomorrow is a day you can either keep the pole or lose the pole. But to be guaranteed a front row spot allows us to be a little bit more conservative with tire choice, work a little bit more on race setup because we know the car is good. I think that's what's really going to be more important, you know, at least for us. I think the grip level, we need to find more grip level in the car for race setup than what we have right now. The car is good for qualifying, but probably not as good as we need it to be in the race yet. We'll work at that tomorrow and then, you know, if we find that grip, hopefully that will make it faster in qualifying trim.
Q. Paul, this is one of the faster street circuits. All of the guys talked about traffic. Do you think some of the new drivers are not experienced enough during qualifying...
PAUL TRACY: It's just a situation where everybody waits for the track to be getting better. You know, the final 10 minutes is when the track is probably at its best. Last year, I think the Saturday pole was a 58.9 or right about the time we're doing today. The track is quick this year. The tires are quick. You know, everybody wants to wait for the best possible moment to do the time.
Q. Tag, you guys qualified well so far this year. Your problems have come in the race. What do you have to do this time around to change back the situation?
ALEX TAGLIANI: I felt the race was pretty good, too. You know, unfortunately when you have guys like Paul running very consistent and finishing all his race, four podiums in five races. We broke a disc in Long Beach, we broke an engine in Portland. So out of five races, we had two DNFs. These are points that are very hard to make back on teams like Newman/Haas or Forsythe. I think we're competitive, we're just always a little about it insecure on the first day. When we come here, we don't know if the setup is going to work. We have to go back at nighttime. It's going to be our first data. Even for gearing this morning, we were pretty off. I was on the limiter a lot of places because we're looking at the data from Reynard last year. We're going quicker right away. It's a little difficult. But so far we've been competitive enough. We just have to keep finishing races the way we've been doing in Cleveland, and hopefully we can make some points back.
Q. Paul, in 2003, you won here. The last year for Player's. This is the 20th anniversary of this race. In 2003 you said it would be special to win here. Do you have a similar feeling because this is an anniversary of a big event for you?
PAUL TRACY: I don't know. I don't really think about it. I want to win here every year. 2003, the car was fantastic. It just pulled away from everybody. A lot of people had problems with grip and oversteer in the race in '03. My car was great. Last year, didn't go so well. You know, we've come back and we've improved the car, made it better. But right now, I don't feel it's as strong as we need it to be for Sunday. It doesn't really matter to me that it's the 20th anniversary or whatever. The focus is to try to win and have the best car.
Q. Alex, you're with a new team to you this year. I think they've maybe changed some of their engineering staff, plus they changed to the Lola chassis. How hard has that been? Seems like you're gelling fairly quickly with the team and getting good results.
ALEX TAGLIANI: No, I'm very, very surprised. If you would have asked me the same question three months ago, I would have been a little bit more cautious to say we would have been competitive. But Rob Edwards is my engineer. He's the team manager of the team. Obviously, it's where we want to be. I think the fact that we get along very well together, it's a very good thing. When you don't know the person you're working with for very long, I think if the chemistry is there, it's great. I think the guys, they've been working with Reynard in the past and they have not been competitive. Unfortunately, the car was not good. Now that they have a car that can compete up the front, I mean, they're very motivated, and you can see it. It's very nice to work in that type of atmosphere.
Q. Paul, I talked to you after Mexico. You weren't still sure about the direction your team was going to take. Things have gone pretty perfect since. What sort of happened in the interim there?
PAUL TRACY: Not much. I mean, you know, we didn't really -- winter testing for me is not really about being the fastest guy at the track. Maybe some people focus on that a lot. We went through a lot of test items, a lot of things that we had to try. A lot of the times, when the track was quick in testing, we didn't have, you know, all the best stuff on the car to go quick. Really we just focused on our program, picking the right components to have on the car at every individual event is what we focused on. Really, that's what we've been focusing on. As the year -- I'm working with Eric, he's new to me, past engineer. Starting out the year, we started out well and had a good result. But things are starting to come together now. Chemistry, like Alex said, when you get to know a guy, figure out -- when he figures out what I like, I'm figuring out the way he goes about it, they way his method is. The ball is starting to roll now. From the middle part of the season on is when it's going to get harder and harder. We just have to keep working.
Q. Do you see Sebastien as the one guy?
PAUL TRACY: He's the main guy, for sure. But, you know, there's going to be -- I feel this championship this year is going to go down to the last race, and is probably going to be two to three, maybe four guys still capable of winning in the final race the way it's looking. There's just so many guys in the top eight right now that can win a couple races in a row. You can make a big jump in the points.
Q. Sebastien, there's a lot of new drivers on the circuit this year. You were new to this track three years ago or two years ago. How difficult is it for a new driver to learn this track?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I guess it's probably one of the toughest street courses. It does a lot of pavement changes, concrete, asphalt, concrete again in some corners. It's making quite an interesting feeling in the car. It's definitely requesting some learning time. It's not an easy course, that's a sure thing.
Q. Because you have so many new drivers in this race this year, is that going to make the race more difficult for you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's tough to say. It's quite early in the weekend. We'll see how spread out the field is. Usually by Saturday qualifying, you know, the gaps are probably small. We'll see what happens. I'm not really worried about it. I think even though they are rookies, they were pretty good drivers and they're experienced in their own fields. I don't think we have to be worried about that.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our press conference. We set the final grid with tomorrow's qualifying. Please note qualifying starts at 1:45 tomorrow. Thank you.
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