Champ Car World Series: Molson Indy Montreal
Topics: Molson Indy Montreal
MERRILL CAIN: Ladies and Gentlemen, let's go ahead and get started with our top three - make it a top one - post qualifying press conference following the opening round of qualifying for the Molson Indy Montreal, Round 10 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We'll start out first with Paul Tracy, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing. Paul had a top lap of 1:22.400 seconds, a speed of 118.354 miles per hour, turned that on his seventh lap of the session. Paul Tracy's top qualifying effort came here last year where he finished fifth in qualifying. Paul, talk to us about your session today. Very quick in the practice sessions. How did things pan out in the abbreviated qualifying session?
PAUL TRACY: I think it went well. Obviously, our plan was to go at the beginning really to capitalize on the clear track. You know, the car was good, but still lacking a little bit of grip that we need to do the kind of time that obviously the Newman/Haas guys did. We need to do some work overnight. Balance is pretty good. Just lacking a little bit of grip. So we'll keep working at it.
MERRILL CAIN: Obviously the session was halted with the accident with Andrew Ranger. What was left for you? What was your plan from that point?
PAUL TRACY: Well, obviously we had another set of tires. We went early, so we had made a pretty big change to the car in the direction we feel we needed to go. We didn't get a chance to try that. But, you know, we'll work on it again tomorrow in practice and try to make it better. Hopefully tomorrow we'll have two shots at it.
MERRILL CAIN: Paul, as we talked about, this is a place where you haven't had the results you've been hoping for. Qualified fifth last year. What do you attribute that to? Why do you think you haven't been able to produce as well as you'd like to here?
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, a lot of it comes down to balance and car setup and having the car right. I just haven't had the car the way I've wanted it to feel here in the years that we've run. I mean, my best finish is a fourth. We were on schedule for a fourth in '03 but ran out of fuel on the start/finish straightaway. You know, things could be a little bit better, but I feel I've got a better car this year than I had in previous years. We need to close the gap a little bit.
MERRILL CAIN: Paul Tracy qualifying third in the opening round of qualifying here for the Molson Indy Montreal. We talked about the accident with Andrew Ranger. We will give you an update as soon as we know anything on Andrew's condition. He was transported to the local medical unit here, the Champ Car medical unit. As soon as we do have an update, we will pass that along to you in the media. Sebastien Bourdais is your top qualifier today on Friday, driver of the #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing. Sebastien had a top time today of 1:21.924 seconds, a speed of 119.042 miles per hour. Turned that on his seventh lap, as well. Sebastien won the pole here last year, led the first 26 laps of the race before contact with AJ Allmendinger ended his day. Sebastien, pretty quick day for you so far. Talk about how your qualifying panned out.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, we left the McDonald's car -- picked up the McDonald's car the way we left it last year. The balance is really good. I'm happy. Oriol is very fast, too. It was close during this run. I made a small mistake, but really not very far from what I was going to do. You know, just a very good feeling to be able to secure a front-row start like that. It's obviously extremely important to secure a front start position like that for us from now on, just to get the points we can. If we can grab a win, great. If we can't, we just move on and just think "championship." That's not part of the plan. But maybe.
MERRILL CAIN: As Sebastien points out, he earned a championship point for leading today's round of qualifying, also locks up a front-row starting spot. Sebastien on quite a roll as of late. Three wins in a row, going for four this weekend. If we look ahead to starting on the front row on Sunday, what is it going to take for you to bring home your fourth straight here?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I don't know. I think just a bit of not luck but maybe good fortune because we've really run out of luck during the last two races here, had a differential failure in 2003, which really never happened, except when Oriol joined the team in Portland or something like that. No, it's been quite frustrating for us. Last year we had a very good car, dominated the weekend, and couldn't go home with anything with the incident with AJ. Hopefully we can bring it home this time and score big points. That's all we're asking for. Tomorrow, I don't exactly know what qualifying is going to look like, but I think the car is good. Just going to try to make it even better.
MERRILL CAIN: Sebastien's teammate, Oriol Servia, driver of the #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, posted a top lap today of 1:22.010 seconds, a speed of 118.917 miles per hour. Turned that on his seventh lap. Started second here in 2003, finished second. His best finish here in Montreal. Oriol, how did things pan out for you? Usual obviously very quick throughout the day.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, very good. The car is obviously good. Won last year here, my car, PacifiCare. Sebastien was leading easy. Obviously, Newman/Haas has pretty good setup here. They tend to figure out things quickly. Here is definitely good place. It's been good for me in the past. I don't want to be overconfident, but I have the feeling we're going to be in good shape. We are obviously I think 4/10ths clear of everybody else. It's very impressive for the team. Just happy. This morning, every time I had a good lap I finished, and I had the red flag, so didn't count. In qualifying, I had a good lap the last lap that I thought looked like was going to beat Sebastien, but ran out of fuel in the last corner, so I had to stop. But it's okay. I mean, I'm happy that the car is good. I still have tomorrow and Sunday. Things are going well. Very happy. Hopefully we're going to be on the podium again.
MERRILL CAIN: As Oriol pointed out, the PacifiCare car last year obviously winning with Bruno Junqueira, ably filling in this season Oriol Servia for the injured Bruno. As you look at the results here today, obviously you didn't get as many laps as you wanted with the abbreviated qualifying session. Did you feel you had a car for pole today?
ORIOL SERVIA: Oh, for sure. I mean, I'm only 9/100ths behind, so for sure was. As I said, the last lap was going to be faster than that. Car was good. From here we just need to keep working for qualifying, but also for the race because it is quite a tough race on the tires. The new concrete areas makes it a little more funny out there. But, you know, obviously doing a good job. Sebastien is up there comfortable in the championship. I'm catching PT. It's making it interesting for the fans. We'll see what happens on Sunday.
MERRILL CAIN: Very good. Congratulations. Good job all three of you guys. Let's open it up for questions.
Q. Paul, I think you answered this for some of the local media yesterday, but could you talk, what would it take for you to get back into contention for the championship at this point with five races to go?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it's just simple mathematics: we have to win and Sebastien has to have some trouble. It didn't go that way today, but we have to keep pushing. You know, the bottom line is we have to score as maximum amount of points as we can, out-score Sebastien by quite a lot. It's going to be -- it's not going to be easy. It's going to be hard work. But that's what we're here to do, to try to do that.
Q. Sebastien, how much performance do you feel has been left in the car with the abbreviated session? Where would you have been able to get? We're still far away from last year...
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We're going to be far away this year just because of these concrete patches and also because of the new design of the fast chicane. You just have to go around these big curves something like 15, 20 miles slower than it used to be. There's going to be some definite big gap between the performance of last year and this year. But I don't know what was left in it. It's just extremely difficult to evaluate how much the track is going to pick up between one run and another. I just don't know. I know I made a small mistake, probably 2/10ths of a second. You know, we'll see tomorrow what the performance is like.
PAUL TRACY: I think if you look at the qualifying from F1 from previous years, I think the lap record is 11 or 12. They were 15s this year.
Q. Big change in the car.
PAUL TRACY: Big change in the track, too. Obviously, they've been pretty close in terms of speed everywhere else where they go. Yesterday Montoya broke the lap record at Monza. The car is not much slower than it used to be. The performance of our car is down to the track surface, the concrete, the chicanes are slightly slower.
Q. So the speeds we're seeing today should be around ballpark figure for the pole tomorrow?
ORIOL SERVIA: We're going to see improvement like any other car, 4 or 5/10ths, maybe a little bit more, but not huge.
Q. Oriol, if things stay that way, you're in between Seb and PT, what would you be willing to do to protect your teammate?
ORIOL SERVIA: Protect?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Are you kidding me? He's trying to kick my ass (laughter).
ORIOL SERVIA: My sponsor wants to win here (laughter).
I want to do the best I can. I think in the past, between teammates, you don't try to screw each other, obviously. You help each other. If he wants to have a bigger lead on Paul or me or whoever, and I want to be up front... But, you know, I think we have to use common sense. You know, first I have to beat PT in the points. I'm joking, but PT's always up there, and he's going to be up there every race. It's going to be a tough, tough race just to do that. I have to have everything in mind. There's still five races to go. We're all feeling it's close to the end, but there's still a lot. It's third in the championship still. Still a lot.
MERRILL CAIN: Quick update on Andrew Ranger. Good news. He has been checked out and release d from the Champ Car medical unit. According to Dr. Chris Pinderski, Champ Car's director of medical affairs. He is clear to drive tomorrow, for the rest find weekend. Very good news. Andrew checked out okay and has been released from the medical unit.
Q. I'll get in trouble for asking this, but a 60% chance of rain on Sunday. Do we even think about what this race is going to be like, what you're going to have to think about?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: A big mess (laughter).
Q. Can you expand on that, Sebastien?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, obviously I think it's been a long while. Yeah, what was it last time, like Elkhart 2003 I think is the last race we had in the rain conditions. That was kind an event.
ORIOL SERVIA: I don't remember (laughter).
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's extremely difficult here. You have walls on both sides of the track. It's quite a tight asphalt. It's probably going to stay on top of it. The speed is high, so the water is going to go extremely high, too. Just past second place, probably nowhere to see anything. So you can expect quite a few incidents to happen if it does rain.
MERRILL CAIN: Paul, Oriol, you care to comment on that?
ORIOL SERVIA: I'm just sorry for the fans. The fans here are always great. They come, especially Sunday, have big crowds. If it rains, people get wet, nobody likes that. But hope it stays dry.
PAUL TRACY: Yeah, I think the same for me. Obviously, we want it dry. But I think the rain tire this year is a better tire than we've had in years past. It's much softer. We'll wait and see what happens for Sunday.
MERRILL CAIN: Weatherman can always be wrong, as well.
Q. You were saying Ranger has been cleared. Do you know what his injuries were?
MERRILL CAIN: I don't have that information. We can get that for you. I mean, I don't know at this point. All I know is he's been checked out and cleared to drive.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I guess if he's been cleared, there's probably no injury.
MERRILL CAIN: Yes. Whatever he was complaining of, he was released, so...
Q. Paul, does today represent a major setback in terms of what your strategy was coming into the weekend? How disappointed are you? Do you feel you can make up the ground?
PAUL TRACY: I'm not disappointed. Obviously, it's a long race and anything can happen. Proof of that is last week. We have to go out and just push all the time and hope for the best. If it happens, it happens. But we're not going to give up and coast through the rest of the season. We want to try to win some more races. At the end of the day, if it happens for us, then that's great.
Q. Seb, you two being first and second after day one, how does that set up the weekend? How much does it tell you your cars are going to be pretty dominant this weekend?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't know. I think it's a tough course. I think qualifying setup and race setup is significantly different here. I know we're going to have the speed. It's all about being conservative enough so you don't wear out the tires halfway through the first stint and things like that. We just need to be on top of our game. It's obviously the case right now, we need to keep on doing that.
MERRILL CAIN: Champ Car practice begins tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., final round of qualifying 2:00 p.m. Good luck tomorrow.
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