Toronto IndyCar Friday Press Conference
1st Dario Franchitti
2nd Sebastien Bourdais
3rd Tony Kanaan
4th Will Power
5th James Jakes
6th Scott Dixon
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by some of our Firestone Fast Six. We'll start with James Jakes.
James, talk about qualifying today.
JAMES JAKES: It was tough. I think the guys were just saying the same thing. The track, especially at turn one, there's a new surface change down there. It's quite a handful through there. We were actually quite lucky because we hit the wall, bent the left rear tail link. We were lucky we were able to change that while the second session was going round.
Apart from that, hopefully we can improve the car a little bit. Hopefully we can make a few positions up at the start.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastien Bourdais will start second. Sebastien, talk about qualifying.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, it's good to be here. Yeah, it's been a long season so far. You know, we just couldn't quite get the handling of the car right. We made a lot of changes this morning. It's the first weekend we're working together on the street course. Looks like it's working out pretty good.
It's not the first time that Toronto would be the turnaround of our season. It's happened the last two years. Hopefully we can carry on some momentum. We definitely have a pretty fast car. Pretty excited for the two races this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Tony Kanaan will start fourth. Tony, thoughts on qualifying.
TONY KANAAN: It was a pretty good day for us. As soon as we rolled off the truck, the car was good, consistent. Quite difficult qualifying. I think, like the boys said, turn one is extremely slippery. You never know what's going to happen when you go through there.
It's a matter of who has it right better than the other guys. I figured the slower I went into the corner, the better I came off, which is completely against my rules. But it was a good qualifying effort. I think it's going to be a tough race tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Scott Dixon will start sixth. Scott, talk about qualifying.
SCOTT DIXON: We made a few changes through the sessions. I never got turn one or turn three right on the two or three laps I did on the red tires. But the car and the balance feels good. Obviously Dario, congratulations to him, did a helluva job to put it on pole. He seems to like this place.
So, yeah, we look forward to tomorrow. Hopefully we can make a couple of small improvements, but not too drastic on the No. 9.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Sebastien, you and Jay seemed very excited, a lot of emotion after your qualifying effort. What's going on this year that you've had such a tough time?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, like I said, after the poor results we had since the beginning of the season on tracks we were hoping to do really good, coming off a pretty strong end of the season last year, we were definitely starting to wonder if we could turn the boat around a little bit.
Definitely feels like this weekend we did. We started off pretty much the same way the same way with a ton of understeer on street courses. Finally we found some recipes to slowly decrease it. Finally I can feel like I'm doing something behind the wheel rather than going along for the ride.
Yeah, for sure, when you've been deep in the hole, finally you seem to be able to see some light, it feels really good. Pretty excited for the boys. It's been a lot of work, just like everybody else, but when you don't have the results, it's twice as hard.
THE MODERATOR: We've also been joined by Will Power. Will, thoughts on qualifying?
WILL POWER: Felt lucky to get through each time, but just made it. Happy to be third. Very difficult out there. The car, bloody hard to find a balance around this place. Track keeps getting worse every year (laughter). The cement in the middle of the corners gets more slippery and it's quite bumpy. Makes for a bit of character, you could say. Ring the car's neck to get some lap times.
Q. How big a surprise is it there's no Andretti Autosport driver in the Fast Six?
TONY KANAAN: I'm not surprised. I think this season has been extremely competitive. I think we're all saying the track is lacking grip. If you get it right, you get it right. They have pretty good cars. In my opinion, they didn't get that lap right. It was really easy to do today.
But I wouldn't discount them tomorrow for sure. You watch.
Q. Talk about the standing start tomorrow. How do you feel about that?
TONY KANAAN: Not good, I guess.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: You were hoping for the rolling?
TONY KANAAN: Yeah, man. At least I only have two cars in front of me.
I don't know. It's been since 1993 that I haven't done a standing start. I'll make a comment about that tomorrow. But right now I'll say I'm not a big fan. Let's put it this way.
TONY KANAAN: Because IndyCar for me, it's always been about rolling starts. We're talking about tradition and stuff. Maybe tomorrow I'll end up in the end of the race saying I love it. That's just because of the tradition. That's my preference.
I'm not against it. It's just you guys asked my opinion. I said I don't like it.
JAMES JAKES: I'm pretty excited about it actually. One thing I don't agree with, I know it's tough with the logistics of getting guys over the wall, I don't think we should line up in pit lane and then go out there and start.
Last running start was in 2011. The whole point about leaving the box on the grid is you can lay a little bit of rubber down. You can also get a reference of where you start.
If we're leaving pit lane, going around there, lining up, there's 25 guys that have to get it right in position.
Q. Think you're starting off track.
JAMES JAKES: Not that I heard.
THE MODERATOR: That's where the grid lines will be. We'll give you the procedures. Other questions?
Q. Sebastien, I understand there were some changes made to the crews, one or the other, at Dragon Racing. Can you be specific about what changes were made?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Since Pocono, Tom Brown replaced Neil Fife on my car. On the other car, the chief mechanic, yeah, got... I don't know how to say the polite thing. There's been a couple other guys joining the No. 6 to help the transition out. That's it.
On my end, my chief mechanic quite a while ago because of personal reasons. We have Joe stepping in on our end.
Q. (Question regarding Barnhart replacing Barfield.)
TONY KANAAN: I think we'll be well-represented. Been in that job for many years. I don't know what happened to Beaux, but we're lucky we have somebody to fill in for him and take his place. It's somebody that I trust, as well. It's good.
THE MODERATOR: Beaux Barfield is not here in Toronto this weekend for personal reasons. Senior vice president of operations Brian Barnhart will be filling in that role.
Q. Did anyone see Turbo? If so, what did you think of the movie?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I thought it was great and the technical consultants did a fantastic job.
Q. The lead racer kind of looked like you, but with T.K.'s nose.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: We thought Tagliani.
TONY KANAAN: Look at the size of his nose. What are you talking about?
Yeah, I watched the preview on Tuesday in New York.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The premiere.
TONY KANAAN: The premiere, sorry.
I think the movie has a great message. It's about getting the awareness of the Indy 500. But the message of the perseverance, the goals for the little kids, what you can, cannot do, it's really awesome, so I love it.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think it's a great story, it really is. The underdog story. I sat and watched all the ins-and-outs of it. I was totally caught up in the story.
The animation is unbelievable, just incredible. But the story itself, how funny it is, there's jokes in there that kids won't get, I would be rolling around. Typical DreamWorks film.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: From a six-year-old perspective from my daughter, we took last night, she was just big eyes the whole time, just laughing, really enjoying it. It's one of these movies that you can take it with two degrees, with the adult's eye and kid's eye. It fits perfectly. It's the right message.
It's great for the IndyCar Series and Indy.
WILL POWER: I'm actually giving up IndyCar for this year, moving to Hollywood. Had three lines in the movie. And in the credits you see my name (laughter).
I don't need to race anymore. It's hard walking down the street now, all the people wanting me.
THE MODERATOR: Dario, you're now a five-time polesitter at Toronto. Talk about qualifying today.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Gee, my first one was 1997. T.K. was here. Will was still at school. Dixie, what were you doing in 1997 (laughter)?
It feels good to get our third pole of the year. I made it difficult this morning. I made a mistake in turn five there, took the right side off the car. The guys had to work and repair the car.
But the Target car was good on Firestone blacks, Firestone reds. I was able to keep finding a little bit every lap. Even the second runner-up on tires in Q3, I was able to push a little bit more. Yeah, felt really good about that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions.
Q. Dario, do you have any experience with standing starts? How long has it been since you did one?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: British Formula 3 was the last time I did them consistently in 1994. Dixie and I did them at the Gold Coast. What year was that? It didn't end so well. Will was there, because we all crashed into each other the first corner. Jacques spun. Next thing I see Will's car with no wheels on it parked across the track.
I stick the thing in reverse, hand-drive car, proceed to reverse into the front bumper of him. I look in the mirror and see Dixon shaking his head.
Hopefully tomorrow's standing start goes a bit smoother than that.
Q. Sebastien, tell me about the quick progression with your new engineer Tom Brown.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, obviously went through a lot of changes. It was pretty impressive the number of changes we did in the one and a half hour practice session. I think we did like 40, something like that. Probably did like seven this morning. Yeah, it was a lot of work.
He's got a different view on the car obviously. I think what caught us off is we were so happy with the car last year that it was just tough to kind of put behind us what we thought we knew about the car with the new 2013 tires. We just could never overcome that.
Tom coming with basically a fresh mindset, just was not afraid to do a lot of changes. We did. For the first time, we got a fast car. Still got a couple of changes to make to get it right, but it's definitely the best we've had it so far.
Q. Dixon and T.K., we heard there's a new promoter for the Indy Lights series. As past champions, what is your thought about the series coming back to strength?
TONY KANAAN: Another thing I didn't know. I didn't know that. Hopefully whoever the new owner is going to be is going to bring Indy Lights back to the way it's supposed to be.
I think the years we raced, it was so competitive. People actually could take the champion and the second guy and move up to IndyCar. Right now I don't think it's representative.
It's not a matter of the drivers not having the capability, but I think the disparity between the cars, the cars need to step up a bit. The way we drove, I think Dixie can vouch for that, we had more power. It was a little closer, I would say. We had more power, too.
I mean, we need that. We need the Indy Lights to step up. So hopefully it's a good thing.
SCOTT DIXON: I think it's tough seeing even at Pocono when there's eight cars running around a two and a half mile circuit, they were separated by 20 or 15 seconds.
Back a while ago when we raced in that series, it was very competitive. You had full fields of 25-odd cars, sometimes more. I remember coming and watching T.K. in '97, and he and Helio were teammates, I think.
It's a great feeder series. Hopefully they run it strong. I think for Europeans it needs to be up there. You need pedal shifting, a lot of things to make it relevant, where it fits in series around the world.
Q. Dario, just elaborate a little bit on the start last week in Pocono. Your direct quote, It should be bloody interesting. The second part of that was Will was talking about how the track seems to be deteriorating year after year. Do you find the same thing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Yeah, most of the people in the field, it's such a long time since we've done standing starts. With this hand clutch, it's going to be a complete unknown tomorrow. In some ways it's good, it mixes things up a little bit. It's better to be in the front than the middle of it.
TONY KANAAN: Depends, if you stall.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: If you stall, you're screwed anyway. But we're starting in the right place, I would say.
No, it's going to be very interesting. Different speeds going into turn one. Even on a rolling start, turn one feels a certain way. Leads me to the next thing, as Will said, the track is getting a little bit bumpier. They resurfaced turn one. I'm not sure she could have used a more slippery surface if they tried, so that's going to make it really interesting.
I think it's polishing up the more we run on it. The guy said, There's water coming out the surface on turn one. I said, It can't make it any slipperier. I was right.
I like the challenge of the different surfaces. Turn one is a little excessive with that surface, but it will make for a very interesting day tomorrow. It will be interesting, yeah.
Q. After the doubleheaders at Detroit, the drivers talked about how physically demanding the back-to-back races were. Is this track more or less demanding?
WILL POWER: It's not as bad.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It's not as bumpy. Detroit was almost like a rally stage. All the time you were catching slides in every corner. Like driving a rally car with a load of grip. This is probably a higher-grip surface. It's less bumpy than most places in Detroit. I think it will be at least an equal physical challenge to Detroit. 85 laps, a long way.
Q. James, do you have any idea where you and Graham are so far apart?
JAMES JAKES: You ask the tricky questions.
I'm not sure. I know those guys are working as hard as they can to get up the front. Obviously in Long Beach we were a very competitive team. I actually didn't get the maximum out of the car that we should have done or I should have done.
But since then, yeah, there seems to have been a separation. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm just concentrating on my own things. Yeah, just looking forward to the rest of the year.
To be honest, we sucked the last few races, especially on the short ovals. We've got to improve there. But, yeah, I'm not sure.
Q. Scott, can we expect to see the same group of guys up here tomorrow? Does this qualifying affect tomorrow's qualifying at all?
SCOTT DIXON: I think it may mix up a little bit. I think the sessions swap tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Group one is group one, and group two is group two. However you practiced this morning...
SCOTT DIXON: It swaps?
THE MODERATOR: No, it doesn't. Only today you're allowed to make a choice of the group. Tomorrow the odd will be group ones and the evens will be group twos.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The odds were group two in qualifying.
THE MODERATOR: The rule is the fastest in practice got to choose the groups.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: The guy who was fastest today will go in group one.
SCOTT DIXON: It may change a little bit just because the times typically in those mid packs are extremely close in Q1, I think it was 3/10ths between the top line. The track improving maybe will make a little bit of a change as far as who qualifies higher.
You know, I think you'll see the same fast guys from today that are typically fast tomorrow unless there's any kind of major issue.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Congratulations on qualifying. Best of luck tomorrow.
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