Bourdais/Popow win, Montoya makes enemies

Grand Am Brickyard Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, July 27, 2012

“That’s a Christmas card list I don’t want to be on!”

Peter Baron said about Montoya

story and photos by Tim Hailey

Juan Pablo Montoya is spun backwards on the cool down lap and Joao Barbosa’s scrappy bumper shows why

Indianapolis 500 veteran and IZOD IndyCar Series standout Sebastien Bourdais teamed with Alex Popow to win the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race Friday, July 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The wild race, which featured 13 lead changes, was slowed by caution nine times for 34 laps due to aggressive, fender-banging action throughout the field. Heavy rain also came and went twice in the three-hour event, creating tricky, ever-changing track conditions.

2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was involved in two collisions during the event—one with Dalziel and one with Joao Barbosa—and one after when Barbosa punted him on the cooldown lap. But he still managed to guide the No. 02 Chevron BMW Riley to fourth overall after 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon started the race in the car fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

So many Chevys in the field, but Bourdais and Popow’s Ford/Riley took the win

Bourdais took the checkered flag under caution in the No. 2 Soloson Ford Riley Daytona Prototype fielded by Starworks Motorsport in the three-hour race on the 13-turn, 2.534-mile IMS Grand Prix course. It was the first GRAND-AM Road Racing event at IMS.

Memo Rojas banged up Chip Ganassi’s other BMW/Riley, here driven in the final stint by Scott Pruett

Indianapolis 500 veteran Scott Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas finished second in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor finished third in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing of nearby Brownsburg, Indiana—home of EatmyinkHQ.

The quick way around for Ryan Dalziel, at least in qualifying, was through the grass

Bourdais took the lead for good on Lap 74 of the three-hour race, which ended after 91 laps. He dove under Starworks teammate Ryan Dalziel entering Turn 1 for the decisive move. There were three caution periods after Bourdais took the lead. But he was able to pull away on restarts each time.

Bourdais and Popow helped Starworks clinch the North American Endurance Championship presented by in the Daytona Prototype class, earning a $100,000 bonus. The NAEC consists of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen and the Brickyard Grand Prix.

The Porsche of GT winners Andy Lally and John Potter passes a Camaro on the outside of turn 2

Andy Lally and John Potter teamed to win the GT class in the Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, finishing fifth overall. Magnus Racing earned a $50,000 bonus for winning the NAEC in the GT class.

A downpour still raging 10 minutes before the start left tanding water everywhere

The DP Corvette of John Fogarty and Alex Gurney started on polle but faded and dropped out of the race

Mazdas breathe fire!

Interview with winners Peter Baron, Sebastian Bourdais and Alex Popow

THE MODERATOR: Truly pleased to be joined by today’s Brickyard and DP overall winners. In the process, they delivered Starworks Motorsport their first North American Endurance Championship Presented by Championship. We have Alex POPOW, Sebastien Bourdais, the co-drivers from the No. 2, and we have Peter Baron, the team owner.

Congratulations, guys, make we can just hear a quick opener from each of you. That was fantastic. Then we’ll take questions.

Starworks team principal Peter Baron and driver Sebastian Bourdais share a laugh after their Indy win

PETER BARON: What a great year our team is having. I’m so proud of everybody, and we had a rough race with these guys at Watkins Glen. We thought for sure they had a shot to win Watkins Glen, and you know, we had a little conflict with Lucas trying to get here.

And it was just so awesome having Sebastien coming and running great at the Six Hour with us. It was a no-brainer for us to invite him. It was just if he could find time in his schedule to come here and help out. He drove a killer under the stint. And Alex needed a great job. He’s done a great job all year and finally some fruits have been able to be plucked for Alex here.

It’s really incredible, when we looked at it at the start of the year, we thought there’s another championship we created for Ganassi.

But Alex and everything they have done, the 8 car, they contributed a huge amount, both Alex and Enzo in the 8 car at Daytona. In the 2 car, we had a little problem at The Glen so the 8 car had to help out at the six hour and then the 2 car helped out here. This year, it’s probably a first where I don’t think anybody has won at is he bridge, Le Mans and Indy in the same year.

So we’ll take that one. I surround myself with great people. No one says you have to be smart. You just have to hire smart people and the guys that could drive fast. Ryan is back there smiling, he helped us out (simultaneous speaking).

But everybody here is special. And you know, I would love to show our budget and compare it against everybody else’s, because it’s probably half. After Watkins Glen, we slept in a car at the airport, in different seats — and he yelled at me for snoring. We are a special team and special guys and it’s definitely a special result and I can’t thank everybody enough. Was that a short enough opening remark?

winning co-driver Alex Popow

ALEX POPOW: It’s amazing right now sitting here first place in the Brickyard is like a dream come true, you know. It’s something like I’ve been chasing the whole year. I’ve won some challenge races, we won the Sebring, the 12 Hour in our class. We were second in Daytona. It was an amazing year for us so far.

And coming here and having the chance to win this race, my first race win in GRAND-AM in Rolex and being here in Indy, it’s so special. I have to thank, you know, Peter, Ryan, especially Sebastien today for a great job, an incredible drive. He was amazing. We had the best car and the best driver out there today, and we demonstrated — at the beginning, I tried to keep the car clean.

But I almost did, not all bad. I just bring it home safe and give a car to Sebastien to finish and get the first place and end in that first place that we were chasing for so long.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: That was a pretty special day. Coming out after the test, I knew the car was really good. We had 29:09 and nobody had done that and I felt really, really strong in the car. Coming back this morning, it was fastest again, not really trying anything special.

So I’m like, we really have a shot at this if we can keep our nose clean and put it together. For me, it’s win No. 1 of the season and so it’s going to be a great season, because, you know, I’ve been winning a race every year for many, many seasons, and I was getting pretty worried out there.

So it’s great to put it together midseason and get that out of the way and hopefully some more and it’s just a cool bunch of guys. These guys at Starworks, they are really fun to be around. It’s I guess always unpredictable. But never boring or a lack of fun. So I very much enjoyed every bit of it, and thank them for all of the shots that we got. It was a great day, and hope that they are going to have a great end of the season.

Q. Sebastien, talk about that final restart. Obviously, you know, were you nervous at all going through that?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I was nervous the first one, because I wasn’t quite sure when I was supposed to accelerate. I was testing yesterday at Mid-Ohio, I wasn’t there for that briefing.

So, OK, the team told me if you jump it you’re going to drive through and if you accelerate too late, you’re going to get eaten alive, so that’s pretty nice.

Going into the first turn, I saw that in the inside it was going to be all right. It was still wet so I was going into the edge of what the dry track was, and this No. 2 car was just capable of braking so much deeper than anybody else, it was crazy. So I just went out there and braked as deep as possible.

Yeah, it just all worked out. The last one as a little more challenging with Ricky coming alongside, and he broke really, really late, and so did I. I nearly didn’t make the corner. It’s just great that we could put it together, and you know, I knew we were not the fastest car in the straight, so probably we had a little more downforce than everybody else. I knew I had to focus on distance before getting on the banking because otherwise that was not going to make it, so that was the only challenge really.

After that, the car was just checking out. It was pretty awesome. I just hope after the first restart, I was just hoping it was going to go green the whole distance, because that just looked really easy from there.

Q. Peter, based on your TV interview, I think you might have fallen off Montoya’s Christmas card list. I was wondering beyond that, if you think — thinking back on what you said in the heat of the moment, are you still convinced that he was sent in as a hired begun to use the front bumper and if, so do you think GRAND-AM is going to do anything about it?

PETER BARON: I hope GRAND-AM is going to do something about it. The heat of the moment? It was a yellow out there. You can’t pass a guy on the yellow and you definitely shouldn’t be going off the grass and hitting another guy. That’s pretty black and white right there.

There’s nothing to — heat of the moment, look, I’ve sent e-mails to GRAND-AM, phone calls to GRAND-AM, saying Montoya is reckless in this series. He comes in and he doesn’t give, a profanity, about anybody here. If he comes in, he wins great and if he balls it up, who cares and he showed that today. He was going in the race on Sunday — ruined our championship, and the series needs to do something to take care of that. I told him it was going to happen. It happened. That’s a Christmas card list I don’t want to be on with.

But I’m happy today. (Laughter).

Q. That’s a hard act to follow. I know previously that you’ve run the Speedway in the other direction in IndyCars, how much of that technical information from IndyCars were you able to apply to the GRAND-AM car on this particular course?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Let’s put it this way. You’re in fourth gear and doing 170 or 160 by the time you get it to — it was a big win. So there’s just nothing that transfers. It’s a road course and the Super Speedway is a completely different animal when you’re doing it at 220. So this is just nothing at all. It’s really cool to come out there and get to kiss the brick. So I’ll take that any day.

Q. In the 500, a Frenchman finished last. And now you’ve brought back the strength of the French drivers.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, he didn’t finish. He got parked and that’s pretty bad. But it has nothing to do with him.

I think like in 2005, we had a chance to be in the Top 3 and I would have been really, really happy with that. We just turned out — two laps to the end, that prevented us to the Top-5, but, you know, who cares, that’s the way it is. That’s the way racing goes. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m just really happy it went our way today.

Q. For the three drivers, can you talk about the racing conditions, you were dry, you were wet, big rain storm, thunder, the whole thing? What are the things you ran into and what are the challenges you had?

ALEX POPOW: It was easy to go to the grass definitely. It was very hard to drive. The conditions were very, very hard at the beginning, because you cannot even in the back straight just accelerate. There was no way to go full throttle because the car was doing aquaplaning; it was floating over the water. It was amazing.

At one point I went in to get rain tires, went out, and my engineer was telling me, “Watch the back straight.” As soon as he said that (laughing) it wasn’t maybe halfway over the back straight, I just started floating over the water and make it to the end on to the grass. It was amazing. I couldn’t talk on the radio and tell him, yeah, I’m floating on this moment, I’m going to the grass, I’m going to the grass.

I wasn’t reporting what was happening when I was floating through the water, so I make it to the grass and I told him, we have to go in one more time and clean the radiator. It was that hard. It was that hard to keep it on track.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I drove in the water but the hardest moment was to describe what it was going through ask, it was like this, it’s going to ruin the tires. He’s on the radio for like four seconds and the entire time, it’s like the wheels are not on the ground. It didn’t feel like it was going to be a great day from there.

No, it was very tricky, like Alex said, I didn’t get the worst of it, but from what I can see it was bad enough. It just turned out to be very, very, very slick, and actually, if it was not for the standing water, I think very early on, we would have been faster on the slick tires, which is kind of weird. It just feels like the wet tire combination was not right for this track, because the grip we had just felt very abnormal.

Q. To build on what you just said, we had a new compound here. I know you spent very few laps on. It how did it go? This is directed toward all of you, whoever wants to answer.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think the dry tire was awesome. It was very durable, very consistent. You could get great grip and to the point that you could actually drive it on the drying track, which was really nice. But for some reason, it was just like, I don’t know what happened with the wet but it just felt really off. Like it was just.

Q. Too much water?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Even when it was drying, it was like the tire was not damaging itself or anything. It felt strange that we were not getting the grip out of it. It made it interesting. A lot of guys got caught out and it was all about survival today until the end of the race.

Q. Can any of you compare driving here with Daytona? I know it’s the 24 hour down there but the track facility and how they compare.

ALEX POPOW: Well I don’t have that much experience in the Daytona just two Daytona 24-Hour races but it was hard. The track, I think because it’s not that used like it’s not too much rubber, too much grip.

So it’s a good straight. It’s a good braking into the first corner. After that braking, you have to go and find a way, there’s only one line when the track rubbers up and there’s only one line to get time. You just move three feet away from the line, you’re off, your time, you’re three seconds off.

Q. When you came in for fuel at the end and you had to go toward the end of the Daytona prototype and had to go past several former Champ Car competitors, does it make it special?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I was thinking, boy, we’re screwed, because I could see that we didn’t have the top speed. I think we were just a little bit too much downforce compared to the rest of the pack.

But also that’s probably what won us the race because I could brake a lot deeper than anybody else and we were switching the tires where others seemed to struggle with that. It just felt really, really strange, but yeah, when we pitted and I saw that nobody else was going in the pits, I thought, oh, boy, that’s going to be a tough one.

And just to be able to grab that many positions at the restart was crucial and then they came in one by one was very special. I couldn’t ask for any better.