A.J. Allmendinger made a career-defining statement today in Portland. He stopped the Sebastien Bourdais juggernaut right in its tracks en route to a dominant first victory in Champ Car. His debut with Forsythe was near perfect, starting with ...
A.J. Allmendinger made a career-defining statement today in Portland. He stopped the Sebastien Bourdais juggernaut right in its tracks en route to a dominant first victory in Champ Car. His debut with Forsythe was near perfect, starting with provisional pole on Friday and then a great start in the race to take control. And in a twist of irony, he beat his former teammate, Justin Wilson in a straight battle for the win.
"I just can't believe it," an emotional Allmendinger said. "I have to thank Forsythe. They just did everything they could. I have to thank Red Bull for sticking with me, my parents, and my fiancée." He was asked shortly thereafter about the break-up with RuSPORT, but he responded with class. "I know there's been a lot of talk, but I have to thank Carl (Russo) for getting me to this point. I just wish I could have got my first one for him."
Once the field navigated the Festival Curves, the route was on. Pole sitter Bruno Junqueira got a slow start on the second attempt following a wave-off of the first. Allmendinger passed the Brazilian on the inside to lead, but a surprise emerged in second. "Speedy" Dan Clarke jumped from 6th to the number 2 spot out of the corner, followed by Wilson, Junqueira and Paul Tracy. Bourdais dropped from 3rd to 7th.
The only incident in the race came shortly thereafter when Nicky Pastorelli was hit by Oriol Servia. It had not been a clean weekend for Servia, who had wrecked his own two cars on Friday and Saturday and raced using Katherine Legge's backup. Pastorelli returned to the pits with a deflated left rear.
In a race devoid of accidents and caution flags, pit strategy was the key to success. Several teams and drivers tried to gain track position by pitting off sequence, but were unable to capitalize. Clarke ran 2nd behind Allmendinger until he cut a tire, pitting on lap 24 with a puncture to his right front.
The leaders stopped for the first time on lap 32, save for Bourdais, who led a lap by staying out longer. He leap-frogged Junqueira, Tracy, and new RuSPORT driver Cristiano da Matta on the track. The order at that point was Allmendinger, Wilson, Clarke, Bourdais, Junqueira, da Matta, and Tracy.
On lap 60 Wilson became the first of the leaders to stop a second time, and came out just behind Allmendinger once the American completed his service. The head-to-head battle between these two materialized briefly. Allmendinger was stuck behind the driver who used to be in Forsythe's second car, Mario Dominguez, and Wilson was able to close. But any chance of the Briton passing him ended with a severe lockup to his right front tire.
Wilson pitted seven laps earlier than Allmendinger did for his final stop, and that cost him time on the track. He eventually slipped back into Bourdais' clutches, but the Frenchman was unable to make a passing attempt. Wilson recorded his fourth runner-up finish of the year while Bourdais settled for a season worst 3rd.
It was not a great day for France in the world of sports - Bourdais was defeated for the first time, Henri Pescarolo's team finished 2nd at Le Mans, and the national soccer team was only able to manage a 1-1 draw with Korea in the World Cup. That being said however, Bourdais still holds a solid grip on the championship with Wilson 2nd.
Behind the top three Junqueira finished a season-best but rather uncontested 4th, leading home da Matta, Tracy, Clarke, and Nelson Philippe. Will Power was the only car who failed to finish.