CHAMPCAR/CART: Assen: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AIMS TO BE FOUR FOR FOUR WITH A WIN IN THE BAVARIA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL HOPES TO CONTINUE MOMENTUM IN NETHERLANDS After a win by McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais and a third place by...

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AIMS TO BE FOUR FOR FOUR WITH A WIN IN THE BAVARIA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL HOPES TO CONTINUE MOMENTUM IN NETHERLANDS

After a win by McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais and a third place by Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal in Belgium, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) is hoping to carry the momentum over to a strong run in the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix on Sunday September 2 at the 14-turn, 2.83-mile TT Circuit Assen track less than two hours from Amsterdam.

With a total of 283 points to Robert Doornbos' 250, Bourdais could possibly earn a history-making fourth consecutive championship this weekend if he is able to gain an additional 15 points over second place. In order to do so, he would need to depart Assen with a 68 point advantage over local favorite Doornbos, who hails from nearby Rotterdam. Bourdais earned his first title in 2004 at the season-finale in Mexico City and his 2005 and 2006 titles in the penultimate event in Australia. Regardless, Bourdais is approaching the weekend as the he any other.

"The championship is still not over so we are taking it one race at a time but hopefully we can wrap this up before the end of the season," said Bourdais who has won six races and five poles so far this season. "The sooner the better for the McDonald's team but we are taking it one race at a time like we have done since I joined the team."

It will be the first race in the Netherlands for Champ Car but the Assen course is no stranger to international events as it hosts world class motorcycle races including Moto GP and World Superbikes. The track was created in 1925 and has been adapted several times since then with the most recent redesign having taken place in 2006 so that it would be possible to attract a variety of events to the circuit, including Champ Car. In fact only one section of the circuit is original -- the finish line has never moved. Bourdais' knowledge of the course was limited to watching races on TV as a child but he knows the team has put together a competitive program for the weekend.

"I don't know much about the Assen track but I didn't know much about the other European races we have gone to and it worked out fine," said Bourdais of his three wins in three Champ Car races in Europe to date. "Like Zolder, the Assen event is also going to be a big guess for us but the team has prepared very well so far. Prior to getting to the track I knew about some of the layout from footage of the Moto GP but that was pretty much it. The track is very impressive. It is based on very high European standards."

With three podium finishes in the past four races and four overall in his rookie season, Rahal, 18, has been on a roll as of late and is currently ranked fifth in the season standings with a total of 196 points, only 15 points back from fourth place Justin Wilson, 211. He has excelled at the faster tracks which seem to suit his driving style and is therefore looking forward to another strong performance this weekend.

"We put on a good show for the fans in Belgium and I hope we can do it again in Assen," said Rahal. "I usually like tracks that are pretty fast. For me it was kind of natural to run well in Zolder because the faster tracks usually suit my style and I expect Assen to be the same because I hear it's a pretty quick track. I'm certainly looking forward to the race. We seem to be on a roll right now and it would be great to continue it until the end of the season. A top-five in the championship would be great as well, maybe even a top-four."

Bourdais and Rahal took the lead for NHLR in the Phanos Champ Car European Team Cup competition with their podium finishes in Zolder. The NHLR duo are currently 9.5 points ahead of the Aussie Vineyards drivers Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, who won the Canadian Triple Crown earlier this season. The winning drivers receive a one-week stay at the luxurious Phanos Resort that is housing the entire Champ Car contingent during the Assen round.

Since Newman/Haas Racing (NHR), now named Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR), began competing in the series in 1983 there have been a total of six races held in Europe. Bourdais won the 2003 races in England and Germany as well as the one in Belgium last weekend. The series, then named CART, also raced in Europe in 2001(Lausitz, Germany & Rockingham, England) and 2002 (Rockingham, England). Bourdais won the pole in Germany in 2003 and also in Belgium last weekend while Rahal also added to their podium total with his third place finish for a total of seven podiums in the six events (2nd -- Junqueira, Brands Hatch, UK 2003 & Cristiano da Matta, Rockingham, UK 2002; 3rd -- Rahal, Belgium 2007 & da Matta, Rockingham 2001).

"It's going to be a good race for the series and I'm sure there are going to be a lot of fans cheering for Robert," concluded Bourdais. "The pre-sale for tickets has been really good so we are expecting a nice crowd. It was really good to be back in Europe and racing in front of a home crowd in Belgium as there were a lot of French people there. I'm hoping it will be more of the same here in Assen."

The Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix gets underway on Friday with the first round of qualifying at 2:00 pm local (8:00 am Eastern Time). The final grid will be set on Saturday at 2:00 pm local (8:00 am Eastern Time). The race will go green Sunday at 1:00 pm (7:00 am Eastern Time) and will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic in the United States and on Eurosport2 in Europe.

Sebastien Bourdais, #1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone:

"I don't know much about the Assen track but I didn't know much about the other European races we have gone to and it worked out fine. Like Zolder, the Assen event is also going to be a big guess for us but the team has prepared very well so far. Prior to getting to the track I knew about some of the layout from footage of the Moto GP but that was pretty much it. The track is very impressive. It is based on very high European standards.

"The championship is still not over so we are taking it one race at a time but hopefully we can wrap this up before the end of the season. The sooner the better for the McDonald's team but we are taking it one race at a time like we have done since I joined the team.

"It's going to be a good race for the series and I'm sure there are going to be a lot of fans cheering for Robert. The pre-sale for tickets has been really good so we are expecting a nice crowd. It was really good to be back in Europe and racing in front of a home crowd in Belgium as there were a lot of French people there. I'm hoping it will be more of the same here in Assen."

Graham Rahal, #2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone:

"We put on a good show for the fans in Belgium and I hope we can do it again in Assen. I usually like tracks that are pretty fast. For me it was kind of natural to run well in Zolder because the faster tracks usually suit my style and I expect Assen to be the same because I hear it's a pretty quick track. I'm certainly looking forward to the race. We are on a roll of sorts right now and it would be great to continue it until the end of the season. A top-five in the championship would be great as well, maybe even a top-four."

-credit: n/h/l

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud , Cristiano da Matta