Two-time defending Long Beach Grand Prix champion Sebastien Bourdais cruised wire-to-wire, claiming his third win in a row on the Beach and 24th of his career in the Champ Car World Series Powered by Cosworth. It was also the 13th win out of the past 23 starts.
Spaniard Oriol Servia came home second and Will Power grabbed the final podium spot with third to go along with his win last weekend in Las Vegas. The margin of victory was 2.6 seconds.
"It feels really good for the whole McDonald's team," Bourdais said. "I think that the team worked their tails off the whole winter. I couldn't have felt any worse than I did after Vegas making all the mistakes.
"We worked a little bit on the car to make me a little more comfortable and we got things figured out," Bourdais continued. "The team worked way past midnight then came back at 4 in the morning to get us ready for the race."
The victory ties the French native for 12th on the all-time career race wins with Bobby Rahal. Bourdais now has a nearly unfathomable 40% winning average in 61 career starts.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has now won six Champ Car races on the famous streets. Their third victory in a row matches that of Al Unser, Jr. who won three successive victories from 1989-1991.
On the start Alex Tagliani got around rookie Simon Pagenaud, moving into third. Power settled into second in Champ Car's new starting format that sees at least a one second gap between rows.
On Lap 7, Mario Dominguez impacted the Turn 9 tire barrier when the car swapped ends under braking. Dominguez was unhurt in the incident but the Forsythe Championship Racing Panoz DB01 suffered heavy rear end damage.
With ten laps in the books, Bourdais led Power and Alex Tagliani; followed by rookies Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal. Tagliani moved around Power on the restart and took over second.
The top teams were running on a two pit-stop race, trying to stretch out their fuel allotment as much as possible. Servia however came in for some fuel; a strategy that would hopefully put him back with the leaders.
Bourdais worked a three-second lead over Tagliani with fifteen laps completed of the 1:45 timed race while the rest of the field remained single file separated by about a second each.
Servia, who is filling in for the injured Paul Tracy in the lead Forsythe entry, was the only driver to gain positions moving up to ninth before the first round of pit stops; and that was with his earlier stop.
Servia then pulled into the lead during the pit shuffle near lap 40, while Bourdais took on fresh tires and a full load of fuel. Second through fifth position came in one lap earlier. Seven laps later Servia came in for his second stop, and then rejoined the race in second place.
A freight train of cars pulled up behind Servia as he struggled to get the car back up to speed with cold tires. Amazingly he was able to hold off Tagliani as the pair worked down the main straight. Servia took a short-fill on fuel to keep him with the top drivers.
"We just had a great pit stop, clean. We knew we had to have a good one there, and the team did perform a hundred percent," commented Servia.
Bourdais settled into his own race with the rest of the field more than sixteen seconds to the rear. With 45 minutes to run, Bourdais led Servia (-16.93 sec.), Tagliani (-18.73 sec.), Justin Wilson (-19.41 sec.) and Power (-20.18).
Pagenaud slid into the tire barrier in Turn 8 on Lap 53 bringing out another full-course yellow. That bunched the field and nullified Bourdais' lead. That was the signal most teams needed for their final stop.
Forsythe's strategy for Servia was starting to pay off in a big way as the Spaniard remained glued to Bourdais back. Rookie Tristan Gommendy inherited first when the lead group stopped, but the young Frenchman would need at least one more full-course yellow to be able to stretch his fuel to the end.
Bourdais applied maximum pressure, running less than a second behind, weaving and diving to find an opportunity for a pass. Bourdais used his Power-to-Pass button, summoning up 50 extra horse power, but Gommendy used his own boost to hold off the three-time World Series champion.
"I was thinking that I didn't want to force him into a mistake," Bourdais said of the battle with Gommendy. "If that happened I could have ran into him and the hard work all weekend would have been for nothing."
Gommendy relinquished the lead to Bourdais on Lap 68, coming in for a quick splash. He rejoined in 13th spot behind rookie Matt Halliday. Bourdais then set the races' fastest lap at the time on the next circuit, clocking in at 1:08.844.
Alex Figge brought out the final yellow of the day on the 72nd lap on the 12-turn 1.968-mile course. Figge slid hard into a cement wall just past the tire barrier at the exit of Turn 9. The Champ Car safety crew jumped into action extricating the driver and placing the car in a safe haven.
Once again Bourdais' lead was erased. At this point with less than 15 minutes to go, eleven cars remained on the lead lap. Champ Car veterans now occupied positions 1-6 as the cream of the crop rose to the top with five minutes remaining.
Coming up on the final restart, Bourdais nailed the Power-to-Pass button and left Servia in the dust. Servia used the few seconds of extra power he had left but it was simply not enough as Bourdais was just that much quicker.
On the final lap, Power dove under Tagliani for third, and Wilson did likewise moving into fourth. It was a brilliant move that vaulted the Aussie onto the podium.
"This may be a more satisfying drive than my win at Las Vegas," Power said. "I had some Power to Pass left and used it coming down the many straightaway. It was a clean pass."
Bourdais took the checkered with ease followed by Servia, Power, Wilson, Tagliani, and Bruno Junqueira. Rookies Neel Jani, Rahal and Ryan Dalziel finished sixth through ninth, with Katharine Legge rounding out the top-ten.
The second place finish for Servia was the third of his career in Champ Car. His experience combined with a top-notch crew secured the podium in his seventh year in the series.
"How many times do I have to show that I'm ready to go?" Servia said. "I did a great job but nothing compared to what the team did. "I had to adjust to the car, but at the end of the day I'm a race car driver. It adjusted to me, they didn't have to adjust to me. They gave me a fabulous car; great pit stops. To be honest I had pretty big shoes to fill. I know PT (Tracy) would have gone for the win at the end; I tried but couldn't pull it off."
Power continues to lead the championship, now with 59 points. Tagliani is next with 44, then Bourdais with 40. Robert Doornbos, who finished second in Vegas, leads the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year battle with 35 points over Gommendy with 31.
Even with the incident earlier in the event, Pagenaud came back to set fastest lap of the race at 1:08.594, thus earning one additional championship point. Servia grabs an extra point for most improved positions starting from 14th.
The Champ Cars head on to Houston next weekend for the street race on JAGFlo Speedway around Reliant Park.