CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais spins to win in Denver

Champ Car World Series driver Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an early spin and worked his way up through the pack to take top prize at the Grand Prix of Denver. The victory for the Le Mans, France native was his fifth this season and eighth...

Champ Car World Series driver Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an early spin and worked his way up through the pack to take top prize at the Grand Prix of Denver.

The victory for the Le Mans, France native was his fifth this season and eighth in his two-year Champ Car career. Claiming bonus points for qualifying, fastest race lap, race lap led and points for the win, Bourdais now stretches his series lead over teammate Bruno Junqueira 248-192.

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Scott Bannick.
"I knew we had a good car", Bourdais said. "As long as we were not a lap down (after the spin) we had a very good chance to put a strong result together. It proved to be right, I guess."

Bourdais led the field down to the green flag, as Junqueira maintained his position on the outside of row one. When the two cars entered the first turn, Junqueira held his position and drove around the outside on the exit. Bourdais stayed down low trying to avoid contact, but the cars brushed tires and Junqueira took the lead.

As the pole sitter spun to the inside, most cars were able to get around except for Canadian Alex Tagliani. Tagliani made light contact with several cars and had to pit in order to replace a damaged front wing and flat tire. "It's a good thing Bruno is such a gentleman", Bourdais said. "Otherwise I could be very hard on him"

When the Newman/Haas cars had crossed the start-finish line, Junqueira was even with his teammate, but a question arose as to whether or not he crossed the line first. Passing a leader before the start of a race is cause for penalty, although an electronic audit of the transponders showed Junqueira did not pass.

With twenty laps completed, the field started to bunch up behind third place Patrick Carpentier. Mario Dominguez was the first to attempt a pass, and made it through cleanly in turn one. Carpentier noticed Dominguez on his inside at the last possible moment and allowed the pass to occur, avoiding a sure collision. That generosity was not noticed by Spaniard Oriol Servia, and he too took Carpentier, moving the Canadian down to fifth.

Although Bourdais had dropped some 12 positions after his first lap spin, he managed to work his way to seventh, and then sixth as Carpentier pitted for much needed adjustments, tires and fuel.

Paul Tracy.
Photo by Scott Bannick.
The three front runners of Junqueira, Paul Tracy and Dominguez were within a second of each other when first round pit stops took place. Tracy required no changes aside of tires and fuel, and jumped back on track ahead of Junqueira.

"The car was okay, it wasn't the fastest car in the field but it was adequate enough to maintain a consistent pace", Tracy said. "It went better than I expected because the car was not handling well the whole race. My team did a great job on the first pit stop. We were behind Bruno and tried to save fuel; saved quite a lot of fuel because we were able to do quite a shorter stop then Bruno."

Having won the previous street race in Vancouver last month, Tracy would be hard to catch let alone pass.

Shortly after the pit shuffle, Dominguez took second place as Junqueira went wide exiting a turn. Bourdais followed that up by moving into third. It was later discovered that Junqueira had lost his brakes around the sixtieth lap with a third of the event left to run.

Tracy, now comfortably in front by over five seconds, received a radio call from his team to inform him that he could go all the way to the end of the pit window on the fuel he received on the previous stop. The Champ Cars have mandatory pit stops that run between certain laps depending on the circuit. During those stops, it is required that cars change all four tires as well as taking on fuel.

When Ryan Hunter Reay spun bringing out the second full-course yellow, it was a signal to Tracy to pit as soon as possible. Tracy approached pit lane with the front runners in-tow. With the field now bunched up for the re-start, it looked like it could be anyone's race.

Bourdais sitting in third, wasted no time in making his move for second place. Dominguez held him back into turn one, forcing him to climb the curbing, then bumped wheels with the Frenchman and spun to the outside. He quickly recovered back to fourth, but Bourdais had his sites set on Tracy. Bourdais had come full circle from his opening lap spin, and on the next lap moved inside on the backstretch and took lead from Tracy in turn nine, both cars using the maximum power their engines would allow.

"I thought we had the race won in-hand until the yellow came out", a disappointed Tracy said. "It was a shame because we were able to keep Mario and the field behind us."

Bourdais quickly pulled out a four second lead with 8 laps to go. Junqueira had moved back into third during Dominguez's spin and it looked like both team drivers would finish on the podium. There were no further challenges for Tracy, as he watched Bourdais take the checkered flag ahead of him.

When asked about his chances to regain the lead, Bourdais commented, "Once I got to fourth place, I saw that I was coming back on Bruno quite quickly. I though it was possible to pass but it would be difficult."

This may have been Bourdais' most satisfying victory. "It's the most beautiful one (race win) for sure", Bourdais went on to say. "When you start on pole and have a difficult start and then work you way back from 13th or 14th to first I think it's pretty amazing."

Finishing fourth through tenth in running order were Dominguez, A. J. Allmendinger, Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson, Mario Haberfeld, Patrick Carpentier, and last week's winner Alex Tagliani.

During the event, long-time veteran Jimmy Vasser set the record for most consecutive starts with 193, braking Al Unser Jr's record of 192. Unfortunately for Vasser, his day ended early with mechanical problems. "We qualified sixth on Friday, and Saturday we woke up and the car got worse from there", Vasser said. "I wish we could have raced like Al Unser today."

The Champ Cars now trek back to Canada in two weeks. Will Tracy make a charge towards the title, or will Newman/Haas continue the dominance that has both driver one-two in the Championship? Only time will tell.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Ryan Hunt , Al Unser