CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Newman/Haas Racing race report

PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia drove to a third place finish as well as his second podium in only his third race behind the wheel of the PacifiCare race car in addition to setting the fastest race lap in the shortened Champ Car Grand Prix of ...

PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia drove to a third place finish as well as his second podium in only his third race behind the wheel of the PacifiCare race car in addition to setting the fastest race lap in the shortened Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland. The race was initially scheduled for 94 laps but ended after 91 due to a one hour 45-minute time limit. Servia jumped from his pre-race rank of 11th in the point standings to seventh with a total of 79 to leader Tracy's 128 after Round 5 of 14. Under sunny conditions in temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Servia started sixth on the softer alternate Bridgestone tires and was able to get through the infamous Turn 1 at the start although Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bjorn Wirdheim and Ronnie Bremer weren't as lucky and brought out the first caution of the day.

Servia held his position through the restart and felt he had a faster car than fifth place Alex Tagliani but was unable to pass him despite closing to .4-seconds. Mario Dominguez and Justin Wilson made contact on Lap 26 and Cristiano da Matta's team chose to dive into the pits mere seconds before Champ Car officials declared them "closed" and those who pit after the call was made would incur a penalty. Servia moved up to fourth place before he and the majority of the field made their first pit stops from Laps 29-31 with Servia's coming on Lap 29. He took on fuel and switched to a set of the standard Bridgestone tires. Da Matta's move enabled him to take the lead once the field cycled through their stops and the race went green on Lap 34.

Servia was in fifth place immediately behind Jimmy Vasser who was out of regular pit sequence and moved into fourth place on Lap 45 when Vasser pit. He then moved into third on Lap 51 after when da Matta made contact attempting to lap Marcus Marshall, who had moved over to make room for a car that was rejoining the race track after driving off course. The next caution period came out on Lap 54 when Wirdheim made contact coming out of a turn.

The field prepared to make their next stop when the pits opened and Servia chose the standard Bridgestone tires for the next stint once he pitted on Lap 56 with the majority of the field. After a quick pit stop by the PacifiCare crew he drove down pit lane to return to the track and was alongside teammate Bourdais near the end of the pits with Bourdais moving ahead of Servia.

Once back on track Champ Car determined that Servia was ahead of Bourdais at the blend line entering the track and reversed their position and moved Servia to fifth place before the race went green on Lap 59. He took over fourth place when Timo Glock, who was on a different pit strategy pitted on Lap 61 and into third place when temporary third place runner Vasser made his stop on Lap 74. A.J. Allmendinger made his final stop on Lap 76 of what would be announced as a 91-lap race, and Servia moved into second place, which he held until his final pit stop for a splash of fuel and standard Bridgestone tires on Lap 79. He returned to the race in eighth place but moved up to fifth by Lap 83 as others pitted.

When Bourdais and Tagliani made their final stops on Laps 85 and 86, respectively, he moved into third place behind leader Paul Tracy and A.J. Allmendinger. He closed the two second gap to Allmendinger to .5-seconds and set the fastest lap of the race in the process on Lap 90 of 91 but was unable to pass him for second place before the checkered flag. He earned 25 points for his third place finish and one for setting the fastest race lap en route to his seventh podium finish of his career. Following are Servia's post race comments:

"It's easy to see what was going on out there with the PacifiCare team, they are such a great team, they really make a difference," said Servia. "They really make it easy for you, you know. It's just a pleasure to do what you're doing with them behind you. Again we put the PacifiCare car on the podium, and that's what we want. We have to have our first win very soon, but we take the podium so far and make the points grow fast. I think I had something for A.J. at the end. As always, you want one more lap. I thought I was much better than A.J. in turn 1, which is where you want to be when you pass somebody so I was really hoping to have one more lap. But it's always like this, right? It was good. He was also pushing at the end. He was obviously running at a good pace too. I'm happy with the podium from where we started and I'm looking forward to Toronto."

McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais' 10-point pre-race lead over Paul Tracy turned into a one-point deficit after Tracy won the event and Bourdais finished fifth despite running second to the Canadian prior to his final stop in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland that was shortened due to the one-hour, 45-minute time limit. Under sunny conditions in temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit, Bourdais started third on the softer alternate Bridgestone tires in the originally scheduled 94-lap event and was able to get through the infamous Turn 1 at the start although Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bjorn Wirdheim and Ronnie Bremer weren't as lucky and brought out the first caution of the day.

Once the race resumed, Bourdais conserved fuel for most of the first stint although the team changed the fuel strategy so that he could remain with leader Paul Tracy and second place Cristiano da Matta. He set the fastest lap of the race thus far on Lap 19 and again on 21 while trying to catch up to the frontrunners on the new fuel strategy. Mario Dominguez and Justin Wilson made contact while on Lap 26 and Cristiano da Matta's team chose to dive into the pits mere seconds before Champ Car officials declared them "closed" and those who pit after the call was made would incur a penalty. Bourdais was now in second place and once the pits were declared open, the majority of the field made their first pit stops from Laps 29-31.

Bourdais made his first stop on Lap 29 and took on fuel and standard Bridgestone tires. Da Matta's move enabled him to take the lead once the field cycled through their stops and when the race went green on Lap 34 Bourdais passed previous second place runner Jimmy Vasser, who was on a different pit strategy for third place. He held the position until Lap 51 when da Matta made contact attempting to lap Marcus Marshall, who had moved over to make room for a car that was rejoining the race track after driving off course. He had previously begun to close on the Canadian and was within 1.3 seconds in second place before a caution period came out for Wirdheim who made contact on Lap 54. For his next pit stop, Bourdais said either type of Bridgestone tires would work well so the team elected to install new, "sticker " primary tires when he pitted on Lap 56 with the majority of the field. He rejoined the race in what would have been fifth place but Champ Car officials said teammate Oriol Servia was ahead of him at the blend line leaving the pits so they had Servia move in front of him.

When the race went green he attempted to hold off the aggressive Alex Tagliani but was unable to do so and the French Canadian passed him on Lap 60. Bourdais held seventh place until Lap 67 when Timo Glock, who was on a different pit strategy made his stop. Once Vasser made his out of sequence stop, Bourdais moved into fifth place on Lap 74 and into fourth when A.J. Allmendinger did the same on Lap 76. The officials declared that the race would become a timed event and therefore engineers throughout pit lane revised their strategy. When second place runner Servia made his final stop for a splash of fuel on Lap 79, Bourdais moved into third place and on into second when race leader Tracy did the same on Lap 80 of what would become a 91 lap event.

On lap 85 Bourdais made his final stop for approx. nine gallons of fuel and returned to the track in fifth place which is where he took the checkered flag. He collected 21 points over the weekend but is now one point behind Paul Tracy in the standings, 128-127 after Round 5 of 14. Following are his post-race comments:

"Unfortunately the McDonald's team wasn't able to win three in a row here," said Bourdais. "We were behind Tracy and da Matta and were saving more fuel and at some point I was going to go one lap longer than they were but the gap was starting to be too big between me and them so we changed our strategy to try and catch up which I pretty much did. We were coming back, going a bit faster and there was a good race going on. We were running hard and the yellow came out and then Cristiano dove into the pits. At that moment I knew we lost a potential win and the best we could do was get a podium because of the advantage he had. We were still looking good for a podium finish and I was really happy with that. Of course I was disappointed that we couldn't do the same strategy but that was a decision that had to be taken within five seconds and we didn't make it so after that we were working hard on fuel strategy. When I was second behind Paul (Tracy) I'm not sure if I could have gone one more lap than him but when Cristiano got together with (Marcus) Marshall everyone pitted under yellow. My race was still going well but on the pit stop Oriol passed me at the end of the pits just before blend out. Champ Car had us reverse the order and put him in front of me. On the restart, Tagliani was getting closer to me and was either going to run into the back of me or pass me so at the breaking of Turn 1 I opened up the line and he went by. I tried to get the position back many times after that but couldn't; I was really frustrated. It seems like this year things aren't going our way as much and we are fighting very hard. It's going to turn around; I don't know when but it will.

Up Next: The Molson Indy Toronto, Round 6 of 14, will take place in two weeks. McDonald's driver Bourdais won from pole last year while PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira started third but was taken out on the opening lap after contact with Mario Dominguez. NHR has won SEVEN races at this track (Bourdais 2004; da Matta 2002; Michael Andretti 2000, 1995, 1992, 1991, 1989) and THREE poles (Bourdais 2004, da Matta 2002, Mi. Andretti 1991). They have earned a total of 14 podium finishes (2nd -- Mi. Andretti 1998, Ma. Andretti 1991, Mi. Andretti 1990; 3rd -- Junqueira 2003, Fittipaldi 2002 & 1999, Ma. Andretti 1986).

-nhr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta