Bourdais wins from pole in Cleveland; Junqueira 3rd - Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais ran a dominant race to earn his third Champ Car World Series victory in nine events and second from pole after leading the final 33 of the 115-lap US Bank ...
Bourdais wins from pole in Cleveland; Junqueira 3rd
- Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais ran a dominant race to earn his third Champ Car World Series victory in nine events and second from pole after leading the final 33 of the 115-lap US Bank Presents the Grand Prix of Cleveland and took the checkered flag 2.241-seconds in front of series points leader Paul Tracy. He brought new three-event co-primary sponsor McDonald's their first victory in the series as well as the third for Lilly this season. It was his first on North American soil after his two previous wins came in England and Germany but other top finishes in the United States and Mexico slipped from his grasp in most of the events. He climbed back up to fifth place in the point standings after dropping from fourth to seventh recently. He is the first rookie to win three races in a year since Juan Montoya in 1999 and also ran the fastest lap of the day and further solidified his third place rank behind veterans Paul Tracy (336) and Michel Jourdain (324) with 252.
Bourdais brought Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) redemption after former driver Cristiano da Matta look likely to earn a CART record fifth consecutive victory here last year after he led the first 19 laps from pole but engine failure ended his bid. In front of 58,271 fans in attendance for CART's first night race on a road course, Bourdais brought the team it's 12th win in the past 30 races since da Matta's 2001 win in Australia and their third here. Junqueira's third place finish brought the team's podium total to 11 at this track.
After earning a series-high fourth pole, Bourdais led the field to the green flag on the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course at 8:50 PM ET in 83 degree temperatures and 64 percent humidity but lost the lead at Turn 1 to second place starter Paul Tracy. Fortunately the expected rain showers never appeared and he bided his time while in second as the team continued to make adjustments to the front wing of his race car in the first three of four mandatory stops in 26-lap pit intervals. In order to be in position to take advantage of a quick stop, he had pulled to within less than one second from the rear of the Canadian's race car before his third of four stops on Lap 68 of 115. This enabled his McDonald's / Lilly crew to add just enough fuel to make it to the next pit window and attempt to get out ahead of Tracy. As Bourdais approached Tracy's pit that was located at Pit Out, he was able to narrowly take to the track ahead of the veteran but seven seconds behind temporary race leader Jimmy Vasser who was out of pit sequence. While running behind Vasser he was able to close the gap to within .6-seconds before Vasser made his final stop on Lap 83 and Bourdais took over the position. He built his 7.2-second lead over Tracy to almost eight seconds but lost two of that cushion when he was stuck trying to lap the car of Max Papis before he finally succeeded on Lap 86. By the time he entered pit lane for his final stop on Lap 93 he had built an 11-second lead over Tracy and easily rejoined the race with the majority of that advantage intact. After losing two potential third place finishes in the past two races, Bourdais thought his bad luck had returned when he held an 11.63-second lead over Tracy on Lap 111 but came into contact with Adrian Fernandez while attempting to lap him in Turn 3. Bourdais thought Fernandez had seen him as he pulled alongside but Fernandez turned for the corner and hit the left rear of Bourdais' car which sent the Mexican into a spin although he was able to continue. Due to the contact, Bourdais and company were concerned about the potential of a punctured tire as well the impact of damage to an aerodynamic component located in front of the left rear tire that equates to approx. 100 lbs. of downforce. Bourdais reported that he didn't feel a change and the telemetry backed that up although his lead was now down to 7.7-seconds. It seemed that the team had dodged a bullet and would be home-free but another bullet came in the form of a full course caution on Lap 112 of 115 when Jimmy Vasser spun in Turn 1 and stalled his car. Once the Simple Green Safety Team quickly bump started Vasser the stage was set for a one-lap shoot out for the bunched field when the green flag came out on Lap 114. Bourdais got a good start but Tracy was not far behind until third place Junqueira began a full onslaught on the Canadian and temporarily passed him. As those two fought, Bourdais managed to build a 2.241-second lead when he took the checkered flag and 20 points for the victory. None other than Ronald McDonald was on hand to celebrate victory and witness Bourdais' climb from seventh to fifth in the standings with 43 less than leader Tracy (117) with a total of 74 points. Both Bourdais and Tracy had blistered hands from the physical nature of the track. Bourdais widened his advantage in the rookie championship to 29 over Darren Manning and 33 over Mario Haberfeld. Following are his post race comments:
"It feels very good, obviously, because the car turned red for this event with the arrival of McDonald's to complete the Lilly partnership," said Bourdais who celebrated by performing doughnuts in two different turns on his way to the podium. "I'm very glad of that because it looked like the black car was a synonym of bad luck and now it's gone. I'm just very proud to score my first win in US. It was an awesome race. I think Paul and myself pushed as hard as possible, that means 100 percent and even more, all through the race. He said he couldn't handle the steering wheel anymore, but if you could see my blisters, you won't believe it. It was a very, very tough race, and obviously I'm very, very happy for the McDonald's/Lilly crew. I was so tired in the car. I didn't know where Paul was, but I knew how I was. I thought it was going to be difficult to be very concentrated to get the checkered. And I got a bit of a rest, and I've been able to do it, put it together for the very last lap. I went away from PT and Bruno's fight, and I didn't see what happened, but I'm pretty glad of that."
(ON FIRST TURN OF LAP 1) "Yeah, basically I protected the inside because I didn't want to have a big surprise. I prefer to be second and to go through the soft turns than to see someone jumping on the inside and bugging me out of the race. So I was really, really taking care about going through this first turn, even if I had to lose a position because obviously I knew that the best solution was to keep outside, and I told that to the team on the radio. But they told me, "Do as you want because, obviously, we don't want to take the responsibility for you." I said, 'All right.' There's two solutions. Either I say it's everything for everything, I just try to take care a bit my position. Even if it's a bit wet, I'm going to slow for sure a bit at the apex and slow down more than I had to. But that was the safest way to do it.
"It looks like the weight of the car had a big influence on the pace. As more the fuel was going down, the quicker we were. So I had a pretty good balance at the end of the stints all the time and was able to catch up very close to PT. Obviously, I had a very quick entry in the pit lane, which helped me to close the gap and to be really on his tail. When we decided to short-fill and to use the set of tires we had, we really put everything together and that worked. After that, I ran a great stint, pushing as hard as possible. We were able to create a gap, and after that the race was pretty much done.
(ON INCIDENT WITH FERNANDEZ AND THE LATE YELLOW:) "I was scared about the contact with Adrian because I really have no idea what happened. He backed off, and I thought he saw me. Apparently it was not the case and he touched me. I said, "No, not again." After three corners, I was just scared about a puncture. I saw that the balance was consistent and the car was okay, so I was a bit more confident. But I was so scared that something would happen during the last eight laps, it was very mentally difficult. On the yellow I was really upset in the car because I saw that (late yellow) and said 'Why did it do this, throw this yellow?'. It was really no problem in the end though."
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira drove to his fourth podium finish as well as eight top-five finish in nine events so far this season with a third place result in the 115-lap US Bank Presents the Grand Prix of Cleveland, CART's first night race on a road course. Apart from a pre-race shower, rain held off during the event although it was warm and humid, something that would later hinder Junqueira's visibility by way of fogging his visor. In addition, his water line would intermittently spray water onto his visor inside his helmet. At the start of the event on the wide-open 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course Junqueira took the inside line at the infamous Turn 1 that funnels from 5+ wide to one and gained two positions over Oriol Servia and Patrick Carpentier. He held third place through his first three of four mandatory pit stops in 26 lap intervals where his team made adjustments to better his race car and lessen understeer through wing angle and tire pressure changes. On Lap 39 he set the fastest lap of the race up to that point which he would further improve up on during Lap 41 but would ultimately end up the third fastest lap overall. After his third stop he returned to the track in fourth place as temporary race leader Jimmy Vasser held the position while on a different pit stop sequence. After Vasser made his third stop on Lap 83, he regained third place, which he held through his final stop on Lap 93. He retained his position when he returned to the track behind second place runner Paul Tracy. On Lap 112 of 115 a full course caution came out to remove the car of Jimmy Vasser who spun and stalled. This bunched up the field and set up a one-lap shootout once the green flag returned on Lap 114 of 115. Junqueira stayed as close to Paul Tracy as possible and passed him on the inside of Turn 3 to take second place but ran wide going into the next quick turn and Tracy was able to regain his position. He took the checkered flag 2.9-seconds back from winner Bourdais but only .7-seconds behind Tracy. Junqueira collected 14 points for the finish while Tracy earned 18 and built his lead over Junqueira to eight points (117 to 109). He holds a 12-point lead over third place Michel Jourdain after 9 of 19 events in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Following are his post race comments:
"I knew I had one lap to try to pass Paul Tracy," said Junqueira of his temporary hold on second place. "I knew it was important for the championship but on the other hand, after 114 laps I didn't want to take everything out. I did a move on him (Tracy) in turn three and out-braked him. For sure I lifted a little bit between three and four. I thought that he was going to give me a move on turn four and do a better exit. Then I slowed down too much to Paul. I think Paul made a great maneuver to keep outside and get around me on the outside. I said, "Oh, there is one driver in the world that could do that, and that guy is Paul Tracy.
"First of all, I did a good start and moved up to third. I could even get Sebastien, but I didn't want to get in a fight with my teammate on turn three, on the first lap, because he went straight on turn one on the start. I kept behind him and the track was a little bit damp. My car was good on old tires. Then I started to build up so much understeer, and Paul Tracy and Sebastien started to pull away. I saw that both were driving very fast and making small mistakes. I thought that these guys were going to make a big mistake, but they didn't. They start to drive away from me. I had understeer and I kept calm. I opened a gap to fourth but I had some problems. I started to run slower because a lot of flies were hitting me and it was really difficult to see. Plus I have a drink in the car, and it's like a camel bag that you bite the thing and drink the water. But in turn six, seven and eight, because of so much G's, every lap the water came out by itself and it got on my visor. It was really difficult to see. I had the option to take out that thing, but then have no water and I prefer to have it. On the last pit stop, I took that thing out, then I could see and did some good laps. Then I saw Tracy, he was like five seconds in front of me or like six seconds. I said, "Let's start to make some pressure on him." I knew by that time he wasn't too fast at the start of the race. I said he must be struggling with the car or tires, or concentration because it was a very physical race. And I started to put some very fast laps up. I started to go half a second faster than him every lap. And I never had one lap to try to pass Paul Tracy before this point. But the end was good. Is important to keep consistent. I think the PacifiCare-Newman/Haas team gave me consistent car. The car was good. I had so much understeer compared with Tracy and Sebastien. I couldn't keep up the pace that they had. But it was okay, I'm quite happy with the result."
- Next Up...The Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will now travel north of the border for the Molson Indy Toronto July 13. Newman/Haas Racing's da Matta won the race from pole last season while Fittipaldi finished third. In total the team has won six races, two poles and 12 podiums.