CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Pre-race notes

WHO'S HOT 2004 Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

WHO'S HOT

2004 Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) held on to the points lead in Portland, by leading 7 laps and in the end seizing the second place spot. In 2005 the Frenchman has been very consistent, not placing out of the top-6 in any of the events. Bourdais returns to the Cleveland Circuit looking for his third consecutive victory on the airstrip. In his Champ Car career Bourdais has managed to win every event he has been entered in at Burke Lakefront Airport. In those events the he has managed to lead a total of 121 laps.

Last weekend in Portland Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) returned to his 2002 championship style, taking his first victory of the season. Pit strategy was the name of the game as da Matta's team made the call to short pit knowing his car was faster running away from other cars, in clean air. This win, his first after returning from two seasons in Formula One is the 12th of his career and moves him into 18th on the all-time Champ Car victory list. The last time da Matta saw the course at Cleveland, he took the pole position and led 19 laps before retiring with mechanical failure.

In Portland Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) kept his dream of a second Champ Car championship a reality by finishing a strong third, moving himself up to second in the points standings. In last year's Grand Prix of Cleveland, Tracy took the pole for the event before making contact on the first lap in the infamous turn one.

Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) captured the Bridgestone Pole Award in Portland and had a strong start until he succumbed to mechanical failure, ending his day after leading 43 laps. Wilson has had a very consistent sophomore season, which has placed him third in the Champ Car points standings. In Cleveland, Wilson looks to get his season back on the right track. Last year he snatched the outside pole before being taken out in a lap one incident.

2004 Roshfrans Rookie of the Year A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looks to add on to a string of not finishing out of the top ten this season, having placed 5th in both Milwaukee and Portland. Currently this sophomore finds himself 5th in the points standings. Last year at the Cleveland Circuit, Allmendinger had a consistent showing having qualified 4th and finishing 6th. He also has one Toyota Atlantic victory to his credit in Cleveland.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Last year, Spaniard Oriol Servia (#2 Pacificare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came from the back of the pack to finish 4th in Cleveland and in the process he led 2 laps. Servia returns to the Burke Lakefront Airport with a car and team that placed second in last year's event, so look for him to be a front runner this weekend.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) returns to the site of his first 2004 podium finish. Last year Tagliani qualified a solid 5th position before moving up to finish in the 3rd spot. In five Champ Car starts in Cleveland, he has placed out of the top ten once and qualified out of the top ten twice.

1996 series champion Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is a former Cleveland pole sitter, starting in the top position in both 1996 and 1998. Vasser holds the rack record having orbited the circuit in 56.417 seconds (134.385 mph) in 1998. Last year in this event Vasser had a solid top five run.

DID YOU KNOW

Burke Lakefront Airport has been part of Cleveland's shoreline for more than 50 years and site for the Cleveland Grand Prix for 23 years. The idea of a lakefront airport in Cleveland was conceived of during the Great Lakes Exposition of 1936. World War II delayed plans for its construction, and it was not until 1947 that the airport actually opened. Owned and operated by the City of Cleveland's Department of Port Control, Burke supports the city with full crash and fire rescue and emergency medical services. City personnel, in turn provide the manpower for field and maintenance, snow removal, custodial services, airport operations and other airport functions. Other than the Grand Prix of Cleveland the airport also hosts the Cleveland National Air Show in September. The airport is also home to the International Women's Air and Space Museum.

NOTEWORTHY

* Last year Bourdais became only the second driver to win back-to-back events in Cleveland. This weekend he will try to make history by attempting to be the only driver to win three in a row on the airstrip.

* The Cleveland track is one of the more difficult on the calendar, for the simple reason that the wide open spaces allow virtually no reference points from which the drivers can judge their turn-in points or apexes for the corners. For the same reason it is also provides a spectacular view for the fans, since the whole circuit can be viewed from their grandstand seats.

* Turn one at the Burke Lakefront Airport is one of the most infamous on the Champ Car schedule. Four out of the last five years a lap one, turn one accident has sent at least one racing machine to the garage area.

* The race for Roshfrans Rookie of the Year is in a dead heat. Going into the Cleveland event rookies Andrew Ranger and Timo Glock are tied for the top position in the rookie points standings, with Ronnie Bremer just two markers behind the top spot.

* The Portland event marked the first time that three former Champ Car title winners have been on a Champ Car podium since 1998 when Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi and Michael Andretti filled the three steps in Toronto.

* Paul Tracy's third-place run in Portland allowed Canada to maintain the lead in the Nation's Cup standings, giving the Great White North a 112-101 lead over France, with Brazil just three points behind after da Matta's win.

BY THE NUMBERS

85,000 -- How many landings and take offs Burke Lakefront Airport averages in one year. 6,198 ft.- Length of the longest of two runways at Burke Lakefront Airport. 1947- The year Burke Lakefront Airport first opened. 88- The number of laps Bourdais led last year on way to his second Cleveland victory. 56.417 seconds- The track record that Jimmy Vasser holds in Cleveland. 23- The number of Champ Car events that have been held at the Burke Lakefront Airport. 8- The number of winners that have started from the pole position. 3- The number of rookies who have won in Cleveland. 2.106 miles -- how far around the road course is. 2- The number of drivers who have back-to-back wins (Bourdais and Zanardi) at the Cleveland Circuit.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Ronnie Bremer , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta