DENVER, Colo. (August 27, 2003) --- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira is looking to again experience the Rocky Mountain High he had after the 2002 event in Denver which he won in dominating fashion. Both Junqueira and his teammate, Lilly driver...
DENVER, Colo. (August 27, 2003) --- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira is looking to again experience the Rocky Mountain High he had after the 2002 event in Denver which he won in dominating fashion. Both Junqueira and his teammate, Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais, will attempt to bring Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) a victory in its 350th CART Champ Car World Series event in this weekend's 106-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver.
"The 2002 race in Denver was a very good weekend for me," said Junqueira of the race run on the 9-turn, 1.647-mile temporary street course around the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. "I started on pole, led all 100 laps and won the race. It was a perfect weekend and I hope we can do the same in the PacifiCare car this year. I think the PacifiCare car has been very consistent and with the good performance that I had last year in Denver, I really think we have a shot to win the race."
Junqueira had been to model of consistency for the majority of the season but 13th place finishes in the past two events in Ohio and Montreal dropped him from the championship led to a 28-point deficit to leader Paul Tracy with five races remaining. Prior to the Road America event three races ago, Junqueira needed to earn as many of the maximum 23 points available that weekend to keep his championship hopes alive and he rose to the challenge by collecting all 23. If he is able to score his second win of the season this weekend, it would be significant for many reasons.
"I think this year has been a big battle between Paul Tracy and me," added Junqueira. "We have both been fast everywhere and have been consistent. For sure I want to stay in front of him and he wants to stay in front of me everyday. I think it will be really important for me to win in Denver. I want to earn my first back-to-back win there. I already won twice at Road America but not back to back and it will be Newman/Haas Racing's 350th race and would be really special if I can give Carl Haas, Paul Newman and the whole team a win. Plus it is a big PacifiCare city and they will have 150 guests going to the race and if I can have a good result it would be very good for them too."
Not only will Junqueira attempt to catch up to Tracy for the Championship hunt, but he will also attempt to again build a cushion on third place ranked Michel Jourdain who now resides a mere seven points in arrears after he drove to victory in the previous race in Montreal. Although Junqueira led all 100 laps in last year's race here, he believes this weekend's event will be difficult for many reasons.
"The Denver track is very, very difficult track. It's also challenging because you are racing at a high altitude and you lose a lot of downforce on the car. Then the car is light - much more than you are used to and you have to be really competitive to keep the car on track and run fast laps," said Junqueira of the estimated decrease of 20 percent of downforce.
In the 2002 event, NHR driver Cristiano da Matta started seventh and finished third while teammate Christian Fittipaldi started fifth and was in third place during his final pit stop when the airjack failed for the second time in three mandatory stops thus dropping him to a fifth place finish. Despite having both drivers capable of a podium finish, the team would have like to have been more competitive. Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais knows that Junqueira's success in this track can help the team put together a strong result.
"It's a really difficult street course," said Bourdais. "All the corners are nearly the same speed - 50 or 60 mph. You really need to find a good mechanical balance and great grip and the lap time is going to come from there. We're probably going to change a lot of things from what Newman/Haas had last year. It should be a mix of what Newman/Haas had last year and Bruno's feedback."
With the help of three wins and four poles Bourdais had vaulted to fourth place in the point standings heading into the previous race in Montreal. Unfortunately he dropped to a fifth place rank after his differential failed on lap 29 of 75 and led to his fifth retirement of the season while Patrick Carpentier, who finished third moved ahead of him with a 128-126 advantage. His third and most recent win of the season came in Cleveland when the team debuted a new paint scheme complete with the world famous Golden Arches of McDonald's. His No. 2 Ford-Cosworth-Bridgestone race car will carry the popular signage for the second of a three-race deal and he is hoping the change will again bring him the same result and help him regain fourth place in the standings.
"We are going to run the McDonald's / Lilly paint scheme for the second time this season and I hope it is going to have the same result in Denver as it was in Cleveland where we won!" said Bourdais, who started on pole and led 33 laps en route to victory. "I think the red colors give us good success and I think it should be a good event because last year didn't work that well for Newman/Haas (third place) but Bruno had a great weekend. We're going to learn a lot and should be just fine."
Of NHR's 75 poles, 59 have come on road and street courses like the Denver layout. Junqueira has won one pole so far this season while Bourdais has earned three although both have been close on numerous other occasions. At the previous race in Montreal Junqueira lost pole position by a mere six-thousandths of a second to Alex Tagliani. Due to the short layout, CART has decided that for only the second time in their 25 year history they will hold single car qualifying in Denver and later in Miami (Sept. 26-28) after success with this format in Brands Hatch, England earlier this year.
First-round qualifying order will be run in reverse order of Friday practice times for both events, while the order for final qualifying will run in reverse of the first-round results. Each competitor will run one untimed out lap, followed by three qualifying laps. The best single lap of the three will count as the driver's official time.
"In Denver we are going to have single car qualifying for only the second time because it's a street course but it's a very short track," said Junqueira. "Every driver is going to have a three-lap opportunity to put together a good lap time. I think it will be good because there is not going to be traffic and not be any excuses. The guy that goes fast is going to be on pole."
"Single car qualifying is fairer for everybody," added Bourdais. "You have three laps and are alone on the track and it's equal for everybody. If you make a mistake it's only your fault and you don't have to point to anybody and say 'You blocked me.' I think it's very important for Denver as well as the other street course we have been to because on a street course when you are driving between the walls there is always blind turns and if you if you do a slow lap you can block someone even if you don't want to."
The inaugural Grand Prix of Denver, held over Labor Day weekend last year, generated an economic impact of more than $26.5 million in revenue for the Denver metropolitan area economy, according to figures released recently by the Mayor's Office of Economic Development. After now having participated in 14 CART-sanctioned events, Bourdais has experienced the success of CART's street races firsthand.
"When you bring the event into the town, the crowd is easy to access," said Bourdais. "When you bring the show to them, there are more people able to see it than ones where people have to drive 100 miles or more or fly."
Junqueira and Bourdais will have a busy schedule in Denver. Both drivers will participate in the pre-event press conference on Thursday and Bourdais will make an appearance as a "guest bartender" at Ford's FanFest on Thursday night at one of three establishments - Marlowe's, The Paramount Cafe and the Hard Rock -- from 6:30-8:00 p.m. At the same time, local band Cali Na will be entertaining the crowd with its unique funk/jazz sounds. Show cars, special Ford concept vehicles and other displays will be part of the festivities. On Friday night Junqueira will meet guests from his sponsor PacifiCare while Bourdais will participate in a Bridgestone ice racing event.
On Saturday night Junqueira will join Carl Haas and Paul Newman at a PacifiCare function in honor of the Dream Foundation, a pioneering national charity that grants wishes to terminally ill adults ages 18-65. The PacifiCare Foundation, the nonprofit philanthropic arm of PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc., will make a $25,000 donation to the Dream Foundation that will raise the company's total monetary support of the cause to $100,000 for this year in celebration of its involvement with CART Champ Car and Newman/Haas Racing. The Dream Foundation recipient for the Denver race is Tom Leavitt, 55, of Eugene, Oregon. Leavitt is a lifelong racing fan and fan of Paul Newman, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing. He was recently diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
The Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver will take place on Sunday, August 31 at 3:00 p.m. A 30-minute pre-race show will precede the tape-delayed telecast set to begin at 9:30 p.m. on SPEED Channel. Saturday's Final Qualifying session will be televised live on SPEED live beginning at 3:30 p.m. Live audio of the CART Champ Car World Series is available for qualifying on Saturday, August 30 beginning at 3:30 p.m. and the Centrix Financial GP of Denver on Sunday, August 31 beginning at 3:00 p.m., on the official web site of the CART Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com. All times Eastern.