SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CARRIES NEW-FOUND CHAMP CAR POINTS POINTS LEAD INTO INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON INDIANAPOLIS (July 13, 2005) -- Canadian Champ Car drivers are akin to rock stars any time the Bridgestone Presents The ...
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CARRIES NEW-FOUND CHAMP CAR POINTS POINTS LEAD INTO INAUGURAL WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON
INDIANAPOLIS (July 13, 2005) -- Canadian Champ Car drivers are akin to rock stars any time the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford heads north of the border, and this weekend will be no different as the series hits the halfway point by breaking in a new event, the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton.
But while Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) might garner the kind of attention usually reserved for the likes of Rush's Getty Lee, they will still be chasing the series' top draw once the green flag flies in the Alberta skies.
Last week in Toronto, Champ Car World Series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed the same sort of resiliency that earned him the series championship a year ago, battling back from contact that might have ruined his day. Bourdais fell back to 10th after contact with Tracy left him with a flat tire, but fought back through the pack to earn a fifth-place finish. That resolve not only gave him a top-five finish, it propelled him back to the top of the point standings, giving him a 15-point bulge as the series heads to the seventh round of the 14-race 2005 schedule.
The battle to catch Bourdais will take place in what is unfamiliar territory for Champ Car's finest as the series welcomes a new venue to the schedule. Much like the course in Cleveland, the 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway is set up on airport runways, this time transforming the Edmonton City Centre Airport into a haven for 750 hp turbocharged race cars. The 14-turn race course features an opening corner that is remarkably similar to the one that has caused so much calamity in 24 years of Cleveland battles, and carries several other turns that are rife with passing opportunities.
Tracy will be heading to a new Canadian venue, hoping to recreate his successes at Toronto and Vancouver where he became the only Canadian driver in series history to win at two different home-country races. The 2003 series champion will need to rebound from a trying day in Toronto in order to get back in the points chase and find the form that saw him score podium finishes in four of the first five races. Tracy has led laps in each of the first six events of the year as he closes in on the 4,000th lap led of his illustrious career.
The race for the championship suddenly has a few new names in it after Toronto, led by the 6'5" Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who scored the first win of his career last weekend in Toronto. Wilson had done everything except visit the podium in the year's first five races, finishing fourth three times and leading from pole in Portland before an oil pump gave out and ended his day. The RuSPORT squad and Wilson made up for the problems in Toronto however, leading the final 10 laps of the day and scoring the win. The victory not only made Wilson the 242nd driver in the history of the series to win a Champ Car race, but it moved him to within 22 points of the frontrunning Bourdais and into third place in the standings.
Toronto was another springboard for the aforementioned Tagliani, as he parlayed his fourth top-five starting spot of the year into his second podium finish of 2005. Tagliani and his new Team Australia squad have always run well in Canadian events, nearly taking wins at Montreal and Vancouver in the past and scoring two podiums in Toronto. His third-place run last weekend has moved him into the seventh spot in the points, just 17 markers out of fourth.
RuSPORT's A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) could be the next new winner to grace the circuit, following in the footsteps of his much-taller teammate. Allmendinger already has a pair of podiums to his credit this year and had a third in his grasp in Toronto before a late-race miscue. His efforts have slotted into the fourth position in the standings as the halfway pole approaches.
The PKV duo of Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) have spent their fair share at the top this year as well, and head to Edmonton in search of momentum. Vasser has used a four-race run of top-six finishes, including a pole in Portland, to climb into the sixth spot and comes to Edmonton on the heels of a season-high fourth-place run in Toronto.
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Da Matta has run well and has a victory to his credit this year, but has been taken out early in the last two races after confrontations with lapped vehicles. The early retirements have him clinging to a top-10 points position, leaving him eighth after six races, but just five points away from being out of the top 10 in what has become a very-crowded battle.
Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continues to look more and more comfortable in the second Newman/Haas Racing machine, just four races after replacing the injured Bruno Junqueira in the PacifiCare car. The Catalonia native led 20 laps last weekend in Toronto after earning his best starting spot of the year, and used that fourth-place grid position to stalk the leaders through the first half of the race. Servia ran up front all day and came home with a career-best matching effort of second, giving him three podium finishes in his four races in the car. He has cracked the top five in the points and is just four digits behind the young Allmendinger for fourth.
Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) both had their Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing machines in and around the top 10 last week, with Philippe scoring the first top-10 starting spot of his young career. He and Ranger finished 10th and 11th respectively as the youngest team driver lineup in the history of Champ Car continues to improve.
Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) saw a solid qualifying result cast aside by early-race contact for the second consecutive week, but the Mexican driver has still been able to maintain a tenuous grasp on a top-10 place in the standings. Dominguez has been strong when he has been able to avoid contact, running seventh or better in each of the three races that he has finished.
German Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has used great consistency to snare the lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, using five top-10 runs in the year's six races to take a three-point lead over Ranger. His Rocketsports teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Cytomax Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) emerged from the doldrums last weekend, making up 11 spots to finish a season-high sixth, allowing the third-year American driver to climb a couple of positions in the standings.
Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed that he is coming to grips with his mount as well just six races into his career, steering his Dale Coyne Racing machine to his best qualifying result of the year. His cousin Alex Sperafico (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took over the HVM machine in Toronto and earned the best finish of his Champ Car career, finishing on the lead lap in eighth.
The inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton will take place Friday through Sunday, July 15-17. Qualifying at Finning International Speedway will be conducted on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday's race being run at 1:30 p.m. local time. The television coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time on SPEED Channel with a 30-minute qualifying show, with race coverage to follow immediately after.