CHAMPCAR/CART: Junqueira holds on to take victory in Montreal

In a day of unpredictable lead changes, Newman/Haas driver Bruno Junqueira held off all comers to take a highly competitive Champ Car World Series victory in Montreal Canada.

Podium: race winner Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
This was the first win of the season for Junqueira and his sixth career victory. The win marks the first time a competitor has one a race in each of his first four years in the series since Bobby Rahal pulled off the feat from 1982-1985.

"I drove a very secure race", Junqueira said. "At the start I got by A.J. (Allmendinger). I was just waiting until the end of the race to see who I had to compete against. This track is very easy to make mistakes, you've got very high speeds an very hard braking. We've been working really hard this year, and we've had a lot of second places."

Canadian Patrick Carpentier came home in second from his sixth place starting position, and Mario Dominguez came back from a late race pit incident to finish on the podium in third.

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The first corner was again a spectacle after the start, Bourdais holding off second place Allmendinger. Mario Dominguez, starting in third followed Bourdais through while Allmendinger was forced wide. Paul Tracy blew the entrance and skid across the curbing, and upon re-entering the course, bumped up against Allmendinger's right side, forcing him into Alex Tagliani's front wing. The result was a flat tire for Allmendinger, the young rookie pulling into the pits and returning in last place.

The first full-course yellow flag came when Ryan Hunter Reay locked 'em up going into a chicane and dissolved the three second lead Bourdais held over Dominguez.

There wasn't much change during the rest of the first stint, with Bourdais leading from Dominguez, Junqueira, Tracy and Alex Tagliani as the teams prepared for the first round of pit-stops.

Seeking an advantage over his competitors, Bourdais began to knock off laps in the 1:21.7 range, similar to his first-round qualifying effort on Friday. Bourdais stayed out for another lap while Dominguez entered the pits. Upon returning to the circuit, Bourdais was ahead of Dominguez, but with cold tires could barely hold off his Mexican competitor, and yielded the position under braking coming into the hairpin.

Allmendinger assumed the lead during that time as he had pitted earlier, then came in again for fuel during Hunter Reay's incident. He would eventually need to pit again, but stretched his lead out to thirteen seconds before the stop and returned in eighth.

A.J. Allmendinger.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
With Allmendinger out of the picture at that point, Dominguez picked up the lead and held a three-second advantage over Bourdais, with Junqueira, Tagliani and Tracy in tow. The Herdez team then brought Dominguez into the pits early, evidently part of their strategy, but the plan somewhat backfired when one of the team's air wrenches failed. The stop lasted an excruciating 30 seconds, and the car joined the pack down in the eleventh position.

"Well, it was definitely unfortunate, we were going for the win and I think we had it", Dominguez would say later. "We had the best car out there, no questions about it. My team gave me a great car."

Rookie Justin Wilson, battling for the rookie points championship with Allmendinger, had an inspired drive and battled with Tracy for fifth. Unfortunately for Wilson, his day ended prematurely when his engine went out later in the race.

With round two pitstops in full pitch, Bourdais made a clean in-and-out as he had earlier in the race. Pulling back onto the course with cold tires, Bourdais entered the same hairpin in which Dominguez had taken him earlier, except this time it was Allmendinger on his wing. With front tires locked, Allmendinger dove into the corner under Bourdais, but the Frenchman had not seen the young challenger and turned into his front tire. Bourdais car bounced in the air, running over Allmendinger's rear wheel. The impact was too much for the suspension and the Bourdais bid for a clean sweep was over.

"I am here to win the championship, I'm not playing a game." Bourdais said. "This race was very important for the whole team, McDonald's and myself. To put the car on pole and lead the race only to be victim of what happened was a huge shame. I was just leaving the pits on cold tires and it's not a sunny day so it takes longer to get them up to temperature." He fell back in the race and was out of sequence with the leaders", Bourdais went on to say. "I knew it would be difficult to stay in front of him but I used the Push to Pass (a button that gives each competitor an allotted time of extra boost) and did not move over to block him or brake desperately late. I gave him room."

Paul Tracy.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Not too disappointed with that result was Newman/Haas teammate Junqueira. Junky took the lead gladly, while Tracy and Carpentier had their own battle for second. Dominguez had charged back through the field and was now in fourth right behind the two Canadian drivers. The challenge for second continued and you could have thrown a blanket over the three cars as they ran within two seconds of each other on lap fifty.

"I could see Paul using his Push to Pass", Carpentier said. Every time he made a small mistake, I could see the light in the back flashing (indicating Push to Pass). I thought to myself he's going to run out. I only had three seconds left myself so I waited until I really needed it. Later I could see he was sliding around, his tires were done. Coming into a corner he braked but went straight. I passed him and looked for the green button. I was gone."

"It feels good and I'm really happy because Friday didn't start too well, we didn't qualify." Carpentier continued. "That gave us the opportunity to save a lot of tires for the race. At the start of the race we knew everyone would start on soft tires, so we started on hard tires and saved the stickers (new tires) for the end. We were able to pit later on our last stop and make a charge at the end but we still had to conserve a little fuel."

Junqueira led the group into the pits for the final time on lap 57 with thirteen circuits remaining. Tracy had stopped a few laps earlier, giving up the final podium spot to Dominguez. Behind by two seconds, Tracy sought to re-take third, but had very little Push to Pass remaining in the car.

With an opportunity to narrow the championship gap between himself and teammate Bourdais, Junqueira pulled out an eight-second lead over Carpentier. Allmendinger worked his way back to fifth behind Tracy, with RuSport teammate Michel Jourdain Jr. ten-seconds back in sixth.

Tracy finished in fourth ahead of Allmendinger, Jourdain Jr., Tagliani, Vasser, Oriol Servia, and rookie Roberto Gonzalez capped off the top ten.

During the event, California native Jimmy Vasser established a new consecutive starts record with his 193rd start in a Chap Car. At the previous race in Denver, Vasser tied the legendary Al Unser Jr. for the honor .

Being his first victory this year, Junqueira looks to make a late season charge for the championship, slicing Bourdais' 58-point lead by twenty points.

"I'm not going to give up the Championship fight," Junqueira said. "We had the best car during some of the past races but didn't win. Hopefully now we can have some good results for the next four races."

The Champ Cars head back to the West Coast in two weeks time for the Monterey Grand Prix. The points championship is getting hotter and there are but four events left in the season. The Vanderbilt Cup awaits its rightful recipient.