CHAMPCAR/CART: Lausitz: Newman/Haas race report

Lilly driver Bourdais became the first rookie to win an oval race in his debut with his victory in the Germany 500; PacifiCare driver Junqueira now tied for points lead after fourth place finish - Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais drove to a ...

Lilly driver Bourdais became the first rookie to win an oval race in his debut with his victory in the Germany 500; PacifiCare driver Junqueira now tied for points lead after fourth place finish

- Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais drove to a thrilling victory in his oval racing debut and became the first Champ Car World Series rookie to do so from the pole after he led 74 of 154 laps in the German 500 at 2.0-mile EuroSpeedway Lausitz, in Lausitz, Germany. His victory over Mario Dominguez was the closest race in the series since the 2000 event at Michigan International Speedway as he won by a slim 0.084-second margin. His consecutive wins in England and Germany in only five rounds of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford have vaulted him from 16th place in the point standings to fourth with 49 to points leaders Paul Tracy and teammate Bruno Junqueira, who are tied with 66.

After earning the first pole on an oval for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) since Christian Fittipaldi accomplished the feat in Rio de Janeiro in 1999, Bourdais also became the first driver in the Champ Car World Series to win from the pole in his oval racing debut. It was the 10th pole for NHR in the past 20 races as well as the first 1-2 start for NHR since Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy made-up the front row for the 1995 Long Beach Grand Prix. On a sunny day in Lausitz, Germany, Bourdais and his peers witnessed an emotional exhibition by two-time CART Champion Alex Zanardi as well as his command "Friends, Star your Engines" in front of a lively crowd estimated at 68,000. At the start of the event he was passed by teammate Bruno Junqueira but was able to regain the lead before the start/finish line to be credited for leading the first lap. He held the position for the majority of the first stint but swapped positions with Junqueira three times while the two ran within .4-second of each other before their first pit stop on Lap 25 during the first of only two caution periods to remove debris from the track. He returned to the race in the same position he entered the pits -- second place to Junqueira -- before he temporarily dropped as low as fourth place. By Lap 38 he was in second place which he held through his second and third pit stops on Laps 55 and 81 respectively. For both stints in second place, Bourdais ran side-by-side on the outside of race leader Mario Dominguez many times but was unable to complete a pass. On Lap 51, Dominguez was so close that Bourdais had to drive onto the grass due to lack of track. After the second stop, the Mexican received a "blocking warning" flag from CART which subsequently led to a five-second penalty on Pit Lane during his third stop for blocking from CART Race Control. After the completion of his third stop and penalty, Dominguez apparently stalled his car and Bourdais returned to the track in first place on Lap 82. On the following lap a caution flag came out due to debris on the track which was removed and the race was restarted on Lap 88. Bourdais held the lead until Lap 99 when he fell to second place while he and teammate Junqueira swapped the lead between Laps 98 and 104 when Bourdais maintained the position until his fourth pit stop on Lap 109. He returned to the race in fourth place behind two cars that had yet to make their next stop as well as Michel Jourdain. By lap 115 he regained the lead and held the position until his fifth and final pit stop on Lap 137 of the 154-lap race. He returned to the track behind two out-of sequence cars as well as Dominguez and eventual third place finisher Michel Jourdain, who had passed him leaving the pits while he was trying to maneuver out of his tight pit box near pit out where all of the other cars had reached the maximum pit speed limit. On Lap 142 he moved ahead of Dominguez and Jourdain and into the lead which he held until the checkered flag, much of the time while running on the inside line of the track while Dominguez ran alongside in an attempt to pass. Prior to the event, he was in sixth place in the point standings with 27 points but his point for pole position moved him to fifth. He earned 20 points for the victory and one additional point for leading the most laps, which moved him to a fourth place rank with 49.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS , #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

"Yeah, it was a lot of fun, for sure. It was a lot of stress, too. But I think we did such a great race with Mario. We just had a very little struggle when he didn't really see me. I was just one wheel, and I went across the grass. I think that's why they penalized him. It was very fair, but so tight. I mean, it was just really difficult to keep out of trouble. So I just have to say "all right" and thanks from my team because they gave me a perfect car. My Lilly car #2 was just exceptional today. I mean, we race fast all through the weekend, and it's the second win in a row, so what can I expect more?

"I think in that way I had everything to learn because I never raced on an oval, so it was just very tough. I was leading and I was in the position to try to challenge for the lead. We arrived on traffic. And this race is tough, so that was really tough. I had a big moment with Mario, and I was just trying outside step by step, checking the feeling with the car, and building up my confidence. That was just the secret of the day. Just don't go too quickly too early and just try to build your confidence step by step if you don't want to make any mistakes. And we adjust the car a bit after the first stop, and after it was just perfect.

"I learned a lot behind Mario. I felt I was able to do something (to pass), but basically my top speed was just a very little, not big enough to overtake when I was side by side with him. Even with the jump I was able to get from the tow, it was not enough to get the position. So I had no real proper opportunity to overtake him, unless we get traffic and I manage it better. I think that's what I did in the last stint. That was just superb. And after when I was leading actually, when I had the inside line, that was just to try to put him a little in dirty air to build a bit of understeer on his car, not to allow us to be side by side with me. So that was very much a thinking game. And I think I did pretty well on that."

- More Facts About Bourdais' Win: Bourdais brought Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) its first win at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz as well as their first win in Germany after having already won in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan and England. The pole is the third of the season for Bourdais, making him the first driver since Juan Montoya in 1999 to win as many as three poles in his rookie season. Bourdais is the first driver since Nigel Mansell to win three poles in his first five starts, a feat that Mansell accomplished in his championship season of 1993. It was the 70th overall victory in the team's 340th race. He scored the 11th win in the past 26 Champ car races for NHR dating back to victories in the final two races of 2001 by da Matta who went on to earn another seven in 2002. NHR has won 46 of their 70 victories on road/street courses and 24 on ovals. The previous oval victory was at the team's home race in Chicago by Cristiano da Matta (6-30-02). The Germany victory marks the 128th for Lola, and the 67th by NHR of 128.

- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira jumped into a tie for first place in the point standings after he drove from a second place start to finish fourth in the 154-lap German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz after he led a total of 23 laps and ran in the top three for more than one-half of the race. It was his fifth top-five finish in as many races this season and was enough to move him into a tie with Paul Tracy, who finished 12th in the event - both with 66 points after five of 19 Champ Car World Series events.

Junqueira's second place qualifying position brought Newman/Haas Racing their first one-two start since Michael Andretti and Paul Tracy accomplished the feat in the 1995 Long Beach Grand Prix and was his highest starting spot so far this season. In the race, Junqueira took the lead going into Turn 1 on the 2.02-mile course but teammate Bourdais reclaimed the spot before the start/finish line. If Junqueira was not leading nine of the 25 laps before the first of five mandatory pit stops each 28 laps, he was within a few tenths of a second from the leader Bourdais in second place. On Lap 25 he pitted in the lead and maintained the position when he returned to the track. He led nine more laps before he temporarily dropped as low as fourth place but was back in third behind leader Mario Dominguez and Bourdais by the time he made his second stop on Lap 53. He returned to the track in third place where he ran for the majority of the time with the exception of seven laps in fourth place before he made his third stop on Lap 81. He returned to the track one position higher in third place and held the position until he passed Oriol Servia for second where he ran for nine laps before he moved back into the lead on Lap 99. He held the lead for three laps while fighting off teammate Bourdais for the position until the two began swapping the top-two positions from Laps 102-106. He lost some momentum once Bourdais past him for the lead on Lap 106 and fell back to fourth place before his fourth pit stop on Lap 109. He returned to the track in sixth place behind the lead cars of Patrick Carpentier and Jimmy Vasser, who were swapping the lead before their next pit stop a few laps later. By Lap 115, they pitted and he moved back into his pre-pit position of fourth place but fought off charges by fifth place runner Servia for the ensuing laps until 127 when Junqueira dropped back to fifth place for 10 laps before his final stop on Lap 137. He returned to the race in seventh place and moved back into fifth once Carpentier and Vasser made their final stops on Lap 142. Now that all drivers had made their fifth and final pit stop, the field was set for a winner-take-all run to the checkered flag. Junqueira fought to move past Servia for fourth place for the following 10 laps as the two ran wheel to wheel for much of the time. On Lap 153 Junqueira was able to move past Servia and take over fourth place which he held until the checkered flag on the completion of the following lap. He collected 12 points for the race and moved from second place in the point standings to a tie for first place with Paul Tracy with 66 points each.

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA , #1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

"This was my best oval race in Champ Cars but I didn't have the power to challenge for the win from the beginning," said Junqueira who had hoped to win his first race of the season here. "Although there is a spec engine in the series the power varies. Sebastien [Bourdais] and Mario [Dominguez] had the power but not as much experience and it made a difference. It was good to fight with Oriol [Servia] at the end of the race. He was faster than me on the straights but I did everything I could to stay there and overtake him on the last lap. I came to Europe with a plan to leave after these two races with the points lead and I accomplished that but it is disappointing to not have a car that could win. Newman/Haas is one of the best teams in racing so I am sure we can improve on this."

BRIAN LISLES , General Manager of Newman/Haas Racing:

"We are puzzled by the performance difference between our two cars and we are already formulating a program to identify the problem. Obviously this is something we want to prevent in the future."

- Alex Zanardi Completes His 2001 Race: Alex Zanardi, one of the most personable drivers to have gotten behind the wheel of a Champ Car, served as the Grand Marshal for this year's German 500. Perhaps even more memorable than the race that had the crowd on their feet was a moving performance by the 1997 and '98 CART champion. Zanardi made an unprecedented return to the cockpit of a 750hp Champ Car less than two years after suffering the traumatic amputation of both legs during an accident at the 2001 Champ Car race at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. He drove a specially prepared race car with hand controls that allowed him to finish the final 13 laps of the race that he did get to complete in 2001. These were not exhibition laps either as the two-time Champion lapped the course approaching the same speeds that the current drivers had run.

- Next Up: The CART Champ Car World Series will take a few weeks off before their "home race" of 2003 at the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite. The legendary track is located in Milwaukee, which is approx. one-hour from the team's base in Lincolnshire, Ill. Bruno's highest finish came in 2001 when he drove to a fourth place. It will be the first time the series has held a race at night under the lights. The team has won at the historic Milwaukee Mile six times (1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996) and earned a total of 11 podium finishes but has earned only one pole at the track.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain