CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Race report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STARTS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES TITLE DEFENSE IN STYLE, SWEEPING MAXIMUM POINTS FROM SEASON-OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2006) -- Somewhere Ted Horn is smiling. Two-time defending ...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STARTS CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES TITLE DEFENSE IN STYLE, SWEEPING MAXIMUM POINTS FROM SEASON-OPENING TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 9, 2006) -- Somewhere Ted Horn is smiling.

Two-time defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed in Horn's prodigious footsteps today, sweeping the maximum number of series points available in the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. Bourdais dominated the 74-lap affair in front of a massive crowd today, storming to his 17th career victory as he looks to join Horn as the only men ever to win three consecutive Champ Car titles.

Bourdais led 70 of 74 laps on a sunny Long Beach Sunday, beating Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the line by 14.096 seconds to earn the first victory of the year. The Newman/Haas Racing driver also posted the fastest lap of the day, taking the maximum 35 points available to a driver over a Champ Car weekend. His effort earned him an eight-point lead over Wilson and a ten-point advantage over Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who scored a podium finish for Team Australia with his third-place run. Of historical significance also in the race was the fact that Katherine Legge (#20 Optium/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored an eighth-place finish in her debut, marking the highest-ever Champ Car finish for a female driver.

Things got a little easier for Bourdais on the very first lap of the day as four of the top-eight qualifiers were cleaned out in a first-turn melee. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had their days ended by early contact. Tracy came up the inside of Turn One at the start and looked to gain a spot, but was bumped by teammate Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was able to continue from the incident. Tracy's car bounced off the inside wall and back toward the onrushing field, triggering the fracas that sidelined the four title contenders.

Bourdais and Wilson raced ahead of the carnage and were safely ensconced in the first and second spots, while Tagliani vaulted from seventh to third, followed by teammate Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Dominguez. Bourdais showed a hint of things to come as he sped away to a five-second lead over Wilson, only to see it erased when Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went into the Turn One tires on Lap 13.

The same thing happened 12 laps later as Bourdais fashioned a lead of 5.8 seconds over Wilson only to see it evaporate when veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream/Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stopped on course and required a tow. Undaunted, it took just six orbits after the Lap 27 restart to widen the gap again to six seconds, only to see it go by the boards once more when Power stalled in Turn One while fending off Dominguez.

Again, Bourdais roared away on the restart, abandoning plans to save fuel and setting his fastest laps of the day as the field approached what would be its only set of green-flag pit stops of the day. Bourdais led by seven seconds when Wilson and Tagliani pitted on Lap 46, while Bourdais, Dominguez and Cristiano da Matta (#19 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stopped for service one lap later. Da Matta steadily picked his way through the field after starting 10th, using the skill that earned him a Champ Car title to maneuver his way through the various obstacles that came up throughout the race.

It was during those pit stops that Bourdais gave up the lead for the only time on the day, as rookie Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the point. His stay at the front was extended when the afternoon's final caution flag flew, this time for rookie Antonio Pizzonia (#8 Rotax/Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who had stalled in Turn One. Heylen pitted at the end of the caution period, putting Bourdais back in the lead, where he promptly ran away from the field.

Bourdais fought off the charges of Wilson, extending his lead even though the RuSPORT driver posted his four fastest laps of the race consecutively from Laps 61-64. Content with second place on the day, Wilson busied himself with fending off Tagliani to take the runner-up spot on the podium. Tagliani earned the final podium place, finishing ahead of Dominguez, who scored his fourth consecutive Long Beach top-five finish, while da Matta rounded out the top five.

Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gained 10 positions on the day to take the sixth spot while Heylen, Legge, Power and Pizzonia completed the top 10. Heylen scored an additional championship point for leading the race, giving him a three-point advantage over Legge in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings.

The Champ Cars will next do battle on the new Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston layout, a street course set up in the parking lot surrounding Reliant Stadium and the historic Houston Astrodome. The race will be just the second nighttime road-course race in series history, and will take place May 11-13.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS:

Sebastien Bourdais: You know, on the standings, it could not be any better than that for sure. We are scoring max points and three major opponents fell this weekend. What a way to start the season. It was a great turnout. I think a huge, huge crowd today. Thanks to everybody here in Long Beach, Bridgestone, for the series for making it happen.

Justin Wilson: Yeah, obviously it went pretty good. The crew have been working hard all weekend to get the car competitive and to get it ready. We've made quite a few changes chasing the setup. I just want to thank them for putting all the effort in and making sure we can be here on the podium.

Alex Tagliani: We're there. We know there's a lot of work to do to catch the strong teams. Now it's going to be up to us in the next month to make some changes and to try to see if the budget allows us to get some additions on what we know we're behind. From there, try to get closer and closer.

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais scored his 17th career Champ Car victory today, tying him with Ralph Mulford and Danny Sullivan for 20th on the all-time series list. It was his 10th win from pole, which ties him with Paul Tracy for 10th on the all-time list.

* Cristiano da Matta finished fifth today, marking the highest-ever Long Beach finish for long-time Champ Car competitor Dale Coyne Racing.

* Dale Coyne Racing's Jan Heylen led four laps today, the most by a rookie at Long Beach since Takuya Kurosawa led -- ironically in a Dale Coyne car -- seven laps in the 2000 race.

* The previous best finish for a female driver in Champ Car competition was a ninth-place run for Janet Guthrie in the 1978 Indianapolis 500. Katherine Legge establishes a new mark with today's eighth-place run.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Danny Sullivan , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Janet Guthrie , Takuya Kurosawa , Andrew Ranger , Jan Heylen , Will Power , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta , Dan Clarke
Teams Dale Coyne Racing