LONG BEACH POLE FOR SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS MAKES HIM THE ACTIVE LEADER AMONG CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES DRIVERS
LONG BEACH (April 14, 2007) -- Rebounding from the toughest weekend of his Champ Car career, Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) resumed his march toward an unprecedented fourth consecutive Champ Car title by winning the pole for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Bourdais earned his first pole of the year and the 26th of his career, posting a best time of 1:07.546 (104.889 mph) around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile Long Beach street course. The Frenchman becomes the leader among active drivers in terms of pole wins as his 26th pole broke a tie with Paul Tracy for seventh on the all-time list.
Saturday's qualifying session saw a flurry of early activity where nearly everyone in the 17-car field established their quick times in the first half of the 30-minute outing. The last among the 17 combatants to hit the track today, Bourdais needed just five laps to card his best time, leaving the rest of the field to play catch up.
Friday qualifying leader Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) kept in close touch with Bourdais as he looked to duplicate his Las Vegas pole, but a slight bobble in the final turn in his final qualifying lap left Power in the second spot with a time of 1:07.695 (104.658 mph). He finished just ahead of his Team Australia stablemate Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who established a career-high by securing a third-place starting spot after posting a time of 1:07.883 (104.368 mph).
The second half of the session was mostly an exercise in futility as none of the drivers were able to better their times after the 15-minute mark, although there was one last bit of drama caused by a Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) spin with five minutes left in the session.
Legge's spin and subsequent stall in the final turn brought out a red flag as most of the drivers were just getting warmed up for their final shots at the pole. The scarlet banner stoppage was quickly cleaned up by the Holmatro Champ Car Safety Team, leaving the Champ Car pilots just one lap each to unseat Bourdais.
Power came closest on that final pass, keeping pace with Bourdais on the speed traces all the way until the final hairpin, where his brief bobble doomed him to a second-place result. Pagenaud ended up third while Alex Tagliani (#8 LXN2 Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) backed up his Las Vegas performance by snaring the fourth spot for Sunday's race, the same spot where he started and finished in during the season-opening weekend.
A pair of rookies will make up the third row, though they took vastly different routes to get there. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal (#2 MEDI|ZONE Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will start in the top five for the first time in his brief Champ Car career after hanging a time of 1:08.170 (103.928 mph), while Robert Doornbos (#14 Muermans/Jumbo Supermarkten/Mediamall Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will start sixth despite spending the entire second half of the session sitting by the side of the track.
Doornbos was one of the earliest cars out during the qualifying session and put up his best time of 1:08.183 (103.909 mph) after seven laps. But seven laps was all he would get as he lost power on his eighth lap, but alertly moved his Minardi Team USA machine into a safe haven, allowing him to avoid bringing out a red flag that would have cost him his best lap time.
Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) posted his best qualifying result of the year with a seventh-place run while Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) snared the eighth spot. Rookie Tristan Gommendy (#22 Pay By Touch Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) will grid a personal-best ninth while Mario Dominguez (#7 Telmex Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
2005 Champ Car runner-up Oriol Servia (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) made his first appearance of the season and will start 14th in tomorrow's race as he sits in for the injured Tracy in the Forsythe Championship Racing machine. Tracy was injured in an accident in the morning's practice, where he suffered a compression fracture to his L-1 vertebrae. Tracy has been released from the hospital but will not compete in Sunday's Champ Car event.
The timed event will begin at 1:00 p.m. local time (4:00 p.m. Eastern) and can be seen live on NBC. Fans can also follow all of the action via the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
Sebastien Bourdais: I was pretty happy to see that Will made a mistake because it would have been difficult. It's tough, when you start like this, there's a last-minute rush after a red flag like this, and you start from the back in the pits, it's difficult. It makes life pretty stressful. So we hopefully are going to have a better weekend and better race tomorrow. We'll have a better pit selection so we don't have to go through this again.
Will Power: I got my best lap on the last lap on my first run. And then the last, the second run, there was the red flag. You know, our tires were almost up to temperature, so we were first out of pit lane. I think we were less than half a 10th off Sebastien's time, but I pushed too hard in the hairpin, I lost it all there.
Simon Pagenaud: Well, again, the car was really good. I've been doing a very good job in the practice this morning with Will and all the team. The car feels very good to me. I did my fastest lap on my set from yesterday, the red Bridgestone tires from yesterday. So I guess we did a very good performance today. I'm very proud of the Aussie Vineyards team.