SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS PASSES JUSTIN WILSON ON FINAL LAP OF 2006 CHAMP CAR FINALE TO WIN GRAN PREMIO TELMEX PRESENTADO POR BANAMEX MEXICO CITY (November 12, 2006) -- Today's Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex was the last Champ Car race for...
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS PASSES JUSTIN WILSON ON FINAL LAP OF 2006 CHAMP CAR FINALE TO WIN GRAN PREMIO TELMEX PRESENTADO POR BANAMEX
MEXICO CITY (November 12, 2006) -- Today's Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex was the last Champ Car race for the venerable Lola B2K00 chassis, so Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made sure the old warhorse went out in style in front of 104,422 fans in Mexico City.
Bourdais and Wilson staged a duel for the ages over the last five laps of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season finale, with Bourdais battling back from four seconds behind to take his seventh win of the year and the 23rd of his career. Bourdais overcame a 360-degree spin - as he did in his 2004 title-clinching win - stretched the life of his Bridgestone Potenzas rain tires over two stints, escaped unharmed through a side-by-side battle through the fabled Peraltada, and made a hair-raising pass of Wilson on the last lap of the year to take the win.
The last-lap pass ended a courageous run for victory by Wilson who led a race-high 40 laps despite a broken wrist that caused him to miss the Australia event, but Wilson's second-place run was enough to move him into a career-best second place in the final season standings. Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made some history of his own today, earning his first podium finish and the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year title with a third-place finish.
Today's 66-lap race started under spotty sunshine at the venerable Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but the sun didn't last long and clouds and rain rolled in by the race's halfway point. By the end of the day the rain had taken charge, forcing everyone to change to rain tires and allowing some of the field to show their wet-weather skills.
Wilson led the first five laps behind the pace car as the first-lap accident between Mario Dominguez (#8 Pemez/GICSA/Del Valle Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Katherine Legge (#20 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the only caution of the day. Bourdais showed a hint of things to come when he drafted past Wilson in Turn One of the restart to claim a lead he would hold for the next 17 trips around the 2.774-mile course. Wilson repaid the favor in the same spot on the track on Lap 23, and would go on to dominate the middle part of the race.
The rains made their first appearance on Lap 26, just as the first round of pit stops had cycled through. Wilson's RuSPORT team earned its driver an extra pair of seconds with a quick pit stop, giving Wilson a lead of 3.3 seconds over Bourdais. Meanwhile, the rest of the field were left to battle amongst themselves as the top two cars had built a 20-second lead over third-placed Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by the race's halfway point.
Despite the fact that most of the field had just stopped less than 10 laps earlier, the increasing frequency of the rain forced every driver to bolt on their rain tires, with Bourdais the last to do so when he came in on Lap 34. At that time, Wilson had fashioned a lead of more than five seconds ahead of Bourdais and Junqueira, with the Team Australia cars of Power and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussis Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) closing quickly in fourth and fifth.
As the rains picked up, so did Power's lap times. He chewed more than a second per lap off of Junqueira's advantage over him and ran him down for third place on Lap 48. Meanwhile Bourdais had begun to whittle away Wilson's lead before he spun between turns 11 and 12, nearly doubling Wilson's lead. Undaunted, the three-time series champion resumed his pursuit and began to shrink Wilson's lead again.
The decision of the race came from the Newman/Haas pits as the team asked Bourdais if he thought there was any chance that he could make his wet-weather tires last through two stints, presumably to allow them to make up time on those teams that were coming in to change their tires on the last pit stop, which Wilson did with 12 laps to run.
Bourdais replied that he thought the tires would hold up, so he took fuel only when he made his last trip down Pit Lane two laps later. But despite the gutsy move, Bourdais could only watch as Wilson flashed past him on his way to reclaiming a four-second lead.
At that time, most observers expected the worn tires of Bourdais to leave him little chance of running down Wilson, especially given the fact that the lapped car of Andrew Ranger (#27 Wal-Mart Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was between the two combatants. But with seven laps to go suddenly the advantage was 2.7 seconds, and when Ranger sportingly moved over with four laps to go, the lead had evaporated to less than a second.
The two came side-by-side out of the high-speed Peraltada turn with three laps to go, with Bourdais going to the high side of the track while Wilson fought him off. Wilson made that move stick over the next two laps, keeping his car ahead of the three-time champ as both drivers burned up their remaining Cosworth Power-To-Pass on the last two trips down the long frontstretch.
Bourdais took a look on the inside of Turn One in the last lap but Wilson was equal to the task. He led down the backstretch, but Bourdais poked his nose inside as the two poured through the fourth, fifth and sixth turns. The two drivers had brief side-to-side contact in the sixth turn with Bourdais making the pass stick on the inside of the turn. He rolled away with Wilson looking to make one more move in the final chicane, but he spun in his effort and was forced to settle for second.
Power took third ahead of Junqueira while Tagliani rounded out the top five. Forsythe Championship Racing's debutants each scored top-10 finishes with David Martinez (#3 Telmex/INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) taking ninth ahead of tenth-placed Buddy Rice (#7 INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
Sebastien Bourdais: It was just an incredible race, a great battle with Justin the whole time. We both drove the wheels off these cars. That was pretty exciting, I think, at the very end when we decided to stay on the same set of tires, Bridgestone wet tires, it made the whole difference. I was pretty sure the tires were worn out and the track was only damp. I was pretty sure that was the right call. I didn't know if Justin had changed the tires or not, but I guess that makes the difference. If it had been only three or four laps to go, new tires would have been a big help.
Justin Wilson: Fortunately, I had enough 'push to pass' I could run down the straight every time. Every time I got on the brakes, the car would take longer to slow down, slide through the corner a bit longer, couldn't get back on the power. Just trying to control that, guess what the next one was going to be. Unfortunately on the last lap, I went wide into turn four, Sebastien got a run out of turn five, and you saw the rest.
Will Power: At the end, it was quite a relaxing race the last probably 15 laps because there was no one in front of me, there was no one behind me. That was easy. But it was just awesome for the team, all the crew and everyone to finish on the high, win the Rookie-of-the-Year and get my first podium the last race. I'm really happy.
*Sebastien Bourdais matched a career high with his seventh win of the season and his 23rd career win moves him into sole possession of 13th place on the all-time list
*Will Power is the first Australian driver to score a Champ Car podium since Geoff Brabham finished third in Miami in 1987. His sixth-place finish in the final standings is also the best ever by an Australian driver.
*The three-day attendance for the Mexico City event was 198,375, making it the third-highest figure of the season.