CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Race report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS MAKES IT THREE STRAIGHT TO OPEN THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON AFTER WINNING GRAND PRIX OF MONTERREY MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2006) -- The first three races of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS MAKES IT THREE STRAIGHT TO OPEN THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES SEASON AFTER WINNING GRAND PRIX OF MONTERREY

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 21, 2006) -- The first three races of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford have all been won by Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) but have all come in drastically different fashion.

He walked away from the field in Long Beach for the year's first win, then put himself in the right place to capitalize on a competitor's mistake in Houston for win number two. On a steaming day in Monterrey, Mexico, Bourdais went out and earned race win number three in an old-school shootout, outrunning Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to win Sunday's Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans.

Bourdais led the first 25 laps of the day, then settled in behind Wilson and Allmendinger after the first pit stop, then turned up the wick and outdueled Wilson over the last 20 laps to take the victory. The win is the third consecutive for Bourdais to start the season, making him the first driver since Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in 2003 to win the first three races of a season. Wilson came home in second and moved back into second place in the series standings while Allmendinger settled for third, scoring his first podium finish of the young 2006 campaign.

It didn't take long for things to get busy on a 95-degree day in Monterrey, as Allmendinger slipped inside Wilson on the very first turn, only to see Wilson take the outside path around his RuSPORT teammate and reclaim the second spot. Bourdais held the lead while Tracy jumped ahead of defending race winner Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for fourth, making three passes in the top five before the race was three turns old.

Bourdais had his hands full with both Wilson and Allmendinger all the way to the first pit stop with Wilson staying within a second of the leader for most of the stint. The only caution flag of the day waved on Lap 24 for debris on the backstretch, sending nearly the entire field down Pit Lane for fuel and new Bridgestone Potenza tires.

Wilson came out ahead of Bourdais upon completion of the stops as the Newman/Haas crew to a little longer to get more fuel in the car -- a move that would pay off handsomely a little later in the day. Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the leader on the restart after being the only car not to pit, but was immediately shuffled back as the focus switched to Wilson.

Allmendinger again made a big move in Turn One and snaked past Bourdais for second on the restart as both RuSPORT drivers elected to come out on the alternate red-walled Bridgestone tires while Bourdais saved his final set for the last part of the event. The strategy worked in the short term as Wilson pulled away to a 2.3-second lead before the second round of stops began on Lap 48. It took until Lap 55 of 76 before Wilson pitted while Bourdais waited one lap longer.

The longer fuel fill made on the second stint meant that Bourdais would spend less time to get the fuel he needed to make it to the end, and he ripped off of Pit Lane ahead of Wilson to take the lead. Wilson had a brief chance to run the leader down as Bourdais negotiated the first few turns on cold tires, but the two-time defending champ was equal to the task and held his lead.

He built a one-second advantage in the first two laps but nearly saw it erased on Lap 58 when navigating lapped traffic. Bourdais came up on the car of Katherine Legge (#20 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who stepped out of the way to let the leaders pass. In doing so, Sebastien eased slightly, allowing Wilson to come to the leader's rear wing, but Bourdais held off the charge and Wilson would never get that close again.

Tracy ran a strong fourth for the majority of the day after dispatching Junqueira, dropping Junqueira deeper into the results when he was black flagged by Race Control for blocking. Junqueira had to serve a drive-through penalty for the violation, dropping him to 13th. He would battle back to score a top-10 finish, earning his second top-10 of the season.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came home fifth, marking the fifth consecutive season that Tagliani has earned a top-five finish in Monterrey. Mario Dominguez (#7 Orgullo de Mexico Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made up two spots to finish sixth, but it wasn't without a fight as Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fought the local hero tooth-and-nail over the last five laps before settling for seventh.

Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top-finishing rookie of the event, coming home in 11th and widening his lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings to nine points over Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Bourdais' victory boosted his point total to 102 after three races, and gave him a 25-point lead over Wilson and 33 over Dominguez. The series will take a week off before heading to the Milwaukee Mile June 3-4 for the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 for the first oval-track event of the season.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP FINISHERS

Sebastien Bourdais: I called for the option Bridgestone tires at the end because I knew the last stint was going to be only 20 laps long. I kind of had the feeling they were a little quicker up to speed, which they definitely were. That helped me because I pulled out of the pits right in front of Justin. The out-lap after the second stop was extremely crucial. Just from there on, it was a sweet ride. We just had to make sure we were not going to make any mistakes. In the meantime, I wanted to get the point for the quickest lap of the race, which we did, not by much though. You know, I'm just extremely happy for this whole McDonald's team. Couldn't be a better start for this season.

A.J. Allmendinger: I think for myself, the black tires were probably a bit better than the reds. I probably made a mistake of telling the team to go to the reds on the second set of tires. But, you know, I mean, all around, it was a good performance, good way to get the season back on track for my whole RuSPORT team, get Red Bull and CDW back on the podium with me. That was great.

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais is the first driver since Al Unser Sr. in 1971 to following a title-winning season by winning the first three races of the following year.

* Andrew Ranger earned the championship point for gaining the most positions in today's race, and established a new Champ Car record by taking that point in each of the last three races.

* Bourdais' 19th career Champ Car win moves him into a tie with Jimmy Bryan for 15th on the all-time career list. His laps led total over his career stands now at 1,268, leaving him just 15 laps away from tying Gil de Ferran for 20th on the list.

* The three-day event attendance for the Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans was 76,055.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Al Unser Sr. , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Andrew Ranger , Jan Heylen , Will Power , Dan Clarke