CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Race report

Sebastien Bourdais Atones for Last Year's Monterrey Miscue, Claims Champ Car World Series Points Lead With Mexico Win MONTERREY, Mexico (May 23, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

Sebastien Bourdais Atones for Last Year's Monterrey Miscue, Claims Champ Car World Series Points Lead With Mexico Win

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 23, 2004) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had some unfinished business to take care of with the 2.104-mile road course at Monterrey, Mexico's Fundidora Park heading into this weekend's Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford event.

Bourdais sat on the pole for last year's Tecate/Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey but ended his day out of the money after a miscommunication triggered a chain of events that left him 16th. This year, the Newman/Haas Racing pilot again took the green flag from the pole position, but unlike last year, hardly turned a wheel wrong all day as he stormed to the fourth win of his Champ Car career on a 92-degree day in the Mexican city.

Bourdais led 43 laps, set a new track record for fastest race lap and outdistanced his teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by 3.852 seconds to not only score his first win of the year, but vault into the series points lead for the first time in his young Champ Car career.

The Frenchman led the 18-car field through a clean start as local hero Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gave chase in second. Dominguez fought gamely through the first lap before bringing forth a collective gasp from a huge race-day crowd of 94,514 as he spun coming through Turn Two and fell to the back of the field.

Junqueira moved to second with the spin while Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) worked a fierce battle for third. The battle would be drawn out by four caution periods in the first 23 laps, one of them ending the day of Tarso Marques (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in unkind fashion. Marques spun while running in the top 10, but when the Champ Car Safety Team gave him a bump start with a tow rope, Marques let the tow rope go but ran over the rope, wrapping it around his front wheel and breaking the suspension.

The Marques caution caused a few teams to benefit from early green-flag pit stops as Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Dominguez found themselves with a 20-second lead on the field due to the fortuitous caution flag. That advantage was erased on Lap 41 when Oriol Servia (#11 yokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) crashed in Turn Three, and eventually gave the advantage to Junqueira, who had earlier emerged from his pit stall ahead of his teammate as Bourdais' crew had problem with a slippery wheel nut.

Junqueira held on for the next four laps before he and his teammate pitted, and when the entire pit cycle had worked through, Bourdais had reclaimed a lead he would not relinquish. Given new life at the front of the field, he turned two of the quickest laps of the day and set a new race record for fastest lap to extend his lead.

Behind him, Dominguez had erased the memory of his spin and had ensconced himself in the third spot, but his was not the only notable climb through the field. Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started in the 15th position on the grid, but stormed through the field, picking cars off one at a time to work his way into the top five. The Rocketsports Racing pilot not only would earn an extra championship point for leading a lap in Sunday's race, but also scored the point given to the driver that gains the most positions during a race.

Dominguez would end up third during the final laps with Carpentier and Tagliani giving chase, but no one would be able to cut into the Newman/Haas advantage. The field would get one more shot at the Frenchman however, as Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the yellow with a tangle, but Bourdais was equal to the task on the restart and steadily pulled away to the advantage that would earn him the victory.

With the win, along with the additional points for leading a lap and setting fastest race lap, Bourdais claimed the series points lead for the first time in his career, taking a 62-57 lead over his Newman/Haas teammate. Defending series champion Tracy ended his day in seventh place after spending most of it fighting nose-to-tail with the rookie Wilson for third place. The finish would drop Tracy back to third place in the series standings with 49 points, where he heads a tight pack with Carpentier and Dominguez just one and two points behind respectively.

Wilson had another strong performance in the Mi-Jack/Conquest machine after starting a career-best third. He was the highest-placing rookie for the second straight event, coming home in sixth for the second time in as many races. Wilson leads the Rookie-of-the-Year standings 40-20 over Roberto Gonzalez (#21 Nextel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and is sixth in the championship standings.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished eighth on the day with rookies Gonzalez and Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounding out the top 10. Philippe had an impressive run in just his second Champ Car start, fighting back from a pair of spins to capture a top-10 finish.

The series takes one week off before heading to the fabled Milwaukee Mile on the ground of the Wisconsin State Fair Park for the Time Warned Cable Road Runner 250. The event, won last year by Michel Jourdain, is the only oval track on the 2004 Champ Car calendar and will also be the only night race of the season.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I was really worried after my spin but the Herdez team, I don't know how they got me back on the podium but it is a big result for us. To have a race like this and come back to run third in front of our Mexican fans makes me very excited. BRUNO JUNQUEIRA: I think it was very good, again, for the whole PacifiCare Newman/Haas team, and actually, the McDonald's Newman/Haas Team, as well. Another finish, 1 and 2 for Newman/Haas, and I think it was a great result for us. It was a really difficult race, especially because off the pit stops, me and Sebastien were much faster than everybody. I think it was a good race between me and Sebastien. He drove really well, a really fast pace. I'm pretty happy with the result. Really good for the Mexicans, as well, Mario Dominguez had a good race, fastest one on the first lap.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, you know it's much better to be leading the championship than having two bad results to start with. But, you know, it's still a long way to go. It's just going to be all about consistency and if we are in the top five consistently through the season, I think both Bruno and I should be fighting each other for the lead at the end.

NOTEWORTHY

* The 1-2 finish for Newman/Haas Racing Sunday was their first such placing of the year and their first since Bruno Junqueira led Sebastien Bourdais to the line in Denver last August.

* Alex Tagliani finished fifth Sunday to become the only driver in the four-year history of the Monterrey event to score three top-five finishes.

* Sebastien Bourdais gave Newman/Haas Racing its third win in the four-year history of the event

* Sunday's race-day crowd of 94,514 bettered last year's race day crowd at Fundidora Park. The three-day total for this year's race was 183,311, giving Champ Car a total attendance of over 350,000 fans after two events.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Tarso Marques , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Roberto Gonzalez , Nelson Philippe , Michel Jourdain