NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S BOURDAIS AND SERVIA HEAD TO MOLSON INDY MONTREAL TO BEGIN FINAL STRETCH OF CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT MONTREAL, Canada (August 24, 2005) --- In the three previous Molson Indy Montreal events held on the 12-turn, 2.709-mile Circuit...
NEWMAN/HAAS RACING'S BOURDAIS AND SERVIA HEAD TO MOLSON INDY MONTREAL TO BEGIN FINAL STRETCH OF CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT
MONTREAL, Canada (August 24, 2005) --- In the three previous Molson Indy Montreal events held on the 12-turn, 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) drivers have earned two poles and one victory and were in contention for the win in the others. While encouraging, NHR knows they need to focus on the "here and now" and produce competitive and flawless performances in the remaining five events in the 2005 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season in order to earn their first back-to-back title in the series and sixth overall in their 23rd season of Champ Car competition.
"Obviously it would be a big deal if the McDonald's team was able to win back-to-back championships," said Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 1 McDonald's0x00ae entry for NHR. "We are working really hard for it and giving it our best shot. I think the car is better than last year but obviously the competition stepped up also and it's not easy but we're in the best position now and we're going to try to keep our advantage. Earning back-to-back titles is never easy; it's tough to get there but it's always harder to stay there so hopefully we can achieve it."
After two previous races on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Bourdais has yet to finish the event with his highest result being 15th place in 2004. Despite starting from pole and setting the fastest race laps of the event here last year, he received a reminder of how quickly a dominant performance can evaporate.
"The first year in Montreal was kind of difficult," said Bourdais, who started sixth and retired in 19th place in 2003. "We had an engine that was down on horsepower so we struggled the whole weekend but it was going better for the race but we didn't finish because of a differential failure. Last year the race was going very well, the McDonald's car was fast. We had the pole position and we kind of ran away with the race until an unfortunate event with A.J. took me out of contention. It was a tough race but we were right there so we're just going to come back and try to do the same and hopefully we won't have the bad luck we had the last couple of years."
Although Bourdais has not been ranked worse than second in the title hunt this season, neither has he had a comfortable lead more than 28 points (max. 32 given per weekend) until his third consecutive win of the season in the previous race and fourth overall on the streets of Denver where he extended his margin over second place Paul Tracy to 53 points (249-196). Unlike the outcome of his race here last year where he was unable to make headway in the title chase due to contact while leading with A.J. Allmendinger, who was assessed a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact, Bourdais would like to continue to build his cushion. Not only could a win in Montreal accomplish that, it could earn him the distinction of being the first since former NHR driver Cristiano da Matta to win four in a row (da Matta -- 2002).
"I was really bummed (last year in Montreal) because it was obviously a turning point in the season where I really could have run away with the championship or as it happened, to tighten up the points situation," said Bourdais who went from a 56 point advantage to 34 over second place after last year's Montreal event. "We knew it was a crucial time. I didn't want to see the championship slip away and it was a tough break especially since A.J. was out of sync and he was not going to win the race. It was an unfortunate incident and we overcame that and still won the championship but I guess it made for better show for everyone but it was nerve-racking for us."
In the three previous races here there have been three different winners. PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia hopes to continue the trend and become the fourth different winner as well as put the same race car that won here in 2004 -- the No. 2 PacifiCare Ford-Lola-Bridgestone -- in Winners Circle again. Bruno Junqueira led 25 laps en route to victory here last year for the PacifiCare team and kept his title chase alive due to closing on Bourdais' point total. Servia posted one of the best results of his career in Montreal in 2003 when he started second, led two laps and finished second and after four second place finishes in his Champ Car career, two of which came this season; Montreal could be the site of his first victory.
"I had a great race in Montreal in 2003," said Servia, who resides in Miami and Pals, Catalonia, Spain. "We were very fast all weekend; I qualified second and ran first for a big part of the race before I got passed by my good friend (Michel) Jourdain in a move that almost cost our friendship because it wasn't a very legal move but he won the race. We were second and still really strong so I'm really looking forward to returning to Montreal again with the PacifiCare team that won the race last year. I was strong there and Newman/Haas Racing was strong there so, together, I think we will be good as well. Driving for Newman/Haas is definitely everything I thought it was going to be and I have the feeling there is even more coming. I'm really having a blast enjoying the time I have been working with them. Everything is really good and I hope we can continue putting together strong performances."
Of his seven races to date with NHR, he has finished on the podium five times, did not finish once due to a mechanical problem and finished fourth in the most recent race in Denver. His two best finishes this season of second place have come in Canada. He led 20 laps in Toronto before being passed by eventual winner Justin Wilson and finished second to Bourdais in Edmonton. His recent run of top four finishes in each of his last five races has vaulted him into third in the series point standings where he stands 66 points behind his teammate. With a total of 183 points, he is only 13 behind second place Tracy (196) and four ahead of Justin Wilson (179). Even though the competition is tough, Servia believes the PacifiCare team will again be a contender this weekend.
"We go to so many different types of race tracks in Champ Car; it's a good thing, its fun," said Servia. "You need very different setups for each type of track and I believe we are going to be strong in Montreal. We struggled a little bit in Denver but the Montreal course is similar to Edmonton and we were strong there so I hope we can qualify well and earn a good finish. There is going to be competition for sure but I think we're going to be up there."
French native Bourdais and Spaniard Servia both speak French and can converse with fans in Montreal, the largest French-speaking city in North America and second-largest French-speaking city in the world. Over 3.4 millions people call Montreal home and a good portion of them follow Champ Car racing."Montreal is a nice city," said Servia. "They have always supported the French Canadian drivers more than the others which is nice but I think they enjoy having all of the drivers there. I think it's going to be big fun for all of us; there's always great energy. It's always had a good fan base because of the Formula One race and since we have been coming to Montreal we have built our own fans that follow us everywhere. It's a great place to go and I have always looked forward to it.""The fans have supported me pretty well in Montreal although I am not from Canada and I appreciate that," added Bourdais. "At the Toronto and Edmonton races, English is the native language but in Montreal it's a different deal and some support me as well."
The fourth running of the Molson Indy Montreal is set to take place Friday-Sunday, August 26-28, with practice and qualifying set for both Friday and Saturday. The Champ Car race will get the green flag at 1:45 p.m. ET on Sunday and can be seen live on NBC Sports beginning at 1:30 p.m.