Junqueira Won 1st Race of Season in Montreal; Bourdais Led 26 Laps - PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira used a little bit of good luck to earn his first victory of the season after he led the final 25 laps and won the Molson Indy Montreal by a...
Junqueira Won 1st Race of Season in Montreal; Bourdais Led 26 Laps
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira used a little bit of good luck to earn his first victory of the season after he led the final 25 laps and won the Molson Indy Montreal by a six second lead over Patrick Carpentier to close his pre-race deficit of 58 points to leader Sebastien Bourdais to 34. After finishing 13th in the previous two races held on the 2.7-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve he determined that the third time was the charm after he earned his first win since his victory in Denver on August 31 last season and the first for Newman/Haas Racing in Montreal. It was his sixth victory in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and fifth on a road/street course.
Rain was forecast but held off for the duration of the event. On the first lap, Junqueira passed second place starter AJ Allmendinger for third place and was alongside Mario Dominguez for second but had to back off. He held third place and was attempting to save fuel in order to possibly make his pit stop one lap later. He held the position through a restart on Lap 10 to remove the crashed car of Ryan Hunter-Reay. He maintained an average lag of 1.5-seconds in arrears of second place Dominguez until the Mexican made his first pit stop on Lap 20 and Junqueira moved briefly to second place before he made his first stop on the following lap. Dominguez apparently short filled and was able to move into the lead after the first round of stops were complete. He moved into third place on Lap 28 when temporary race leader Allmendinger, who was involved in a first lap incident that moved him to the back of the field, made his third pit stop out sequence. When race leader Dominguez came in for his second pit stop earlier than the field on Lap 36 due to short filling, he encountered a slow stop due to broken air guns. Junqueira moved into second place 10-seconds behind teammate Bourdais. He made his second stop on Lap 41 and left pit road behind Bourdais who came into contact with Allmendinger in Turn 10 as both were attempting to make the corner on Lap 42. Junqueira was a few seconds behind Allmendinger but when the rookie pitted on Lap 45 to serve a five second stop and hold penalty for initiating contact he took over the lead. By Lap 50 he held an 11-second lead over second place Paul Tracy then Patrick Carpentier who passed his fellow countryman on the same lap. He maintained his gap over second place until his final mandatory pit stop to be taken between Lead Laps 49-57, which he took on 57. The PacifiCare team performed a flawless stop and he returned to the race. By Lap 64 of 69 he held an eight second lead over Carpentier which he maintained until he took the checkered flag 6.38-seconds ahead of the local favorite. He earned 31 points for his victory as well as one for leading the race to bring his season total to 224. He closed his pre-race deficit to leader Bourdais from 58 to 32 with four races remaining this season.
"Today was a very close race," said Junqueira. "I made a very good start and passed AJ and almost passed Mario. I was just behind Mario saving fuel, then the yellow flag came out. On the restart, I ran two good laps. I tried to save fuel, the tires, and I let Mario go away a little bit. My car wasn't handling that well after the restart, but I was like two seconds behind him. I was in an okay position. He had a very good pit stop, I'm sure that they short fueled the car which gave him the opportunity to go and pass Sebastien, although he stopped one lap earlier. I don't think he was saving fuel when me and Sebastien were saving fuel. Then I didn't know what happened to him. I know that I just passed him in the pits, then I saw what happened with Sebastien and AJ. It was a shame that that happened but it gave me the opportunity to take the lead of the race at that moment. The PacifiCare car was really great. I was just waiting for the end of the race to attack and to see where I was and who I need to race with. When Sebastien came out of the race and Mario had the problem in the pit stops, it gave me a big lead. Actually, the two strongest guys at that point on lap times and on the racetrack had problems and gave me the opportunity to lead the race.
"Then it was really hard. I put in some fast laps and I had a 10-second lead and I just kept it. Then I got down to eight seconds because I got some traffic. I just kept the concentration high and tried to push hard to get good lap times, but without making any mistakes. This track is very easy to make mistakes because you get very high speed and very hard braking. Then I drove very secure, without pushing too hard, but a good pace. We got our first win of the year. I'm very, very happy for myself and my whole team. We've been working so hard this year. Most of the races we've been very competitive, fighting for the win. There was at least three races that I was the strongest guy out there and that deserve to win, and didn't. I got a lot of second places this year. For some reason we never got the win. Today everything came our way. Today I felt that I was strong as Mario and Sebastien. We were pretty much on the same level, one of the three of us could win the race. I think the luck came to my side for once, and I'm quite happy for that. It gave me good position in the championship. I'm never going to give up, I'll keep working very hard to try to catch Sebastien for the championship. I think I can reverse it. Like four races ago, I was leading. I had three bad races and he had three good ones, and he passed me and opened a big gap. I hope I can get another three good races."
- McDonald's Driver Sebastien Bourdais was en route to another dominating performance in the 69-lap Molson Indy Montreal on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve but contact with rookie AJ Allmendinger after his second pit stop on Lap 41 resulted in a damaged pushrod and rocker and his retirement from the race. He collected six points for his 15th place finish, one for leading the race (26 laps) and one for setting the fastest race lap for a total of 258 to second place Bruno Junqueira who went on to win the event and close his pre-race deficit of 58 points to 34 with four races remaining (258 - 224). At the start of the event on the 2.7-mile course, Bourdais held the lead from his 11th career pole and sixth of the season. He built a 2.3-second lead over second place Mario Dominguez before the only caution period of the race came out from Laps 6-9 to remove the car of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who drove off course and damaged his car. He maintained the lead on the restart and was able to easily build an average lead of 1.5 seconds of Dominguez and began setting the fastest laps of the race (Laps 15 and 18) before the Mexican entered the pits for his first stop one lap earlier than Bourdais on Lap 20. He then held a four second gap on teammate Junqueira who moved into second place. Bourdais pitted on Lap 21 for four alternate compound Bridgestone tires and fuel and returned to the track in second place but was passed on the same lap by Dominguez, who apparently short filled his car with fuel in order to get ahead of Bourdais despite pitting one lap earlier. He was also behind race leader Allmendinger, who was in the position due to being out of pit sequence following an opening lap incident which forced him to pit after contact. Once Allmendinger pitted on Lap 28, Bourdais moved into second place and was within three-seconds of Dominguez which he closed to one-second before the Mexican made his second stop on Lap 36, many laps earlier than the other frontrunners due to short filling earlier. Once Bourdais took over the lead, he held a 9.6-second margin over Junqueira before he bettered his existing fastest race lap on Lap 38 and 40, which held through the conclusion of the event. After a small scare when he briefly drove off course on Lap 39, he made his second pit stop on Lap 42 and returned to the track in the lead. With a heavier fuel load and cold tires he knew he would be challenged by Allmendinger who was behind him on track. Allmendinger attempted to pass him on the inside of Turn 10 and the two made contact. Allmendinger was able to continue but Bourdais limped to the pits with right rear suspension damage as well as a broken pushrod and rocker. Allmendinger was subsequently assessed a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact and ultimately finished fifth. His 15th place finish, coupled with the victory by his teammate Junqueira closed his pre-race 58-point margin to 34 with four races remaining. Following are his post race comments:
"I am here to win the championship; I'm not playing a game," said Bourdais. "This race was very important for the whole team, McDonald's and myself. To put the car on pole and lead the race only to be a victim of what happened is a huge shame. I was just leaving the pits on cold tires and it's not a sunny day so it takes longer to get them up to temperature. He fell back in the race and was out of sequence with the leaders. I knew it would be difficult to stay in front of him but I used the Push to Pass button and did not move over to block him or brake desperately late. I gave him room. He was obviously very angry to act that way. It is not a mistake that we have earned our lead in the championship, the proof was Denver. This is the third time in four races we've been hit by somebody. The luck's going to turn around. Instead of increasing our lead we lost some ground. We will continue to work hard in the next four races and try to build our lead again."
- Up Next...The series will take one week off before traveling to Monterey, Calif. for the Bridgestone Champ Car Grand Prix of Laguna Seca. Junqueira finished second there last year while Bourdais was in third place when his pop-off valve broke late in the event.