SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CARRIES CHAMP CAR POINTS LEAD TO MONTREAL AS 2006 TITLE FIGHT ENTERS FINAL FOUR ROUNDS INDIANAPOLIS (August 23, 2006) - Two-time defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien ...
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CARRIES CHAMP CAR POINTS LEAD TO MONTREAL AS 2006 TITLE FIGHT ENTERS FINAL FOUR ROUNDS
INDIANAPOLIS (August 23, 2006) - Two-time defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) only has two sets of headlights in his rear-view mirror as he travels down the path toward a record-tying third consecutive championship.
His dominant campaign, which includes five wins and six poles, has eliminated everyone except Forsythe Championship Racing's A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and RuSPORT's Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) from title contention as the series heads to Montreal's fabled Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for this weekend's Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal.
But despite the fact that both Allmendinger and Wilson have posted wins in the last month, the only thing Bourdais has seen when he looks behind him is his two pursuers swapping positions as the actual gap between himself and the second-placed driver in the series standings has changed little in the last four races. Allmendinger and Wilson have exchanged the second spot in the points standings four times in the last five races, but even with the race wins, Bourdais still leads by 32 points heading to this weekend's event. The most recent event was a perfect illustration as Allmendinger started the weekend third in the points with Wilson trailing Bourdais by 31 markers. Bourdais finished seventh and Wilson eighth as Allmendinger roared to victory, and while the Californian gained 11 points on Bourdais with the win, the actual gap between first and second grew by a point.
Unfortunately for his pursuers, the Fates owe Bourdais a bit of racing luck on Montreal's 2.709-mile road course, and a payment this weekend would go a long way toward sealing the deal on the 2006 championship. Bourdais has started on pole in each of the last two Montreal races, but has yet to earn a podium finish. A mechanical problem left him last in the field in his 2003 debut, an incident with Allmendinger ended his day in 2004 after Bourdais had led 26 laps, and a rare miscue on a pit stop dropped him to fourth after he had completely dominated the first 59 laps of the event. Overall, Bourdais has scored three consecutive Champ Car poles, has run the race's fastest lap in six of the year's 10 races and heads the series-laps led list by more than 200 over his closest pursuer.
Allmendinger heads to Montreal looking to reprise his 2003 Champ Car Atlantic victory as good qualifying spots have yet to transfer to Montreal success since his 2004 ascension to the Champ Cars. He has started second and fourth respectively in the last two trips to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve and has led laps, but has yet to finish better than ninth. Qualifying has been a strong point this year for the American title hopeful as he has started fourth or better in every race this season - making him the only driver in the series this year to accomplish that feat.
Wilson showed last year that he can find the fast way around the track and can call on not only Champ Car, but also Formula 1 experience when it comes to the Montreal layout. Wilson started and finished third a year ago in Montreal in his best performance at the island track. He finished 14th in his rookie season and failed to finish during the 2003 Canadian Grand Prix while driving for Minardi. The Brit leads the series in laps completed and is still just three points behind Allmendinger and 35 in arrears to Bourdais despite a eighth-place Denver result.
As is the norm when the turbocharged Champ Cars travel to the Great White North, the trio of Canadian drivers will command the majority of the attention from the Montreal fans. But while this years' trio deserves all the accolades they will receive this weekend from an adoring home crowd, they have taken vastly different roads to get to this point.
Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is American open-wheel racing's winningest active driver as well as Canada's biggest racing hero, but he comes to Montreal after back-to-back events where his on-track actions have led to penalties that have seen a total of 10 championship points removed from his season total. Those penalties have dropped him from fourth in the points back to a tie for sixth in a tight race that has the fourth through tenth positions separated by just nine points. Tracy has enjoyed moderate success in Montreal, starting in the top 10 in all four races and finishing eighth or better in all four, but he has never led a lap around Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, nor has he ever finished on the podium. It has been a tough year for the volatile Tracy, who has four top-five finishes including a pair of podiums, but his five DNFs are the most in the series.
Fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has also been plagued with DNFs, with his fourth of the year coming two weeks ago in Denver, negating a season-high fifth-place starting spot. The Quebec native has far and away the most experience of anyone on the Montreal track, running all four Champ Car races as well as four Atlantic events.
Tagliani won the pole for the 2003 Champ Car race and led a race-high 52 laps before fuel mileage trouble dropped him back to fourth. He has finished in the top six in each of the last three Montreal events, and knows his way to the podium as well, having finished second in the 1998 Atlantic event leading into the 1999 event where he won from pole.
The last of the three Canucks, Andrew Ranger (#27 WalMart/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), may be having the most topsy-turvy season of the three and now finds himself in danger of falling out of the top 10 in points for the first time this year. Ranger made his way into the top-five in points on the strength of steady race-day performances, making up spots after qualifying out of the top 10. Now Ranger and his Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing squad have improved their qualifying performances, starting in the top 10 in each of the last four races, but have dropped at least four spots from there in three of the four events. Ranger earned a top-five finish at Montreal in his only Atlantic season of 2004 and placed 11th in his Champ Car debut a year ago.
Oriol Servia (#6 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads his PKV Racing team to Montreal as the defending race winner, returning to the site of his long-awaited first Champ Car victory, which he got a year ago when he took the lead from Timo Glock on the last lap of the race. Servia started on the outside of the front row in 2003 on his way to a second-place finish, then matched that grid spot last season to set the stage for his win.
CTE Racing - HVM might have the most momentum of any team in the series heading into Montreal, riding the wave of its most successful event in more than two years. The Grand Prix of Denver saw rookie Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing - HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored the first podium finish of his young career when he finished third on the Colorado streets. While Tracy and Bourdais helped his cause on the last lap, the young Briton put himself in position to take advantage of the accident, climbing into the top five late in the race after starting 13th. His teammate Nelson Philippe (#4 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) set a personal milestone in Denver as well, finishing fifth to score back-to-back top-five results for the first time in his three-year Champ Car career.
Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) did not compete in Montreal last year, but walked away with the victor's champagne in his last visit. Junqueira led 25 laps on his way to capturing the 2004 Grand Prix of Montreal, one of two Montreal wins for Newman/Haas Racing.
Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points leader Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fought Clarke all day in Denver before settling for a career-best fourth-place finish, ensuring that Clarke did not put too much of a dent into the Team Australia driver's rookie lead. Power holds a 22-point cushion over Clarke in the rookie points with four races remaining, and neither Power nor Clarke have had any previous experience on the Montreal course.
Dale Coyne Racing's Mario Dominguez (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is still tied for fourth in the points with the surging Philippe, but journeys to Montreal having already built a strong base of success on the permanent road course that winds through the Ile. Notre-Dame. Dominguez led eight laps and finished on the podium in 2004 and has three consecutive top-10 finishes on the Montreal track.
Charles Zwolsman (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will bank on last year's Champ Car Atlantic experience to aid him as he looks to extend a personal-best streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes. The Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing pilot finished sixth a year ago in Montreal on his way to the Atlantic title, wrapping up the championship after starting the race from the fifth spot.
Katherine Legge (#20 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) scored her first top 10 in four races with a ninth-place run in Denver, and like Zwolsman, will hope to build on last year's Atlantic experience to aid the cause this weekend. Legge had a strong finish to the Atlantic campaign a year ago, starting and finishing fourth in the season finale in Montreal.
This weekend's Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal can be seen live Sunday, August 27 on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.