Justin charges to 2nd in Surfers Paradise Justin and the ...
Justin charges to 2nd in Surfers Paradise
Justin and the #9 CDW-RuSPORT team took a well earned 2nd place in the Lexmark Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise. Sebastien Bourdais (Newman/Haas/Lanigan) claimed the victory, and his fourth Champ Car title, while Bruno Junqueira, more than 40 seconds behind Justin at the chequered flag, rounded out the podium for Dale Coyne Racing. The result consolidates Justin's 2nd place in the 2007 driver championship as the Champ Car World Series heads into the final round in Mexico City in three weeks' time.
Justin had to recover from a difficult start to the race when his car bogged down on the grid. "As I left the start line I shifted from first to second, but got neutral instead", he explained. "A couple of people got past me, but I just stayed calm and worked on getting my positions back."
As the race unfolded, the Surfers event served up its now traditional mix of bent wishbones and full course yellows. But this year the outcome pivoted around fuel strategy, with the crucial decision to opt for a racing versus fuel saving strategy made early in the race on Lap 10 under a full course yellow. Polesitter Will Power (Team Australia) led most of the field into pit lane, including Justin who was then back up to 5th place, while Robert Doornbos (Minardi Team USA), Paul Tracy (Forsythe) and Bruno Junqueira were amongst a smaller group who decided to stay out. This latter group would save on the 30+seconds needed to pit, but would have to keep their eye on the fuel gauge throughout.
The first pit-stops proved decisive in other ways too. Justin leapfrogged Simon Pagenaud (Team Australia) and Power damaged his suspension after being let out of his pit box prematurely into the path of an inbound David Martinez (Forsythe). He would later crash out trying to recover lost ground. When Doornbos, Tracy and Junqueira eventually pitted, the leading pack of Bourdais, Oriol Servia (PKV) and Justin put the hammer down and were able to build a pitstop's worth of clear air behind them. Later, after the second round of stops on lap 32, Servia brushed a wall and dropped out of contention, and on lap 38 Justin passed Bourdais going into Turn 1.
When Tracy pitted on Lap 40, Justin was now leading the race from Bourdais, but Justin and the #9 CDW team knew that a lengthy full course caution at the wrong time could spell disaster for Justin's championship campaign. With an eye on the big picture, Justin made his final pitstop earlier than necessary on Lap 44 to crystallise his 2nd place. This allowed Bourdais to vault back into the lead when he pitted four laps later. Although Justin made a valiant attempt to close down the 5 second gap, he struggled with brake wear and decided to settle for runner up spot at the end.
"It was a very eventful, but fun race", said Justin. "Overall, the car was great all race and I was really having quite a good time out there. But I glazed the brakes in the last stint and was having trouble stopping and I knew I would have to drive really hard to catch Sebastien. So I decided to save my second place rather than wreck the car trying to catch him. It's nice to finish on the podium here in Surfers in front of all these mad Australians. I want to end the season with a win in Mexico City."
Reflecting on Bourdais' fourth title, Justin added: "He's done a great job in winning his fourth championship, but I really wanted to beat him before he went to F1. That's frustrating, but obviously it's not going to happen now so all I can do is wish him well with his new team."