CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Newman/Haas Racing race report

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS CLINCHED BACK-TO-BACK CHAMP CAR TITLES WITH VICTORY IN TODAY'S LEXMARK INDY 300 IN AUSTRALIA; PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA HIT ON FIRST LAP AND RECOVERED TO FINISH FIFTH - McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais earned ...

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS CLINCHED BACK-TO-BACK CHAMP CAR TITLES WITH VICTORY IN TODAY'S LEXMARK INDY 300 IN AUSTRALIA; PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA HIT ON FIRST LAP AND RECOVERED TO FINISH FIFTH

- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais earned back-to-back Champ Car titles in style with a victory in today's 57-lap Lexmark Indy 300 and became the 15th different winner in the 15-year history of the event. He entered raceday needing only a last place finish of 19th place to bring Newman/Haas Racing their first back-to-back title and sixth overall in their 23rd season. He took the lead on Lap 19 when Paul Tracy made his first stop and held it through his first pit stop one lap later to take over control of the race, which he never relinquished to win by a nine-second margin over second place A.J. Allmendinger and became the fifth driver in series history to earn consecutive titles. Rick Mears (1981-1982), Bobby Rahal 1986-1987), Alex Zanardi (1997-1998) and Gil de Ferran (2000-2001) have also accomplished the feat.

At the start of the event run under clear skies and 90-degree conditions, Bourdais and teammate and polesitter Oriol Servia planned to accelerate as early as possible to pull away from the field but when Bourdais looked in his mirrors they were full of competitors behind him. Bourdais activated his Push to Pass button and pulled away from Servia but after the race Bourdais figured Servia must not have hit it as early as he did and said that when he approached the braking area for the first turn he braked as late as possible to attempt to give Servia room to enter the corner but unfortunately his teammate was hit from behind by third place starter Cristiano da Matta. As the melee was happening, fifth place starter Paul Tracy moved ahead of Servia and da Matta as well as in front of leader Bourdais by cutting across the chicane. The stewards reviewed the situation but did not move Tracy back behind Bourdais. Once the race returned to green on Lap 3 Bourdais trailed Tracy by less than a second before he set the fastest laps of the race on 14, 15, 16 and 17. Tracy pitted on the end of Lap 19 and Bourdais took over the race lead and ran as fast as he could to try to gain track position. He made his first stop on the next lap and was able to return to the track over two-seconds ahead of Tracy thanks to a quick stop by the McDonald's team. By Lap 23 he had increased his lead to 3.6-seconds over Tracy who abruptly entered the pits on Lap 24 and subsequently retired from the race due to a mechanical failure.

Bourdais then held an eight second lead over A.J. Allmendinger which he increased to 12 seconds before the next caution period bunched the field back up from Laps 29-32 when teammates Alex Tagliani and Will Power came into contact. When the race returned to green conditions, Bourdais was able to hold off Allmendinger and steadily rebuilt his lead which was up to six seconds by Lap 39 when he set what became the fastest lap of the race. He made his second and final pit stop on Lap 40 and returned to the track and continued to build his lead over Allmendinger. A few laps later Tagliani, who would need to make another pit stop, took over second place but was 9.5-seconds in arrears. When Tagliani made his final stop on Lap 48 of 57, Allmendinger returned to second place and was 13 seconds behind Bourdais which he closed to nine seconds by the time the checkered flag flew after 57 laps. Bourdais collected 31 points for his sixth win of the season, one for leading the race and one for setting the fastest race lap to bring his season total to 344 with one race remaining.

Following are his post race comments:

"I really wanted to clinch the championship for the McDonald's team with a win, and win it in style," said Bourdais. "More than anything else, I think it's just really, really a great performance to be able to win the championship and to top it off with a win and finish in great fashion. It's such a great reward for this team that's working so hard. Obviously you're going to say I won the back-to-back championship, but without the organization around me, I would be nothing. I can't be grateful enough for all this hard work. It's just unbelievable. One and two for the second time in a row in the championship is great! I guess Newman/Haas Racing is going to have a tough time to top it up again next year. It's tough to keep up with that. I guess it (race) didn't really start the way it was supposed to.

"I guess we didn't understand each other. We were supposed to kick off things really early with Oriol. We were still idling in second gear. I was getting a little worried. I saw everybody bunching up behind us. I thought, "Trouble coming." Sure enough, when we got to the braking point, I was a little ahead, but not by much, everybody was all over us.

"What happened wasn't supposed to happen. It's just very unfortunate for the beginning of the race. After, I was feeling very bad. I was just supposed to be Oriol's wingman today. He was out on the first lap, or pretty much. I was behind PT, who came out of nowhere, jumping up and down in the chicane. I was like, "Yeah, that's just great." After that, I really had to win this race because it would have been terrible if PT had won the race for Oriol. So I was giving it all, even more than in regular conditions. I was able to stick with him. I nearly lost the car in the braking over the bump in turn three. I nearly lost it. I lost like two seconds in this lap. After I had to keep on saving fuel to try and go a lap further and still catch him because we were still too far away."It was like a tough mission, but I still managed to get back in touch with him. We adjusted the car on the first stop, too much understeer. From there on, the race really turned around because we went one lap further with the changes. The car was really quick. We were in front this time, although we had to short fuel to make sure we were really going to go around. I really had to pull a gap on everybody behind to try and keep this position after the second pit stop. Sure enough, the yellow came out. I was like, "Okay, this is looking very good now." We still managed to really up the pace significantly in the second part of the middle stint.

"The car was responding really well, and I was just like a flying every lap. I did something like six laps like that before pitting. We pulled out a very nice speed and took the fastest lap of the race with it, which was something like 5 or 6/10ths faster than the qualifying lap. I was very happy with that, even more happy when I saw that we were going to stay in front because AJ didn't go a lap further either. He probably short fueled the same as us in the first stop. After that, it was a pretty straightforward deal. We proved we had the quicker car. I was just taking it easy. It was a cruise to the finish. Then when I heard that Oriol was settled for second in the championship, things went back to normal. It was overall a very good day for Newman/Haas Racing."

- PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia's hope of earning his second Champ Car win and first from pole was dashed when he was hit from behind by Cristiano da Matta on Turn 1, Lap 1 of the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfer's Paradise although he recovered to finish fifth and almost locked up second place in the Champ Car World Series standings. He holds a 34 point lead over third place Justin Wilson with a maximum of 35 points available in the season finale in Mexico City on November 6. At the beginning of the 57-lap event around the challenging 2.795-mile street course, Servia was passed by second place starter Bourdais near the end of the front straight leading into the first turn and was in second place when he was hit from behind under braking for the first turn by third place starter Cristiano da Matta. The two stopped on course with da Matta retiring from the event and Servia needing a bump start to continue. He drove to the pits to replace his flat left rear tire and front nose that was damaged from contact with the wall and returned to the race in last place of 17th. He steadily moved through the field and was in 10th place before his first regular pit stop for new tires and fuel on Lap 18.

After returning to the track he continued his move to the front and was as high as fourth place before his second and final pit stop on Lap 37. The nut fell out of the wheel gun of the outside rear tire changer and the stop was slower than usual and Servia dropped to ninth place when he returned to the track. He steadily began to move back through the field and got as high as sixth place after passing Justin Wilson although Champ Car told him to give up the position to Wilson because he passed him by going through the chicane. When Tagliani made his final pit stop on lap 48, Servia moved into sixth place and on into fifth when Wilson had to pit for a late race splash of fuel on Lap 55 of 57. Servia earned 21 points for his fifth place finish to increase his pre-event lead over second place from 27 to 34 with one race and a maximum of 35 points left in the championship.

Following are his post race comments:

"To be taken out at the start was not what we wanted," said Servia. "Especially here because I think we had a car that could fight for the win. I had good fun and I hope I did a good job for the fans after basically starting last and finishing fifth. I had to work really hard for it; I had a good time. When you think you can win, anything else feels like not enough but I'm happy to have almost locked up second place for the PacifiCare team in the championship. A one-two finish in the championship is great especially since it would only be the second time for the team."

- Up Next...The season finale in Mexico City will take place in two weeks on November 6. Bourdais and Junqueira finished 1-2 there last season.

-nhr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Gil de Ferran , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta