CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Penultimate round preview

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES DRIVERS READY TO SHINE ON THE GOLD COAST Surfers Paradise event remains only Champ Car event without a repeat winner Defending Lexmark Indy 300 champ Nelson Philippe makes 2007 debut Sebastien Bourdais looks to clinch...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES DRIVERS READY TO SHINE ON THE GOLD COAST

Surfers Paradise event remains only Champ Car event without a repeat winner
Defending Lexmark Indy 300 champ Nelson Philippe makes 2007 debut
Sebastien Bourdais looks to clinch unprecedented fourth consecutive Champ Car Championship title

SURFERS PARADISE, AUSTRALIA (October 16, 2007) -- This weekend's 17th edition of the Lexmark Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia could easily be dubbed 'The Return'. Several drivers in the Champ Car World Series are making a return of sorts this week, while five past race winners look to return to Victory Circle Down Under.

In the 16 previous visits to the 2.795-mile temporary street course, not one driver has managed to win the event twice. In fact, Surfers Paradise remains the only venue on the Champ Car Schedule -- that is not an inaugural e vent -- without a repeat winner. The drivers trying to break that streak will be Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Mario Dominguez (#28 PCM Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Bruno Junqueira (#19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) and last year's race winner Nelson Philippe (#34 Juniper Soul Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).

Philippe, who with his victory last year became Champ Car's youngest race winner at 20 years, 2 months and 29 days, gets back behind the wheel for Conquest Racing. Also making their returns this weekend will be Dominguez, who scored his first career victory on the Gold Coast in 2002, and David Martinez (#7 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone).

Additionally, Oriol Servia has switched from Forsythe Championship to PKV Racing, where he will occupy the seat in the #22 Pay-by-Touch PKV Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone occupied this season to date by Tristan Gommendy. While Martinez is heading back to Forsythe Championship Racing where he made his Champ Car debut last year at the season finale in Mexico City, Servia also will find himself in familiar territory at PKV Racing having driven for the outfit in 2006. Dominguez, who climbed onto the second step of the Surfers podium in 2006, will bring his knowledge of the DP01 back to Pacific Coast Motorsports, as he raced for them in San Jose this year.

Frenchman Bourdais will be looking to add a new record to his resume by becoming the first repeat winner Down Under, but the Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver also sits on the verge of making even more impressive history. Unless he fails to start, or puts in an unlikely poor performance, he will claim an unprecedented fourth consecutive Champ Car World Series title at Surfers Paradise. To accomplish that feat, he only needs to finish in the top 14 in Sunday's race. Bourdais has finished better than 13th in all the races this season.

With "Seb" nearly guaranteed to clinch this weekend, the attention shifts to second place in the standings. Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) made a big move with his win at the last race in Assen that put him ahead of Robert Doornbos (#14 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone) by a mere five points. After an impressive start to his rookie season that saw him score two victories and four other podium finishes in a nine-race span, the Minardi Team USA driver has been struggling in the past rounds. The Dutchman looks towards Australia to get himself back on the podium and into second place in the season-long standings.

Also in the thick of the battle for the coveted second place--which unofficially will position the driver as the "favorite" to win the 2008 championship since Bourdais leaves Champ Car to race in Formula One--is hometown favorite, Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone). The popular Aussie sits only 15 markers behind Wilson. Power scored his first career pole position in Australia last season and would like nothing more than to follow it up with a win this weekend. His teammate at Team Australia, Simon Pagenaud (#15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), also would like to score not only his first victory this season, but also his first podium.

The Team Australia duo will not be the only drivers earning local support. The crowd also will also root for Rocketsports' Alex Tagliani (#8 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who met his wife Bronte in Australia. Tagliani, who raced for Team Australia last season, finished third last year on the streets of Surfers Paradise and is hopeful for a repeat performance on Sunday.

Another driver eager for a podium finish is Dale Coyne Racing's Junqueira. The Brazilian has climbed onto the podium in his last two races in Europe, giving the Coyne team their best finishes ever. Graham Rahal (#2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who has four podiums this year, is making his first appearance as a driver in Australia. Rahal previously watched his father Bobby Rahal race at Surfers Paradise. Also racing at Surfers for the first time is Neel Jani (#21 RedBull/Gulfstream Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone), who has put together a string of eight top-10 finishes this season, and counts three podiums in his last eight races.

A new rule will be in effect this weekend that will allow drivers to increase their number of qualifying laps during Friday's qualifying session. The number of timed laps a driver completes during the first 40 minutes of Friday morning's practice session will be the number of laps the driver will be allowed to complete during the Friday qualifying segment. In the case of crash damage, mechanical failures or other extreme circumstances during the morning practice, each driver will be guaranteed five laps during qualifying. The change does not include Saturday's final qualifying in which every driver will have 15 laps.

The action for the Lexmark Indy 300 gets under way early Friday morning at 12:15 a.m. ET with the first round of qualifying. The final grid will be set Saturday at 12:20 a.m. ET and the race will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic in the United States and on The Score in Canada at 11:30 p.m. ET on the evening of Saturday, October 20.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , David Martinez , Nelson Philippe , Neel Jani , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud , Dale Coyne
Teams Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing