McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS HOPES TO REGAIN SOLE POSSESSION OF CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AT THIS WEEKEND'S STEELBACK GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL PLANS TO PICK UP WHERE HE LEFT OF HERE LAST YEAR
TORONTO, Canada (July 4, 2007) --- This weekend's Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto is the second of three events in the Champ Car "Canadian Triple Crown" and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal are ranked second to Team Australia in the mini championship. In the previous 21 events held at the 1.755-mile street course around Toronto's Exhibition Place, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) earned seven wins, four poles and 16 podium finishes. Bourdais and Rahal will rely on that experience for a strong finish for newly-renamed NHLR here.
"The McDonald's team has managed to win the Toronto race once," said Bourdais of his lone win here in 2004 and the team's most recent on this track. "It' s not an easy place to find success. It's one of the tracks where it's really easy to make mistakes and lose the handling of the car. Last year in Toronto we just didn't seem to be able to put it together. Forsythe seemed to have a little bit better pace than we did. It was just the 'Forsythe Show' and we were happy to settle for third. The year before we had a pretty good car but Paul was our match and on the pit stop we made contact and he broke his front wing and I damaged my right rear. It was a long way around on three wheels for sure."
In his four previous races on the temporary street course, McDonald's driver Bourdais has posted four, top-five finishes including one win (2004) one third place (2006) a fourth and fifth. His three straight wins in Rounds 2 through 4 this season in Long Beach, Houston and Portland led some to believe it would be an easy task for him to win his fourth straight title but Bourdais is quick to disprove that theory.
"Domination is a very easy word to say but difficult, if not impossible, to make happen," said Bourdais, who has a series high three wins but is tied for the series points lead with Robert Doornbos, who finished on the podium in five of the six events, at 145 points each. "To make it happen always looks much easier on the outside than it is from the inside. We had tough start in Las Vegas, then got three wins, had a DNF in Cleveland and a second place in Mont Tremblant. There have definitely been challenges along the way, even when we won. We just have to keep working at it and try to get it right every weekend. We will take them one at a time like we always have."
Also taking it one race at a time is Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal, 18. Rahal continues to gain momentum this season and led another seven laps at the previous race in Mont-Tremblant although a shifting problem during his final pit stop after leading limited his finishing position. After becoming the youngest podium finisher in series history at the previous street course event in Houston with a second place, Rahal is looking forward to competing in Toronto.
"I think the Houston street race went well for us," said Rahal who spent the past few days at his favorite vacation spot -- his mother, Debi's, home in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. "We finished second so that bodes well for us in Toronto. I think we struggled in some of the other events but we are building steam here and the Medi | Zone side has come together as a team and I think it's only a matter of time before the results will equal the effort and potential."
Rahal is no stranger to the tight Toronto street course after having competed here in the Atlantic series last year. He led both qualifying sessions and started from pole but was denied a chance to win. He is looking forward to picking up where he left off.
"Last year in Toronto I got a good start and made it through the first corner which often doesn't happen," said Rahal who is tied for eighth place in the standings at 91 points. "But then at the end of the back straight, which in Toronto is usually the place where things happen, I was looking in my mirrors and I could tell that I was clear and that no one was within a couple of car lengths. Then I turned into the corner and got hit in the center of the car, which broke all the suspension. The guy that hit me was Raphael Matos so I went up to him after the race and asked what happened and he said he figured it was his only shot at getting me because it's tough to pass there. We had a great car, we had the field covered but that is an example of the wild moments the track produces. It was disappointing but I love the track and can't wait to race my Medi | Zone Champ Car there."