CHAMPCAR/CART: Assen: Newman/Haas/Lanigan race report

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS FINISHED SEVENTH IN DISAPPOINTING BAVARIA CHAMP CAR GRAND PRIX OF HOLLAND; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL NINTH McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais was unable to mathematically clinch his fourth consecutive championship ...


McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais was unable to mathematically clinch his fourth consecutive championship after finishing seventh in the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix of Holland from pole position. On the standing start, second place Justin Wilson got past him going into Turn 1 but Bourdais attempted to capitalize on a mistake by the Englishman who briefly went off course in Turn 5 but was unable to do so due to a software failure.

Bourdais hit the Cosworth Push to Pass button but a glitch that was later identified also activated the pit lane speed limiter and he lost positions after slowing on course. Once both systems were deactivated he had dropped to fifth place. Later in the race, after other drivers encountered the same problem, Champ Car ruled that the Push to Pass element should not be used due to safety reasons.

On the opening lap Paul Tracy brought out one of three full course cautions from Laps 1-3 when he spun and stalled. Once the race was restarted, Bourdais held fifth place and attempted to save enough fuel to make it a three stop race. The second caution came out from Laps 14-16 to remove debris and the field took advantage of the slower pace and made their first stops. Bourdais entered the pits fifth but as his pit box was located at pit out, he had to yield to those pulling into their pit boxes along the way before he got to his own. In the process, Jan Heylen, who was running one position behind him before the stop was able to jump ahead of him departing the pits and Bourdais returned to the track in seventh place to race leader Bruno Junqueira who was on an alternate fuel strategy due to a Lap 8 pit stop to replace a deflating tire.

Bourdais moved into sixth when teammate Graham Rahal dropped back on Lap 19 and into fifth when Neel Jani dropped back from third on Lap 23. When Junqueira made his next stop on Lap 28 Bourdais moved into fourth before the second caution of the race came out to remove more debris from Laps 30-33. The frontrunners made their stops on Lap 31 when the pits opened but Bourdais stalled the car trying to leave the pits and dropped from fourth to the back of the field. Due to his position the team elected to have him pit again on the next lap under caution to top off his fuel in case he could stretch his next stop one more lap so he returned to the pits on Lap 32.

Once the race resumed he passed slower cars and was in 12th place behind Oriol Servia by Lap 36. He moved as high as fourth as the field began making their final stops and made his fourth and final stop on Lap 52 of what would be a 69-lap race. He returned to the track in eighth place after moving ahead of Servia in the pits and pressured seventh place runner Pagenaud for position several times but was unable to pull off the pass. He moved into seventh on Lap 65 of the 69 lap event when Clarke made his final stop and he took the checkered flag there and earned 17 points. Previous fourth place Justin Wilson won the event to take over second place in the standings after Robert Doornbos finished 13th. He holds a 58 point lead over Wilson and 63 over Doornbos with two races remaining. Following are his post race comments:

"We didn't make a great start but it wasn't the end of the day for the McDonald's team because I think we would have got back by Justin on the lap because he made a pretty big mistake and slid off the race track coming off Turn 5 and I got on the overtake (Push to Pass) and the pit speed limiter went off," said Bourdais. "He washed off the track and I was well underneath him on the line and made a pretty good exit and pressed the overtake button and the PLC (pit lane cruise) went off. I was a sitting duck and since it is a three-stage pit limiter you have to press three times and by the time I got that figured out I was way, way, way back. It's just frustrating. It was a weird race; it never quite got going for us. I felt like I was just a passenger; there really wasn't much I could do. Every time we were pitting under yellow and despite our best efforts to save fuel I was not making any ground and if anything we lost a position on the first pit stop to Jan (Heylan) because we were the last pit box which is good when you are leading the race but when you are P6, one by one others peel off in front of you and every time you have to slow down a little bit. We lost a position there and I just didn't run a very good race. I got in the pits and I was not square in the box and I didn't want to put too much revs but I didn't put enough. Then when I threw the clutch the engine died and after that it takes forever to get the thing going again anyway so we were dead last. It's frustrating; had I not stalled we would have wrapped it (title) up. It's as close as it's going to get without clinching it I guess. Unless disaster strikes, we finish it by taking the start at the last two. It's just too bad that I didn't get it done today. The McDonald's team did a good job again this weekend and gave me a great car. I just failed them a little bit."

Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal ran as high as fourth in the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix of Holland but finished ninth in the event to maintain his fifth place rank in the series standings with 209 points.

He made a good standing start and was able to get by Simon Pagenaud and gained another position when teammate Sebastien Bourdais fell back due to a software glitch in the Push to Pass system that activated the pit lane speed control on the first lap. Other drivers encountered the same problem so Champ Car officials ruled later in the race that no one should use the feature due to safety reasons.

Rahal maintained fourth place through a caution period for Paul Tracy from Laps 1-3 as well as the restart. The majority of the field elected to pit during the second period for debris on Lap 15 including Rahal. The Medi | Zone crew performed a quick stop and Rahal maintained his position but was running fifth as new race leader Bruno Junqueira was on an alternate strategy after being forced to pit on Lap 8 due to a deflating tire.

Rahal ran wide on Lap 17 and eventual second place finisher Jan Heylen passed for position. A few laps later he ran wide again and he lost three more positions to Bourdais, Dan Clarke and Will Power and was in ninth place. He moved into eighth when Junqueira pitted on Lap 28 and held the position until Clarke made his next stop on Lap 45.

He set the quickest lap of the race thus far on Lap 46 but temporarily lost a position on Lap 48 to Pagenaud and reported to the team that he thought a tire was deflating. The telemetry did not supply evidence so the team continued on track. He made his final stop on Lap 51 and ultimately returned to the track in 10th place as the cars of Pagenaud, Oriol Servia and Bourdais ran one lap longer and jumped ahead of him in order. He held the position until fifth place Clarke made his final stop on Lap 64 and Rahal took the checkered flag in ninth place to earn 13 points. Following are his post race comments:

"We got a really good start and once we got by Sebastien and we were up to P4 (fourth place) and it was pretty good but I made too many mistakes, said Rahal. "It was a bit of a mess for me this weekend between the practice sessions and the race. Although the car was pretty good it was a little inconsistent with the brakes but we had the speed. At one point we had the fastest lap and it had to be pretty close to what ended up the fastest lap of the race. I think the braking really bit us today though because it was so inconsistent that it caused me to go off a couple of times which was frustrating because we really did have a good car. A top five finish in the standings is our goal. We clearly have the pace to finish on the podium each weekend. We'll try to put it together next race. The Medi | Zone team is getting better and better and learning each weekend. We can definitely win, it just needs to come our way."

NHLR Won the Phanos European Cup. Based on their combined results from the events in Belgium and the Netherlands, Bourdais and Rahal collected the Phanos Resorts European Cup and each won a one-week stay at a Phanos Resort.

Up Next: The Champ Car World Series will take six weeks off before they travel to Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia for the penultimate round of the Championship.

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Neel Jani , Jan Heylen , Will Power , Daniel Clarke , Simon Pagenaud