CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais closes Spring Training on top

SEBRING, Fla. (February 6, 2003) - Impressive rookie Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

SEBRING, Fla. (February 6, 2003) - Impressive rookie Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) saved his best for last on Thursday at Sebring International Raceway, carding the best time of the three-day Champ Car Spring Training testing session with a top lap of 50.584 seconds (118.781mph).

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The rookie Frenchman posted the quick lap in the third of four practice sessions at Sebring on Thursday which brought a successful five-day stretch of testing and promotional activity for the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series in Florida to a close. After a pair of media days in St. Petersburg kicked things off on Sunday and Monday, Bourdais made his official Champ Car on-track debut an impressive one on Tuesday when he topped the time sheets with a lap of 50.953 seconds (117.920 mph). He gave way to series veteran Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone yesterday but ultimately ended Spring Training as the fastest driver in two of the test session's three days of practice.

Third-year Champ Car pilot Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) gave Newman/Haas a one-two sweep of the top spots at Spring Training with a Thursday lap of 50.804 seconds (118.266 mph).

Also turning his fastest laps of the test at Sebring on Thursday was Mexico's Michel Jourdain (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who clocked in at 50.841 seconds (118.180 mph). The top three were the only drivers to break the 118 mph barrier over the course of the three days.

Champ Car Spring Training, which was held at Sebring for the first time since the event was started in 1996, saw a full field of cars running in front of nearly 2,000 spectators. The days went incident-free and all 18 drivers will be able to answer the bell at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on February 21-23.

Right behind the top trio on the charts was Servia who held steady with the fourth quickest time of the test with his Wednesday top lap of 50.940 seconds (117.951mph). Servia's Patrick Racing team ran only the opening sessions on Thursday and pulled out of the Sebring complex before the final checkered flag flew. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who got around the tight road course in a time of 51.141 seconds, (117.487 mph) rounded out the top five.

Among the other rookies, Darren Manning (#15 Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) had his best day of the week with a seventh-place finish on the final time sheet, snapping off a lap of 51.204 seconds (117.342mph), while debuting American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 ASTJ Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was third-fastest among the rookies with a circuit of 51.495/116.679mph, which was good enough for 12th overall.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Eric Gilbert , Michel Jourdain