Sebastien Bourdais won the London Champ Car Trophy with a careful and disciplined drive to finish ahead of Bruno Junqueira and Mario Dominguez. A gearbox problem for early leader Paul Tracy allowed Bourdais conserve fuel over the remainder of the...
Sebastien Bourdais won the London Champ Car Trophy with a careful and disciplined drive to finish ahead of Bruno Junqueira and Mario Dominguez. A gearbox problem for early leader Paul Tracy allowed Bourdais conserve fuel over the remainder of the 165-lap race and take victory in only his fourth CART Champ Car race.
The Newman/Haas rookie benefited from being able to stay out longer than Tracy for both stops and take advantage of having warm tyres and a light fuel load. "We were saving fuel all race" said Bourdais, who used his Le Mans experience to squeeze extra laps from his fuel tank.
Team Player's driver Tracy commented, "I'm fairly good with saving fuel, but some drivers seem to be able to make more laps than I." Bourdais then took over in front when Alex Tagliani's Rocketsports driver made his final pit stop and led all the way to the chequered flag.
Tracy was the early favourite to win the race as he started in pole position and led until the first round of pit stops. He rejoined just behind leader Bourdais and ran closely behind him until the second pit stops. As he pulled into his pit there was a small puff of smoke from the back of the car and, a few laps later, it let go spectacularly along the pit straight sending Tracy out of the race.
"We had issues with the gearbox during the race" said Tracy. "Sometime it was shifting by itself. Three or four laps before the car caught fire, I heard noise and the car started to smoke a bit. When I was rolling down the hill, I had no gearbox."
Bourdais' Newman/Haas teammate, Junqueira spent most of the day being stuck behind back markers while trying to save fuel and ultimately he finished in second place. "This track is very, very good for our cars" said Junqueira, "but I burned too much fuel trying to catch Sebastien [Bourdais] and Paul [Tracy] to win today.
"It's very difficult to pass here." His team manager even walked down the pit lane asking teams to let Junqueira pass their drivers as he got baulked by so much traffic during the race.
Third was Dominguez who ran solidly all through the race and took the second podium of his career. The Herdez Competition started in seventh place and had moved up to fourth halfway though the race. Tracy's retirement elevated Dominguez to third and he successfully maintained a small gap from the pursuing Oriol Servia and Patrick Carpentier.
"This is a very satisfying result for our team" said Dominguez. "The track is like a go-kart circuit, so short and fast. It was a hard, demanding race and it was about saving fuel. I never had to drive a fuel-conservation race, so I learned something today."
Fuel-conservation was indeed the foremost concern for nearly all the drivers. "Most of the day I was focused on my fuel mileage as I was trying to save fuel" said Michael Jourdain, Team Rahal driver.
"For some reason I had a problem where I would either save too much fuel and not go fast enough or I would go too fast and not save enough fuel." Jourdain also suffered from traffic as he was badly blocked by Tiago Monteiro and made his feelings perfectly clear as he travelled along the pit straight.
Tagliani tried a different tactic to the other drivers by taking advantage of a yellow flag midway though the second stint. He led for nearly twenty laps but ultimately finished eighth. "This hurt us in the end because of a hose problem which cost us 13 seconds in the pits and put me out behind the cars in the lead. The plan would have worked without the problem in the pit, but at least we are aware of it and know we need to work on our pit stops."
British driver Darren Manning had an eventful race on the way to his tenth place. He narrowly avoided being collected by Adrian Fernandez at Paddock Hill Bend on lap three as Fernandez twitched wildly and darted across the track. Then during the pit stops Fernandez pulled out in front of Manning. A couple of laps later Manning had a moment briefly running wide at the exit of Paddock Hill into the gravel but was able to rejoin.
Fernandez was involved in an incident later on in the race when he hit Ryan Hunter-Reay at Druids Bend. Fernandez lost his front wing and pitted for a new one. Hunter-Reay ran off the track at the next turn but was able to rejoin and ultimately finished the race last.
"Backmarkers were a problem today" said Fernandez. "It was difficult. With Ryan, he let some guys go and when I was behind him he was blocking and blocking to the point that unfortunately I hit him and broke the front wing. I had to come in and we lost two laps there. He came to apologize after the race and I appreciate his professionalism."
Jimmy Vasser pulled into the pit lane as the cars took the green flag at the start of the race. He immediately got out of the car and retired from the race. "The car felt really happy on the pace laps then I noticed my front tyre was turned in and I knew we had a problem. Turns out we had a mechanical issue with the left front suspension and it ended our day."
The only yellow flag period happened on lap 79 when Alex Yoong out braked himself at Druids Bend and hit the barriers. Yoong was able to walk away and the damage to the car was light, but he was unable to continue and the car was quickly removed. "...I locked up going into Druids...got onto the dirty stuff and sailed off in slow motion into the tires. I'm obviously very disappointed and feel sorry for the Dale Coyne boys as they had worked hard for us and we had a good fuel strategy."
Tracy still leads the championship with 65 points, but Junqueira, who acknowledged that he now needs wins to make a serious impression on Tracy, now has 54 points. Jourdain's sixth place leaves him with third position in the championship with 42 points.
Bourdais earned 22 points today to move him up to sixth in the championship with 27 points.