Sebastien Bourdais started his Champ Car career today with the first point of the season. The Newman-Haas driver showed the way during the pre-season testing at Laguna Seca and Sebring, and continued his impressive debut today in the first...
Sebastien Bourdais started his Champ Car career today with the first point of the season. The Newman-Haas driver showed the way during the pre-season testing at Laguna Seca and Sebring, and continued his impressive debut today in the first official timing session at the new temporary circuit in St. Petersburg. His provisional pole time of 1 minute, 1.676 seconds (105.415 mph) establishes the first lap record on the new track.
Bourdais modestly gave his team credit for his speed, saying: "The balance was immediately good." He also mentioned his F3000 experience, where he gained a reputation as an excellent qualifier in a series that allows the drivers very little practice time: "It [qualifying] is an exercise I really appreciate."
Following the trend set during the winter practice days, Bourdais' teammate, Bruno Junqueira, was nearly as fast, and blamed traffic problems and two late red flags for his inability to outrun the other Newman-Haas car. His time was less than three tenths of a second slower than Bourdais' over the 1.806-mile course.
Third fastest, Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia echoed Junqueira, saying: "Like Bruno, I was very frustrated by the traffic." Servia was only five-hundredths of a second slower than Junqueira!
The St. Petersburg Grand Prix course looks like a winner in its first day of operation. The track features fast segments with nerve-challenging points, but also tight, technical segments where any mistake could end a driver's session. The pre-race promotion was apparently quite successful as a large Friday crowd filled the stands on a hot, sunny day.
Today's three fastest drivers were quick to praise the new course. Servia compared it favorably to the two new street courses that the Champ Car World Series visited last year, remarking: "When we went to Miami and Denver, the tracks were not good and need changes for this year, but this track needs no changes."
Bourdais commented: "[The track] has a lot of variety in the corners. It's really nice. The back chicane is good, like Piscine at Monaco, but even faster."
Junqueira said simply: "I like a lot this track."