Fueled by emotion, Sebastien Bourdais secured his place in Champ Car history by repeating his 2006 victory at the Lexmark Indy 300. The Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver performed the feat that has never been achieved over the past 16 years that...
Fueled by emotion, Sebastien Bourdais secured his place in Champ Car history by repeating his 2006 victory at the Lexmark Indy 300. The Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver performed the feat that has never been achieved over the past 16 years that the open-wheel series has visited the famed Australian Surfers Paradise street circuit.
Bourdais is leaving his imprint on the series before embarking on his new path in Formula One by clinching a landmark fourth consecutive driving title. "These have been the best racing years of my life" an elated Bourdais proclaimed
In a race dominated by fuel strategy, on-track incidents causing full-course yellows, the four-time Vanderbilt Cup Champion was not hampered in his drive to victory. "It was one of those races where I decided to have fun with it and give it all we had...what a day!" Bourdais spoke highly of his #1 team and the synergy that they have built over the past five years... "What a fun five years it's been. I'm surely not going to forget about it any time soon."
Justin Wilson, driver of the #9 CDW RuSPORTS, completed his on-track battles for position in second place today. Frustrated by his start which was hampered by wheel spin as well as missing a gear going into neutral instead of first, Wilson fought his way back after two cars passed him. As events unfolded during the race, battles ensued and when Paul Tracy in the #3 Forsythe Racing had contact in Turn 1 after the start Wilson realized that "it was just a matter of staying calm and not doing anything stupid."
Wilson said he was able to "get on a roll" which showed when he made a spectacular pass on Bourdais going into Turn 1 on lap 38 to take the lead. Pitting for fuel four laps before Bourdais, due to being short-filled in the previous stop, caused him to lose the lead. "Overall, the car was great all race and I was really having quite a good time out there. It's nice to finish on the podium here in Surfers in front of all these mad Australians." Wilson heads to Mexico fighting for second place in the final points battle.
Luck was with Bruno Junqueira and his #19 Dale Coyne Racing car today with a third place podium finish. When the team inspected Junqueira's car before the race, to their dismay they discovered an oil leak in the engine. They replaced the engine and the car was presented on the grid just two minutes before the start of the race. A dark cloud hovered over the Brazilian when his car bogged down and stalled on the out lap and that is where lady luck found him -- no one hit him from behind and the safety team was able to give him a push start him.
Eventually he started the race 57 seconds behind the leaders and fuel strategy by him and the team was their way of savaging the earlier problems: "I'm very, very happy. Three podiums in a row for Dale Coyne, He said as he added "...I hope we can keep doing great results."
Commenting on his last lap, chasing Tracy for position, Junqueira expressed his thoughts at the time. "Man, oh, man, I have to wait for the last lap. That's going to be exciting to try to pass Tracy on the last lap. Then he pit!" Junqueira's skill and determination may yet give Dale Coyne Racing their first ever win.
Newly crowned Rookie of the Year Robert Doornbos battled for a podium finish, but after loosing power to a broken valve spring, he brought the #14 Team Minardi USA car home in fourth position. Struggling over the weekend Doornbos proved today that saving fuel is important. "I'm happy to be Rookie of the Year and in the top three in points right now. Our target is second place, and we'll give it a run in Mexico".
Fifth place finisher, rookie Simon Pagenaud in the #15 Team Australia, DP01 was disappointed with the theme of the race. "We had a very good car. The car was just fantastic all race. Just the race is not as good as it should be with he fuel save mode. Because all race, I just save fuel and [could] not push a hundred percent."
Pagenaud shared his views looking forward to next year and the need to make the race "...more interesting for the drivers and the fans also." Racing in the home country of his team and carrying their flags on his car encouraged him especially when he could see the Australian flags waving in the stands "... it was really nice. It's great to feel so much support coming here."
Without having seat time this year in a Champ Car, Nelson Philippe took the wheel of the #34 Conquest Racing for the final two races and piloted his car into sixth place. "Even though the results may not show it, it was probably one of the best races of my career," he said. "I was able to make some good passes and the team was quite competitive." Philippe's exuberance to be back in the car was evident when he talked about returning to Mexico City -- host nation of the season finale.
Alex Tagliani, driving his #8 Rocketsports and Neel Jani in the #21 PKV Racing machine completed the day in seventh and eighth place respectively. Both drivers expressed having a good race and that the teams put in a good effort with their calls to keep them in the top ten.
Paul Tracy remained in the top 10 even though he had an incident in the first turn at the start of the race. Again fuel strategy played a large part in the outcome. "The yellows were all falling our way in the beginning and the strategy was working well," recalled the Forsythe Racing veteran racer.
Hoping for another lap of yellow, they rolled the dice and the Canadian ran out of fuel on the front straightaway on the white flag lap. By the time he got into the pits for a splash and go, he did not have enough fuel pressure and was unable to re-start. "We made good out of a bad start ... we just need some good luck." Will he catch Lady Luck's eye in Mexico?
Tenth place was solidified by former Atlantic racer David Martinez who was behind the wheel of the #7 Forsythe Racing for the second time as he attempts to get a full-time ride in the premier open-wheel series "I found myself racing for position against drivers that have a huge amount of experience ... I'm very satisfied with my performance." Martinez has accomplished two top ten finishes with Champ Car in only two starts and will have a third chance at his home race in Mexico.
Completing the rookie field, Graham Rahal (#2 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing) was eleventh followed by Mario Dominguez who recently signed to finish out the season in the #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM) car. Like Martinez, Dominguez looks toward the race in Mexico City.
Alex Figge had a disappointing run in his #29 PCM team car, finishing 14th followed by Oriol Servia, who landed a last minute ride with PKV Racing. Servia had to spend three laps in the pits to repair a broken toe link due to contact.
Katherine Legge (#11 Dale Coyne Racing) and homeland favorite Will Power (#5 Team Australia) had contact ending their race early. Power had started on the pole to the delight of the Australian fans; however the land down under was not kind to him today, First he and the team encountered "pit lane mayhem" when Power was sent out too early and had contact in pit lane bending his steering arm.
Later when the Aussie and the lady British racer were battling, the two had contact. "I don't know how he hit me. I gave him enough room to pass me, but the next thing I knew his car was coming over mine," said Legge while Power was nursing a sore wrist sustained in the incident, he admitted "I guess the car stepped out a little bit and grabbed her back back wheel and threw me into the wall."
Even with his disappointment, Power was already looking to the season finale: "We've got to race in Mexico ... try and win that one!"
Minardi Team USA's Dan Clarke was first driver out of the event and commented on his feelings on more than just this weekend's race action. "It's really frustrating that we don't get to race more, with the long breaks between events. We're really gelling well together as a team and I'm anxious to be on track more often than we are. It's difficult to carry the positive momentum that we've been developing when you have these seven week gaps," said the British driver. "We had a good car today, and we're developing as a team. I am confident that we will do well in Mexico, and hopefully lift this hex that has been following us all year."
One consistent pattern unfolded from Surfers Paradise: this street circuit does not leave room for any mistakes, be it on the track or in the pits. The next stop for the series will be in Mexico City at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit for the final contest of 2007. Bourdais locked up the championship but there are still positions to fight for on November 11th.
Second and third in the final points are still open to be challenged in the championship hunt with Wilson having a slight lead of 270 points over Doornbos at 262. Power leaves his home race with 234, sitting in fourth in the standings. Rahal has 220 with Jani at 218, Junqueira is holding 216 followed by Pagenaud with 213 and Servia at 212.
The 2.744 mile (4.464 km) Mexico road course will definitely be more lenient than the tight concrete street course of Surfers Paradise.