This was by far one of Sebastien Bourdais' finest weekends. From Friday practice through today's race, the McDonald's Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry was firmly planted at the front of the field. Today "Seabass" capped off the weekend in style...
This was by far one of Sebastien Bourdais' finest weekends. From Friday practice through today's race, the McDonald's Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry was firmly planted at the front of the field. Today "Seabass" capped off the weekend in style with a dominant drive at Road America. He led 51 of the 53 laps en route to victory, his fifth of the season and 28th in his illustrious Champ Car World Series career.
He eliminated the distinction of this being the only track he had more than one start without a victory. Today's race was titled the Generac Grand Prix for Generac Power Systems, but may as well have been referred to as the "Generic" Grand Prix; after all there was nothing really noteworthy about this race other than it offered fans in the Midwest one last chance to see Bourdais win in person.
"This was one of our greatest weekends," Bourdais said. "It was impeccable from beginning to end. The car was tough to drive but quick. then we pitted, it was still tough to drive but superfast. It was really tough with the option tires, but with the blacks back on it was back to normal."
"Speedy" Dan Clarke of Minardi Team USA, trying out a new black helmet this weekend, scored his best career finish in second with Bourdais' N/H/L teammate Graham Rahal completing the podium. Oriol Servia, up from 14th on the grid, and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top five.
With only one full-course caution, this was more a day to be endured than enjoyed for Bourdais' rivals. The action started early with a first-lap accident at turn five involving Simon Pagenaud, Ryan Dalziel and Paul Tracy. Pagenaud attempted a dive-bomb move into turn five, on the inside of Dalziel and Tracy with the end result showing all three off course. They all restarted but at the back of the field.
Bruno Junqueira got a great launch off the starting line from fifth, up to third at the first corner, but too great for Race Control. The jumped start cost him what could potentially have been a great result for him and his Dale Coyne Racing team.
With the safety car out, several drivers at the back of the field took advantage to pit off-sequence to get into contention, Clarke being the main beneficiary. When the first scheduled pit stop window opened at lap 11, most drivers pulled off within the next five laps. Clarke was able to run two laps longer, making his stop at lap 17, and briefly moved into the lead when Bourdais pitted.
The moment of the race happened on lap 25. Robert Doornbos, running second at the time, was losing speed left and right with Rahal passing him the previous circuit and then his teammate Clarke catching him up. As the Minardi teammates headed for turn five, Clarke passed Doornbos and then as Doornbos attempted to re-pass, he hit the back of Clarke's car which dislodged his front wing and took him off the road. Only quick thinking by Doornbos' race engineer Michael Cannon allowed him to stay in the race, as he intentionally went over the curbs at turn seven to get rid of the wedged wing.
"I just knew he was going slowly," Clarke observed. "Into five, I retook my line, and felt impact from behind. It felt funny for a few laps; the guys asked, 'What was up? How's the car?' Fortunately after a few laps the car just kind of came back to me."
"For me, when I got by Doornbos, visually I started to catch Seb," Rahal said regarding the incident. "I did think our car had the pace to run with him today, but we had to pit late and it hurt us. If he takes off, I'll let him go!"
Simultaneously Will Power pulled onto pit road with what turned out to be terminal mechanical issues. "It's a new car, and we're finding things out about it at the wrong time," the Australian quipped. "We got stuck in fourth gear, the transmission was broken."
Bourdais' two championship rivals' demise meant he was free to push and push harder. "At this place, you can't have a comfortable car," he explained. "You can't start out with a good car, then it gets looser and looser - or if you start with too much understeer."
Tagliani had enough of a gap on his closest pursuers to make his final stop without losing position and maintained a top-five finish for his RSPORTS team. Not as fortunate was Neel Jani of PKV Racing, who saw a promising weekend on Friday go south with a final stop at lap 51 dropping him from sixth to tenth.
Jan Heylen and Tristan Gommendy raced each other most of the day, Gommendy even at one point making a great move into turn one. But Heylen was the victor in their battle with pit strategy, coming sixth at the finish. It was an undistinguished race for Justin Wilson who came eighth, ahead of Junqueira who was able to recover from his botched start in ninth and Jani rounded out the top ten.
This result leaves Bourdais 37 points clear of Doornbos prior to the two race European swing. Two DNFs in the last three races for Power means he is 53 points back, and only seven points ahead of Wilson. Rahal's second podium the last three times out saw him leap to fifth in points.