A race day filled with off sequence pit strategies as well as very competitive close racing with several cars a mere second apart, produced a podium far different than the starting grid positions. Sebastian Bourdais ...
A race day filled with off sequence pit strategies as well as very competitive close racing with several cars a mere second apart, produced a podium far different than the starting grid positions.
Sebastian Bourdais #1 McDonalds clearly took control of the Circuit Zolder keeping the lead from the standing start and making no mistakes as he wound his way back through traffic mid way through the race. "It was a great weekend - - it was really good to be back here in Europe and be racing in front a bit of a home crowd."
Bourdais made a daring move on Bruno Junqueira #19 who was on a fuel saving strategy. "As soon as my tires just went up to temp, I just took the opportunity and pushed it past him. Since I knew he was having to lift and coast through corners, even if I was completely riding his rear wing approaching the braking zone, I knew we were going to end up side by side before the turn, which happened, and then we just went from there."
Bourdais has now extended his points lead to 53 points in the Champ Car World Series over Dutch driver Robert Doornbos #14 Minardi.
Bruno Junquiera #19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q was a man on a mission today. Junquiera brought home a well earned second place finish for Dale Coyne Racing thus scoring the best finish in a 24 year history as team owner. Junquiera penalized at the last race for jumping the start, today the cards seemed to fall into place for the driver as he battled in the back of the field after a fueling problem on his first pit stop. The caution flag flew 10 laps later which allowed Bruno to make another pit stop. This strategy proved beneficial when leaders were making green flag pit stops, he worked his magic and took second place. After the last pit stop Bruno jostled from the tenth position and worked his way up to fourth.
While the other three drivers ahead of him had to pit for fuel Bruno was able to stay out. "I am very happy for get a podium for the team. All the guys work very hard, especially the mechanics. I only have two full time guys so they have to work three times as hard - - I drove as hard as I could at the finish." A spirited drive from a previous contender for the championship in the series and a deserving podium for the team.
Graham Rahal #2 Medi Zone had a tough launch from the grid when he had a "horrible start". Rahal spent a great deal of time trying to make up time during the event, dicing for position especially with Justin Wilson #9 CDW and Will Power #5 Aussie Vineyards. "But to keep Justin and Will behind me was awfully tough and in fact, I mean, I'm sure as all of you saw, Justin did get by me at one point and then he almost lost it. So I got back by - - at the end it was difficult because when I was caught behind Bruno I wasn't quite quick enough to get by him." Graham scores his fourth podium finish of the season.
Will Power #5 Aussie Vineyards finished fourth today running a consistent race although losing some momentum in his challenge for the Vanderbilt Cup. "The important thing is that we finished ahead of the people we needed to catch up with, except for Bourdais..."
Battling a bug this weekend Justin Wilson #9 CDW finished his run in fifth place. "I felt awful before the race, so between that and the crash on Friday, I guess the result wasn't too bad under the circumstances - - but with the different fuel strategies, it felt like one step forward and two steps back." After flat spotting his tires fighting for the same piece of pavement with Junqueira...it was just a case of damage limitation and bringing it home."
Forsythe Racing driver Oriol Servia #7 finished sixth. Servia has consistently been finishing in the top ten. "The yellows were just crazy today - - we managed to pick up some points for the championship so that's positive..."
Robert Doornbos #14 Team Minardi finishing seventh had his sights set on a better outcome at Circuit Zolder where he earned his license 7 years ago driving his fathers car. Doornbos has lost some ground in the chase for the Championship. "Hopefully we'll have a better race next weekend at home -- I'll try very hard and hopefully get a better result..."
Fellow rookie Neel Jani #21 Red Bull-Gulfstream brought the car home in eighth after moving up to seventh with a pass on Paul Tracy # 3 Indeck. Gambling on green flag pit strategy a yellow flag full course caution found him back in eighth place after a reshuffling of the field.
Canadian Alex Tagliani #8 Rocketsports fought the alternative pit strategies throughout the day. Tagliani stated "the strategy was wrong and this is a track with a small amount of straight-away, so it makes it very difficult to pass..."
Paul Tracy #3 Indeck, another Canadian also faced difficulties, he experienced mechanical problems with his diff at the start of the race which caused the rear end of the car to over heat during the cautions "that made the car extremely difficult to drive...I'm glad we could get a top ten result..."
The remainder of the four drivers experienced a various degree of disappointment to the end of their day at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Katherine Legge #11 Dale Coyne finished eleventh with damage to her car after hitting the curbing. Katherine was pleased with her overall performance although she made a number of mistakes including having a bad start. "I think that if we don't make any mistakes nest time and do better in qualifying we should have a good result next race."
Simon Pagenaud #15 Aussie Vineyards finishing twelfth struggled with radio problems and did not pit as the team was unable to pass Simon the critical information. "I stayed out and unfortunately we didn't have enough fuel to make it to the end. We tried to pit as late as we could, but I think the race was over for us at that point."
Jan Heylen #34 Gariprint extremely disappointed with his thirteenth place finish. Hometown driver Heylen was faced with many challenges over the weekend, starting with the four car incident on Friday to the loss of seventh gear during the race today. The loss of seventh gear the team was forced to change their entire pit strategy. "It is never a good thing to happen during a race but it is even tougher in front of a home crowd."
Tristan Gommendy #22 Pay by Touch developed an oil leak and that was the end of their race placing them in the fifteenth position. "Hopefully, next week will be better..."
The circuit proved to be an exciting and challenging one for the drivers, yet the common thread was that they all enjoyed their experiences at the Circuit Zolder in Belgium and the first stop on the European tour is a welcome addition to the Champ Car venue portfolio.
With the many faces of the race today the next European stop should prove to bring us another exhilarating new location.
The teams will now travel a short distance to the TT Circuit Assen in Holland for the Bavaria Champ Car Grand Prix August 31st - September 2nd, 2007 Round #12 of the Champ Car World Series.