CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais wins incident-filled Toronto race

CHAMPCAR/CART: Bourdais wins incident-filled Toronto race

Sebastien Bourdais took over the drivers' championship lead in the Champ Car World Series with a victory at a caution-filled Molson Indy in Toronto on Sunday. Despite several incidents throughout the race that brought out full- course yellows and...

Sebastien Bourdais took over the drivers' championship lead in the Champ Car World Series with a victory at a caution-filled Molson Indy in Toronto on Sunday. Despite several incidents throughout the race that brought out full- course yellows and grouped the field back together, the Newman/Haas driver stayed in front for the final 11 laps to take his third consecutive win, fourth of the season, and seventh of his short Champ Car career.

S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"We had a great car today. We knew having the pole position was a big advantage," said Bourdais. "You know, I just pushed really hard and tried to pit early on the second stop to make sure that we were not going to get stopped by a yellow. I put a very good lap 60.3, just pulled away, and after that was a pretty easy race except we had a lot of restarts."

Due to the number of cautions on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit, the race hit the curfew time of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Subsequently, only 84 of the scheduled 95 laps were completed.

Champ Car veteran Jimmy Vasser captured his first podium of the season finishing second just 1.396 seconds behind the Frenchman. The PKV Racing driver has now posted three top-five finishes in his last four races.

"For me, it was just a matter of keeping our nose clean," said Vasser about surviving the race. "We kind of have just been sniffing outside the top five time-wise for qualifying. But today was one of those days that you just need to keep your nose clean. I made it through some of the carnage at the first corner, and had a good seat for a lot of the fireworks that were just in front of me. The grid was very tight. I was trying to stay with him (Bourdais) to try and pass him, but I was basically trying to survive the turn through Turn 1."

Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Indeck Forsythe Championship Racing's Patrick Carpentier notched his first podium of the season and the 19th of his career, crossing the line in third, 6.731 seconds off the pace. Driving with a bent front wing in the final lap, the Canadian was able to wrestle his car to the line despite pressure from fourth-place finisher Mario Haberfeld who finished 7.892 seconds behind the leader.

"It's great. First time that we've done well in Toronto," said an elated Carpentier about the podium finish on home soil. "We always seem to have a little bit of bad luck. Things never went our way. At the beginning of the race, I thought we were going to get lapped two or three times because the car got really, really loose. We made it to the pit stop. After that, we adjusted some stuff in the car and the car was really fast. We managed to come back."

Carpentier is hoping he now has some momentum going into the next race in Vancouver. "I am pretty happy. One thing I wish is we could have finished Cleveland (last week's race). If we wouldn't have had that mechanical breakdown, we'd be right up there with Sebastien. But that's racing and we just have to try to keep getting the points. Vancouver has been a good track for me. The tracks that are coming on after that I really like."

Carpentier's teammate Paul Tracy, the defending champion of both the race and the series, finished fifth, 9.665 seconds back. Argentinian Gaston Mazzacane was the top rookie in the race, completing the course just 14 seconds off the pace in sixth. Alex Tagliani (28.444) and Ryan Hunter-Reay 43.175 also finished on the lead lap.

Bourdais now leads the driver's championship with 164 points. Bruno Junqueira, who led the championship going into the race, crashed with Mario Dominguez on the opening lap in Turn 1 and both were forced to retire. Junqueira is now 28 points back with 136 points. Carpentier (129), Tracy (108), Tagliani (103), and Vasser (101) follow.

When the race went green, Bourdais screamed down the front straight to take an unchallenged lead into Turn 1 followed by Tracy.

Start: S?bastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy battle for the lead.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Early reports indicated that Junqueira was too fast going into the first turn and took second-row partner Mario Dominguez with him into the tire wall between Turns 1 and 2. That incident brought out the first full-course yellow of the day as Junqueira and Dominguez were forced to retire. The collision allowed Justin Wilson and Carpentier to take over third and fourth place respectively, followed by Tagliani and Vasser.

The race was restarted after lap 4 and Bourdais continued to lead with Tracy close in his mirror just 1.1 seconds back over the next 20 laps. Meanwhile the rest of the pack fell 11 seconds off the pace.

On lap 23, Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into the tire barrier in a side-to-side battle with A.J. Allmendinger in the always-troublesome Turn 3. The caution came out for just one lap as Hunter-Reay's car was pulled off the race line. He was able to restart his car and reenter the race after pitting for repairs. Eight laps later, Allmendinger hit the tire wall in Turn 7 and lost a couple of laps.

Carpentier started experiencing major handling problems on lap 32 and dropped from fourth to seventh, allowing Tagliani, Vasser, and Oriol Servia to pass.

The first set of pit stops were made on lap 35 and allowed some shuffling of positions to occur. Bourdais retained the lead, however, Wilson, Tracy, Vasser, and Tagliani now held the order of the rest of the top five.

Determined to get his second place position back, Tracy moved right up the tail of Wilson on the back straightaway on lap 42 and made an aggressive move on the inside to overtake Wilson in Turn 3. Wilson slipped slightly and Tracy's front left wing bumped Wilson's right rear tire, sending the Englishman spinning sideways. Wilson lost two laps as a result and Tracy dropped two more positions.

Vasser, who had started 11th on the grid, moved up into second, followed by Hunter-Reay, Jourdain Jr., and Tracy. Meanwhile Carpentier fought his way back up into sixth. with Haberfeld and Mazzacane.

By lap 55, Bourdais had begun pulling away from the field and had built up a 6.302 second lead over Vasser and an 8.121 second lead over Hunter-Reay.

Most of the drivers, including Bourdais, came in for a second pit stop around lap 60. Champ Car ironman Vasser took over the lead temporarily and did not pit until lap 69. When he did pit, Tracy took over the lead for the next five laps.

Then on lap 74, Tracy finally pitted. After exiting pit lane, Tracy met up with Jourdain Jr. in Turn 1 and Tracy's cold tires pulled him a little wide, side-swiping the infuriated Mexican into the wall. The collision brought out yet another yellow flag. Tracy was black-flagged with another drive-through pit penalty; his frist was due to the incident with Wilson.

"I'm a bit perplexed ... Wilson spun in front of me, and I get penalized for tagging him," said an unhappy Tracy. "And then, after I arrive at turn one ahead of Jourdain and have the corner, I get another penalty because he wouldn't give it up?"

The race went back to green on lap 80 but only for one lap. Tagliani tapped Gonzalez in Turn 5 bringing out another yellow as the Mexican's car was blocking the racing line. Tagliani was, in turn, black-flagged with a drive-through penalty.

Due to the number of full-course yellows, the race was coming close to its curfew of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Therefore, when the race went back to green, there was only enough time for two full laps to the checked flag. The order at that time was Bourdais, Vasser, Hunter-Reay, Carpentier, Haberfeld, Tagliani, and Tracy.

Carpentier pressured Hunter-Reay on the penultimate lap but every time the Canadian went to pass, Hunter-Reay moved in front of him. In his final blocking attempt, Hunter-Reay was clipped by Carpentier's front wing, which flattened his rear tire. Carpentier, despite the now bent wing, staggered ahead and fought the car to a second place finish behind.

Podium: race winner S?bastien Bourdais with Jimmy Vasser and Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
So, what is the next big step for Bourdais, the sensational second-year driver from Le Mans, France, if he wins the championship this season? Formula 1? "Things are running really well for us, but I really want to stay focused on winning the driver's championship," answered Bourdais.

Bourdais can move into a tie with Al Unser Jr., Alex Zanardi, and Paul Tracy for the Champ Car Series record for consecutive victories with a win at the Molson Indy Vancouver on July 25.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Eric Gilbert