Bourdais and Junqueira bring NHR 1-2 finish in England -Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais's first trouble-free race of the season also earned him his first victory of the season in today's The London Champ Car Trophy, a fuel conservation event...
Bourdais and Junqueira bring NHR 1-2 finish in England
-Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais's first trouble-free race of the season also earned him his first victory of the season in today's The London Champ Car Trophy, a fuel conservation event that was held at the historic Brands Hatch Indy road course in Kent, England. Bourdais earned historically significant pole positions in the first two events of the season but his highest - and only finish - in his first three races was 11th place in St. Petersburg. Because of this, he hoped that starting second would bring him better results which is exactly what took place.
In only his fourth event in the Champ Car World Series, French rookie Bourdais held his second place starting position to points leader and polesitter Paul Tracy until his first of two mandatory pit stops on Lap 56, which was one lap later than third place runner and teammate Junqueira and two laps later than Tracy. Before his stop he had maintained a gap to Tracy between one-to-three seconds in arrears while attempting to also conserve enough fuel to again pit later than others as well as keep the race to two total stops.
His later stop enabled him to gain valuable track position and when he returned to the track he took over the lead which he held from Lap 55, when Tracy pitted, until Lap 116 when he made his second stop on the 1.192-mile "short" course -- again after both Tracy and Junqueira. He returned to the race in second place behind Alex Tagliani who had made his previous stop on Lap 80 during the caution period to move the off-course car of Alex Yoong to a safe location. As the team knew Tagliani would give up the lead when he pitted later, they concentrated on the margin between Bourdais and third place runner Tracy that averaged one-second.
Corner workers had reported that smoke was coming from the rear of Tracy's car for many laps before he pulled off course after a large plume of smoke trailed his car while running down the front straight on Lap 118. It was later determined that he suffered transmission failure. He maintained his second place position until he reclaimed the lead on Lap 132 when Tagliani made his final stop. He then held an eight-second lead on second place Junqueira that was reduced to as low as five-seconds as each battled traffic on the short course before the checkered flag flew after 165 laps.
Bourdais won by a margin of 7.835 seconds over second place finisher Junqueira to bring Newman/Haas Racing it's first win and first 1-2 finish since October 6, 2002 when Cristiano da Matta drove to victory over Christian Fittipaldi in Miami. He collected 21 points for the win, which included one point for leading the most laps at 95 and jumped from 16th place in the point standings to sixth with a total of 27 points which vaulted him into the lead in the Rookie of the Year standings.
Over 40,000 fans witnessed Bourdais bring NHR its first win at this track as well as their first win in the United Kingdom after having already won in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan. He also earned the 10th win for the team in the past 25 Champ Car races dating back to victories in the final two events of 2001 by da Matta who went on to earn another seven in 2002. It was the 69th win for the team in its 339th race. Following are his post race comments:
"I am very pleased about the win," said Bourdais who celebrated by attempting to complete donuts in the final corner on his parade lap but had to be bump-started after he stalled the motor due to his exuberance. "I won my first F3000 race in England at Silverstone and I am pleased to win my first Champ Car race at Brands Hatch is special.
"It is also good to win so close to home (Le Mans, France). We should have won a couple of races earlier in the year but had troubles so this is very satisfying for me and the Lilly team. It's been a frustrating year until now. We were saving fuel all race. I knew coming into the race that I really needed just to make it to the finish and score some points and I told myself that I was not going to bust my car up running like hell for the win, and it came to us anyway. I think, as a Frenchman, I will appreciate the champagne tonight..."
-PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira earned the highest of his three podium finishes so far this season with a second place finish in the London Champ Car Trophy at the historic Brands Hatch Indy circuit and reduced the gap to points leader Paul Tracy to 11 after four of 19 events. Junqueira's lap time from provisional qualifying on Sunday was actually second fastest overall but teammate Sebastien Bourdais guaranteed a front row start by setting the fastest lap of the second and final qualifying session to start alongside polesitter Paul Tracy, whose provisional qualifying time held up on the slower track on the second day.
Junqueira held third place through a yellow-flag start due to the field not being lined up properly. Once the race went green, he maintained his position while attempting to conserve fuel until he moved into second place when race leader Paul Tracy made his first of two mandatory pit stops on Lap 54. Junqueira pitted on the following lap and returned to the race in third place behind new leader Bourdais, who took over the lead due to conserving enough fuel to stay on track until Lap 56.
As the field had completed their first pit stop, the front runners began encountering the backmarkers on the short course and Junqueira was held up in traffic thus increasing the gap between him and the first two positions. He held his position through the second and final caution period to move the off-course car of Alex Yoong to a safe location. On Lap 108 13th place runner Patrick Lemarie, who had been running between second place Tracy and third place Junqueira pitted which allowed Junqueira to attempt to catch up to the top-two positions before he ran into more lapped cars.
He moved into second place when Tracy pitted on Lap 113 and held the position until his second stop on Lap 115 and returned to the race in third place. On Lap 118, Tracy's transmission failed which sent a large cloud of smoke into the air but he was able to coast to a CART approved "safe haven" and not bring out a yellow flag. Junqueira was now in second place, approx. eight-seconds and a few lapped cars behind Bourdais. He was able to reduce the margin to 3.9-seconds but was again hindered by lapped cars such as Mario Haberfeld's which he passed on Lap 143 of 165.
As he held a comfortable lead on third place Mario Dominguez, Junqueira decided not to push the car too hard in the final laps of the race. He took the checkered flag in second place to Bourdais by a deficit of 7.835 seconds and collected 18 points for his finishing position, which enabled him to close points leader Paul Tracy's lead from 26 to 11. He has finished in the top-five in all four events so far this season including one second, two third and one fifth place finish. Following are his post race comments:
"I think it was a pretty beautiful day for the PacifiCare team," said Junqueira. "This track is very, very good for our cars, but I burned too much fuel trying to catch Sebastien and Paul to win today. I was trying to save fuel but I just couldn't go one lap more like Sebastien. I think Paul, Sebastien and myself were on the same pace, it's a good result, and good to get another podium. It's very difficult to pass here.
It's good to get these points as we head to Germany. The first three races were tough on the team. We had fast cars but we couldn't get the results. Well done Sebastien -- he drove well. I am pleased about moving up in the points but it wasn't that I wanted to see something bad happen to Paul [Tracy]. The key is to try to win every race and when you can't win you try to finish second or third place. I am closer now but I know that if I want to win the championship I am going to have to pull a few wins out of the bag. I will try to do this in Germany."
- Next Up: The CART Champ Car World Series will travel to Dresden, Germany on Tuesday for the first oval race of the season to be held at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the German 500.
- Race Telecast: To witness Newman/Haas Racing's first 1-2 finish since Miami '03 tune into a tape delayed U.S. telecast on CBS Sports on Saturday, May 10, at 1:00 p.m. ET.