CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Newman/Haas Racing preview

McDonald's Driver Bourdais Hopes To Return To "Days Of Old" In Cleveland; Hole In The Wall Camps Driver Junqueira Aims To Better His Last Finish Here Of Second CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 22, 2006) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais is hoping...

McDonald's Driver Bourdais Hopes To Return To "Days Of Old" In Cleveland; Hole In The Wall Camps Driver Junqueira Aims To Better His Last Finish Here Of Second

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 22, 2006) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais is hoping to return to the top spot of the podium in Cleveland for this weekend's 25th running of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S Bank and increase his lead in the championship standings from 30 over second place Justin Wilson (162-132). Although he acknowledges his race car has yet to be as good as it was here for his first of two back-to back wins in 2003 and 2004, he believes the team has made improvements on this type of course.

"Cleveland has provided a challenge for us the past could of years," said Bourdais who won the first four races of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season and finished third in Portland last weekend. "We had a very good car the first year and even since the McDonald's team has struggled there. I never have been as happy with the car as the first year. Last year was particularly frustrating but I think we made some nice improvements on bumpy tracks and hopefully it will turn the results around."

This year will mark the fourth race for the Frenchman on the wide open spaces of Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport temporary road course. In the debut of having McDonald's on his race car in Cleveland in 2003, he led 33 laps en route to his first of many wins in the United States. Although he earned back to back wins here in 2004 after starting third, it was not a dominant performance. He ran as high as second place here last year after again starting third but the timing of a caution flag and the fact that a few frontrunners made the split second call to pit before the pits were closed contributed to his fifth place finish. He is looking forward to the challenge the track presents and the possibility of joining Emerson Fittipaldi and Danny Sullivan as the only drivers to have won three times in Cleveland.

"Last year we really couldn't get it together," said Bourdais. "In qualifying we were third but couldn't do better than that and in the race we just saved fuel, saved fuel," said Bourdais. "The yellows just caught us and left us hanging out with Alex (Tagliani) and we really never could get our race going after that. Because of the course, it is one of the toughest races of the season. It's physically difficult, really quick and really bumpy so you hold your breath all the time. It's a tough one; there's no rest in Cleveland."

NHR has competed in 23 of the 24 previous events held here and have amassed a total of 14 podium finishes including four wins (Bourdais 2003 & 2004; Michael Andretti 1991; Mario Andretti 1988) and five poles (Bourdais 2003, da Matta 2002, Mi. Andretti 1989, Ma. Andretti 1983 & 1984). Of their 14 podium finishes, their most recent came last year with Oriol Servia, who filled in for injured Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira, and finished third. Junqueira earned his first pole of the season at the previous race in Portland and earned his top finish of the season of fourth to move him up to 10th in the series standings. Junqueira is hoping to pick up where he left off in Cleveland in 2004.

"I had good results the last two years I raced there with second (2004) and third place (2003) finishes; Newman/Haas has always performed well there," said Junqueira who also set the fastest lap of the race his previous event here in 2004. "I missed racing there last year so I am looking forward to going back even more. It's a very exciting race because the track is very wide with a lot of passing in the race and the people in the grandstands can see everything."

This weekend's 97-lap event will be Junqueira's fifth here. He retired after contact in the pits in 2001 and from mechanical failure in 2002. He finished third in 2003 and second in 2004 and hopes to continue moving up this year but knows that a good result will begin with manoeuvring a good start on the track that is known for Lap 1, Turn 1 melees that have caused crashes five out of the past six years.

"Turn 1 in Cleveland is always hard at the start," said Junqueira. "Almost every race there is a crash because it is very wide so there is always a Superman that wants to bonsai inside of everybody. When you are driving the car it is a very difficult moment but when you are watching, like I did last year, you just laugh waiting for the moves. After the season-opener where four cars including me, didn't make it past the first lap, I think people will understand that Turn 1 in Cleveland is not where the race winner is going to be decided. It's a long race and there are other opportunities to pass so I hope everyone will be conservative and there will be a good and clean start."

"Last year the start was a typical Cleveland bonsai going through Turn 1 with everyone shooting from the same apex, six wide which was obviously a typical Cleveland thing but hopefully we can get something that makes a little bit more sense and everyone can get through the turn in one piece," added his teammate Bourdais.

-NHR-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Oriol Servia , Mario Andretti , Danny Sullivan , Emerson Fittipaldi