CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: NHR pre-race notes

Bourdais Aims for Consecutive Wins in Cleveland; Junqueira Aims to Build CLEVELAND (June 30, 2004) --- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais has won two of the four races held this season and is looking for more of the same in Saturday's Champ...

Bourdais Aims for Consecutive Wins in Cleveland; Junqueira Aims to Build

CLEVELAND (June 30, 2004) --- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais has won two of the four races held this season and is looking for more of the same in Saturday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland on the Burke Lakefront temporary road course after winning from pole here last season. Bourdais' teammate, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, is on the verge of scoring his first win of the season after having earned three second place finishes in four races as well as the series lead in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship.

In 2003, Bourdais earned his third victory of the season in Cleveland as well as his first in the U.S. after having been close many times before. A win on the 2.106-mile course this weekend would also be his third this season after having won from pole in Monterrey, Mexico and Portland. Of his five poles, three wins and seven podium finishes in his rookie season last year, Bourdais calls the Cleveland race the highlight of the year due to the close racing and difficult conditions.

"I had never raced on an airport before so I was pretty happy because we started fast straight out of the truck," said Bourdais who sits third in the point standings with 98 to leader Junqueira's 105. "I was able to learn fast and got the pole position and then we had a great race with Paul Tracy and won. For sure when McDonald's came on board in Cleveland it was a big deal for us and to win in our first race with them was great. It was a great weekend for Newman/Haas and hopefully we can repeat this year."

Any driver will attest to the fact that starting up front is a good portion of the battle. In the first four races of the season, Bourdais started on pole twice and second at the other two. He can set a Modern Era record if he qualifies on the front row for this weekend's event. He and 2003 series champion Paul Tracy are the only drivers to have started in the front row in each of the first four races of a season. Despite his impressive results to date, Bourdais knows each course provides a new challenge and the one in Cleveland is no exception.

"It's a difficult race track, a high-speed corner race track," Bourdais said of the 10-turn course. "It's bumpy because it's concrete and the patches aren't the same level. The top speed is not very high because the straights are not very long but the speeds in the corners are always third, fourth gear corners and you've got to be ready. It's pretty difficult. With the bumps you have to hold your breath so it makes it really tough on you."

Champ Cars have raced in Cleveland since 1982 and Newman/Haas Racing has competed here since their first season in 1983. Despite running competitively here, the team has only won three races and started on pole five times although they have earned 11 podium finishes in their 21 events. After finishing first and third with Bourdais and Junqueira, respectively, last season, the team hopes to improve on their results by earning their third 1-2 finish of the season and make progress toward earning their fifth Champ Car title and first since Cristiano da Matta brought the team their fourth in 2002.

"I think Cleveland is a good track for the PacifiCare team," said Junqueira who swapped positions with eventual second-place finisher Paul Tracy twice on the final lap in 2003. "We finished third last year and it was a very close race between Sebastien, Tracy and myself. Maybe we can improve the car a little bit this year and get a win. This season is going good. I think the PacifiCare car has been strong at every race track and we have been able to put together consistent finishes and that will be important at the end of the year."

In the first four events of the season, Junqueira produced three-second place finishes and a sixth and has been the only driver to maintain the points lead for more than one race. In his three previous races in Cleveland his best start of fifth place and best finish of third came last year with Newman/Haas Racing. He is looking forward to returning to the unique challenge that racing on the Burke Lakefront Airport course brings.

"The track in Cleveland is very different because we race on the airport runways," said Junqueira who holds a six-point lead over Patrick Carpentier with 105 points. "It's very, very wide, fast and bumpy. It's a unique race track and I enjoy racing there. It's a good track to pass. It's a long race because it's always very hot there. It's hard to get a fast lap there because it is very precise and very wide. Plus it's very bumpy and that makes it difficult."

In order to stay in the hunt for their first Champ Car championships, both Junqueira and Bourdais understand the need to earn a top-five finish this weekend. Perhaps the biggest challenge standing in the way of a top-five finish will be getting through Turn 1 on the first of 97 laps in one of the most infamous starts on the 16-race Champ Car World Series schedule.

"What happens in Turn 1 in Cleveland is because the track is very wide going into Turn 1 and you can drive a lot of different lines especially on the start," explained Junqueira. "A lot of people think "Oh I can pass another one and another one' and that's why it generates some crashes."

"Everyone was pretty quiet last year and didn't try too hard to make crazy moves going into Turn 1 on the first lap," added Bourdais. "For sure there is a lot to win but a lot to loose also so it's a compromise."

The 97-lap U.S. Bank Presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland will be televised live on HdNet at 5:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and Spike TV will televise the race on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, July 4 at 4 p.m. ET / 3 PM CT.

Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, is the most successful team competing in the Champ Car World Series. The team is in the midst of their 22nd season in Champ Car competition in 2004 and will attempt to score their fifth overall title after winning 75 races and 80 pole positions. Current drivers Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais were preceded at the team by Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.brunojunqueira.com, www.sebastien-bourdais.com or www.champcarworldseries.com.

-NHR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta