CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Race report

Cart Champ Car rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais fires final bullet in last-lap shootout to win U.S Bank presents the Cleveland Grand Prix CLEVELAND (July 5, 2003) - His law student looks belie his competitive fire but young Sebastien ...

Cart Champ Car rookie points leader Sebastien Bourdais fires final bullet in last-lap shootout to win U.S Bank presents the Cleveland Grand Prix

CLEVELAND (July 5, 2003) - His law student looks belie his competitive fire but young Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's/Lilly Ford- Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is serving notice that he will fight as hard as anyone to climb into the upper ranks of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Bourdais used nearly every ounce of his energy in surviving a warm and humid evening in Cleveland, then summoned his final reserves to hold off a charging pack in a last-lap shootout to earn his third CART Champ Car World Series victory of the season, winning the U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix.

The rookie points leader led the last 33 laps around the 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course, beating series points leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to the flag by 2.241 seconds in front of a crowd of 58,271 that witnessed the first-ever nighttime road course race in series history. Tracy would hold off a fierce challenge from Bourdais' Newman/Haas teammate Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on what ended up being a last- lap shootout to claim second place and maintain the series points lead as the season makes the turn and heads to Round 10 in Toronto next week.

Despite having just eight races under his belt, Bourdais showed the steeled nerves of a veteran as he roared through the last 10 laps in search of his third win. He survived a brief moment of contact with Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Turn One that inflicted slight damage to his car, then saw his 11-second lead erased in one flick of the yellow flag as Jimmy Vasser's (#12 American Spirit Ford- Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) machine spun in Turn One with three laps to go to bring out the fourth and final caution of the day.

The Simple Green Champ Car Safety Team got the stricken car out of the way in time and the lapped car of Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) moved over to let the leaders through on the restart, but Tracy would not be able to make a dent in Bourdais' lead as the rookie roared away to the win.

"I'm just very proud to score my first win in US. It was an awesome race. I think Paul and myself pushed as hard as possible, that means 100 percent and even more, all through the race," Bourdais said. "And that's why we draft together. He said he couldn't handle the steering wheel anymore, but if you could see my blisters, you won't believe it. But it's been a very, very tough race, and obviously I'm very, very happy for the McDonald's/Lilly crew."

With Bourdais gone, Tracy and Junqueira fought hammer-and-tong for the second spot. Junqueira made a strong move to take the spot in Turn Three, but Tracy fought back two turns later to reclaim the runner-up position after leading 67 laps and stretched his lead to eight points. Junqueira would settle for his third podium finish of the season, while Tracy's teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford- Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would take the fourth spot.

"After 114 laps, I didn't want to take everything out, you know. I did a move on him on turn three. I out-braked him. For sure I lifted a little bit between three and four. I thought that he was going to give me a move on turn four and do a better exit. Then I slowed down too much to Paul. I think Paul made a great maneuver to keep outside and get around me outside. I said, "Oh, there is one driver in the world that could do that, and that guy is Paul Tracy."

Bourdais Wins Cleveland

There was plenty of action behind the leaders to keep the large crowd occupied as well as Carpentier led a peloton of four cars that battled within a second of each other for the final half of the race. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came back from a first-lap spin to battle all the way back into the top five along with Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

That quartet would swap positions a number of times in the waning laps with Dominguez getting good pit work from his Herdez team and making a pass of Jourdain to round out the top five. Servia would end up sixth with Jourdain settling for the seventh spot. For Dominguez it was the fourth top-five finish of the season, while Servia placed in the top six for the sixth consecutive event. Jourdain made a tremendous charge through the field to place seventh and would remain within 20 points of the series lead.

Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) placed eighth on the day while rookies Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford- Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. Fernandez survived the late-race contact to place 11th while Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would score his first point since taking over the PK Racing ride.

The series will head across the border next week for Round 10 of the 19- race series for the Molson Indy Toronto, which takes place in the streets of Exhibition Place in the Canadian city.

TOP THREE DRIVER QUOTES

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS:

"I was so tired in the car. I didn't know where Paul was, but I knew how I was. I thought it was going to be difficult to be very concentrated to get the checkered. And I got a bit of a rest, and I've been able to do it, put it together for the very last lap. I went away from PT and Bruno's fight, and I didn't see what happened, but I'm pretty glad of that."

PAUL TRACY:

"His (Bourdais') previous lap was a little bit slower, so maybe I could attack. But, you know, he made a good restart and jumped it pretty good, pretty far back on a straightaway. That was that. I mean, you know, then I had my hands full with Bruno, so there was no challenge."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA:

"But the end was good.  I think I lost four points because
 -- I lost two points to a good car and two points to Tracy's car.  It's
important to keep consistent.  I think the PacifiCare-Newman/Haas team gave
me consistent car.  The car was good.  I mean, I had so much understeer
compared with Tracy and Sebastien.  I couldn't keep up the pace that they
had.  But it was okay, I'm quite happy with the result."

NOTEWORTHY:

Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy have made up the front row in four of the year's nine races - including Cleveland - and one of those two drivers have won the event in each four instances.

In leading Lap 3 Saturday night, Paul Tracy led the 3,000th lap of his Champ Car career. He upped his career total to 3,064 which ties him for fifth on the all-time list with Mario Andretti.

Tiago Monteiro did not start the U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix after an accident in the afternoon warmup left him with a mild concussion. Monteiro will be evaluated again before next week's race in Toronto.

Sebastien Bourdais widened his advantage in the rookie championship to 29 over Darren Manning and 33 over Mario Haberfeld.

American Spirit's Ryan Hunter-Reay led the Reynard contingent with a ninth- place finish, earning the second top-10 finish of his young career.

PK Racing's Max Papis scored his first championship point since joining the team two races ago, becoming the 21st driver to score points in the series this year.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais
Teams Conquest Racing