CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland: Race report

Sebastien Bourdais Dominates in Cleveland for the Second Straight Year, Leading 88 Laps in Capturing U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland CLEVELAND (July 3, 2004) -- Defending U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of ...

Sebastien Bourdais Dominates in Cleveland for the Second Straight Year, Leading 88 Laps in Capturing U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland

CLEVELAND (July 3, 2004) -- Defending U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland winner Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) said on Saturday that he didn't plan on following anyone through Burke Lakefront Airport's treacherous Turn One despite the fact that he was gridding third for Saturday's race.

His words turned out to be prophetic ones as the Frenchman emerged from the standard Turn One chaos with the lead and never looked back in romping to a win. The reigning Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford Rookie of the Year led 88 of the 97 laps around Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport on another Chamber of Commerce weather day on the North Coast. The win was the third of the year for Bourdais and sparked the third 1-2 Newman/Haas finish of the year when Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came home in second place. Junqueira ran the fastest lap of the race with three laps to go to earn a championship point, allowing him to maintain his series points lead by three points over Bourdais.

Bourdais came out of the first turn with the lead after front-row starters Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up heading home after Wilson had contact with Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) before bouncing sideways into Tracy. The contact ended the day for both Tracy and Wilson while Tagliani fell back in the pack after going off course to the left of the turn.

Bourdais led Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Red Bull/BG Products Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) through the early part of the race, with big mover Oriol Servia (#11 YokeTV.com Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) taking Allmendinger's spot in third after the rookie turned a 360-degree spin in Turn Eight. Servia made the biggest charge through the first turn, climbing to third after starting 13th and became embroiled in a spirited battle as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) tried to take the spot away

Carpentier's run day ended in a cloud of smoke on Lap 21 as he pitted with his engine compartment billowing white clouds, ending a run of four consecutive top-four finishes for the Forsythe Championship Racing pilot. Bourdais gave up the lead briefly to Servia and then to Jourdain during pit stops but reclaimed the point after stops cycled through and commenced to running away from the field. He built a lead that reached a mammoth 33 seconds by Lap 39 before the caution flag waved because of debris on the race track.

The caution ran a few laps longer after Hunter-Reay spun on the restart lap, but Bourdais was unfazed as he sprinted away from Junqueira and Jourdain on the restart, Junqueira having made his way back through the field after falling to 10th in the first-corner melee. Servia and Jourdain again led briefly during the second round of pit stops but once Bourdais reclaimed the point, he would hold it for the remainder of the day.

While Bourdais continued his run at the front, Tagliani started turning some heads with his charge through the field. He fell back in the field after the first-turn incident, then spun off course on the first restart before picking his way through the field. He picked off Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to snare fourth after Dominguez had overtaken Servia coming out of the pits on Lap 54. He was then promoted to third when Jourdain retired with suspension problems, putting himself in position for his first podium run of the year.

Servia fought back after being passed out of the pits and moved back into fourth during the last cycle of pit stops, putting himself in the hunt for another podium finish while Bourdais built a 10-second lead. Junqueira started to slowly whittle away at the advantage and posted the race's fastest lap on a late charge, but Bourdais was equal to the task and ended up besting the field by 15.130 seconds.

Junqueira settled for second while Tagliani eased away from Servia to score his first podium of the season. The finish thrust Tagliani right back into the thick of the points race, allowing him to climb over Tracy and Wilson to claim the fourth spot after five races.

Servia earned his best finish of the year with a fourth-place run while Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his second top-five placing of the year by coming home in fifth. Rookie Allmendinger closed to gap to just a single point in the Rookie-of-the-Year chase as he scored his third consecutive top-six finish, giving him 73 points to Wilson's 74 in the rookie standings.

Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) turned in a career-best performance and capped PKV Racing's best day of the year by finishing on the lead lap in seventh place. The Mexican driver posted his third top-10 finish in the last four races, and marked the first time that the two-car PKV effort has carded two top-seven runs.

Dominguez ended his day in eighth while Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) overcame a spin to place ninth. Rookie Nelson Philippe (#17 Lease Plan Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned the second top-10 finish of his young career by placing 10th. The 17-year-old Philippe continued his promising record of finishing races, having completed each of the five races he has started this year.

The series will head to the Great White North next week heading to Exhibition Place for the Molson Indy Toronto for what will be the first back-to-back race weekends of the 2004 season.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "This was probably the easiest race of my short Champ Car career. There was the pileup in Turn One at the start of the race, all I could see was smoke, I aimed for the apex, then realized there was no one around me. The McDonald's car was good all weekend and my team did a great job giving me a good car. It is a great sensation to be back here in Cleveland and win for the second time at this event and the second time this season."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "It was a difficult weekend. The PacifiCare car was good at the start of the weekend but then I crashed. I knew Sebastien (Bourdais) had a good car, and so did Paul (Tracy), so my goal this weekend was to finish on the podium. I kept a good pace during the race and it is good to keep the lead in the Championship. We've been consistent and the approach to every weekend is to win. That win will come eventually; I look forward to heading to Toronto, a track that I like a lot, to get my first win of the season."

ALEX TAGLIANI (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "We had a quick car and had the expectation to race without any incidents. However, that did not happen, when I was heading into the first turn, I went into first gear to make the turn and locked my breaks. That is when Justin (Wilson) clipped me and we went to the back of the field. I was on the P2P button most of the time trying hard to gain time. We had a good strategy, short filled during pit stops, and ran by myself as much as I could to catch up. This is a great finish for me and my Rocketsports team as we head to Toronto."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais led 88 laps on the day, second only to Roberto Moreno in Cleveland event history as Moreno paced 91 laps in taking his first career win in 2000.

* The fourth-place finish for Oriol Servia was the best finish for a Dale Coyne Racing entry since Roberto Moreno finished third in the U.S. 500 in 1996

* The win for Sebastien Bourdais is the sixth of his career, tying him with 10 other drivers on the all-time Champ Car list, tying him with such luminaries as Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose and Parnelli Jones.

* This is the first time that the two front-row starters in a Champ Car race have ever been taken out in a first-lap incident in Cleveland.

-ccws-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Parnelli Jones , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Roberto Gonzalez , Nelson Philippe , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing