Junqueira Aims for 3rd in A Row in Denver; Bourdais Aims to Better DENVER, Colo. (August 12, 2004) --- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira experienced a Rocky Mountain High after earning back to back wins and an impressive 100 percent win average...
Junqueira Aims for 3rd in A Row in Denver; Bourdais Aims to Better
DENVER, Colo. (August 12, 2004) --- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira experienced a Rocky Mountain High after earning back to back wins and an impressive 100 percent win average in last year's race on the street course in downtown Denver. He hopes another win in this weekend's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver will close his 47 point deficit to the leader of the Champ Car point standings, his teammate McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais, who currently has a 213-166 point advantage heading into Round 9 of 15 in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
"Denver is a very difficult track in a very nice city," said Junqueira of the 9-turn, 1-65 mile street course. "I'm lucky to have two wins and two poles in the two races there for 100 percent result average. It's one of the most difficult tracks to do well on because it's a short, small street course but it's very challenging, very difficult for the driver and I hope I can keep it up and have a good race for the PacifiCare team in Denver again this year."
Junqueira has earned top-six finishes in all but two of eight races so far this season but he was unable to earn back to back wins in the previous race in Elkhart Lake, Wis. and had to settle for a 15th place finish, which increased his deficit to Bourdais from 27 to 47 points. In his past two races in Denver, he drove to victory from pole in both events and has led 176 of 206 laps run here. His second place rank is largely buoyed by four second place finishes in eight starts this season. He views Denver, the site of his previous victory, as his strongest possibility of earned his first win of the season due to his results here. In order to earn a good finish he knows it will be important to get a good starting position.
"For sure coming back to Denver I know what I have to do to win the race," said Junqueira who currently holds a 13-point lead over third place Alex Tagliani. "There will be very difficult competition but I will work hard to try to repeat the result I had the last two years. I think qualifying in Denver is important because it's a very narrow track and it's very difficult to pass. But on the other hand this year we have the Push to Pass button and I think it will generate more passing. I hope I can get the pole and not need to pass anybody though."
In addition to Junqueira's victory last season, McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais brought Newman/Haas Racing a 1-2 finish here in 2003 in the team's monumental 350th Champ Car race. He would like to win on any given race day but a repeat performance in Sunday's 90-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver would provide an added benefit.
"Last year was really great for all of Newman/Haas Racing," said Junqueira. "I won the race and Sebastien finished second and it was the 350th race for the team. It was a big success for both the PacifiCare and McDonald's team. To win and finish 1-2 in a very important race was good because Denver is a big market for PacifiCare and I was really happy to get that win. I want to perform well at every race but I'm happy that PacifiCare has business near a track that I have done so well at in the past and am likely to do good again at this year."
Another 1-2 finish in Denver would help the team get closer to their goal of earning their fifth Champ Car title and first since Cristiano da Matta's championship title in 2002. After earning four poles and four wins in eight races this season, Sebastien Bourdais will most likely be Junqueira's biggest challenge. Now that his rookie season is behind him and he is more familiar with each track, he hopes to improve on his previous finish -- second in this case -- at every track he returns to.
"I started third and finished second to Bruno in Denver last year so we have a good baseline to start with," said Bourdais who finished a mere 0.335 seconds behind Junqueira in Denver last year. "I kind of struggled to find my way around the track last year, it was really bumpy and there was less downforce due to the altitude so it was hard to know how to set the car up. I just expect that this year it will be a smoother weekend since I have knowledge of the track and what to expect. Hopefully it's going to be easier my second time at the track. It has been all of this season so far so there is no reason to think it shouldn't be better the second time around. We are in the middle of the season and the championship is starting to heat up. The McDonald's team seems to be in good shape with the car and we need to earn as many podium finishes as possible."
Of Bourdais' four wins, three have come from pole while the other came from a third place start (Cleveland). In the previous race in Elkhart Lake he started from pole but his car was damaged when he was hit by Paul Tracy who charged from his third place position ahead of second place Junqueira and leader Bourdais during a messy restart. The damage multiplied after he and Junqueira made contact while Junqueira was attempting a pass. In eight races, the worst starting position Bourdais has earned is third place, twice. He feels that the closer you are to the front of the grid, the less likely you will be to getting involved in an accident.
"I think Toronto was a good example of how important qualifying is," explained Bourdais, who set a Champ Car Modern Era (1979-Present) mark in becoming the first driver ever to start the season with eight consecutive top-three starting spots. "If you can win the pole position and run away from the tangles it's much better. It definitely has a huge influence. It's not only better because its tough to pass but it puts you in a position where fewer cars can hit you."
Prior to this year's race, the city of Denver lengthened the 1.647-mile street course to 1.65-mile and has reengineered the wide, sweeping Turn #5 into a hard-in/hard-out turn to produce more challenges for the drivers and more excitement for the fans. The start/finish line has also been moved to the area that used to serve as the straight between Turns Five and six. In addition to the usual challenges of racing an 800 hp Champ Car, the Mile High City provides an additional invisible challenge.
"The altitude is another factor to consider for the race," said Bourdais of the estimated decrease of 20 percent of downforce. "For the car it's harder because the air is thinner and the aerodynamic parts of the car don't produce as much downforce as with heavier air. It can be a pretty big issue for the brakes and the engine as well because they rely on the air to cool them."
"For sure the high altitude is tough on the drivers and cars," added Junqueira, who cycles to stay fit and won the Tour de Road America cycling event last weekend. "It's more physical and it is really difficult for the brakes and the engine has to work harder but I think the Newman/Haas team will figure it out and we will do well."
The 90-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver will take place on Sunday, August 15 at 1:00 p.m. MT. The race can be see live on HDNet at 4 p.m. ET and on Spike TV on a tape delayed basis at 4 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. CT.