McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS INCREASED HIS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH WIN IN TODAY'S CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER PRESENTED BY PACIFICARE; PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA FINISHED FOURTH DESPITE SIDEPOD DAMAGE McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS INCREASED HIS CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD WITH WIN IN TODAY'S CENTRIX FINANCIAL GRAND PRIX OF DENVER PRESENTED BY PACIFICARE; PACIFICARE DRIVER SERVIA FINISHED FOURTH DESPITE SIDEPOD DAMAGE
McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais took advantage of a mistake by Paul Tracy to lead the final 35-laps en route to victory in the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver Presented by PacifiCare and build his pre-race points lead from 26 to 53 with five races left in the season. The McDonald's team started the 97-lap race in second place under clear skies and 70-degree weather. At the start polesitter Paul Tracy and Bourdais turned into Turn 1 and Bourdais was forced to make a wide turn and lost momentum as well as a position when AJ Allmendinger passed for position. Simultaneously contact was made further back in the field and a caution flag came out. The race was restarted on Lap 5 and although Bourdais was faster than Allmendinger, he was unable to pass and stayed behind the American who made small mistakes on the slippery course a few times over the ensuing laps. On Lap 8 they swapped positions twice and Bourdais remained third until he was able to make the pass for good on Lap 18. Two laps later on Lap 20 he set the fastest lap of the race in an attempt to catch up with leader Paul Tracy who steadily built an eight second lead on his protogee Allmendinger.
Bourdais managed to quickly shave a second off Tracy's lead before maintaining a seven second deficit to the Canadian. On Lap 27 he reported that his right rear tire was going away and Tracy was able to build a nine to 10 second lead during the following laps while Bourdais dealt with lack of grip. When Tracy pit on Lap 40, Bourdais took the lead and tried to make up as much track position until he made his first stop on Lap 43. His right rear tire was worn to the cord due to overuse which explained his struggle. During the stop two of the tire changers had problems with their wheel nuts but Bourdais was able to get back on track in second place 12-seconds behind Tracy. He slightly closed on Tracy the following lap but was held up behind a backmarker and lost the gain. On Laps 56, 57 and 58 he bettered each of his previous fastest laps of the race and was approximately 10-seconds behind Tracy when the Canadian brushed the inside wall in Turn 3 and stopped in Turn 4 on Lap 62 to bring out the yellow flag. Once the pits opened Bourdais made his second and final stop on Lap 65 and returned to the track in the lead.
The race was restarted on Lap 70 and Bourdais began to build a lead over second place Mario Dominguez and later Allmendinger, who passed Dominguez for second. On Lap 81 of 97 he again set the fastest lap of the race and steadily increased his lead over Allmendinger who was battling third place Dominguez. He took the checkered flag 15 seconds ahead of Dominguez who passed Allmendinger with two laps to go and collected 31 points for the win, one for leading and one for setting the fastest lap to increase his pre-race points lead of 26 over Tracy to 53. It was Bourdais' second consecutive win in Denver, third win in a row and fourth this season as well as his 14th in his 41st Champ Car start. He brought the team their third in a row here after Junqueira drove to victory in 2003 and Bourdais in 2004 and 2005.
"When I saw PT in the wall, I was very surprised because PT makes very few mistakes and that's not the kind of mistake he makes when he's up front like that," said Bourdais, who had been battling a cold all weekend. "I am just glad we won for the second year in a row. It was very important for my McDonald's team, Centrix, and PacifiCare, for everybody. At the start I took my chance. I said I was going to go for it and PT went for it too, but the truth is I should have tried to keep my second place because by braking late on the outside I was on the perfect line on the braking that PT was going to shoot long, trying to match my braking distance and that's exactly what happened and then he pushed me in the dirt and then that was the end of the story for me at the start.
A.J. got a run on us and I was surprised that Mario didn't get an advantage on it too because put me in the situation that really wasn't very comfortable and after that I really worked hard to try and get by A.J. as soon as I could because obviously I knew I was going to damage my tires. I could see PT running away. I knew he was planning to run hard and as fast as he could the whole race so he wasn't going to let anything going bad. When I finally got by A.J. I went to work but by that time the tires were really damaged. I could only match PT's lap time and that really wasn't much. I could do about it 9 or 10 seconds down the way down the road so not much to expect except the yellow. It never happened so on the second set of tires I had to work again. We were catching him about five-tenths on average a lap which was satisfying but it would take us a while to get to him, so quite honestly I wasn't expecting to win the race from that point. Maybe I am going to catch him but so what, you know. It got better than that, made the same mistake I made this morning. He hit the wall and bounced back in the exit on the outside and that was the end of the story for him. There wasn't really many reasons to push except to secure the fastest lap, especially the point, but if you crash leading the race with ten seconds (lead) you look stupid."
PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia was unable to continue his streak of podium finishes in the 97-lap Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver Presented by PacifiCare but finished fourth and moved into third place in the championship standings. After battling a lack of grip and traffic in qualifying on Friday he moved up one position to eighth in final qualifying on Saturday. The opening lap of 97 in the race brought the anticipated melee and subsequent yellow as five cars stopped on course and others received damage, including Servia, who did not know he had a hole in his sidepod which reduced his downforce by 200-300 lbs. at a track that already provided reduced downforce due to the altitude. The race restarted on Lap 5 and Servia was in 10th place after the contact but moved into eighth by Lap 15 after he passed Rodolfo Lavin and Ronnie Bremer. Andrew Ranger pitted early due to a slow leak in a tire and Servia took over seventh place on Lap 25. On Lap 27 he reported that the car was pushing in the fast corners so the PacifiCare team proceeded to discuss some potential changes in the upcoming pit stop. He passed Ryan Hunter Reay on Lap 33 for sixth place and made his first stop on Lap 40.
A tire changer had a problem with a wheel nut before Servia was sent back on track in 11th place immediately ahead of current race leader Paul Tracy. Around Lap 48 he dropped one lap down but got back on the lead lap by staying on track while the front runners pitted on Lap 65 during the caution for Paul Tracy, who crashed on Lap 62. Servia came in on Lap 66 for his final stop and returned to the track in seventh place. Two laps after the race resumed he moved into fifth on Lap 72 when two drivers ahead of him were penalized for different things that took place under caution. He held fifth place until previous third place runner Timo Glock succumbed to gearbox problems and he moved into fourth on Lap 88 of 97 which he held until the end of the race. He collected 23 points for his finish and was able to pass Justin Wilson in the point standings for third with a total of 183, only 13 behind second place Tracy.
"Not the best race for the PacifiCare team but we managed to gain a position in the standings and move into third," said Servia. "There was contact at the start of the race and I didn't know it but I had a big hole in my sidepod that the team figures lost us 200-300 pounds of downforce which is huge here because of the altitude. That would explain why the race was a real struggle for us. I just couldn't follow the fast guys. When I tried I would push too hard and make a small mistake so I just hung in there and passed cars when I could. Overall we had a mistake free race and I passed cars when I could so it's good to finish fourth and try to be more competitive in Montreal."
- Up Next...The Molson Indy Montreal, Round 10 of 14, will take place on August 26-28. PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira drove to victory there last year while McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais led the race early on before contact with then-rookie AJ Allmendinger.