CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Round nine preview



INDIANAPOLIS (August 9, 2005) -- Last year's trip to the streets of Denver cemented Sebastien Bourdais' (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) status as one of the stars of the open-wheel racing world, as the young Frenchman came from the back of the field to score victory en route to his first Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship.

This year's edition of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by PacifiCare could serve to elevate the reigning champion's status even further as he looks for his third consecutive Champ Car victory -- a victory that would turn up the heat on those trying to stay in title contention.

Bourdais heads into Denver with a 28-point lead over Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with an additional 13-point cushion over third-placed Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Bourdais' prospects are further enhanced with the recent rise of Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who has in essence been protecting Bourdais like George Hincapie shielded Lance Armstrong in his multiple Tour de France victories.

Servia has been one of the hottest drivers in the paddock in the last two months and has strung together four consecutive point-gobbling podium finishes heading to Denver. Only Bourdais has scored more championship points than Servia in the last four races (110-106), but the Spaniard still faces a 56-point gulf in catching his Newman/Haas Racing teammate, due to the deficit built up before he took over the PacifiCare car in Milwaukee in relief of the injured Bruno Junqueira.

Bourdais' Denver history doesn't bode well for those looking to chase him down as the Frenchman has finished on the podium in both of his previous races on the 1.657-mile street course, including last year's remarkable comeback win. He finished as the runner-up to teammate Junqueira in 2003, taking the second spot after starting third in the race.

Tracy can stay in the hunt if he can reprise last year's performance where the 30-time racewinner led a race-high 40 laps and finished second. Tracy has been able to make up ground on race day in his three previous Denver stops, and has also improved his results in both qualifying and race finish in each of the three visits. He made up seven spots in 2002 to place eighth and gained five positions to score a fourth-place finish in 2003 before last year's second-place run.

The hometown crew of the Loveland-based RuSPORT squad could use Denver as a springboard as Wilson and teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be looking to creep closer to the championship leader. Wilson has been steady all year and spectacular at times, joining Tracy and Bourdais as the only drivers to win a race and a pole this season. Wilson will be making his second trip to the Mile High City, having placed seventh in his rookie voyage a year ago.

Allmendinger is looking for a turnaround in front of his new neighbors as the meteoric driver tries to end a streak of three consecutive races where he has failed to finish. The recent struggle has effectively negated a string of three straight top-five runs, including two runner-up finishes, but the second-year driver still hangs on to the fifth spot in the points. This weekend he heads to a Denver track where he won from pole in his 2003 Toyota Atlantic title season and finished fifth on a year ago in his rookie Champ Car season.

It is a precarious fifth-place perch that Allmendinger rests upon however as three drivers are within two points of making their moves into the top five. Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has thrust himself back into contention on the strength of top-five finishes in Edmonton and San Jose and is just one point behind Allmendinger. Dominguez had a strong run in Denver a year ago, running up front all day before late-race trouble dropped him back to the fourth spot. Dominguez is tied with veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for sixth in the championship, with Vasser heading to Denver in search of his first top-10 run on the Colorado streets.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continues his strong season with the first-year Team Australia outfit, although to call it a true rookie team is a bit of a stretch, as it has the expertise of Derrick Walker and his long-time Champ Car campaigners in its corner. Tagliani and the team showed its grit in San Jose by overcoming an uncharacteristic qualifying bobble that left them 17th on the grid. On race day, Tagliani made up eight spots and moved to within a single point of Dominguez and Vasser in the point standings. Tagliani will make his 100th career Champ Car start this weekend, and all 100 of those have come in consecutive order, making the French-Canadian only the 13th driver in series history to make 100 starts in a row.

The San Jose weekend again showcased the skills of the 2005 Champ Car rookie class as spots six through eight in the finishing order were all held by first-year Champ Car pilots. Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led the charge again, matching a career-high with a sixth-place finish as he held his lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings.

Glock's finish widened his margin to 22 points over Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the rookie standings, but Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has picked up the chase and is just 11 points out of the rookie points lead. Bremer led a career-best 19 laps in San Jose and gained the championship point awarded for gaining the most positions for the third time this year, moving him to second in the standings despite the fact that he did not compete in the Molson Indy Toronto. Fellow rookie Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) kept himself alive for top rookie honors as well, matching his best Champ Car finish with an eighth-place run in San Jose. Wirdheim's eighth-place qualifying result also matched a personal best and was his best effort on a Champ Car road or street course.

Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) continued his improvement in San Jose, setting a new personal high by qualifying in the sixth spot, but had his day cut short by mechanical trouble. The 19-year-old Frenchman competed in Denver last year starting 14th and finishing 13th.

Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is another young driver that will be hoping to build on recent success. The Australian driver scored the first top-10 finish of his blossoming career in Edmonton, and gained six spots in finishing 12th in San Jose. He has gained positions from his grid spot in each of the eight races this season.

Rodolfo Lavin (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be back in the HVM Racing machine this weekend, one week after making his 2005 series debut. The third-year driver was the winner of last year's Bosch Most Improved Driver Award and qualified 12th in his first start of the '05 season.

The fourth running of the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver presented by PacifiCare is set to take place Friday-Sunday, August 12-14, with practice and qualifying set for both Friday and Saturday. The Champ Car race will get the green flag at 1:45 p.m. local time on Sunday and can be seen live on SPEED Channel beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. There will again be a 30-minute show of highlights from both qualifying sessions, which will air at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time on SPEED.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Bjorn Wirdheim , Nelson Philippe , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock
Teams HVM Racing