CHAMPCAR/CART: Doornbos wins bizarre race in San Jose

CHAMPCAR/CART: Doornbos wins bizarre race in San Jose

After losing a front wing in a first lap incident, rookie Robert Doornbos scored the second victory in his Champ Car World Series career with a tactical win on the streets of San Jose. Robert Doornbos celebrates. Photo by Tom ...

After losing a front wing in a first lap incident, rookie Robert Doornbos scored the second victory in his Champ Car World Series career with a tactical win on the streets of San Jose.

Robert Doornbos celebrates.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
"What a race, boys, what a race!" Doornbos said in his car after winning from his fifteenth place starting position. "We struggled with the tires a bit during the weekend, especially during qualifying. But during the race, we put on the primary (black) tires, which worked very well for our setup and very good for our car. In the end, Neil (Jani) was on red (alternative) tires, and I could pass him and just drive away. So, well done to Bridgestone for how we ended the weekend."

Rookie Neil Jani finished second and Oriol Servia came third for the final podium spot.

Champ Car used a standing-start format for today's race. At the start, Doornbos ran into the car of Jan Heylen at the first corner hairpin, losing his front wing, which actually became stuck on Heylen's car. Doornbos stalled, but Champ Car safety pulled him back towards the pits for repairs.

Prior to the full-course yellow flag that flew for Doornbos, Bourdais went wide at the hairpin and Wilson took the advantage and the lead.

As the cars lined up for the re-start, Clarke bumped into the rear end of Wilson's car. Clarke made it around to replace his wing, but Wilson suffered right rear suspension damage, returning to the event 21 laps down. It was extremely disappointing for Wilson, as arguably he had the best car in the field.

"When we were coming around for the restart, I hadn't even gotten to the exit of Turn 6 and I got rammed from behind", Wilson said of the incident. "I do not know what Dan (Clarke) was thinking, he must not have been paying attention and just came flying into the back of me. The #9 CDW crew did a really good job trying to change the drive shaft after it broke from the contact with Clarke. That is not something that is easy to change because they have to take every thing else off the rear corner to get to it. So, then I was just sitting there in disbelief and waiting until it was time to go again. After that, when I was able to get back out there, I was just trying to stay out of people's way and hoping that enough people would drop out of the race so that I could get as high of a finish that I could possibly salvage."

Justin Wilson.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
When Clarke made it back into competition, he went right to work on teammate Doornbos. Passing on the inside at the now infamous Turn One, Clarke made it cleanly by the Frenchman, but hit the rear end of Catherine Legge, again knocking off his front wing. That was the last complete lap for Clarke; he made it around to the pits and exited the car.

Just when it looked like things would settle down a bit, Legge brought out the second caution of the afternoon when se slid out in Turn Two and collected the wall. Her race was over after just thirteen laps.

With Wilson out, Servia took over the lead after starting fourth. 25 laps in, Servia led rookie Neel Jani (-0.967 sec.), Paul Tracy (-1.760 sec.), Graham Rahal (-2.390 sec.) and Alex Tagliani (-3.351 sec.). At this point, Bourdais had slipped down to seventh behind Will Power.

Tagliani made it around Rahal on Lap 30 as the leaders prepared for the first round of pit stops. Jani closed in on Servia, pushing the Spaniard harder and harder until finally taking the leader in Turn One.

Tracy watched from behind, two seconds or about half a block behind on the 7-turn 1.5-mile street course. Jani quickly pulled out 1.5 second lead. Tracy started the exodus to pit lane on Lap 38. Jani dove in two laps later with Servia in-tow.

Rahal stalled during his stop, loosing at least ten seconds in the process. Doornbos, who was out of sequence with the lead group came in for a splash of fuel, and found himself at the top of the field following the pit stop shuffle.

"It just basically didn't have enough RPM's", Rahal said. "I don't believe it was anything I did because it was the same routine as normal. From there on out it was pretty uneventful because I was just saving fuel but I also had to really pus hard to catch the guys in front of me."

Oriol Servia.
Photo by Bob Heathcote.
Jani slotted into second place and INDECK Forsythe Racing teammates Servia and Tracy held pace in third and fourth. With Rahal now in 12th place after loosing time in the pits, Power and Bourdais ran a second apart battling for fifth, with rookies Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Gommendy hot on their heels.

Doornbos relinquished the lead to Jani and filtered down to third place after his stop. Servia and Jani swapped the lead a few time over the next several laps, one taking the other under braking at the hairpin.

Servia held a 1.6-second lead with his final stop coming up.

Tracy fell off the pace on Lap 75; the team had called for him to come in for fuel just before. As the Canadian stalled near the pit entrance, the starter waved for another full-course yellow. There would be no podium this race for the former series champion, the Canadian re-entering competition some two laps down.

The leaders hit the pits with thirty minutes left in the 1:45-minute timed event. Doornbos cycled back up to the front, and Jani got around Servia with a faster stop. Rookie Gommendy moved up to fourth, with Power, Bourdais, Rahal, Tagliani, Bruno Junqueira and Pagenaud making up the top-ten.

Jani moved past Doornbos on the re-start. Servia looked to do the same but settled in a half-second behind. Tagliani pulled into the pits with mechanical problems, letting Rahal move into sixth.

Alex Figge found the wall in Turn Three's exit which brought out the final caution of the race. Now would be the time for this proved to be a critical point for Doornbos' Minardi Team USA fuel strategy.

Gommendy missed his opportunity to pit after his radio went dead. He tried to make it around quickly, but ended up passing the pace car in the process. The penalty was a drive through the pits, but the real loss was dropping down to tenth.

Neel Jani.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
Doornbos used the last of his "power-to-pass", 60-seconds of extra horsepower allotted to each driver, on lap 95 to take over the lead. Jani fought back briefly, but with a heavier fuel load there was no challenge.

"It was up and down, I really hoped to win", Jani said of the effort. On our last stint we were on softer "red" tires and the rest of the guys were on the harder "blacks". I think that's what did it for us."

Like a bullet, Doornbos set sail for the end, leaving the field more than five seconds back. Gommendy found some of the fight that was in him and worked past Heylen and Pagenaud into eighth.

Taking a well-deserved checkered flag, Doornbos won by a full six seconds over Jani, and Servia. Rounding out the top-ten included Will Power, Bourdais, Rahal, Junqueira, Gommendy, Pagenaud, Heylen and Tracy. Veteran Mario Dominguez, who ran a quiet race, finished three laps down in twelfth.

Bourdais' lead in the championship shrinks in half, as he now tops Doornbos 216-206 with nine of sixteen races completed. Power sits in third with 192 points. The series will make its next stop at Elkhart Lake on the very fast four-mile road circuit August 10-12.

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