McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS RETURNS TO CANADA IN SEARCH OF BACK-TO-BACK WINS IN THE WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA MAKES EDMONTON DEBUT EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 19, 2006) --- Newman/Haas Racing ...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS RETURNS TO CANADA IN SEARCH OF BACK-TO-BACK WINS IN THE WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA MAKES EDMONTON DEBUT
EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 19, 2006) --- Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira will head North of the Border to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for this weekend's 85-lap West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by the Brick, the second of three Canadian races on the 2006 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford calendar. Last year McDonald's0x00ae driver Sebastien Bourdais drove a flawless race and capitalized on mistakes made by others to win here and top a one-two finish by the team in the inaugural event on the 1.97-mile temporary airport race course but knows a repeat performance wont be easy.
"We have to improve or we won't win, that's for sure," said Bourdais who holds the series points lead over A.J. Allmendinger by a 191-168 margin and leads the series in wins, poles, laps led and prize money. "We benefited from the mistakes of others but they are not going to make mistakes every year and we weren't the quickest car last year and I hope that we made progress in the winter to try to bring things to the front."
Bourdais led the final 12 laps here last year after he had to charge through the field due to a rare crash in Friday's qualifying session which was further hindered by rain in final qualifying that led to his 10th place start. Late race mistakes by then-leaders Justin Wilson and Allmendinger aided his quest for victory. Driving a Champ Car is one of the most physically demanding challenges in racing but the Edmonton course had an unexpected amount of grip for a temporary venue and made it even more physical which led to mistakes by drivers due to fatigue.
"It's a physically demanding race," said Bourdais. "The working load is higher than in Cleveland (airport course) which is already a pretty tough one. The pikes on strength is actually not any higher but you just sustain a much higher level of intensity inside the car so you are just wearing yourself out and its very bumpy so it tends to make it harder to control the steering which makes it probably the toughest race of the season. We had a very good start to the race; the first 20 laps were pretty hectic. I did my best while quite a few people seemed to take it easy like they did this year in Houston. The McDonald's car felt pretty good so I just went for it but by Lap 35 or 40 I started to feel the effort and I really had to pace myself and take car of everything; the car and myself. It was a little bit of a different story because there were two speeds in this race. The first was attack and then kind of, watch and see what was going on. I guess everything went our way when people made mistakes one after the other and we had a good pit stop strategy and we just worked our way back to the front."
Bourdais will have plenty of competition this weekend but one driver in particular appears to be on a roll. Bourdais, who won the first four races of the year while Allmendinger won the past three, will attempt to keep the American from matching a record set 38 years ago when two drivers won four consecutive races in one season. Al Unser and his brother Bobby each earned four straight wins in 1968. Even better than a win in Edmonton by NHR would be a one-two finish by Bourdais and Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira, which would be the first for the team since Bourdais and Oriol Servia finished first and second, respectively, in Las Vegas on September 24 of last season.
Junqueira is in the midst of his sixth season in the series after having his fifth end early while in the points lead due to a crash in the Indy Racing League-sanctioned Indianapolis 500. He is a series veteran but will compete on the next two venues of the championship for the first time as Edmonton and San Jose were inaugural events last season when he was sidelined. With a history of being able to adapt quickly to new venues, Junqueira is excited about the challenge.
"I didn't go to the first race in Edmonton last year but I watched it on TV," said Junqueira who is ranked ninth in the series standings with 102 points, only eight points behind fourth place ranked Andrew Ranger who has 110 after Round 7 of 15. "It was a good race. It looks like the course it pretty exciting. All the drivers told me that it's one of the nicest tracks of the year so I'm looking forward to racing there."
Since his return to racing this season, he has earned five top-four starting spots including a pole and total of three front row starts in seven races but his finishing positions have been hindered by a variety of occurrences with his best result of second place in Cleveland and fourth in Portland. His consistency over the years has been rewarded with three runner-up finishes in the Championship standings and a total of 29 podiums and he has focused extra time and energy to prepare for this new and physically demanding venue.
"To prepare for the event I will work with my engineers and look at the data from last year," said Junqueira. "Sebastien won the race (last year) so I hope we have a good baseline setup for the car. I will look at the gearing, where he braked and try to simulate that in the first session. Last year the drivers told me it was the most physically demanding track of all. They got pretty tired at the end of the race so I'll work out extra hard between the Toronto race and Edmonton to prepare."
Edmonton is Canada's second most populous provincial capital after Toronto and earned the name of "Oil Capital of Canada" due to the number of oil refineries and oil production companies that are the basis of many jobs in the area. Today Edmonton is known as "Canada's Festival City" with virtually non-stop summertime celebrations, which draw visitors from far and wide. In keeping with that tradition, last year's Champ Car race became the highest attended new event on the 2005 calendar after attendance topped the 200,000 mark for three days despite rainy conditions during part of the weekend.
"The weather didn't really help but we had probably 30,000 people sitting in the grandstands on Saturday morning," said Bourdais of the inaugural event. "It was just unbelievable; I guess I've never seen anything like it. It was really cool to see all of the fans from the beginning of the day until the end each day. It was a very big success for a first race; there were a lot of fans, people from the City, Edmonton Mall and etc."
"I heard that last year they had a great crowd; full every day and that was a big thing," added Junqueira. "I hope we're going to have another good crowd again this year."
This weekend's West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix Presented by The Brick can be seen live Sunday, July 23 CBS Sports beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. SPEED will re-air the broadcast on its cable network July 28 beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.