DEFENDING CHAMP CAR TITLE WINNER SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS RECOVERS FROM QUALIFYING MISCUE TO CAPTURE UNPREDICTABLE WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON EDMONTON, (July 17, 2005) -- The usual suspects ended up on the podium for the inaugural West...
DEFENDING CHAMP CAR TITLE WINNER SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS RECOVERS FROM QUALIFYING MISCUE TO CAPTURE UNPREDICTABLE WEST EDMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON
EDMONTON, (July 17, 2005) -- The usual suspects ended up on the podium for the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, but they all took a set of unfamiliar routes to get there on a day that saw more twists and turns than a Tom Clancy novel.
Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started his day in the 10th spot after an uncharacteristic bobble in Friday's qualifying, but picked through the field over 88 laps around Finning International Speedway to score the 12th victory of his three-year Champ Car career. Bourdais ran a furious pace to get into contention through the first half of the race, then took advantage as the cards fell right to his hand late in the day, allowing him to roll to his second win of the year in front of the biggest crowd ever to see a Champ Car race in Canada. A race-day crowd of 78,080 filled the grandstands on a Chamber-of-Commerce weather day in Edmonton.
Bourdais had to fight off his Newman/Haas Racing teammate Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the final stages of the race, keeping his stablemate behind him over the final laps around the 1.973-mile Edmonton layout, leading the Newman/Haas team to its first 1-2 podium sweep of the year.
Crowd favorite Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up on the podium after taking the scenic route through today's race. Tracy led early after a strong pass of polesitter A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and paced 30 laps, but spent the middle part of the race looking up at the sharp end of the grid. But just when it seemed that the capacity Edmonton crowd would be disappointed, circumstances promoted him into the third spot as he scored his fifth podium finish of the 2005 season.
The early part of the day appeared to be tailor-made for the RuSPORT clan of Allmendinger and Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) as the two cars brought the 18-car field to the green flag from the front row. Wilson ceded second place to Tracy in the second turn of the first lap, but Allmendinger was equal to his mentor's challenge, leading for the first 19 laps.
Tracy's relentless pressure eventually paid off as Allmendinger ran up behind a lapped car in Turn 10, forcing him to run wider and leaving the door open for Tracy to take the lead. The Canadian star made the most of the opportunity, leading through a cycle of pit stops and pacing the next 30 laps. The cycle of pit stops appeared innocuous enough but it would turn out to play a major role in the makeup of the race. Wilson moved into second place during the first round of pit stops, short-fueling to get out ahead of Allmendinger, but behind Tracy.
Wilson picked up the scent right away and hounded Tracy throughout the next 10 laps. His dogged pursuit of the lead led Tracy to drive deeper than normal into the braking zones, and eventually took its toll on the tires of the Forsythe Championship Racing machine. Wilson slipped into the lead on Lap 49, seizing the opportunity when Tracy's flat-spotted tires kept him from getting to the apex of Turn 10, allowing Wilson to slide to the inside and into the lead.
Allmendinger pounced on the injured car of Tracy right after, slipping into the second spot around the 30-time race winner, and the two RuSPORT cars continued their pursuit of victory. Wilson made his final fuel stop earlier than anyone else, and relinquished the lead to Allmendinger after the final stops had cycled through. The duo not only maintained their spots through the final round of pit stops, they blew their lead out to 20 seconds over Bourdais and Servia.
The joyous romp ended on Lap 76 when Bjorn Wirdheim's (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spin and contact with the Turn Seven tires brought out the caution flag. The yellow banner bunched up the field behind Allmendinger and erased a 21-second advantage for the RuSPORT gang.
Things started to unravel soon after as Wilson spun under caution and gave up six positions before righting the ship. The spin promoted Bourdais into the second spot as the Frenchman found himself in podium contention, moving into second with Servia and Tracy behind him. Allmendinger wouldn't fare much better on the restart, making slight wall contact on the back half of the course, leading to a Turn 11 bobble opening the inside line for Bourdais to sweep past. Allmendinger's day came to a heart-wrenching end three turns later when he pulled onto Pit Lane and out of the race.
Bourdais held the lead over Servia over the last 10 laps, keeping the Spaniard at bay while Tracy found himself embroiled in another tight battle with Wilson for the final podium position. Wilson, who had slipped past rookie points leader Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and escape unharmed from slight contact in doing so, bore down on Tracy's rear wing on the last three laps, but could not find a way past the veteran, settling for fourth.
Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) survived an incident-filled weekend to round out the top five, putting him one spot ahead of Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Bremer was one of the biggest surprises of the day, finishing a career-best sixth in his first outing in the Dale Coyne Racing machine. Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) outlasted much of his competition to post a career-best eighth-place finish while Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.
The series' next event will be another inaugural race, this time in the streets of San Jose, with the July 29-31 Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
Sebastien Bourdais: "Just pure joy to be winning this first race here. I really couldn't believe it when I saw under yellow Justin spinning in front of me and then AJ making a really small mistake. I know how it feels to chase your first win and not achieve that. It happened to me the first two starts in 2003. I'm sure he's devastated. He probably deserved this one, he was fast all weekend long. You know, we just pretty much collected ourselves today and just made a mistake-free race, just took the benefits of everybody's mistakes. That was just unbelievable."
Oriol Servia: "I'm actually quite happy. In Toronto, you saw I wasn't that happy with my second place because for a while I thought I was going to win it. This one, I mean, all weekend we were almost up there, but definitely the RuSPORT guys were faster. I mean, during the race I knew was going to be a little bit of a survival game. Mistake-free was definitely probably going to bring me a podium, me starting fourth."
Paul Tracy: "People were saying over the winter this wasn't a place to have a race; it should have been another venue or in Vancouver. This is the biggest-attended race that I think Canada has ever had. It's an unbelievable event. Greg (MacDonald) has done a great job, the promoter, did all the promotion. The guy's a hard worker. He's done a great job up here. I have to applaud the whole City of Edmonton for everything they've done for our sport, for Champ Car."
Today's race-day attendance of 78,080 boosted the three-day attendance for the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton to 200,052. This makes today's event the highest-attended Champ Car race ever to be held in Canada.
Sebastien Bourdais earned the 12th win of his Champ Car career today, chalking up 12 wins in just 39 starts. This is the fastest that anyone in Champ Car history has reached 12 victories, eclipsing the mark of 41 starts set by Alex Zanardi.
Timo Glock took the points lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings with today's effort, leading Andrew Ranger by eight points and Ronnie Bremer by 11. Bremer is 11 out of the lead despite not starting the Toronto event.
France closed Canada's lead in the Nations Cup to 19 points with Bourdais' victory.
Paul Tracy made his 230th career Champ Car start today, tying him with Roger McCluskey for 10th on the all-time list.