CHAMPCAR/CART: Las Vegas: Race report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS OUTLASTS NEWMAN/HAAS TEAMMATE ORIOL SERVIA TO SCORE VICTORY IN CHAMP CAR HURRICANE RELIEF 400 LAS VEGAS (September 25, 2005) -- For a man who cut his racing teeth on the fabled road courses of Europe, Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS OUTLASTS NEWMAN/HAAS TEAMMATE ORIOL SERVIA TO SCORE VICTORY IN CHAMP CAR HURRICANE RELIEF 400

LAS VEGAS (September 25, 2005) -- For a man who cut his racing teeth on the fabled road courses of Europe, Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) seems to have found a home on the superspeedway ovals that were born in North America.

Bourdais came into Saturday night's Champ Car Hurricane Relief 400 with wins in each of his two previous superspeedway starts, and made it 3-for-3 with a narrow victory on the high banks of the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bourdais outlasted Newman/Haas Racing teammate Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the 166-lap event, beating him to the finish by 0.312 seconds to score his fifth victory of the season. Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned his best finish of the year by placing third, climbing the podium for the 32nd time in his storied career.

Bourdais paced 53 laps and won from the pole for the second time this season, but it was anything but easy as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader dodged a number of potential pitfalls on his way to Victory Lane.

The Frenchman led from pole but only enjoyed the view from the front for seven laps as 2003 series champion Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ripped through the field. Tracy, who started 14th, stormed through the ranks in the opening laps to gain 10 spots after just two trips around the LVMS oval. By Lap 7 he had overtaken Bourdais and would assume the top spot, remarkably only using his Cosworth Power-to-Pass one time in doing so.

Tracy held the point for the next 33 laps, but was never clear of Bourdais by more than half a second while Servia and the surprising Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stayed within easy reach. The order held until Lap 40 when the fuel needs called for the first round of pit stops. Tracy pitted first with Bourdais and Servia following one and two laps later respectively. It was just prior to this round of pit stops that Bourdais dodged another potential malady as his shock cover dislodged and came off the car on the front straight. The NHR crew decided to eschew a time-consuming stop to fix the problem -- which would ultimately fail to derail the points leader's charge.

Tracy reclaimed the lead after the first round of stops cycled through, but would swap it with Bourdais on a couple of occasions during the stint, in a race that would ultimately see 11 lead changes between three drivers. Tracy and Bourdais battled fiercely through the next 30 laps with both cars running nose-to-tail after 200-mph lap after 200-mph lap.

The second set of pit stops went exactly as the first had, with Tracy coming in first but taking the lead spot again when the field finished with their refueling. Servia doggedly held on to the third spot with Vasser moving into the fourth position after a troublesome pit stop dropped Wirdheim to the back end of the top 10.

The trouble-free portion of the evening's events came to a screeching halt on Lap 124 when Tracy and Bourdais came together in Turn Four, with Bourdais clipping the rear of Tracy's machine as Tracy approached the entrance to Pit Lane. The impact sent Tracy, who had led a race-high 107 laps, spinning into the outside wall, ending his evening. Bourdais was able to continue on through the contact without incurring damage to his machine.

The lengthy caution period ended the need for any more green flag stops, allowing the field to sprint to the checkered flag over the final 27 laps. Bourdais roared away on the restart with Servia in tow, with Vasser holding on to the lead draft, running less than a second behind the NHR duo. Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had made his way up to fourth with Wirdheim rebounding from early trouble to round out the top five.

Bourdais, Servia and Vasser all stayed within a second until the final ten laps, when the Newman/Haas cars decided to settle matters for themselves by pulling out to a three-second advantage. Bourdais led by a half-second over Servia with five laps to go, with both drivers still holding 50 seconds of extra horsepower to use in pursuit of the win.

Neither went for the extra power until the final three laps, but their economy over the previous 163 orbits meant that both cars could nearly go the entire remainder of the race with their thumbs on the power button. They both did just that, with Bourdais breaking Servia's draft on the final half of the last lap to score the victory. Servia settled for second ahead of Servia while Dominguez took fourth. Rodolfo Lavin (#55 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came home in the top five for the second time this season with a last-lap pass of Wirdheim to take the fifth position.

Wirdheim set a new Champ Car career high with his sixth-place finish, while Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and rookie points leader Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) placed seventh and eighth respectively.

After the race, Forsythe Championship Racing entered a protest on behalf of Paul Tracy concerning the Lap 123 incident, but a panel of Champ Car judges ruled that the alleged infractions of Rule 6.27 and 6.28 were not subject to protest.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP-THREE FINISHERS:

Sebastien Bourdais #1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:"I was a little bit afraid that it was going to be a tough race, but somehow I was able to stay in the tow of Tracy. (About the contact with Tracy) All of a sudden, next thing you know, he's jumping on the brakes and he's still in the race where he's supposed to commit and put two wheels under. I was so surprised; I didn't even have time to brake before we made contact. I was right in his gearbox. It's a miracle we made it through. Quite a bumpy ride for the McDonald's car. All in all, a very good result for the team. They got the reward for their hard work."

Oriol Servia #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "It was good fun. At the beginning of the race, I was saving a little more fuel than both of them, hoping that maybe towards the end and on the third stop there was going to be a yellow on that three-, four-lap difference, then it would have been golden, two laps ahead of everybody. It would have been nice. It was a good race, and I'm very happy for the team. 1-2 again. For the championship, I don't know exactly how the points are, but obviously I must be a little better, a little more solid in second place. It's a good weekend thanks to my PacifiCare team"

Jimmy Vasser #12 Gulfstream/PKV Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "The guys worked real hard in the two weeks off to get the car put together right, body fit, make it really slippery as possible, a lot of detail work. To be honest, this race is mostly all credit to the guys for all the hard work that they did. Good finish for Gulfstream, Bell Micro, the whole PKV team. We built a new giant trophy case in our shop, and little by little we're filling it up."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais' victory was the 15th of his career, tying him for 16th on the all-time Champ Car victory list. He also led 53 laps, boosting his career total to 1,080, passing Danny Ongais and Kenny Brack on the all-time laps led list.

* Bourdais' win gives him a 67-point lead on Servia after 11 races. Tracy is 27 points behind Servia in third while Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is two points in arrears to Tracy in fourth.

* Timo Glock's eighth-place finish allowed him to further widen his lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, now holding a 40-point lead over Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Danny Ongais , Rodolfo Lavin , Ronnie Bremer , Timo Glock
Teams HVM Racing