CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Race report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STARTS 2005 CHAMP CAR TITLE DEFENSE WITH VICTORY IN TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 10, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS STARTS 2005 CHAMP CAR TITLE DEFENSE WITH VICTORY IN TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 10, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) started no lower than third in any of last year's 14 races on his way to the 2004 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, but began his title defense in the 2005 season opener from the fourth spot when the green flag waved on a sunny Sunday in Long Beach.

The lower starting spot didn't appear to affect the Flying Frenchman as he stormed to the front after 30 of the day's 81 laps, and held off a late charge from polesitter Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to score the victory in the season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Bourdais built a five-second lead in the latter half of the race, then outsprinted Tracy after a late caution flag to build a 4.138-second margin-of-victory at the checkered flag.

Bourdais paced 37 of the day's 81 laps, ran the fastest lap of the day and earned the championship point for gaining the most positions in the event, giving him a five-point lead in the Champ Car World Series point standings after the first of the year's 14 races. The win was the 11th of Bourdais' career and was the first Long Beach win for the Newman/Haas Racing squad since Mario Andretti took the checkers in 1987.

Tracy rolled away from the pole at the start of the race but dropped behind Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on Lap 3 after yielding the point in Turn One. Tracy returned the favor on a Lap 11 restart after Nelson Philippe (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was bumped into the tire barrier, slipping past Junqueira and into the lead in the first turn.

The first round of pit stops saw Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) move to the lead due to the fact that he pitted during the early caution, but things fell back to Tracy on Lap 35. Bourdais, who narrowly escaped disaster five laps earlier as the caution fell for a stalled car just as he was leaving the pit, closed on Tracy and shadowed him for three trips around the 1.968-mile street circuit before taking the lead in turn one.

Once in the lead, Bourdais made quick work of the field, pulling out to a 5.5-second lead before the caution flag flew on Lap 45 for the stalled car of Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Undaunted, Bourdais hung another five-second gap on the rest of the field on the restart, and was able to maintain that cushion as drivers began making their final pit stops with 20 laps to go.

Bourdais and Tracy pitted together on Lap 62 with Tracy taking on the alternate-compound Bridgestone Potenzas while Bourdais bolted on the standard shoes. The alternate tires are softer and will usually yield faster lap times, but Bourdais was equal to the task as he held off the hard-charging Canadian. Vasser again paced a couple orbits owing to his earlier pit stop, but when he and rookie Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) pitted on lap 70, Bourdais found himself with a 7.5-second advantage.

That lead went by the wayside with the flick of starter J.D. Wilbur's wrist as Ranger was bumped into the tires after leaving the pits, setting up the final shootout between Bourdais and Tracy. But Bourdais roared away on the Lap 76 restart and pulled away from Tracy, leaving the four-time Long Beach winner to settle for second. Junqueira scored the last position on the podium with a Turn One pass of Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with five laps to go, extending his streak to seven consecutive podium finishes dating back to 2005.

Justin Wilson (#9 SanDisk Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made a late pass of Dominguez to slip into the fourth spot, matching a career high for the Champ Car sophomore. Dominguez settled for the fifth spot, finishing fifth in Long Beach for the third consecutive season.

A pair of rookies scored the next two spots as Timo Glock (#8 Deutsch Post Speed Academy Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up sixth and seventh. Glock's sixth was the highest finish for a driver making his Champ Car debut since Wilson's sixth place in Long Beach a year ago, while Bremer led a pair of laps, marking the first time that a driver has led in his Champ Car debut since Bourdais paced the field in St. Petersburg in 2003.

A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and the PKV Racing duo of Vasser and Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. The series will be off for the next month as teams prepare for the Grand Prix of Monterrey May 20-22. Teams will be leaving from Long Beach to head for Portland where they will participate in three days of testing at Portland International Raceway Tuesday through Thursday.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I am very surprised, not really expecting to be in the top three with the way the weekend was going. I got real pumped up before the race. It was a good race for me and my career, starting P4 and finishing P1. The McDonald's crew did an excellent job today. It is good for Newman/Haas Racing, it has been a while since they brought home a victory from Long Beach, and I happy to be able to do that today. The Bridgestone Alternate tires were real fast today, and they helped me get around Paul (Tracy) to hold on to the lead, and take the win. It is a great day, and a great start to the season."

PAUL TRACY (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "This is great. I think we could have had more, the Indeck car was there. We had a good first stint, but after that, the car did not improve any. I was basically running the same pace throughout the whole race. Sebastien (Bourdais) came up on us hard, so there was not a whole lot I could do. I gave him room and played fair. I tried hard to closed ground before the last pit stops, but he maintained his distance. I was trying to keep a steady pace in order to finish where we were, in second. I think it was a good day, a good race, a great event for the fans, so it has been overall a great weekend."

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "The day went ok. At the start of the race the PacifiCare car was running real well. I was just running behind PT (Paul Tracy) and trying to save fuel. I got lots of miles out of the car today. When I had a free track at the end of the race, the car was running real well, but it was not as good as it had been running all weekend. It was good enough to get around (Mario) Dominguez at the end of the race and finish third. I am happy with the result today, I think it was a good race for the fans and I look forward to returning to the streets of Long Beach next year."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais won the 11th race of his career Sunday, moving him into a tie with Cristiano da Matta for 18th on the series all-time victory list.

* Seven different drivers led laps today, marking the first time since the Fontana race in November of 2002 that a Champ Car race has had seven different leaders.

* Paul Tracy's podium finish was the 63rd of his career. He is two podiums away from tying Emerson Fittipaldi for 10th on the all-time list.

* Bruno Junqueira scored his seventh consecutive podium finish today, making him the first driver since Rick Mears in 1981 to string together as many as seven straight podiums.

* Andrew Ranger became the second-youngest driver ever to start a Champ Car race when he took the green flag in today's race.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Emerson Fittipaldi , Nelson Philippe , Ronnie Bremer , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing