CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach: Sebastien Bourdais preview

McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS SET TO BEGIN QUEST TO BECOME FIRST OPEN WHEEL DRIVER SINCE 1948 TO EARN THREE CONSECUTIVE TITLES LONG BEACH (April 5, 2006) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais enters this weekend's Champ Car World Series ...


LONG BEACH (April 5, 2006) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais enters this weekend's Champ Car World Series season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as if it's any other race or any other season in which he has competed. This philosophy has enabled the Frenchman to build a 36 percent win average and 40 percent pole average in 45 Champ Car races (16 wins, 18 poles) and therefore he sees no reason to change his approach during his quest for a third consecutive Vanderbilt Cup, a feat unmatched in open wheel racing since Ted Horn did so from 1946-1948.

"To be able to make history with a third consecutive championship for the McDonald's team is a big motivation but I don't need that to go at it and work hard," said Bourdais who added his name to those of Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Alex Zanardi and Gil de Ferran by earning consecutive titles in the Modern Era. b^0x001cI think realistically the team has been doing a fantastic job for two years in a row now and when you get to the top the only thing you want to do is stay there so we don't need extra motivation but I guess it would be nice to end up in the history books. Our team is very well aware of everybody's envy to get to the top, so we'll keep on working hard and see if it's good enough."

In 2005 Bourdais earned six wins, five poles and seven podium finishes in 13 events. He also brought Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) their fourth win in Long Beach and their first in 18 years since Mario Andretti followed up his 1984 and 1985 wins with one in 1987. Parity in the series delayed his next victory until Round 7 in Edmonton but by season's end he had built a series win average of 36 percent and pole average of 40. Despite these impressive numbers, the Frenchman knew tougher competition was on the horizon after a less than dominant performance in the 2005 season finale in Mexico City.

"You need something -- I wouldn't say you need luck -- but you need things not to be against you," said Bourdais. "I think that's what we saw last year in the second half of the season. I think it is quite easy to realize that being able to stay at the top in three consecutive seasons is extremely difficult. The real thing that saves us is that we all realize that you can drop off very easily. If we want to say that we want to win the championship again, we are going to have to dedicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes. The Mexico City race just illustrated that point for everyone because it showed what can happen and what other teams are capable of doing."

In addition to Bourdais' 2005 win on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street course from a fourth place start, he started second and finished third in 2004 and started fifth in his first race here in 2003 but retired after engine failure. If history is any indication, Bourdais or his teammate Bruno Junqueira has a strong possibility of adding to the team's win total in season-opening events. In their previous 23 seasons, NHR has earned 10 victories in Round 1, four of which came at this track with the most recent earned by Bourdais here in 2005. Bourdais knows there will be many contenders attempting to prevent NHR from adding another win here and from finishing one-two in the season-ending standings for the third consecutive time.

"The RuSport guys are going to be really strong this year," said Bourdais. "They hired one of our engineers so they have our setups and should do well. Bruno will be strong again this year. He's finished second three times in a row and last year he had the points lead but couldn't finish the season because of his accident in the Indy 500. He has had a long time to physically and mentally prepare for the season and he wants success more than ever. PT (Paul Tracy) will be strong again too and Oriol (Servia) could very well be a strong challenger. There are a lot of very good guys and good cars but hopefully we can beat them enough times to put together another title run.

"It is hard to believe sometimes that after only three seasons, we have been able to accomplish everything that we have done with Newman/Haas Racing," added Bourdais. "But once you get around these guys, you see why they are so good. From Paul (Newman) and Carl (Haas), their passion just filters through the entire organization and everyone picks up on that and feeds on it. It is a pleasure to work with these guys every day."

J The Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season-opening Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place on Sunday, April 9 at 1:00 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the action live on NBC or via the Race Director feature available on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, A one-hour season preview will air on SPEED Channel on Saturday at 11 p.m. ET.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Sébastien Bourdais