CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview


MEXICO CITY (November 7,  2007) --- With his fourth consecutive title wrapped
up and only one race to go  before he departs to live his lifelong dream of
competing in Formula One,  McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais could take it
easy this weekend and rest on  his laurels that include a 42 percent win
average, 43 percent average of  starting from pole and an amazing 60 percent average
of finishing on the podium  in his 72 Champ Car races to date.  But Bourdais,
true to form and a true champion, will do everything in his  power to end
this weekend's Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex season  finale -- and
Champ Car career -- on the top spot of the victory podium in what is  sure to be an
emotional event for all of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing  (NHLR).
"I hope the McDonald's team  can put on a good show again in Mexico City,"
said Bourdais  who clinched his first title in 2004 with a win at the 2.7 mile
Autodromo  Hermanos Rodriguez and followed it up with another here last year.
"Obviously you don't want to finish your  career in the series with some
frustration or regret.  We'll give our very best and hope we can  finish in
style.  Obviously  I owe these guys my total dedication.  We've been working really
hard together for these past five years.  You know, I just couldn't stand
myself  if I didn't give it all I had until the very end.  They deserve the very
best, and we're  going to do just that until the very end."
In December of 2002, Bourdais earned his position at  Newman/Haas Racing at a
driver shootout and quickly proved he deserved the  selection by winning
three races and five poles in his rookie season as well as  2003 Rookie of the
Year honors.  Since then he and the McDonald's team have earned four consecutive
championships and set many records along the way.  His personal best season
win total is  seven in 2004 and 2006 and he could better his own mark with a
victory this  weekend which would tie him with Michael Andretti (1991) and Al
Unser Jr. (1994)  for most wins in a single season in the CART / Champ Car
modern era  (1979-present).  In order to end his Champ  Car career with a win, one
of the drivers he will have to beat is Justin Wilson,  whom Bourdais passed
here last year in a breathtaking final lap  battle.
"The race was an exciting  one," Bourdais said of the 2006 event.  "I guess
we put on a heck of a show for the fans.  There were a lot of speed
differences at  times because some guys had the Bridgestone alternate tires on while
others had  the primary tires on so there were different paces.  That's what
really allowed us to pass  Justin.  He decided to go with new  tires on the last
stop and we didn't change them to save time and kept the old,  wet (rain) tires
on what was pretty-much a drying track towards the end and he  was
struggling.  We had a good run  and it was, for me, one of the best races in a long time."

Bourdais has been one of, if not the, most dominant drivers in Champ Car history but it's said that all good things must come to an end. That won't happen until the conclusion of Sunday's season finale though and as the desire to win at NHLR will take precedence over emotion, the McDonald's team will be concentrating on ending Bourdais' reign at Champ Car with another win on Sunday. However, the Frenchman is quick to point out that although this is his final race with the team, the relationships that have been forged will continue.

"We have one more race to go before we turn the last page of my Champ Car career and it's done and over," said Bourdais. "All I hope is that people remember that we went after it and we gave it our very best, and we haven't won these four championships just kind of waiting for the points to accumulate and just being consistent. We obviously tried to put on the best show we could, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We've won the championships but not only done that. I think I grew up as a man and as a driver. I learned a lot from a lot of obviously very experienced people, and I've learned from the best. But these guys, they're really close friends and everything, so I think we'll still stay in touch, and, like I said ... it's not because I'm going to move on to another challenge that I'm going to forget. Not at all; it's going to be something that will stay a part of me forever."

While Bourdais is close to  finishing his Champ Car career, Medi | Zone
driver Graham Rahal is still just  beginning his.  The 18-year-old has  one more
event in his rookie season and one more opportunity to meet a goal he  set -- to
win a race this year.  In  13 races this season, he has finished on the podium
four times including  becoming the youngest podium finisher with his second
place in Houston.  In 10 of the 13 races, he has been in  contention for the
win by running in the top-five, including leading three races  and setting the
fastest lap of the race for the first time in the previous event  in Australia.
 The 17-turn, 2.7-mile  Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez layout couldn't suit his
style more if he had  designed the course himself.
"I'm looking forward to  racing in Mexico  City for the first time," said
Rahal, who started his  rookie season by splitting time being a professional
race car driver and high  school senior.  "The track  definitely suits my style
because it has very fast corners and is very windy for  a long duration.  It's
definitely  quick and favors my style so hopefully the Medi | Zone team can
finish the  season with a good result and hang on to fifth place."

Like many of the events this season, Rahal will have to learn the course as the Atlantic series, where he finished runner up in 2006, has not competed here. Ending the season on the podium would also aid him in his quest to retain his current fifth place rank. With 220 points to date and a maximum of 34 points available this weekend, Rahal is one of five drivers with an outside chance of taking fourth place from Will Power who has 234. The points battle is so tight that even 10th place Alex Tagliani (197) is within 34 points of Rahal who knows there will be a fierce fight this weekend but he will continue to take a methodical approach to learning the layout and earning the highest possible finish in the season standings.

"Having to adapt quickly to  new layouts is something I think we all have had
to get used to in this series,"  said Rahal, who will be one of five drivers
to compete on the course for the  first time.  "We have all grown up  having
to get used to new circuits very quickly.  You basically have to show up and do
a  good job.  I watch as much tape as  possible, pay close attention on the
track walk and look at as much data as I  can."

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is named for the famous Mexican brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez who both lost their lives behind the wheel. Champ Car made its first appearance on the circuit in 1980 and 1981, but did not return again until 2002. In the five years of racing here, Newman/Haas Racing, now named Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, has earned two wins (Bourdais 2006, 2004), one pole (Bourdais 2004) and five podium finishes (2nd -- Junqueira 2004, Bourdais 2003, da Matta 2002). Rahal is hoping to add to NHLR's numbers this weekend.

"I came to the race last  year as a spectator," said Rahal.  "It was very
interesting because it was run in the wet and dry and  everyone had to
anticipate the changes.  It was very difficult.  I  found it very exciting to watch
because (Justin) Wilson had only one arm and he led most of the  race.  Hopefully
it will be another  good race this year and we can be one of the  contenders."
In an effort to enhance passing  and create more racing, the Champ Car World
Series will increase the horsepower  on its Power-to-Pass function (P2P) from
50 to 100. Drivers will also receive 75  seconds of P2P time, an increase 15
seconds over the normal 60  seconds.
The Gran Premio Tecate  Presented by Banamex gets underway on Friday with the
first round of qualifying  at 2:00 p.m. CST.  The final grid  will be set on
Saturday at 2:00 pm CST and the season-ending race will go green  Sunday at
2:00 pm CST and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 from 2:00 -- 4:00 p.m.  EST.

-credit: -NHLR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Alex Tagliani , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power