McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS SAYS AU REVOIR AT THIS WEEKEND'S GRAN PREMIO TECATE CHAMP CAR SEASON FINALE; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL AIMS TO GET 2007 WIN AND FIFTH PLACE SEASON-ENDING STANDING MEXICO CITY (November 7, 2007) --- With his fourth...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS SAYS AU REVOIR AT THIS WEEKEND'S GRAN PREMIO TECATE CHAMP CAR SEASON FINALE; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL AIMS TO GET 2007 WIN AND FIFTH PLACE SEASON-ENDING STANDING
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.