CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report



- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais ended his Champ Car career much the way he lived it -- in style -- with a victory in the Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. His eighth victory of the season put him in a three way tie with Michael Andretti (1991 with NHR) and Al Unser Jr (1994) for most wins in single season in CART / Champ Car history (1979-present). After the morning standing start practice, Bourdais and teammate Rahal were each penalized 22 seconds of Power To Pass (P2P) from the original allotment of 75 seconds for laying down rubber in their grid boxes on the front straightaway. Champ Car deemed that it gave them a traction advantage at the start of the race so P2P was deducted as a penalty. This would prove a hindrance for Bourdais for much of the event and especially the closing stages although he overcame the disadvantage.

He made a good standing start and held second place through the first of only two caution periods from Laps 1-3 to restart the stalled cars of Oriol Servia, Nelson Philippe and Alex Tagliani and trailed Power by one-to-two seconds. He closed to less than a second on Lap 18 and kept the margin until he made his move on Lap 24 in Turn 1 and passed the Australian. It was the first time he used Power to Pass and set the fastest lap of the race thus far. Both he and Power made their first stops on Lap 25 and the McDonald's crew got Bourdais back on track quickly and in the lead which he ultimately held until the end of the race. After the second round of stops Bourdais had built a comfortable 11-second lead before the team's worst fear materialized and a full course caution for debris on course on Lap 55 bunched the field and erased his cushion.

Power had 65 seconds of P2P left to Bourdais' 30 which put the team in a vulnerable position due to the long straightaway and flowing corners. The caution lasted five laps due to Katherine Legge stalling on the front straight which delayed the restart until Lap 59. Although Power utilized P2P in Turn 1 Bourdais had already made a great restart and had pulled away. In the ensuing laps Power used P2P to close the gap and had approx. 20 seconds like Bourdais until both depleted their allotment and Bourdais took his final Champ Car checkered flag after 64 laps and was 1.9-seconds ahead of Power. He collected 31 points for the win for a season-ending total of 364.

Following are his post race comments: "It was a difficult race after being penalized once and then suffering some kind of a weird yellow," said Bourdais. "You know, we tried to do the best we could to stop the pressure from building around us, but there was just no way out. Everybody was really emotional today, and I was, too. I had to leave a couple of times before jumping in the car. I couldn't hold it. It was really, really strange just to finally realize that it was going to be the last time. When I closed the visor it was all business. I knew it wasn't going to be easy because the Push-to-Pass and the fact that they increased the importance of it this weekend, it was going to be super hard. We just had the better car and the McDonald's team once again just pulled it off. We had a good start and great strategy and great speed, and that's what it's all about. It's racing; it always comes back down to this. It doesn't matter how many hurdles you put in your way. It's irrelevant for the most part when you get such a day.

"I tried to pass the message along that we had done it about 30 times, and I really wanted to add another one, and we needed to do it. I could really feel that the boys were just kind of freaking out, and Dave couldn't even change a wheel this morning and things like that. So it was really hard. I took the time to make a little speech on the out lap and just try and regroup everybody and say, let's do this one more time. We know what we've got to do, so let's do it. We did just that, and it was an awesome day. "There was no better way to finish off that chapter of my career. I really felt like everybody deserved it in the team, and it was on my side to finish it off because the cards were on the table and played pretty much. It was up to me to make the best use of it. During that first stint when Will was saving quite a bit of fuel and Justin didn't seem to be too much of a factor, at some point I thought he was just going to go for it, try and pass me, which would have really dropped me in a big hole because it would have been a heartbreaking situation whether to save fuel or not save fuel, as you all know, because if a yellow was to happen, we would have just lost a track position and really tough to make back with less Push-to-Pass.

"You know, we just really didn't hold anything back, and I saved more fuel than I was supposed to because I wanted to give it a try at the end of the first stint, and it worked out. Will lost the rears (tires) and started to have a much tougher time to make up the mileage and had to slow down, and that's when I decided to go for it. I knew I wasn't going to have a ton of shots at it because obviously with only 53 seconds of Push-to-Pass and about 18 seconds every time you use it in the front straight, it was going to go away in a hurry. You know, from there it was just a straightforward race, the way we like them and the way we've controlled quite a few. And it means -- it probably tops everything else, between the emotion, the performance on the racetrack and the way things turned out, obviously it's quite complete.

(On being concerned when the yellow flag erased your 11-second lead:) "Yeah, that was a good one (challenge), another good one I should say. Yeah, I guess it was getting boring, right, so they had to do something about it. Yeah, obviously I knew it could be a big, big, big problem because Will was going to be on the Push-to-Pass every single lap from the restart, and I could only use it once, maybe twice. So I had to make few mistakes, go through the chicane, which isn't really easy when you put all the marbles on the tires and you've got to clean them off and it's a restart. Last three starts in racing, last in the race, man. I was focused. I knew what I had to do, but a lot of things can happen, the wrong things.

"After the race started I felt pretty comfortable because I felt like the Bridgestone tires felt really good out there, and I had good traction and I could get a good jump in the last chicane, and from there the group was still good, I could hold pretty much flat in the Peraltada. So I had a pretty good feeling about the whole thing, but I knew I just couldn't afford to make any mistakes. Yeah, it was a little nerve-wracking."

- Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal ran in third place for much of today's Gran Premio Tecate Champ Car season finale after starting seventh but a late race pass by Oriol Servia dropped him to a fourth place finish which was enough to maintain his fifth place rank in the season ending standings. After the morning standing start practice, Rahal and teammate Bourdais were each penalized 22 seconds of Power To Pass from the original allotment of 75 seconds for laying down rubber in their grid boxes on the front straightaway. Champ Car deemed that it gave them a traction advantage at the start of the race so P2P was deducted as a penalty.

Rahal made a good standing start but had to take evasive action to avoid the stalled car of fourth place starter Servia. Alex Tagliani and Nelson Philippe also stalled their cars at the start and the first of two full course cautions came out to restart the cars. He held seventh place through the restart and moved into sixth on Lap 4 when Robert Doornbos slowed on course due to a clutch problem. Fifth place starter Justin Wilson began to slow his pace and dropped from third to sixth and Rahal was able to easily pass him and move into fifth on Lap 16 which he held for three laps before he had closed on Simon Pagenaud and passed him in going into Turn 1 for fourth place on Lap 20. He made his first of two pit stops on Lap 23 and as the field cycled through their stops, Paul Tracy came back on track as Rahal was passing pit exit and Rahal was able to gain another position and move into third. He held third for the next 21 laps and began closing the seven second gap to second place Will Power. He made his final stop on Lap 46 and returned to the track in third which he held for the next 12 laps and through the second and final full course caution for debris from Laps 55-59 of the eventual 64 lap event.

Prior to the caution he trailed second place Power by six seconds and had a comfortable 11-second lead on fourth place Pagenaud. Once the race was restarted previous seventh place runner Servia, who was on an alternate pit strategy due to stalling on the start and had made his final stop on Lap 49 to Rahal's 46, charged past Pagenaud and Paul Tracy on the restart and began closing on Rahal. The timing of the caution period benefited his alternate pit strategy and choice of the softer Bridgestone alternate tires versus Rahal, who was on the primary tires that were more durable for longer runs. In addition to being one of the fastest cars on track at the time, Servia also had twice as much P2P as Rahal and utilized it to the full potential when he charged past him to take third on Lap 61 of 64. Rahal trailed by two-seconds seconds but was unable to attempt to regain third place and took the checkered flag in fourth. The 23 points he earned enabled him to keep his fifth place season ending rank with a total of 243.

Following are his post race comments: "Overall it was a good day for the Medi | Zone team," said Rahal. "It was good to pass guys and move into the top three. It would have been even better to hold onto third place and end the season on the podium but (Oriol) Servia was on the red Bridgestone alternate tires and I was on the primary ones and he also had more Power to Pass. He closed on me so fast it caught me by surprise. It was impossible to hold him off because he had so much grip. All in all it was good to end the season with a competitive day and run up front most of the race. Obviously I would have had a little better season and catch Doornbos. He had some luck mid season when we had some bad luck. Overall I am happy to finish fifth in the season standings. I am already looking forward to next season."

-credit: nhlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Al Unser Sr. , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud