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

THREE TIME CHAMPION BOURDAIS HOPES TO RETURN TO 2004'S LEVEL OF COMPETITIVENESS AT THE GRAN PREMIO TELMEX POR BANAMEX FINALE IN MEXICO CITY; JUNQUEIRA AIMS TO BETTER HIS THREE SECOND PLACE FINISHES THIS SEASON IN FINALE MEXICO CITY (November 8,...

THREE TIME CHAMPION BOURDAIS HOPES TO RETURN TO 2004'S LEVEL OF COMPETITIVENESS AT THE GRAN PREMIO TELMEX POR BANAMEX FINALE IN MEXICO CITY; JUNQUEIRA AIMS TO BETTER HIS THREE SECOND PLACE FINISHES THIS SEASON IN FINALE

MEXICO CITY (November 8, 2006) --- The challenging 2.786-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course in Mexico City is again the site of the 2006 Champ Car World Series season finale this Sunday and Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira are heading south of the border with the same goal in mind -- to win the 66-lap Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex and end each of their seasons on a high note.

McDonald's0x00ae driver Bourdais became the first since Ted Horn (1946-48) to win three consecutive Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championships with his eighth place finish in Surfers Paradise in the penultimate round of the 2006 season. With the title already decided, he and the McDonald's team can put all their focus on returning to the level of competitiveness they experienced here in 2004 after a dominant RuSPORT team ran the show here in 2005.

"Mexico City was a little bit of a struggle for the whole Newman/Haas team and particularly for the McDonalds's team last year," said Bourdais who started third but recorded his first "Did Not Finish" of the 2005 season when he retired with 10 laps to go in 17th place after contact. "We qualified half decent although we were a little frustrated with the way it went but we didn't really seem to have what it took to beat RuSport. When we started the race we seemed to be doing a good job and we were saving quite a bit of fuel but we had an ECU issue that was telling us that we were burning a lot of fuel that we were not and we got all messed up with the strategy and from then on the race just went downhill. To try and compensate for the loss of time checking the ECU I tried to hard in the pits and went too deep and ran over the mechanics and the race just kept spiraling down. It was hard to end the season that way but it was a heck of a season. Hopefully this year we will come back and show the kind of speed we had in 2004 and just enjoy it. Now that the title is decided we can just try to have a good weekend and a successful end to the season."

The challenges NHR encountered here in 2005 were a strong contrast to the team's race in 2004 when Bourdais and Junqueira qualified and finished first and second respectively and entertained the large crowd with a hard fought battle until the checkered flag for both the race and title, earning the team's first one-two finish in the final standings in their history. Out of three starts here Bourdais has yet to qualify lower than fourth and has a win and second place finish to his credit. He is looking forward to returning to the challenging track.

"It's a tough track for multiple reasons: first because it's very bumpy," said Bourdais who still holds the qualifying and race record here from 2004. "Second because we lack the downforce due to the altitude and third because it's a long course so you have lots of potential for mistakes so you've got to really concentrate and be hands on. It's a real challenge to put a lap together in Mexico City."

In 2002 the Champ Car series returned to the track after having run here in 1980 and 1981 before NHR's first season in 1983. In the four events since 2002, NHR has earned one win, one pole and four podium finishes but finished fourth (Oriol Servia) and 17th (Bourdais) here last year. Bruno Junqueira missed the 2005 event due to injury but is looking forward to his return to the track he has run well on. He started from pole for Target Ganassi Racing in his first event here and finished third in 2002. In 2003 he started third, battled food poisoning on race day and finished seventh after running second while in 2004 he was the provisional polesitter but started and finished second to amass two front row starts and two podium finishes in three starts here.

"I like to race in Mexico City," said Junqueira who turned 30 years old on Saturday, November 4. "The first time we went there in 2002 I was on the pole but we had some problems in the race that kept us from the win but still ended up on the podium and in 2004 I finished second. I have always been pretty competitive there and am looking forward to returning. We had a pretty fast car in Mexico City the last time I drove there in 2004."

The highlight of Junqueira's comeback season from injury in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 after he had taken over the Champ Car point standings has been second place finishes in Cleveland, Denver and Road America. Prior to 2006, he has won at least one race per season since joining the series in 2001 and a victory in the 2006 season finale in Mexico City could make him the first since Bobby Rahal (1982-87) to earn wins in each of his first six years in Champ Car.

Junqueira is currently ranked seventh in the Champ Car standings with 196 points but has a chance to finish as high as fourth place due to being only 18 points behind fourth place ranked Nelson Philippe (214) heading into the season finale. Fifth place Paul Tracy (209) will be unable to fend off challengers in the season-ending point standings race as he will miss the Mexico City event due to an injury while sixth place Mario Dominguez (198) is only two points ahead of Junqueira, who is sure to enjoy his return to the course and his chance to end the season with a strong finish.

"I hope we have a great race in Mexico City," said Junqueira of the event that will run on a slightly reconfigured layout from previous years. "It's a nice long and fast road course and we have a great crowd. There are high speed corners and long chicanes, one next to the other so it's very difficult to get a perfect balance in the car but it makes it more challenging. The altitude is a factor since we lose 35 percent downforce but I have so much fun driving there that I don't even notice it."

This weekend's Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex can be seen live on SPEED on Sunday, November 12 beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. SPEED will also broadcast a 30-minute show covering the highlights from Friday and Saturday qualifying, which will air Saturday evening at 10:30 p.m. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

-credit: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Nelson Philippe
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing