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



- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais closed the season the way he opened it -- with a victory in the 66-lap Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex that ran partially in rain. It was his seventh race of the season and matched his win total from 2004 where he ended the season with a victory in Mexico City to earn his first title -- but only after a late race spin like he experienced and survived today. He started the race from second place, took the lead on Lap six for 17 laps but lost it mid race to Wilson, who raced despite a broken wrist, but regained it for good halfway through the final lap (Turn 6 of 15) in spectacular fashion to bring the large crowd to their feet. The only caution of the race came at the start that resulted in damage to the cars of Katherine Legge, Mario Dominguez, and Oriol Servia. Once the race restarted Bourdais took the lead from Wilson on Lap 6 and held it until Lap 22 when Wilson regained the lead as Bourdais struggled with his softer, Bridgestone alternate tires that had lost their edge. He made his first stop and the McDonald's crew performed a quick pit stop despite two of the six over-the-wall guys being sick. Race leader Wilson pitted one lap later and Bourdais ran second again to Wilson once the first round of stops were complete a few laps later. Light rain was reported on Lap 26 and the majority of the field remained on course as long as possible. Bourdais was the last driver to pit for rain tires and remained on course three laps longer (lap 34) than most drivers as well as one more than Wilson to temporarily regain the lead. He returned to the track 2-seconds behind Wilson in second place but dropped back almost six seconds by Lap 45 and was almost nine seconds behind Wilson with 15 laps to go but had lost a good portion of ground due to a spin between Turns 11 and 12 that the TV cameras missed. Wilson made his final stop on Lap 54 and Bourdais held the lead another four laps before his final stop on Lap 57. After Wilson had pit Bourdais stayed on track to gain track position and built a lead of 26 seconds on Wilson but it wasn't enough to pass him after his final stop despite not putting on new rain tires in order to not lose time or wait to get them back up to temperature and thus faster. The McDonald's crew only added fuel and sent Bourdais back on track but his tires were up to temperature and Bourdais closed his 4.6 second deficit on Lap 57 to 2.7 by Lap 59 and continued to close on Wilson. He had been held up by ninth place Andrew Ranger for a lap or two but finally passed on Lap 60 of 66 and began his pursuit of Wilson again. By Lap 62 he had closed to within 0.9 seconds and pressured the injured Wilson who struggled entering and exiting the slow chicane. By Lap 63 he was within 0.5 seconds and pulled alongside Wilson but was unable to complete a pass. He kept applying the pressure in the ensuing laps and was on Wilson's rear wing in the slow chicane on the final lap but was again unable to pass there but successfully completed the move in Turn 6 and took the checkered flag with the 104,000 fans on their feet in excitement. He earned 31 laps for the win, one for leading 24 laps and one for setting the fastest lap of the race to bring his season total to 387.

Following are his post race comments:

"Well, I guess, you know, it wasn't a matter of leading the most laps; it was a matter of leading the last one," said Bourdais of his 23rd victory. "It was just an incredible race, a great battle with Justin the whole time. We both drove the wheels off these cars. That was pretty exciting, I think, at the very end when we decided to stay on the same set of tires, Bridgestone wet tires, it made the whole difference. I was pretty sure the tires were worn out and the track was only damp. I was pretty sure that was the right call. Then kept pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing. I didn't know if Justin had changed the tires or not, but I guess that makes the difference. Now I understand why. If it had been only three or four laps to go, new tires would have been a big help. But with that amount of amount of water, just completely deteriorated too quickly. It was just a great opportunity for us. I really want to thank all the McDonald's team. They've done awesome the last three years, and even before that. You know, I really wanted this win real bad for them because I think they deserve it. Two pit crew guys who were throwing up before the race. That was the least I could do. I think it's just a great way to finish that era of Champ Car with the last victory.

(At what point did you know you had a shot at it?) "I didn't. I mean, I didn't even think about it. I just kept driving the wheels off that car, and it paid off. I could see after a couple of laps that I was starting to catch him, and he was running into a little bit of traffic, then I had myself to go through the traffic. You know, I still had quite a bit of 'push to pass'. I just used it all and caught him. Then after that, it was just kind of a mind battle when, you know, you know the guy is right on your rear wing, you're not quite sure what he's going to do. But I think three laps to go, I really thought I wasn't going to make it. Two laps to go, I didn't think it was doable any more. Then the last lap, as Justin said, he made a small mistake and I went for it.

(With approx. 15 laps to go you were chewing into Justin's lead a little bit, one lap where you lost five seconds. What happened there?) "It's a shame you didn't see it, it was kind of spectacular really. I actually lost the car between 11 and 12, made a 360, stayed on the gas, managed to get it back straight. At that point I was like, Maybe it's just better to settle for second. I just kind of was driving the car, but a little less hard. I don't even really know how we managed to get back to Justin's rear wing because at that point, after a 10-second deficit, it seemed like it was just not going to happen."

- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira drove to a fourth place finish to earn a fifth place rank in the season ending standings in the 66-lap Gran Premio Telmex Presentado por Banamex Champ Car season finale. After running at the top of the charts all weekend and setting the fastest lap in the morning warmup Junqueira was optimistic of having a chance to keep his streak of at least one race win per season but fought with understeer from the start of the race. The only caution of the race came at the start that resulted in damage to the cars of Katherine Legge, Mario Dominguez, and Oriol Servia. Once the race restarted Junqueira remained in third place but dropped back from polesitter Justin Wilson and teammate Sebastien Bourdais. He held third until Lap 22 when he made his first pit stop and returned to the race in seventh place. He returned to third as others made their stops. On Lap 26 light rain was reported around the track but he stayed on track until it increased and pitted for rain tires and a fuel top-off on Lap 32 and returned to third. Will Power had closed the 14 second gap he was in arrears of Junqueira on Lap 37 to 0.5 seconds by Lap 45 and passed him on Lap 48 and the team Junqueira immediately pitted him to gamble on a later caution. He retuned to the race in fifth place but moved into fourth on Lap 58 with fourth place runner Alex Tagliani made a stop. He took the checkered flag in fourth place and collected 23 points for his finish and moved from seventh to fifth in the season-ending standings with 219 points but was unable to keep his seasonal win streak alive with a victory in 2006.

Following are his post race comments:

"It wasn't the race I was expecting after having been fast all weekend and setting the fastest time this morning," said Junqueira. "Since the second lap my car was understeering really bad. I had some big moments. Since the beginning of the race I knew I couldn't keep up with Sebastien and Justin and I knew I couldn't hold Will Power off for third. I'm very happy to finish the season fifth overall after such a bad start to the season. We started off qualifying well but we taken out of some races early on and it was a struggle so a fifth place standing is good. I'm frustrated not to win this year especially since I have won all the other years I have been in Champ Car. I'm already looking forward to next season when I can be in a position to fight for the championship again. Experience is going to be valuable when developing the new race car and I am looking forward to the challenge."

-credit: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Andrew Ranger , Will Power