CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Season finale preview

MEXICO CITY FINALE TO TIE UP ALL LOOSE ENDS IN 2005 BRIDGESTONE PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POWERED BY FORD SEASON INDIANAPOLIS (November 2, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

MEXICO CITY FINALE TO TIE UP ALL LOOSE ENDS IN 2005 BRIDGESTONE PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POWERED BY FORD SEASON

INDIANAPOLIS (November 2, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be taking what amounts to 70 victory laps around the 2.786-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend, having clinched the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship two weeks ago in Australia.

But don't think for a minute that Bourdais and the rest of his compadres will be taking it easy as Mexico City hosts the season-ending Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate Presented by Banamex, as each driver in the season-high 20-car field has a different reason to go all out in pursuit of victory.

Bourdais is the defending Mexico City champion, having led from wire-to-wire last season in the race that clinched him his first series title. A victory on Sunday would give match his career-high of seven victories and give him 14 Champ Car wins over the last two seasons, the most wins over a two-year span since Al Unser Sr. won 15 events in 1970-71. Bourdais also has nine consecutive top-five finishes and another this weekend would mark just the sixth time in series history that a driver has earned as many as 10 consecutive top-fives.

Series champions have finished on the podium in Mexico City on their way to the title in each of the three previous seasons (2002-04) since the Champ Cars have returned to the fabled Mexico City road course, including victories by the last two titlewinners. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) won from pole in 2003 to all but clinch the championship, and returns looking to join Rick Mears as the only two-time winner in Mexico City. Tracy has seen five DNFs scuttle his championship hopes in 2005, but the Canadian star still has been able to put together a strong campaign. His 512 laps led are the best in the series this year, marking the fourth time in his career that he has led as many as 500 laps in a season.

Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has all but sealed the deal on his best-ever Champ Car season as he needs one point to lock down a career-best second-place season finish, giving Newman/Haas Racing a second consecutive 1-2 placing in the end-of-year standings. Servia scored the first pole position of his Champ Car career two weeks ago in Australia and showed his skill by battling back from a first-turn crash to take a fifth-place finish. The six-year veteran has pair of top-ten placings to his credit in Mexico City, including a seventh-place run one year ago.

Justin Wilson (#9 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looks to put an exclamation point on a strong sophomore campaign with this year's season finale, heading back to a Mexico City layout where he put together one of the most competitive weekends of his rookie season. Wilson leads Tracy by 10 points in the battle for third in the season standings -- a position that pays $200,000 in year-end bonus money. The RuSPORT pilot started what eventually became a string of four consecutive fourth-place finishes with a top-four run last season at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, placing fourth after qualifying third.

Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#7 Roshfrans Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) have also made visits to the Mexico City podium in their careers, da Matta scoring a runner-up finish in his championship season of 2002 while Dominguez thrilled a series-record crowd of 402,413 with a third-place finish in 2003. Da Matta has picked up the qualifying pace as of late, gridding fourth in each of the last two races, but will need to outscore Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by five points over the weekend in order to finish in the top ten and claim a $50,000 series bonus. Dominguez, who was caught up in an accident with da Matta in Australia that dropped him three spots in the standings, has not had great qualifying success in the last two trips to Mexico City, but has made up for it on Race Day, gaining eight spots in 2003 and seven places last year to finish in the top 10.

Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) became the first German-born driver ever to win the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year, clinching the $15,000 prize with a sixth-place run in Australia. The Rocketsports Racing driver has earned top-10 finishes in four of his last five starts and is second only to Bourdais in number of laps completed this season. He has clinched a top-10 season finish but could possibly climb as high as fifth with a strong performance this weekend.

A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has a six-figure year-end bonus in sight as the fifth-place finisher in the championship, but will have to hold off a snarling pack of Champ Car's finest in order to cash the check. Allmendinger, who scored a podium finish in his maiden voyage to Mexico City a year ago, leads Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) by a single point in the battle for fifth while Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) sits just seven points behind in seventh. Vasser, who will extend his series-record streak of consecutive starts to 210 this weekend, comes into the race after scoring back-to-back podium finishes for the first time since the 2000 season. The Californian has fared well in qualifying at Mexico City, gridding seventh or better in each of his three trips, and parlayed that success into a fifth-place run a year ago.

Tagliani is on a roll of his own in the Team Australia ride, taking top-seven finishes in each of the last three races, including a popular fourth-place run for the Green and Gold in their home race in Surfers Paradise. The Canadian has yet to have his breakthrough race in Mexico City however, with a qualifying best of 13th and a finishing best of 10th in his three previous attempts.

The 10th annual Nation's Cup is all but wrapped up as a new country is poised to claim the award in 205. The French duo of Bourdais and Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the standings by 32 points with 33 available over a weekend in Nation's Cup scoring. Canadians Tracy, Ranger and Canada are the defending winners of the Nation's Cup, having captured it for the first time a year ago, but unless a Maple Leaf adorns the car of Saturday's polewinner, the bleu, blanc et rouge will hoist the cup for the first time. Servia is the lone standard-bearer for Spain, but has carried his homeland to the third spot in the standings, 69 markers out of first.

Phoenix, Arizona's Michael McDowell (#31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Australian Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) both performed well in their Champ Car debut outings in Surfers Paradise, and having shaken the rookie jitters, will take the green flag in Mexico City in search of greater glories. McDowell placed 12th in his debut but will have a much busier weekend this time around as the 20-year-old will run both the Champ Car and the Grand-Am events in Mexico City, marking the first time in nearly 30 years that a Champ Car driver has run two separate series events at the same track in the same weekend. Power qualified 11th in his debut and ran in the top-10 for the first half of the race before being collected in an accident that left him 15th. Power takes over the #5 Team Australia machine for Mexico City while 2005 Toyota Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joins the three-car team.

Zwolsman will make his Champ Car debut in Mexico City, making the step up after a championship season that saw him earn three wins, five poles and eight podiums on his way to the title. The 26-year-old driver from the Netherlands has a strong open-wheel road-racing background, having competed in numerous European formula including the German F3 and Formula 3 Euro Series. He had great qualifying success during the most recent Atlantic season, qualifying in the top five for 11 of the 12 events, with the only misstep coming when his car failed the post-session tech inspection in the season opener.

In addition to the 2005 Atlantic champion, the 20-car field will feature one other driver making his debut as Homero Richards (#50 Nextel/HVM-CTE Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will take a Champ Car green flag for the first time. Richards tested with PKV Racing a year ago and also tested with HVM-CTE Racing last month in Sebring. The 28-year-old Richards hails from Mexico City and is a two-time Formula Renault Mexico champion.

The Gran Premio Tecate-Telmex Presented by Banamex will take place Sunday afternoon with the green flag flying at 2:45 p.m. local time. Fans can follow the action live on SPEED Channel beginning at 3:30 Eastern Time, or via the Race Director feature available on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Michael McDowell , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Nelson Philippe , Timo Glock , Will Power , Homero Richards , Cristiano da Matta