Pacificare driver Junqueira ran second until collision dropped him to ninth place finish in the Grand Prix Americas; Mcdonald's / Lilly driver Bourdais was third when contact with Paul Tracy ended his race - PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira...
Pacificare driver Junqueira ran second until collision dropped him to ninth place finish in the Grand Prix Americas; Mcdonald's / Lilly driver Bourdais was third when contact with Paul Tracy ended his race
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira came into the weekend with an 18-point deficit to series leader Paul Tracy and looked likely to close that to one point with a second place finish but contact with race leader Adrian Fernandez limited him to ninth place in the 135-lap Grand Prix Americas Champ Car World Series event. Junqueira looked set to capitalize on Tracy's retirement from the race after 69 of 135 laps but was only able to earn four points for his ninth place finish and one for being the provisional polesitter on Friday to close to within 13 points of the leader (204-191) with three races remaining.
On Friday, a large bump in the track surface contributed to an accident in the morning session but Junqueira set the fastest time in provisional qualifying in dominating fashion with more than a half-second advantage over second place. He crashed again beginning his third and final lap in final qualifying on Saturday and was third overall but started second due to being guaranteed a front row start as the provisional pole sitter on Friday. Although the drivers had to deal with track temperatures of 105 degrees with ambient temperatures of 93 the threat of thunderstorms never materialized. On the first lap Junqueira passed polesitter Adrian Fernandez although Fernandez regained the position in Turn 1 of Lap 2.
When Fernandez attempted the pass, the two cars were very close with Junqueira on the racing line but he backed off so the two would not hit wheels. Junqueira fluctuated between a 1.2 and 1.7-second deficit to the Mexican in the first 30 laps and had built a lead of five second on third place runner Oriol Servia. As the frontrunners continued to encounter backmarkers on the 1.15-mile street course, the margins decreased. The first caution period of the race came out within the fuel window that was set at a maximum of every 50 laps and once it was possible to make a pit stop, the majority of the field entered the pits on Lap 40. The PacifiCare team performed a quick stop but Junqueira was unable to gain the lead from Fernandez. He held second place through three more restarts and stayed within one second of the leader for the majority of the time until his second stop on Lap 90 under racing conditions but was again unable to pass Fernandez in the pits. He was fourth overall and immediately behind Fernandez as the top two drivers had yet to make their second stops until Lap 93 when a probable 16 points fell from his grasp.
As Fernandez and Junqueira approached the lapped car of Tiago Monteiro in Turn 6, Monteiro pulled over to the right side of the track to allow them to pass. Junqueira, who was close to Fernandez in order to pass Monteiro with him, locked up his brakes when he saw Fernandez brake heavily but was unable to slow his momentum and collided with him. All three cars were stopped on course until CART's Safety Team restarted each of them.
Unfortunately Fernandez fell one lap down after he was restarted and continued on track while Junqueira fell four laps down to the race leader in 13th place after he made a pit stop to replace his front wing and assess the damage. As attrition continued he moved up to ninth place by the time the checkered flag flew for Herdez Competition's 1-2 finish with Mario Dominguez and Roberto Moreno. Following are his post race comments:
"I was on cold tires and I knew I had about five laps to try to pass Adrian. Adrian tried to pass Tiago on the left and I was behind him because I didn't want Tiago to close the door on me again because it would take too long to get by him and I would lose my chance to pass Adrian. We were on the dirty part of the track where the marbles are and Adrian braked hard. I lost the traction and hit him. It was my mistake. I feel sorry for Adrian. I really wanted to win the race. I started to think about when I am called Mr. Consistency and it made me mad. I want to win races. It cost me at least a second place finish today which would have put me one point behind Tracy. I was going for the win instead of a second place finish. I am really disappointed. It was stupid. Paul was already out of the race and I lost a chance to finish second. At least I scored a few points and Tracy didn't score any."
"Michel didn't score many either which is good. We have three more races to try and win the Championship. Today hurt us but we'll know at the end of the season just how much."
- McDonald's / Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais looked capable of a podium finish in the 135-lap Grand Prix Americas but retired from the race after he passed Paul Tracy for third place before the Canadian hit his left rear tire which ultimately led to both of their retirements from the event. A potential opportunity to close on third place ranked Michel Jourdain in the point standings was taken away but fortunately the other three drivers in the top-five of the Champ Car World Series point standings ran into trouble as well over the weekend on the tricky 1.15-mile street course.
He was third in provisional qualifying on Friday but dropped back to fourth in final qualifying on Saturday. At the start of the race he moved alongside third place starter Oriol Servia but lost his momentum and fifth place starter Paul Tracy was able to pass him. On Lap 10 he ran the fastest lap of the race which held until the final stages when he dropped to third overall. He ran within .7-seconds behind Tracy until he encountered lapped traffic which then dropped him to a 1.8 deficit. On Lap 22 Bourdais again began to pressure Tracy and attempt to set up a pass as he was within .5-seconds of the driver but still unable to do so. The majority of the field made their first of two mandatory pits stops each 50 laps on Lap 40 during a caution period for the stalled car of Geoff Boss. He maintained his position when he returned to the track but moved into fourth place when third place runner Oriol Servia crashed on the restart and brought the caution flag back out. During the caution period, Bourdais informed the team that he had brushed the wall before his pit stop when he was trying to pass the lapped car of Patrick Carpentier and had sustained damage to the front steering link, the rod that connects to the wheel to steer the car.
Once the race restarted on Lap 53 he again began to pressure Tracy for position. On Lap 62 he told the team via radio that he was trying to pass Tracy but the Canadian was not using the proper braking line. Simultaneously, CART began to watch Tracy for blocking. On Lap 69 Bourdais passed Tracy in Turn 1 and was almost one car length ahead going into a corner when Tracy's front right wheel hit Bourdais' left rear and Bourdais stopped while Tracy continued on course and into pit lane. After being push-started Bourdais drove to the pits and retired because his front suspension was damaged, as was his rear wing mount. Bourdais retired in 17th place without points and for the third time this season a podium finish fell from his grasp due to something out of his control. Following are his post race comments:
"It was a really stupid thing to happen," said Bourdais. "I tried five times to pass Paul and he did the same thing every time. He moved over on me. It is something that can be avoided. We are friends and we respect each other but this was a stupid thing to happen. I was ahead of him and he hit my rear wheel. I wanted to earn a good finish for the McDonald's/Lilly team but he could hurt himself more because of the championship. I'm not sure why he took the unnecessary risk. I brushed the wall earlier in the race trying to lap Patrick and damaged the car."
"My car was down on performance because I had a bent steering link but I was still able to make a charge on him. A third place finish and a good amount of points evaporated."
- Next Up...
The Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will reconvene in two weeks for the Telmex / Gigante Grand Prix of Mexico City on October 12. Junqueira started the 2002 event from pole and finished third.