CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Newman/Haas Racing preview



MONTERREY (May 17, 2006) --- The Champ Car World Series heads south of the border for this Sunday's 76-lap Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans at the 2.104-mile Parque Fundidora road course and Newman/Haas Racing is hoping to continue their success there. Since the series began racing on the course around one of Mexico's oldest steel foundries, Newman/Haas Racing has won four of the five events with their most recent victory providing bittersweet memories for the team.

In Monterrey last year Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira was hindered by a boost problem in final qualifying and started fifth but charged to the front to earn his earliest victory of a Champ Car season to take the points lead. Junqueira had established himself as one of the most consistent title challengers since finishing runner up to the champion in 2002, 2003 and 2004 but never in those seasons had he begun as well as he did in 2005 when he finished third in the season-opener in Long Beach and won the Monterrey, Mexico race in Round 2 to take over the series lead. Unfortunately perhaps his best chance to date to win the elusive title slipped away in dramatic fashion only one week later when he sustained a season-ending injury in a crash in the May 29, Indianapolis 500. He is looking forward to returning to Monterrey and picking up where he left off last year.

"For me it's going to be really good to go back to race in Monterrey," said Junqueira who has won in each of his five previous seasons. "I am a racer. All this time that I was away I remembered how much I loved racing, loved competing, loved that feeling to try to go to the limit and try to be the first guy across the finish line and the last time that happened was in Monterrey and they are good memories. I'm 29 years old and I have been racing for the past 19 years.JIt's my life; it's what I do. It's my passion and I am really happy to be racing again and to go back to the place where I won and took the points lead. The first two races of this season didn't show our full potential so hopefully we can pick up where we left off last year."

If history is any indication, Junqueira and his teammate, McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais, should be competitive. Since the series began racing on this course the team claimed back-to-back wins by Cristiano da Matta in 2001 and 2002 while Bourdais and Junqueira earned wins here in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Junqueira has three consecutive top five finishes here including a win in 2005, second place in 2004 and fifth place in 2003. He did not finish his first two events here due to a mechanical failure (2001) and contact with Townsend Bell (2002).

"Newman/Haas has a good record in Monterrey; they have won almost every race that has been run there," said Junqueira who was taken out on Lap 1 of the first race of the season in Long Beach and hindered by a fuel miscalculation in Round 2 in Houston. "For sure our setup seems to suit the track and we have been lucky as well to get great results there but especially at the beginning of the year. The team spent the whole winter working on the car so Newman/Haas has the ability to start the year already up to speed. That's why they are strong in Monterrey and the early races of the year."

After being in contention for the win in all three races he has run here, McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais concurs with his teammate. "Newman/Haas has been successful in Monterrey but I don't think it's specific to Monterrey," added Bourdais who has a 38 percent win average after driving to victory 18 times in 47 races. "I think Newman/Haas overall has been strong just about everywhere. For sure we tend to have a little bit of a harder time on road courses since the last two seasons, especially to RuSport, but we'll see how it unfolds. At the end of the day you need to be fully consistent and be aware of what you're doing so that's very much been the philosophy at NHR and on this McDonald's team."

That philosophy has paid off for Bourdais and the McDonald's team who, despite having won both of the races held so far this season, is taking nothing for granted. He currently holds a slim 18-point advantage over second place Mexican Mario Dominguez (68-50) who will be buoyed by support from his fellow countrymen this weekend. Bourdais earned the top starting spot each of the three races he has run here but a radio malfunction led to a delayed pit stop and missed opportunity for victory in 2003 and an on-track incident limited his finish to fifth last year. Bourdais is hoping for a trouble-free weekend in Monterrey.

"Monterrey is a tough track but somehow in qualifying it looks like the McDonald's team has our hands on the thing," said Bourdais, who is the only non-Formula One driver to hold the top spot on Speed TV's driver ranking and has done so for three consecutive weeks. "It's been a little trickier for us in the race. The first year we had the radio failure and missed the win and last year we had an incident with PT following a hick-up in the pits so I guess hopefully everything is going to be alright. If it's only every two years we should be fine."

In just five years of existence, the Monterrey Champ Car event has become one of the most well-attended events on the schedule, averaging over 225,000 fans per event in the previous five races. Last year saw the one-millionth fan come through the Monterrey gates as the Mexican fans continue to show their rabid support for Champ Car racing. It is not only one of the hottest events in the Champ Car schedule, it is also one of the hottest for the drivers.

"Monterrey is a nice track; I love to race there,' concluded Junqueira. "There are a lot of Mexican fans and they treat me so well there. Last year it was pretty hot there and we got a great win that put me in the lead of the championship. I think it was a really important race for me. It is a very difficult track because it is not used much so there is not much grip. Every year the track gets a little bit better but there is not much grip so you have to stay on the racing line plus it has big curbs that you have to go around. You cannot make a mistake and hit them. It's a very technical track and, especially the last two years, it was very, very, very hot. It's the hottest race of the year so it's hard on the race drivers as well during the race because you have to concentrate hard to stay on the race line and make no mistakes and the heat makes it harder."

This weekend's Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans can be seen live Sunday, May 21 on SPEED, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. SPEED will also air a 30-minute qualifying show Saturday evening May 20, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta