McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED THIRD STRAIGHT WIN OF THE SEASON AT TODAY'S TECATE GRAND PRIX OF MONTERREY; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA LOST A POSSIBLE TOP-FIVE FINISH DUE TO PENALTY - McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais earned...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED THIRD STRAIGHT WIN OF THE SEASON AT TODAY'S TECATE GRAND PRIX OF MONTERREY; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA LOST A POSSIBLE TOP-FIVE FINISH DUE TO PENALTY
- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais earned his third consecutive win of the 2006 Champ Car World Series season today as well as increased his championship points lead to 25 over second place after he led 47 of the 76 laps in today's Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. Bourdais led the first 24 laps and had a small lead on Justin Wilson but lost the gap when the field bunched up under caution prior to the first pit stop. Wilson came out ahead of Bourdais and when the race was restarted Wilson's teammate A.J. Allmendinger passed him. Undaunted in third place Bourdais maintained a fuel-saving strategy and took over second place when Allmendinger made his final stop on Lap 53. He held the position until he regained the top spot when Wilson made his final stop on Lap 55. Bourdais pitted on the following lap and was able to narrowly keep the lead when he returned to the track. While trying to build a comfortable lead over Wilson, he survived a late race scare on Lap 70 of 76 when Will Power and Charles Zwolsman took their battle off course and came back on Bourdais was passing. He then continued his charge to the checkered flag after 76 laps and finished with a three second lead over Wilson. He earned 31 points for the win and one point each for leading the race and setting the fastest race lap to increased his pre-race lead over second place from 19 to 25 and now holds 102 points to Wilson's 77.
"Well, that was a heck of a day, that's for sure," said Bourdais. "I think you had a great showing from the three top cars of the beginning of the season. I think we really gave each other a run for our money. Nobody kind of, you know, laid back or anything. It was running flat out the whole time. Definitely for the McDonald's car, it seemed to be running exceptionally well at the beginning. I really thought we had things under control. But, you know, we had I thought a good pit stop, but probably RuSport short fueled a little bit for the first one. When we got out of our box, we were second. From there on, I knew it was going to be a tough race. My car was extremely good. The balance was good and everything. But, you know, it's very difficult to pass, especially when you're fighting against quick cars like Justin and AJ. As AJ explained, Dan Clarke made a mess of this restart. I really couldn't believe it. You know, after that, it was more of a game like, okay, well, let's try not to be too crazy out there, let's capitalize. It's better to finish third than get together with AJ or during lapped traffic passing or things like that. I knew my car was going to come to me during the second stint with the standard tires comparing to these guys with the option tires. I just couldn't pull it off. I still had to make the mileage to try and go further in case I wasn't going to pass them on the track. It was kind of a mind game a little bit. It's a tough call because basically either you go for it, you burn fuel, you have to go by, or you save fuel. So at some point I felt I really had a shot, couldn't really quite pull it off. I burned just a little bit too much to really keep in the window. I was really desperate at the end to make it. In the meantime, you know, going a lap further doesn't help you if you're too far behind. It was kind of an up-and-down battle. At the end of the day, we pulled it off. We kind of looked bad when we full filled on the first stop, but that definitely helped us towards the end. I called for the option Bridgestone tires at the end because I knew the last stint was going to be only 20 laps long. I kind of had the feeling they were a little quicker up to speed, which they definitely were. That helped me because I pulled out of the pits right in front of Justin. The out-lap after the second stop was extremely crucial. Just from there on, it was a sweet ride. We just had to make sure we were not going to make any mistakes. In the meantime, I wanted to get the point for the quickest lap of the race, which we did, not by much though. You know, I'm just extremely happy for this whole McDonald's team. Couldn't be a better start for this season.
(On close call near the end of the race:) "Yeah, Katherine I think didn't anticipate I was closing as quickly as I was. I caught a wreck in turn nine. I was like, Oh, boy. Justin was right behind me. I had to make a tough call because if I was staying behind her, if for some reason she was backing off, I was done. So I made it on the outside in the dust. That definitely wasn't easy with the 'push to pass' to keep it flat. I was sliding forwards. I was just kind of getting worried I was going to run in the grass on the exit, but didn't. Justin had to back off a little bit. He got a run on me, but not good enough. He didn't really have a shot for turn 10. That definitely was probably the toughest moment of the race for us. But, you know, well, maybe not. I guess the toughest one was to let A.J. by and not take a risk at the restart. That was just heartbreaking. Rather take third than nothing.
- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira was forced to relinquish his fifth place position on Lap 30 of 76 in the Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey after being black-flagged when the Champ Car officials declared that he had blocked Paul Tracy on a restart although the Canadian completed the pass in the sequence of turns during the alleged move. The penalty dropped Junqueira to 13th place and he finished the event in 10th place. He started the event in fourth place but battled with understeer and was passed by Tracy on the first lap. He held fifth place through the first round of pit stops on Lap 25 during a caution for debris on course. When the race restarted he was still in fifth place although Tracy was behind him, possibly due to a slow pit stop. During the restart, Champ Car officials viewed a move by Junqueira as blocking and a few laps later ordered him to drive through the pits for the infraction. After dropping to 13th place, he regained a few positions to move up to tenth when the checkered flag flew after 76 laps. He earned 11 points for tenth place and remained ranked 13th in the point standings after three of 15 events.
"I don't feel I blocked, I felt I just held my line," said Junqueira. "I moved before Tracy moved and I thought that was okay and then Tracy passed me. I didn't drive my car into his car; I gave him space to make the move so he passed me. I don't feel that was blocking. I sat one year out and watched the races including Houston and Long Beach this year and saw what other people were doing which was much worse than what I did. They were throwing their car in front of the other guy and nobody got penalized. They didn't give me a warning or nothing. I had a lot of understeer but worst case scenario I could have finished fifth and that would have been definitely better than tenth place."
"I'm confused about how Bruno could be penalized for blocking Tracy when Tracy ended up in front of Bruno during the alleged infraction," said Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/Haas Racing.
- Statistically Speaking...It was Sebastien's third consecutive win in 2006 as well as his eight in the past 10 races. It was the fifth win for NHR in six events here and brought the team their 93rd win compared to Penske's 87 during the same period (from 1983-present). To date, NHR has earned 34 wins in the past 69 races.