CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Newman/Haas Racing race report

Junqueira set fast lap en route to 5th in Mexico; Bourdais led from pole but contact ended his race in 17th place. PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira ran as high as third place in the 85-lap Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix but an off-course ...

Junqueira set fast lap en route to 5th in Mexico; Bourdais led from pole but contact ended his race in 17th place.

PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira ran as high as third place in the 85-lap Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix but an off-course excursion contributed to a fifth place finish in his third event here. On a clear, sunny day Junqueira drove from his seventh place starting position and passed local favorite Adrian Fernandez for sixth place on the first lap. He held the position through the first yellow period from Laps 4-6 for Tiago Monteiro who went off course with a mechanical failure. He maintained sixth place until Lap 14 when he and the majority of the field made their first of three mandatory pit stops during the caution for Patrick Lemarie (Laps 14-15), who came to a stop on the front straight.

On Lap 18, he moved into fifth place when teammate Bourdais pitted and stalled leaving the pits during the caution period for Rodolfo Lavin (Laps 17-18), who spun and stalled on course. He moved into fourth when Roberto Moreno made his out-of-sequence stop and began to close on Michel Jourdain so that he could possibly set up a pass but was unable to do so before his second stop on Lap 40 during the caution period for Oriol Servia who retired from the race after contact. A quick stop by the PacifiCare team enabled Junqueira to pass Alex Tagliani in pit lane and he moved into third place.

The race went green again on Lap 45 and on Lap 46 he spun in Turn 6 while attempting to close the gap on second place Jourdain but was able to continue although he dropped to ninth place. He began to close the gap to eighth place Mario Haberfeld and on Lap 53 he was able to pass the fellow Brazilian but drove wide in the turn and Haberfeld was able to regain the position. After another attempt on Lap 56, he was able to pass him on Lap 57. He was then .8 of a second behind Patrick Carpentier but quickly closed the gap on Lap 59 when he was able to pass the Canadian on what was to be the fastest lap of the race. In seventh, he was then held up behind the lapped car of Patrick Lemarie in route to an attempt to close the gap on Englishman Darren Manning. By lap 66 he moved into third place after Mario Dominguez, Manning, Fernandez and Alex Tagliani made pit stops.

He then made his third and final stop on Lap 66 and returned to the race in sixth place, 2.2-seconds behind Carpentier. By Lap 71 he had closed the gap to .4 of a second and was able to pass the Canadian in a spectacular move in Turn 5. With the closing laps of the race approaching, Junqueira then began to reel in fourth place Fernandez and moved as close as .3 of a second behind him before the final caution period came out for Carpentier who had attempted to pass fourth place Fernandez and Junqueira and drove too deep into the corner resulting in a stalled car. Once Carpentier was "bump started," the field prepared for a four-lap shootout. In an effort to ensure that he would finish the race with 10 points for fifth place, Junqueira held off on further attempts to pass Fernandez and took the checkered flag in this position. He made an appearance on the podium to receive a trophy for setting the fastest race lap although he would have preferred to accept one of the other trophies that were handed out to race winner and points leader Paul Tracy, second place finisher Michel Jourdain and Alex Tagliani, who finished third. Junqueira maintained his third place rank in the point standings and trails Tracy by 19 points after two of 18 races. Following are his post race comments:

"I'm so disappointed not to put the PacifiCare car on the podium," said Junqueira. "For sure we had a third place and maybe even a second place finish but I was in Turn 6 and I locked the rear tires and went off course. It is so disappointing. I was passing cars right and left. We should be on the podium. By setting the fastest lap, we proved the car was capable of a podium finish. Maybe between our difficult race in St. Pete and today we have all of the bad behind us and we can have a good race in Long Beach. That will be an important race for us because it is the home of PacifiCare and they are a sponsor of the race. We really want to do well there."

Rookie Sebastien Bourdais started the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix from pole position but his day ended in 17th place after a difficult race that included radio failure, a troubled pit stop and a brush with the wall entering the pits -- the latter ending his race after he completed 40 of the 85 laps. On Saturday, Bourdais set a new track record in route to earning his second pole in as many Champ car races as well as the first for the team at this track and the ninth in the past 17 events for Newman/Haas dating back to Cristiano da Matta's pole in Laguna Seca, Calif.

Bourdias's record setting pole position also boded well for the team's attempt to win a third consecutive race at the picturesque 2.104-mile Parque Fundidora course however victory eluded the team. He began the race alongside Paul Tracy but was able to hold off the eventual winner through the green flag and had built a 1.1-second lead on the Canadian before the yellow flag was displayed on Laps 4-6 while the Safety Team removed the car of Tiago Monteiro, who suffered a mechanical failure. Bourdais again held the lead on the restart and built a margin of 1.6-seconds over Tracy when the yellow flag was displayed due to the car of Patrick Lemarie, who slowed on the front straight. The team called for Bourdais to pit but he passed the opening to pit lane due to not hearing the relayed information as the radio malfunctioned. The majority of the field made their first of three mandatory pit stops (26-lap interval) and Bourdais was instructed to build as much of a lead as possible once the race returned to green conditions on Lap 17.

On the restart Rodolfo Lavin spun and stalled his car so the race returned to yellow condition for two laps until he was bump started. The team made use of this caution period and Bourdais made his first stop but stalled attempting to leave the pits. After he was restarted he rejoined the race in 16th place. In the ensuing laps he displayed how well his race car was handling in addition to why he is one of the most heralded rookies in the Champ Car World Series as he began to move up through the field. From Laps 23 to 36 he had moved past Oriol Servia, Joel Camathias, Alex Yoong, Ryan Hunter-Rhea, Mario Haberfeld, Roberto Moreno, Patrick Carpentier, Jimmy Vasser, and Darren Manning into seventh place before a caution period came out on Lap 39 to remove the car of Oriol Servia who retired from the race after contact. On his way into the pits, he brushed the wall and slowly drove toward the pit box. The team attempted to repair the broken toe link on his rear suspension although they decided that there was a slim chance to gain any points through a top-12 finish and he retired in 17th place. For the first portion of the race, he had run the fastest race lap but dropped to fourth in the ranking for this category after he retired on Lap 40 of 85. For the weekend, he gained one point from earning the pole position and dropped from his pre-race ninth place rank to 14th with a total of five points. Following are his post race comments.

"Everything went wrong from the start of the race," said Bourdais. "We had problems with the radio and when they called me in for the first stop under yellow, I didn't hear them. At that point the race was already compromised. Another yellow was brought out a few laps later and we stopped but I stalled the car on the way out. After that I drove hard to make up the positions and we were back up to seventh place when I came in to pit. To be honest, I don't know what happened when I brushed the wall entering the pits. I didn't even hit the wall, I just touched it but it broke the toe link but the team figured that it wasn't likely we would get into the points paying range so we just stopped our race. It's so frustrating not be get a better result from the potential we had."

- First Oval Test...Rookie Sebastien Bourdais will take part in his first test on an oval on April 1-3 at Phoenix International Raceway. PacifiCare driver Junqueira will shakedown a Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone race car prior to handing the testing duties over to Bourdais. Prior to the test Bourdais will make his first trip back home to France since the season-opening round in St. Petersburg.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Alex Yoong , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Ryan Hunt , Cristiano da Matta