CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Race report

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA TAKES CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH VICTORY IN EVENT-FILLED TECATE/TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY ROSHFRANS MONTERREY, Mexico (May 22, 2005) -- As one of the veterans of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ...

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA TAKES CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POINTS LEAD WITH VICTORY IN EVENT-FILLED TECATE/TELMEX MONTERREY GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY ROSHFRANS

MONTERREY, Mexico (May 22, 2005) -- As one of the veterans of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, Bruno Junqueira (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has seen a myriad of strange occurrences during a five-year stretch that has seen him finish as the series runner-up for three consecutive seasons.

He would have to call on all of those experiences to dodge a slew of potential calamities and win Sunday's Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix Presented by Roshfrans. A huge crowd of 111,518 endured 90-degree temperatures that had more twists and turns than a Mexican soap opera to witness Junqueira come from fifth on the grid to score his eighth career Champ Car win.

The Brazilian used a healthy dose of patience in picking his way through to the sharp end of the grid, doing battle with some of the sport's top names right alongside a trio of newcomers that were fighting for their first taste of Champ Car glory. Junqueira's win came on a day that featured nine cautions, six lead changes and saw so much happen at the front of the grid that Junqueira never even ran in the top two spots until Lap 61.

He took the lead on Lap 68 after a brief bobble by rookie Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Inc. Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), and held off a stern charge from rookie Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to score the win. Ranger came from 14th on the grid to become the youngest driver ever to win a Champ Car podium and is also the first rookie driver ever to claim a spot on the Champ Car podium in Monterrey. They were joined on the podium by Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who carried his new team to the podium in its second Champ Car start.

Junqueira started his day in the fifth spot and appeared content to watch from there for a while as points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) waged war at the front. Bourdais led the first 17 laps but yielded to second-year driver Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) when Philippe and Wirdheim decided not to pit during a Lap 16 caution. Tracy beat Bourdais off of pit lane during their first stop, setting the stage for more drama later in the race, but both remained behind the out-of-sequence cars through the first half of the race. For their part, Philippe and Wirdheim each did a good job in leading the field, Philippe eventually leading a race-high 23 laps in his two times at the front.

The lead had filtered back to Tracy by Lap 37 but the sixth caution of the day again returned it to Philippe, who again stayed out while the top 10 cars in the order pitted for fuel and tires. The restart on Lap 48 upped the ante on a day that had already seen its share of gambling play out, as Tracy tried to keep a suddenly frisky Bourdais at bay. Bourdais took the restart in fifth and set his sights on the third-placed Tracy after getting around the car of Oriol Servia (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Turn One.

Upon reaching Tracy in Turn Five, Bourdais went to the inside, had side-to-side contact with Tracy, then got entangled when his right rear wheel had contact with Tracy's left front. The impact broke Tracy's suspension and ended his day immediately, while Bourdais received a flat tire and a trip to the pits for his efforts, dropping him back to 12th. Meanwhile Philippe and then Wirdheim had reassumed the lead as the canary banners continued to fly at seemingly regular intervals.

Caution flags on laps 57 and 64 allowed the young Swede to try and stretch his fuel load to the end of the 76-lap affair, but the relentless pressure from Junqueira -- who had narrowly avoided certain disaster when he deftly sidestepped the spinning car of Servia on Lap 61 -- eventually forced a brief bobble, allowing Junqueira and Ranger to sluice by and into the lead. The final caution came on Lap 69 when Philippe and Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had Turn One contact, and set the stage for a four-lap shootout with the veteran looking to fend off not only the hungry rookie Ranger, but also the renewed effort of Tagliani.

Ranger took a look at Junqueira in Turn One on the restart but could not get close enough to threaten as Junqueira rolled away to a 1.376-second margin of victory. Tagliani roared away from Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) when the flag dropped to secure his 11th career podium finish. Wilson held on for fourth while Bourdais battled all the way back to round out the top five. The performance was not enough to allow him to keep his series points lead, but he leaves Monterrey just a single point behind his Newman/Haas teammate and in second place. The win would appear to bode well for Junqueira as the last three drivers to win in Monterrey have also gone on to win the series championship.

Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished a strong sixth while Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 Briggs & Stratton Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) came from 17th on the starting grid to finish seventh. Wirdheim held on for eighth while Servia rebounded from his spin to place ninth. A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10.

The Champ Car World Series will next journey to the venerable Milwaukee Mile for a Saturday afternoon event June 3-4 for the Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 Presented by U.S. Bank.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS:

Bruno Junqueira, #2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "It's really hard to be mistake free on a hot day like today and I think you saw drivers making mistakes that they normally wouldn't make because of the heat. I think the fact that I train in the heat of the day makes a difference. The car was really good and I am very happy to get my first win of the season.

Andrew Ranger, #27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: "I feel pretty good. We qualified 14th and it was a very tough day and a very tough race. The car was fantastic and it is great for the team to have this performance today.

Alex Tagliani, #15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone: I'm just trying to get back to where I know I can be, and where I have been in the past. The team is showing very good potential and we have to keep in mind that this is the team's first year with the Lola. I feel really good about what we're doing."

NOTEWORTHY

* Today's attendance of 111,518 boosted the three-day event attendance to 190,319, an increase of more than 7,000 from last year's Monterrey race.

* Bruno Junqueira scored his eighth consecutive podium finish dating back to last season with his win today. This marks just the eighth time in the history of Champ Car racing that a driver has earned eight consecutive podiums. Rick Mears was the most recent driver to build an eight-race streak, turning the trick in 1981.

* Junqueira's win also gives him victories in each of his first five seasons as a Champ Car driver. The Newman/Haas Racing drive is the first driver since Bobby Rahal (1983-88) to earn wins in each of his first five years in the series.

* Andrew Ranger is the youngest driver to claim a Champ Car podium, eclipsing the former record established by Scott Dixon.

* Paul Tracy led nine laps in today's race, boosting his career laps led total to 3,704.

* Jimmy Vasser made his 199th consecutive start today and is expected to reach the 200-race milestone in Milwaukee in two weeks.

* The Nation's Cup standings are as close as they have ever been in the 10-year history of the award. Brazil leads with 56 points with Canada and France coming in at one point behind.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta