CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterrey: Round three preview

CHAMP CAR POINTS LEADER SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CHASES SERIES LEGENDS AS FIELD HEADS TO MONTERREY, MEXICO INDIANAPOLIS (May 17, 2006) -- When faced with statistics and facts about his rapid ascension up the roster of all-time Champ Car greats, ...


INDIANAPOLIS (May 17, 2006) -- When faced with statistics and facts about his rapid ascension up the roster of all-time Champ Car greats, two-time defending Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is more apt to divert the conversation elsewhere than he is to debate his place among the legends.

But as the years tick by and the races go into the record books one by one, the name atop the majority of those results has remained the same. The Bourdais line on the stat sheet is staggering when matched against the pantheon of Champ Car drivers. His 47 Champ Car starts have yielded 18 wins, giving the Flying Frenchman a winning percentage (.383) that is unmatched in Champ Car annals. He has finished on the podium in more than half of those starts and is the first driver in 23 seasons to defend his Champ Car title with two wins in the following year's first two events.

He has already built an 18-point lead in his quest to become the first driver in 57 years to win three consecutive Champ Car crowns, but more importantly holds a 33-point edge -- more than the allotment of points given for a single race win -- over all but four of his rivals thus far.

The news doesn't get any better for those in pursuit of the Newman/Haas Racing driver this weekend as the Champ Car World Series heads to Monterrey, Mexico for Sunday's Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans. Bourdais has proven to be the master of the Fundidora Park road circuit in his three years in the series, winning the pole in 2003, 2004 and 2005. But qualifying success is not always the harbinger of great things to come as only his 2004 event ended with a celebration in Victory Lane. A miscommunication on a pit stop in 2003 dropped him out of contention while mid-race contact during last year's event relegated him to a fifth-place finish.

But while Bourdais' qualifying success has not always transferred into big results on Race Day, there are a number of drivers in this year's field that have proven their mettle on the challenging 2.104-mile circuit. Bourdais' teammate Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole in the Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the defending race winner in Monterrey, and has placed in the top five in each of his last three Fundidora Park visits. He came from fifth on the grid last year to claim a win that would vault him into the series lead -- a lead he would not get to protect after he suffered a season-ending injury the next weekend in the Indianapolis 500.

Despite all of Bourdais' heroics in Monterrey and the allure of four previous Fundidora Park race winners, when the engines fire, all eyes will be on the Forsythe Championship Racing machine of Mario Dominguez (#7 Roshfrans Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who rolls into his home country carrying the momentum of earning his first career Champ Car pole position just one week earlier. The fifth-year driver that is rapidly gaining the nickname 'Super Mario', led a career-high 63 laps in Houston after winning the pole and went on to claim the 10th podium finish of his career. Dominguez is a career-best second in the championship standings after two races, and a reprise of his Monterrey podium run from 2004 on the track where he made his Champ Car debut in 2002, could move him even closer to the front-running Bourdais.

This year's event is the sixth to be run on the site of one of Mexico's oldest steel foundries, and has featured four different winners in the previous five seasons. Cristiano da Matta (#19 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the only driver to win twice in Monterrey as the Brazilian captured victory in each of the first two events. Da Matta celebrated his return to Mexico last season after spending 2003 and 2004 in Formula 1, and did so convincingly, starting ninth and finishing sixth.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is another driver that has displayed a distinct affinity for the Monterrey layout, having scored top-five finishes in each of his last four trips, including podium runs in 2003 and 2005. Tagliani also sits in the top five in the current season standings despite a late-race accident in Houston that knocked him out of contention for what would have been his second consecutive podium finish.

Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rebounded from a tough start to the 2006 campaign to take a second-place finish in Houston, and will be seeking to repeat his 2003 Monterrey win this weekend. Tracy, who earned the 70th podium finish of his career with his Houston result, has started sixth or better in each of his last three trips to Monterrey.

The Fundidora Park circuit is one of the more unpredictable on the Champ Car schedule, and last year's event was no exception, as 19-year-old Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made series history. The Canadian became the youngest driver ever to earn a Champ Car podium finish when he stormed from 14th on the starting grid to finish second. Ranger has shown that same ability in the first two races of the 2006 season, earning the championship point for gaining the most positions in each of the previous two events.

Monterrey also served as a breakout race last year for fellow teenager Nelson Philippe (#4 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Philippe used clever pit strategy to get in front of the field, but used skill and a heavy right foot to stay there, leading a race-high 23 laps before problems doomed him to a 12th-place finish. He too brings a great deal of Houston-earned momentum to Mexico as the Frenchman placed a career-high fourth under the lights last weekend.

Philippe was chased fiercely to the Houston finish line by RuSPORT's Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who earned his third consecutive top-five finish dating back to last season. The Brit has had a pair of strong runs in Monterrey in his previous two visits, qualifying third in 2004 and second in '05. He parlayed those strong qualifying results into top-six finishes, including a fourth-place run a year ago. His teammate A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is still waiting for fortune to smile on him in Monterrey as his previous three visits have not yielded top-flight results. He started third in his championship-winning Atlantic season in 2003 but was shoved aside in the first corner, and has failed to start in the top 10 in both Champ Car starts on the Mexican layout.

Team Australia rookie Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) assumed the lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings after two events, taking the lead with a career-best seventh-place finish at Reliant Park. Power escaped from an incident with Charles Zwolsman (#34 Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to set a new career high-water mark, despite the fact that he earned a penalty for the contact. He paces the rookie standings by four points over Dale Coyne Racing's Jan Heylen (#11 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), and by eight over PKV Racing's Katherine Legge (#20 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Zwolsman, who set a new personal-best qualifying result in Houston, returns to the Monterrey layout that gave him his first Atlantic victory a year ago when he won from the pole position.

Contact also claimed a possible podium finish for Oriol Servia (#6 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Houston, as his passing attempt of Tagliani for fourth just seven laps from the finish ended in a shower of carbon fiber. Servia is one of four drivers in this year's field to have made each of the previous five Monterrey starts and the Catalunyan has started in the top 10 in four of those five races. His ninth-place finish a year ago was his first top-10 race result on the Fundidora Park circuit.

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. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series,


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Katherine Legge , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Jan Heylen , Charles Zwolsman , Will Power , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing