Bourdais & Junqueira Lead Title Chase to Molson Indy Montreal MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 25, 2004) --- McDonald's Driver Sebastien Bourdais and PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira are among the frontrunners in the battle for the Champ Car ...
Bourdais & Junqueira Lead Title Chase to Molson Indy Montreal
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 25, 2004) --- McDonald's Driver Sebastien Bourdais and PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira are among the frontrunners in the battle for the Champ Car World Series title that resumes this weekend on the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve at the Molson Indy Montreal. The Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) teammates enter Round 10 of 15 in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford first and second in the point standings, respectively, with a 248-192 margin. The final five races of the season with see a fierce battle for the coveted Vanderbilt Cup which is given to the leader.
"I don't feel any extra pressure for the championship at this point," said Bourdais, who charged to his fifth win of the season at the previous race in Denver after falling to the back on the opening lap. "I am just keeping focused on what I'm doing right now. I'm approaching the races one by one; it's the guideline right now. I just don't want to change anything. Really the big mistake would be to change what's been working so far for the McDonald's team."
Bourdais, 25, has scored five wins, five poles and has led 316 laps through nine races so far this season. He has started no lower than third place (twice) and holds an impressive qualifying average of 1.6. He hopes to carry his qualifying performance over to Montreal where he started sixth last year after a frustrating final qualifying session. Bourdais met further challenges in the race last year and admits he is not sure what type of performance to expect this year.
"The race in Montreal was difficult for Newman/Haas Racing last year as neither myself nor Bruno had a good result," explained Bourdais. "During final qualifying, we got a red flag at the wrong moment and hurt our chances to try to improve our starting position. The qualifying session was really close time-wise and we were only 2/10ths of a second back but in sixth place. In the race, our package wasn't as good as it could have been so we know we will need to improve this year. Because of the long straights, horsepower is a big factor. In the race last year we found we had a weak engine so we paid the full price because of the length of the straights. We were going for an okay race -- not great -- but about 15 laps in the differential started to lock and both wheels were completely solid at the end of the first stint which meant the car wouldn't turn, it was just going straight. I was having a terrible time trying to drive it but finally it just broke. We are looking forward to a much better weekend this year. We have been strong at many of the tracks so far this season but the Montreal race is a bit of an unknown to me in terms of how competitive I think we will be."
On the strength of seven top-six finishes, including five podiums in nine races so far this season, Junqueira, 27, trails Bourdais by only 56 points (248-192). In order to hold off their closest challenger, 2004 Champion Paul Tracy who is 12 points behind Junqueira and 68 behind Bourdais, both NHR drivers hope to better their 2003 results here. Junqueira started third and finished 13th in each of his two races in Montreal. Engine failure ended his race in 2002 and he spun and dropped to 18th in 2003, but set the fastest race lap en route to a 13th place finish.
"Last year the race was frustrating for me," said Junqueira of the event on the 2.709-mile course. "I started third but in the race I was too close to the guy in front of me and lost the downforce on the car which caused me to lock my rear tires and spin twice. For the past two years I have finished 13th in Montreal so I am hoping to turn my results around. The PacifiCare team has a good baseline set up and we set the fastest race lap last year and I hope we will have better luck here and have a good race."
In the two year history of the race, NHR has earned one pole in Montreal when da Matta set the existing track record in qualifying in 2002. He led the first 35 laps but a conservative fuel strategy led to a second place finish and the only podium for the team at this track. Junqueira hopes to add to the team's results here as well as make some headway in his bid for the series title with a good finish.
"I really enjoy racing in Montreal, the city is great and so are the fans," said Junqueira. "The track is nice, it's a good road course in the middle of a park and it has a lot of fast chicanes and hard braking. The Montreal race comes at a part of the season where the championship is heating up. It's going to be really important to have a good strong result and I hope we can put the PacifiCare car on the podium with a win."
After an increase in attendance from 2003 at the previous race in Denver, the Champ Car World Series is looking for another good crowd in Montreal, where last year's three-day attendance was estimated at 148,000. After 9 of 15 races so far this season the 2004 Champ Car series attendance is already over the one million people mark with five of the 9 races having seen the attendance mark exceed 110,000. Fans at this weekend's race in Montreal not only support their three countrymen, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, and Paul Tracy, they also support the rest of the field.
"At all of the races last season the fans were very supportive of me and the series but I was surprised about the amount of support when I came to Montreal," said Bourdais, who was born in Le Mans, France. "I'm not one of the Canadian drivers but there were so many French Canadians there and they were very nice to me. There is a nice crowd, the grandstands are full and there are a lot of supporters there. It's a nice feeling -- a bit like home. I hope I can bring them a good result."
"I think we've done a very good job so far this season," added Bourdais of the McDonald's teams' performance so far this season. "I made a mistake in Milwaukee though. I think the team's grade would be 9 out of 10 and mine would be an eight."
The 69-lap Molson Indy Montreal will get underway Sunday at 2 p.m. Eastern and can be seen live on HDNet at 2:00 p.m. ET and on a tape-delayed basis on Spike TV beginning at 4 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.