McDONALD'S Â® DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED FIRST GRAND PRIX OF MONTREAL WIN AND STRETCHED POINTS LEAD FROM 32 TO 62 OVER SECOND; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA 12TH AFTER OFF-TRACK INCIDENT - McDonald's Â® driver Sebastien Bourdais stretched...
McDONALD'S ® DRIVER BOURDAIS EARNED FIRST GRAND PRIX OF MONTREAL WIN AND STRETCHED POINTS LEAD FROM 32 TO 62 OVER SECOND; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA 12TH AFTER OFF-TRACK INCIDENT
- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais stretched his slim pre-race point lead of 32 over second place in the Champ Car title hunt to 62 after he won the postponed Grand Prix de Montreal and earned the maximum points available while his closest rivals in the hunt, A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson succumbed to mechanical failure or crashed, respectively. Bourdais has 310 points to Allmendinger and Wilson who both have 248. His win brought Newman/Haas Racing their third straight at this track in five races here after Junqueira drove to victory in 2004 and Oriol Servia won in 2005. Although Bourdais dominated the past two races here from pole and encountered problems in all three of his previous starts at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he had yet to earn a podium finish. In his fourth, and likely final attempt at this course in the foreseeable future as it will not be on the schedule for 2007, Bourdais was able to add another race course to his win list. He earned one point for provisional pole on Friday and another on Saturday when he took his 25th career pole and the 100th for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) but the race was liable to be a crap shoot due to the forecast of rain. He started from pole in rainy conditions on Sunday and lost the lead to A.J. Allmendinger on the first lap after sliding multiple times on the slippery track. The team had elected to not run a full rain setup on the car in the hopes that the rain would slow or a red flag would come out and Bourdais fought to keep his car on track. A red flag did come out after six of the regularly scheduled 72-laps on the 2.709-mile road course and the field waited for a decision on the race status. A few hours later the weather had yet to improve and the race was rescheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday following a 10 minute pre-race warm-up for the field to shake down their dry weather setups. Under cool and cloudy conditions, Bourdais restarted the event on the red alternate Bridgestone tires and held second to Allmendinger by a margin of one seconds until the first caution of the day for Andrew Ranger who spun and stalled. After the restart, the track still had only dried on the one racing line and a pass would have been potentially risky early in the race so Bourdais ran within one second of Allmendinger while conserving fuel. On Lap 15 Allmendinger slowed and subsequently retired due to a probable mechanical failure and Bourdais took over the lead with a two-second gap over Paul Tracy. Katherine Legge brought out a caution flag from Laps 19-21 when she spun and stalled. Bourdais was able to hold the lead on the restart and built another gap over Tracy to almost six seconds before the majority of the field pitted on Lap 31. After Bourdais got back on track a caution flag came out for Oriol Servia who crashed in Turn 15. Title contender Wilson entered the closed pits because he was running out of fuel and was later dropped back to the rear of the field for the action. After the pit cycle was complete Bourdais regained the lead on Lap 34 and held it through the restart on Lap 41 for Andrew Ranger who spun and stalled his car. He maintained the lead after the restart and again began to build a gap over Tracy. By Lap 49 his title hopes gained some stream as Wilson made contact with the wall after passing a car and retired due to the contact. During the caution the field made another pit stop and Bourdais took on fuel and another set of primary race tires. The race was restarted on Lap 53 and Bourdais ran second to Nelson Philippe who was on a different pit strategy but Bourdais was still able to set what would hold as the fastest lap of the race. He held second for the next 11 laps until Philippe pitted and increased his margin over third place Tracy from one second to 9.5 by the time he regained the lead. His comfortable lead over Tracy evaporated when the final caution of the race came out from Laps 64-66 for debris from contact between Tagliani and rookie Jan Heylen. The three lap caution ended when the green and white flag came out simultaneously and Bourdais was able to hold off Tracy and take the checkered flag 1.39 seconds ahead after having completed 67 of the regularly scheduled 72 laps during the one hour 45 minute time limit. Bourdais earned 31 points for the win, one for leading and one for setting the fastest lap of the race for a season total of 310 with three races left in the championship.
Following are his post race comments:
"I guess it was a hell of a day for the championship," said Bourdais. "This McDonald's team did a mistake-free run, great pit stops. Last year we lost it as a team, and this year we won it as a team. It was going to take exactly the opposite of what we did last year. These boys pulled a magnificent pit stop for the last one. It's all to their credit. Obviously, it can go either way from there when you come in pit lane with the field packed up. It's out of your control. I was really, really happy to see that we peeled off first. But then it wasn't going to be that easy because obviously there were quite a few cars in front of us, and there was quite a few laps left. I decided that the best defense was the offense and pass Katherine. When that's been done right off for the braking I was feeling a little more comfortable because I could see that Nelson was pretty fast. From there on, it was a clear-cut. I felt really bad yesterday, because my car was really good in the warm-up. But on the first lap in the heavy rain, I just couldn't drive it. So, I was disappointed to lose the lead after two corners like that, but today was a different day. We benefited from a mechanical from A.J. and a mistake from Justin, so we are in the best position for the championship. It was pretty much the same for the whole race today; the line widened a little bit lap after lap after lap, but the grip didn't really go very high and it was tough to race. The smallest mistake - you would put the Bridgestone tire in the wet and that was that. I really had a big moment once, and after that I said, 'let's keep focused because it's really easy to make a mistake today.' The tires were very, very consistent, and we just had almost a mistake-free race.
(On the race pace:) "Yeah, I think it was really hard. At the beginning I think I was quicker than A.J., but obviously passing was not an option because you could just not go off the line. There was one dry line that I was at. At the stop, I was really tempted to go over A.J. You know, but no way around. After that, I kind of settled and tried to save more fuel. But the track was getting a little wider and wider than the line. Still, it was very easy to grab some water and lock a wheel in the braking, or start to have a big wiggle. It was really tricky out there for sure.
(On 62-point lead with three races to go giving him room to breathe:) "It's about as good as it gets. After Denver, it was very important for us to bounce back, and now it's done. I can't say I'm really pleased at the way things went with A.J. because obviously I would have liked better to win it fair and square. You know, that's what racing is all about. We've had our share of bad days. You know, today, it was a good day. On the other hand, Justin made a mistake. That, I guess, is part of racing, too.
- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira ran as high as fourth place in the Grand Prix de Montreal, that was postponed until today because of limited visibility due to rainy conditions but was caught out by the timing of a caution period and off-track excursion and finished 12th. On Sunday the race began while rain fell and Junqueira moved from his sixth place start to fifth ahead of Oriol Servia. He held the position as the rain steadily increased the first caution flag came out from Laps 3 to 5 for Kathryn Legge who spun on the slick track. The race restarted on Lap 5 but Champ Car officials red flagged the event on the following lap due to lack of visibility for the competitors. The weather failed to improve so the series postponed it to Monday at 10 AM following a 10 minute warm-up session for the teams to revert back to a dry weather racecar set up. Junqueira took the green flag at approx. 10:15 a.m. EST on the red alternate Bridgestone tires and held the position through a caution from Laps 11-13 for Canadian Andrew Ranger who spun and stalled his car. He moved into fourth place when race leader A.J. Allmendinger slowed and subsequently retired with apparent mechanical failure. He held fourth until Lap 17 when Servia passed him with the help of Push to Pass. Another caution flag was brought out from Laps 19-21 for Kathryn Legge who spun and stalled. He held fifth thought the restart and continued to get good fuel mileage in an attempt to run longer than those ahead of him. He moved as high as second place as the frontrunners made their first pit stops and the lap prior to his first pit stop a caution came out for Servia who made contact. The pits were subsequently closed and he was forced to save as much fuel as possible to attempt to pit once they opened or get a penalty. The team was concerned about making it to the pits and as they were about to be forced to enter a closed pit, the pits opened. Since Junqueira had to pit under caution he lost valuable track position and returned to the track in 11th place. Due to the timing of the yellow he was instructed that in order to get a good result, he would have to pass as many cars as possible and not save fuel. He began his charge once the race resumed and passed two cars on Lap 37. On Lap 38 he passed Charles Zwolsman in the chicane but once he entered Turn 1 the car would not turn, possibly due to a loss of traction on a wet part of the course. The wing elements of the front nose were destroyed so he was called to the pits for a new nose. They also replaced his top front wishbone which was bent. Fortunately he only went one lap down despite the changes and he returned to the track in 13th place. He reported that the car was difficult to steer but held on through three more caution periods to finish 12th and collect 9 points and move from his pre-race rank of 9th place into eighth, only 26 back from fourth.
Following are his post race comments:
"I was making good fuel mileage in fifth place and I think we could have gone longer than the others and gained some positions but unfortunately Oriol crashed wile most of the field had pitted and the yellow came out right when we were going to stop," said Junqueira. "It's a shame it caught us out because we could have had a top five or top three finish. After that I passed a couple of cars and had also just passed Charles Zwolsman in the chicane and when I came to Turn 1 the car just went straight. I'm not sure why but maybe the tires got wet. The guys changed my front wing and some suspension quick and I only went one lap down but from then on we were just hanging on to get some points."
- STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
* It was Sebastien's sixth win of the year and 22nd of his career which ties him for 13th on the all-time list with Tony Bettenhausen and Emerson Fittipaldi. It was also his 14th win from pole, which ties him for 4th in the all-time list with the Rick Mears. It was Sebastien's 11th win in the past 18 races and sixth of the 11 races so far this season (finished third in Portland, 18th in Cleveland, 3rd in Toronto, 2nd in Edmonton, 7th in Denver)
*Beginning with Cristiano da Matta's victory in Australia of '01, NHR has won 37 of the past 77 races dating back to 2001.
- UP NEXT
The Champ Car World Series will take a few weeks off before Round 12 of 14 takes place at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The team will test Atlantic driver Graham Rahal at Sebring International Raceway on September 13-14 during the break.