CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Race report

Sebastien Bourdais Wins Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland PORTLAND (June 20, 2004) -- Strapping back into a Champ Car just a few days after running in the 24 Hours of Le Mans might be a daunting task for most racers but Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

Sebastien Bourdais Wins Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland

PORTLAND (June 20, 2004) -- Strapping back into a Champ Car just a few days after running in the 24 Hours of Le Mans might be a daunting task for most racers but Sebastien Bourdais (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) handled the entire experience with ease, capping his return to the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford with a dominant victory in Sunday's Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.

Bourdais took the pole on Saturday and outraced a snarling pack into the always-tight first turn, and went on to lead 85 of 94 laps in scoring his second Champ Car victory of the season. The Frenchman used a strong mid-race run to build a gap of over eight seconds over teammate Bruno Junqueira (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), then outlasted a furious late-race rush from his Brazilian counterpart to claim the win.

It took a couple of starts before Bourdais could begin his romp around the 1.969-mile Portland International Raceway layout, as the usually-raucous Festival Curves chicane would bring out a yellow flag on the first time through. Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the only victim of the bumping as the 750hp turbocharged machines slowed from 175 mph to approximately 60 to get through the trio of turns.

The restart was equally interesting as Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) slid coming on to the frontstretch and rolled in front of the oncoming car of Rodolfo Lavin (#3 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Lavin was caught with nowhere to go and hit the rear of the Dominguez car, sending him in front of oncoming traffic. The remainder of the field did a superb job avoiding the stricken Lavin car, but the yellow flag waved again while the cars were removed from the track.

That would be the final caution of the day as the last 86 laps of the day were left to the drivers and teams. Bourdais again jumped out to the lead over Junqueira and Paul Tracy (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), with Bourdais widening his advantage with each passing lap, building a comfortable lead as the frontrunners prepared for their first rounds of pit stops. Junqueira and Bourdais pitted before Tracy, who was able to run three to four laps more per fuel load than the Newman/Haas duo, but lapped traffic prevented the defending series champion from making any noticeable gains on the leaders.

The middle point of the race saw traffic causes some fluctuations among the leaders as Junqueira closed to within a second of the leader at one point as Bourdais rolled up on a lapped car, but the Brazilian would be unable to get close enough to mount a serious challenge. There were more battled going on behind the leaders as well however, as rookies Justin Wilson (#34 Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and A.J. Allmendinger (#10 BG Products/Red Bull Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) fought tooth-and-nail for a top-five finish in a war that included a side-by-side drag race down Pit Lane after the second round of stops.

The second set of stops was a turning point for the defending Rookie-of-the-Year as he turned what had been a 1.5-second lead into one of nearly six seconds after getting his first pit-road service. The Bourdais refueling run again briefly promoted Tracy to the lead, where he would stay for the next six laps before another fuel stop put him back in the third spot. Meanwhile Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing teammate Patrick Carpentier (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used an alternate pit stop strategy to overcome qualifying problems to climb into the top five as the race wore down.

Carpentier was the first of the lead lap cars to make his third and final mandatory green flag stop of the day, giving him an outside chance to steal a podium finish, but would eventually settle for a fourth-place run that earned him the championship point for gaining the most positions in the event, as the Canadian made up nine positions on his way to the fourth-place finish.

Junqueira was the first of the top-three cars to make his last stop with 18 laps to go, entering the pits 8.8 seconds in arrears to Bourdais. He strapped on his last set of Bridgestone alternate tires, which is the softer compound of Bridgestone Potenzas designed to yield quicker lap times, which gave Junqueira a fighting chance at running down his teammate. He quickly put the softer tires to good use, lopping nearly a half-second per lap off of the lead. He shaved the lead to four seconds with nine laps to go and had it under two seconds with four orbits left after posting the race's fastest lap, but would have to settle for the runner-up spot ahead of Tracy.

Tracy came home in third ahead of his teammate Carpentier, giving Tracy his first podium since his Long Beach victory to start the season. The rookie battle between Wilson and Allmendinger went on all throughout the final half of the race as the two went side-by-side into the Festival Curves on more than one occasions, but the 2003 Toyota Atlantic champion could never quite find a way to get around Wilson and would end up yielding the fifth spot to the former Formula 1 driver. Allmendinger would settle for sixth, which gives him a pair of top-six finishes in the last two events.

Alex Tagliani (#8 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) followed in seventh and eighth respectively, while Mario Haberfeld (#5 Cummins Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Roberto Gonzalez (#21 NII Holdings Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. The run matched the best finish of the year for Haberfeld and gave Gonzalez his third top-10 finish in his six career Champ Car starts.

The series will have a week off before heading to the North Coast for the U.S. Bank Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland, which takes place on the always-exciting Burke Lakefront Airport temporary road course circuit.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I am happy with our results today. The Newman/Haas team and McDonald's crew did an excellent job today. The McDonald's car was consistent and we were able to pull away. I knew that Bruno would have a shot to catch me at the end when he put on a set of the alternate tires because those tires were so fast and I had the primary tires on because I used up my alternate tires. However, we were able to pull it off. "

BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "The PacifiCare car was good throughout the whole race. We were just following Sebastien (Bourdais) most of the race. I got caught up in traffic, and Sebastien got a big gap from that. After our last pit stop, we put on a new set of the alternate tires. The alternate tires that Bridgestone provided us were real fast and had a lot of grip. I thought I would catch him in the end, however, I ran into more traffic and ran out of time. But we only finished a second behind Sebastien, so it was close.

PAUL TRACY (#1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I feel good. It was a good finish, but not as good as we would have liked. The Indeck car was good. We started on qualifying tires, knowing the Newman/Haas team was starting on stickers. I thought it would be hard to stay even with them at the start. Our strategies were different, ours was to go longer then them, however, we got caught behind traffic and they were able to pull away from there on. We had the speed in the car, just got hung up the whole time. I am happy to finish on the podium, now we are in a groove and hopefully we will be winning races soon."

NOTEWORTHY

Bruno Junqueira maintains the Champ Car World Series points lead with his second-place finish, along with earning the point for running the day's fastest lap. He now leads Patrick Carpentier by six points (105-99) while Bourdais trails Carpentier by one point.

Justin Wilson maintains his lead in the 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year chase with his fifth-place finish in Portland. He leads A.J. Allmendinger 71-54 in the standings after four races.

Canada holds a six-point lead in the Nation's Cup battle after four races, leading Brazil 107-101. The top-five nations in the scoring are all within 25 points.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Roberto Gonzalez , Michel Jourdain