CHAMPCAR/CART: Speed and strategy win Brands Hatch for Bourdais

CHAMPCAR/CART: Speed and strategy win Brands Hatch for Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais won the London Champ Car Trophy but it was a long, eventful and tactical race with many deciding factors. Fuel economy, back markers and a single yellow flag period allowed the teams' strategy makers to try to exploit the ...

Sebastien Bourdais won the London Champ Car Trophy but it was a long, eventful and tactical race with many deciding factors. Fuel economy, back markers and a single yellow flag period allowed the teams' strategy makers to try to exploit the conditions as much as they could.

The start: Paul Tracy leads S?bastien Bourdais.
Photo by Paul Strak.
Paul Tracy qualified in pole position with Bourdais alongside him on the front row. After an aborted attempt at starting the race the cars toured round to try again. Bourdais edged narrowly ahead as the cars accelerated towards the green flag.

Tracy kept the lead into Turn 1 but had to defend hard from Bourdais who attempted to go around the outside. Tracy pulled across on the exit of the corner forcing Bourdais to back off going up the hill and then Tracy was able to pull away slowly, pulling ahead 0.8s after one lap and 1.4 after two laps. Tracy was the fastest driver on track at this point.

Bourdais had been told before the start that his fuel indicator wasn't working and that the team would monitor his fuel situation. Bourdais, however, started to respond to Tracy by setting a series of fastest laps to reel in Tracy who was leading, consistantly lapping around 0.1 seconds faster than the Canadian.

Jimmy Vasser didn't take the start and pulled off into the pit lane to retire. "We made some changes before the race and I guess we didn't put it back together properly" he said, philosophically.

Local favourite Darren Manning ran seventh in the early laps after qualifying eight. He moved ahead of Adrian Fernandez on lap three when the Mexican driver had a wild twitch in the middle of Paddock Hill bend and nearly collected Manning before running wide and allowing him past on the inside.

The field then held station for a while with no driver able to get close enough to the car in front to overtake. Most cars were separated by around 0.7 second and the top ten drivers were lapping within 0.2 seconds of each other.

Patrick Carpentier suffered a minor glitch on lap 17 when the engine shutdown but restarted immediately afterwards. He lost a place to Fernandez but was able to continue at racing speed.

Mario Haberfeld closed on Alex Yoong in eleventh and tried overtaking on lap 38. Yoong had gone sideways through Paddock Hill and lost momentum going up the Hailwood Hill. Haberfeld could not get close enough however and was forced to back off although he made sure that Yoong was fully aware that he was there.

Bourdais closed up the gap to Tracy to less than a second by lap 45. Some drivers were now setting their fastest laps of the race as the first pit stops loomed. The first driver to pit was Alex Tagliani and he refuelled and changed all four tyres. The narrowness of the pit lane became clear as Manning nearly collected Fernandez who pulled out right in front of him. His misfortune continued as he ran wide at Paddock Hill Bend a couple of laps later and ran through the gravel to rejoin in eleventh place.

Lavin briefly baulked the leaders as they were lapping him and Bourdais came off worse loosing three seconds. Tracy pitted first and then Bourdais pitted on the next lap afterwards. Tracy rejoined in second place 0.2 seconds behind Bourdais who took over the lead after an impressive pit stop and taking advantage of the extra lap on warm tyres by carefully managing fuel consumption during the first stint.

Pitstop for Patrick Carpentier.
Photo by Paul Strak.
At this point, on lap sixty, the order was Bourdais, Tracy, Junqueira, Mario Dominguez, Oriol Servia and Tagliani. Carpentier in seventh had moved back ahead of Fernandez and Manning and Roberto Moreno were running ninth and tenth respectively. Moreno was the greatest beneficiary of the pit stops and moved up three places.

Backmarkers first became a serious issue on lap 66 as the leaders caught the trailing battle of Patrick Lemarie, Tiago Monteiro and Ryan Hunter-Reay for fourteenth place. Junqueira got seriously held up and this allowed Dominguez to close up to within one second. Junqueira's team manager went down the pit lane asking that drivers let the Brazilian past. The leaders meanwhile were closing up on Jourdain and Haberfeld.

The gap between Bourdais and Tracy stabilised at around 0.5 seconds. When Bourdais was able to pull out a couple of tenths Tracy was always able to respond. The weather conditions had now improved and the track was warmer than before. This was reflected in the times as most drivers were lapping at 39.0s with a few dipping in to the high 38s.

A full-course yellow was called on lap 79 after Yoong crashed at Druids Bend. He out braked himself going into the tight hairpin and went through the gravel and into the tyres. The driver was fine but the front of the car was badly damaged. Monteiro, Tagliani and Rodolfo Lavin all took advantage of the yellows to make an early pit stop.

The race restarted on lap 84 although there was very nearly a big accident during the build-up as Bourdais bunched the cars up at Surtees and the cars towards the back of the queue braked later and later. Manning and Haberfeld had to take to the grass to avoid the wall of cars but thankfully there was no contact. Bourdais maintained his lead and pulled out a second over Tracy. Junqueira was a further two seconds back with Dominguez one second behind him in fifth.

Junqueira and Dominguez were now flying, having got free from the traffic that was holding them up, and they were both lapping with near-identical times and half a second faster than the leaders. The pace soon started to hot up though as Bourdais and Tracy broke into the high 38s too and were just 0.7s apart.

Monteiro was asked by the officials to move over and let Jourdain past as he had severely blocked Jourdain in the final turn, a fact made clear by wild gesticulating from Jourdain as the cars drove past the pits.

After 100 laps Bourdais was leading from Tracy in second, Junqueira third, Dominguez fourth, Servia fifth and Carpentier in sixth. Paul Tracy was the fastest man on the track and he started to close up on Bourdais as the slower car of Lavin came into their sights.

The second round of pit stops started on lap 108. Joel Camathias, Lemarie and Hunter-Reay were the first drivers to change tyres and refuel, soon followed by Fernandez, Servia and Dominguez on the next lap. Tracy pitted on lap 112 as Bourdais stayed out, lapping much quicker than before. Tracy's stop was smooth and he got away cleanly, rejoining in fifth place behind Manning, although there was a slight puff of smoke as he went along the pit lane. Junqueira pitted from second on lap 114 and rejoined one lap down in fourth.

The big question was when would Bourdais pit, and everyone waited expectantly. He finally stopped on lap 116 and made a great stop, with the pit lane totally to himself. He rejoined about five seconds in front of Tracy.

Disaster struck Tracy on lap 117 as his gearbox broke along the pit straight. There had been puffs of smoke over the previous few laps but the car comprehensively let go sending a heavy plume of smoke over the garages. Tracy stopped in the gravel run-off area at the exit of Paddock Hill Bend with the rear of the car on fire. The marshals extinguished the fire and a dejected Tracy walked away from the scene.

"It's too bad that it let go" said Tracy. "We couldn't get the fuel mileage that Sebastien was making but we were making good time and would have been content for the podium. It was tightening up for ten laps and I knew it was a matter of time."

Alex Tagliani.
Photo by John Francis.
Tagliani was now leading as he had not yet pitted with Bourdais nine seconds behind him. Bourdais was reeling him in at the rate of half a second per lap as Tagliani was approaching a long queue of traffic. Tagliani made his compulsory pit stop on lap 134 and rejoined in eigth place. Bourdais was now leading by five seconds from Junqueira with Dominguez twelve seconds behind in third.

Fernandez ran wide at Druids as he was lapping Hunter-Reay who had pulled over and the damage was enough to tear off Fernandez's front wing and send Hunter-Reay on the grass at the next turn. Fernandez pitted for a new wing and rejoined two laps down in 13th.

Dominguez was advised by his team to save fuel otherwise he would have to make another pit stop. Servia and Carpentier were less than two seconds behind him and closing although Servia too had been advised to be careful.

Junqueira again got badly baulked by traffic over several laps but he was finally free by lap 155 and pulled to within 4 seconds of Bourdais, who by lap 157 had lead the most number of laps and so was awarded a championship point.

Bourdais held on to the lead over the final few laps and crossed the line eight seconds ahead of Junqueira to take his first Champ Car victory. The Frenchman was clearly delighted and celebrated with a donut at Surtees and then a double set at the entrance to the pit lane. In his excitement Bourdais stalled the car and had to be restarted in order to get to the presentation podium and be congratulated by his team.

"We should have won two already, so it's great. There are so much fans, it's great. Thanks a lot Newman/Haas, my dad and everyone, it's finally victory" said a delighted Bourdais as he reflected on his win. "We did a very good on the mileage. We saved a lot of fuel on the first stint behind Tracy and it's a fantastic victory."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Joel Camathias , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin