McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AIMS TO LOCK UP HISTORY MAKING FOURTH CONSECUTIVE TITLE AT THIS WEEKEND'S LEXMARK INDY 300 IN AUSTRALIA; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL HOPES TO BECOME 17TH DIFFERENT WINNER IN AUSTRALIA SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, ...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS AIMS TO LOCK UP HISTORY MAKING FOURTH CONSECUTIVE TITLE AT THIS WEEKEND'S LEXMARK INDY 300 IN AUSTRALIA; MEDI | ZONE DRIVER RAHAL HOPES TO BECOME 17TH DIFFERENT WINNER IN AUSTRALIA
SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia (October 16, 2007) --- Although Australia could be the site of something that has never been done before in a top American racing series -- four consecutive titles by one driver -- Sebastien Bourdais is focused on another achievement some might consider a lesser feat.
Bourdais, driver of the McDonald's entry, will remain consistent to his practice of taking it one race at a time and he is focused on aiming to be the first repeat winner in 16-year Lexmark Indy 300 history. He figures that if he can do that the rest will take care of itself. He holds a 58 point advantage (301-243) over Justin Wilson and the worst case scenario calls for a 14th place finish or better to clinch the title.
Four championships in a row are very rare in professional sports in fact it has never been done in either NASCAR or NFL and it hasn't been accomplished in the last twenty years in the NBA, NHL or MLB. Never one to be achieve great heights in order to see his name in records books, his motive has always been to get the most out of the situation and also reward the hard work of those who helped put him in the position to do so and this weekend is no different.
"Obviously the McDonald's team has had some great races and not so great races in Surfers Paradise," said Bourdais who has started no lower than second in his previous four races on the 2.795-mile ocean side street course. "We' ve won once (2005) but last year was a bit of a disaster, a bit of a shame. But historically we've been very fast as a team and I've been feeling good there so we're looking for a nice weekend again under the Surfers Paradise sunshine. Obviously it will be my last race in Surfers Paradise but not my last race in Australia. I'll just try to enjoy myself as much as possible and give the McDonald's team the best result possible. They really deserve it."
Bourdais had hoped to become the first repeat winner here in 2006 after clinching his second Champ Car title in Australia with a win in 2005 but the race did not go as planned. He again clinched the series title but, ever the sportsmen, he and the team were disappointed with the end result of eighth place after a rare mistake by the Frenchman that also altered local favorite Will Power's race.
"Last year we were trying to go one lap further than Will and at some point when A.J. (Allmendinger) made a mistake and was out of contention for the title I knew the championship was in the pocket and we could get a little more racy," said Bourdais. "I tried to pass Will and the maneuver didn't go right and we touched. It was a real shame for both of us. These things happen when you try to pass someone. It doesn't always go right."
To date, Bourdais has earned 31 career poles and 29 wins. His 31st pole came in the previous race held in the Netherlands and it put him sixth on the all time career pole position list. With two races left in the season he has the opportunity to match former NHR driver Michael Andretti who has 32. Mario Andretti, who earned the first title for NHR holds the record with 67. He is eighth on the all time race winner list with 29, for a 40 percent average in 71 starts and a 60 percent average for podium finishes. Despite his success Bourdais is the first to admit it has never been a walk in the park and this weekend is no different, in fact it is considered the most challenging street course of the season.
"The race is always very intense," said Bourdais. "It's a big strategy race and in the meantime it's super easy to make a mistake because the track is pretty bumpy and the chicanes are unforgiving. The slightest mistake will take you out of the race so it's always tense. You end the race with your nerves quite worn out."
Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal hasn't raced in Surfers Paradise before but he has seen the races on TV and even came here once when he was 9 years old. That inexperience on this track might prove a benefit and aid him in keeping the 16-year, no repeat winner streak intact.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Surfers Paradise," said Rahal, 18. "I went in either 1997 or 1998, one of the last years my dad was racing. It is a great place; absolutely beautiful! I was only 9 or 10 so I missed the best part which is the girls. I wasn't paying attention to them then. My dad was knocked out right away so I didn't see much of the race. I went back to the hotel and jumped in the pool. I'm looking forward to seeing the entire race from the cockpit of my Medi | Zone car this year though."
With two races left this season, Rahal has his sights set on retaining his current fifth place rank. He became the youngest podium finisher with a second place on the streets of Houston but he really excelled on the tracks with more wide open spaces such as Edmonton, Elkhart Lake and Zolder where he earned third place finishes. He is expecting a challenge weekend on the street course.
"It will be a tough race for me," said Rahal. "I hope not but I think it will. I've never been a guy that has been fast over curbs and chicanes and half of the Surfers layout is hitting curbs and chicanes as hard as you can. I hope the Medi | Zone team can be competitive and we can keep the string of new winners going there but it will be a tough weekend."
The Lexmark Indy 300 gets underway on Friday with the first round of qualifying at 1:55 p.m. local time. The final grid will be set on Saturday at 2:00 pm local time and the race will go green Sunday at 1:30 pm local time and will be broadcast on a tape delay basis on ESPN2 in the United States.