CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report



- McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais, 28, became the first driver from a major American racing series to earn four straight championships and he did it in style with a victory in the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Queensland Australia, the penultimate event in the 14-race Champ Car championship. It has never been done in the 99 year history in Champ Car and has never been done in NASCAR's premier series or the Indy Racing League. Four in a row is very rare in professional sports overall, in fact, it has never been done in the NFL (football) and it hasn't been accomplished in the last twenty years in the NBA (basketball), NHL (hockey) or MLB (baseball). In the previous 16 races held here there had never been a repeat winner but Bourdais changed that today in the 17th running on the scenic Oceanside track. He had never started lower than second but started fourth today after gearbox trouble in qualifying on Saturday followed a crash on Friday. Bourdais and the McDonald's team were undaunted by the late nights and were on a mission to not only wrap up the championship but do so in style again like 2004 and 2005 -- with a win.

Bourdais made a good standing start and held fourth until Turn 1 where third place starter Paul Tracy spun. He held third until the first caution came out from Laps 9-10 to fix the tire bundle. The frontrunner all took the opportunity to make their first stops except backmarkers Doornbos, Tracy and Junqueira, who had stalled on the start. Bourdais was in fourth, the first of those to pit to return to the track. Polesitter and local favorite Will Power suffered damage to his race car when he was signaled to leave his pit while rookie David Martinez, who was in the pit ahead of him was entering his and ran over Powers front wing. Bourdais held fourth through the second caution and until the third caution period on Laps 19-21 to remove the car of Will Power, who had attempted to pass Katherine Legge and return to the front of the field but was too close to her and made contact, thus ending his race. When those out of sequence pit, Bourdais regained the lead on Lap 20 and held it until the next stop on Lap 32. He returned to the track in third then moved up to second behind Tracy once Oriol Servia pit. He held the position until a hard charging Justin Wilson successfully passed him on Lap 38 in the Turn 1 chicane. The team believed Wilson had short filled on his previous stop and that became obvious when he pitted four laps before Bourdais, who actually could have run longer but the team brought him in on Lap 48 to avoid being caught out by another yellow. When Bourdais returned to the track he was more than six seconds ahead of second place Wilson. He held the lead until coming upon backmarker David Martinez which allowed Wilson to close within four seconds but after he got by the rookie, he was easily able to hold off Wilson until the checkered flag on Lap 61. He earned 31 points for the win for a total of 332 to Wilson's 270 and therefore mathematically clinched the title in the penultimate race for the third consecutive time (2004 -- Mexico City; 2005 & 2006 -- Australia).

Following are his post race comments:

"It was one  of those races where I decided to have fun with it and give it
all we had," said  Bourdais. "For the McDonald's team to win the race, win the
championship, be the  first repeat winner in Surfers - what a day! We had a
very, very good balance on  the car with the Bridgestone primes. When I saw
Justin out there doing so well  on the reds, I thought maybe we should put them
back on. Whatever tires you  picked, it was just a matter of timing because
they were going to perform for  you. ... These have been the best racing years of
my life. We've had an awesome  stretch of years here and really enjoyed it.
Now I know I'm going to a different  challenge (Formula One), but still with
Bridgestone tires. Bridgestone has been  great to us, always gave us great
tires, it was awesome.  Well,  it's been quite above average, I should say.  You
know, it's just the success of an  awesome group of people within that
McDonald's team.  We started that relationship back in  2003.  Just all the results
really  speak for themselves.  You know,  it's how good these guys are.  And
they proved it today again when we came in the pits in third and came out  first.
 From there, it was in my  hands to try to make it stick.
"We had a great fight with Justin when he short-filled  and got ahead of us.
Then we had  to, you know, stay with him with a heavier car, and we pulled it
off.  Then coming to that last corner, it's  just all the emotions flowing
through your mind.  You realize how much has come to you and  how much you've
achieved with these guys and you get the sense that it's coming  to an end very
closely now.  What a  fun five years it's been.  I'm  surely not going to
forget about it any time soon. We've been working really  hard together, as I
said, for these past five years.  You know, I just couldn't stand myself  if I
didn't give it all I had until the very end.  They deserve the very best, and
we're  going to do just that until the very end.  Obviously to win that
championship with a win today means a lot.  At least we'll be in a mood to celebrate
and have a great party.  That's  good.  There's one more race to go  before we
turn the page of my Champ Car career, and we'll just give it our very  best
again in Mexico  City.  It's a  place that's been very good to us in the past
years, and now we'll try and have  one more time a lot of fun and, if possible,
a win.  Obviously it's a great challenge that  awaits me for next year with
the Toro Rosso team.  Obviously it's the long-time dream for  me to end up in
F1.  Like I said, so  far I'm a Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver, driving that
McDonald's car.  I'll think about next year when it's  time."

- Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal set the fastest lap of the race for the first time in his Champ Car career but was unable to show his full potential after being hit by Nelson Philippe on Lap 26 of 61 and finished 11th in today's Lexmark Indy 300. On the standings standing he had to take evasive action to avoid hitting the stalled car of seventh place starter Bruno Junqueira and gained yet another position after Turn 1 when third place starter Paul Tracy spun. On the same lap he passed fellow rookie Neel Jani in Turn 3. He held sixth place behind Justin Wilson while successfully managing his fuel. During the first caution from Laps 9-10 to repair a tire bundle on the track, the majority of the field pitted and Rahal made a quick stop and returned to the track. He gained a spot on the stop when polesitter Will Power was hit by rookie David Martinez while attempting to leave his pit after being waved out prematurely. He was fifth of those who stopped by eight overall due to the top-three not stopping. The second caution came out to remove the spun car of Alex Figge and Rahal and company stayed on track. The third caution flew for Power who had attempted to charge back to the front but collided with Katherine Legge and ultimately retired from the race. Rahal moved up to fifth once the top three pit. Alex Tagliani passed Rahal in Turn 8 and Rahal was then following Simon Pagenaud, who was not good under braking while led to Rahal having to check up to avoid hitting him which allowed sixth place Tagliani to sneak in a pass. Now in sixth place and only one second between fifth place and seventh, while all were presumably trying to save fuel, seventh place Nelson Philippe ran into the back of Rahal and spun him around in Turn 3 on Lap 26. The contact cut Rahal's left rear tire and he had to limp around the majority of the track before he could reach the pits for a replacement. The stop put him a lap down and in 14th place. He ran as hard as he could while managing the fuel mileage in order to complete the race with only one more stop and gradually moved up. He was focused on setting the Fastest Race Lap which he ran on Lap 59 of the 61 lap event. He finished 11th and maintained his fifth place rank in the point standings with 220, two over fellow rookie Neel Jani (220-218) and 42 behind Rookie of the Year leader Robert Doornbos (262).

"The Medi | Zone car was  good by (Nelson) Philippe hit us pretty early on
and that put us in the back and  we went a lap down because of the stop," said
Rahal.  "It was tough but we started to make up  some positions when people
started to fall out but of course when we need a  yellow it doesn't come.  Early
on  there were a ton of yellows and I was expecting that was the way it would
continue to be but it didn't happen once we had our issues.  That's how it
goes but the car was  quick."
the 98 year history of the sport  have won four or more titles.  A.J.  Foyt
won six (1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1975) and Mario Andretti won four  (1965,
1966, 1969, 1984).  Bourdais  is the only driver to win four consecutively.
won EIGHT CART/Champ Car titles.  The 2005 title was the FIRST  TIME the team
earned back-to-back championships ('84-Mario Andretti,  '91-Michael Andretti, '
93-Nigel Mansell, '02-Cristiano Da Matta, '04, '05, '06  & '07 - Bourdais)
and the 2007 title is their fourth consecutive.  They had their best season
ever in 2004  when Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira finished 1-2 and repeated the
feat with Oriol  Servia in 2005.

- Up Next: The Champ Car World Series will take next weekend off before the season finale in Mexico City on November 11.

-credit: nhlracing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Nigel Mansell , Graham Rahal , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , Katherine Legge , Alex Figge , David Martinez , Nelson Philippe , Neel Jani , Will Power , Simon Pagenaud
Teams Toro Rosso