CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Newman/Haas Racing preview

Bourdais Aims for 8 Pts. Down Under; Junqueira Aims for Win SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia (October 20, 2004) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais and PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira put on an exciting show on the superspeedway in...

Bourdais Aims for 8 Pts. Down Under; Junqueira Aims for Win

SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia (October 20, 2004) --- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais and PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira put on an exciting show on the superspeedway in Las Vegas with Bourdais finishing a narrow 0.06-margin over Junqueira while Patrick Carpentier finished third in Las Vegas to hold onto a slim chance at the championship with two races remaining. The trio will bring the battle for the 100-year old Vanderbilt Cup Down Under for this weekend's Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfer's Paradise, Queensland, Australia. Bourdais, who has a 27-point lead over Junqueira (307-280) is the only driver with the capability of clinching the championship this weekend although he is in no hurry to do so.

"For sure, it would be really nice to be able to wrap this up in Australia, especially because the gap is going to be pretty wide over there," said Bourdais, 25. "But what can I say? It's not the main target. Bruno is going to be right there. It's going to be a fight until the end. Obviously, it would be really cool. But if we have to wait until the very last lap of the last race, it will still be as good as ever. For sure I would be very happy to celebrate the championship over there because there is always a big party at the end of the weekend but I have no problem to wait until the end of the season."

With a maximum of 70 points available to each driver in the remaining two races this season, all Bourdais needs to clinch the title is to increase his 27 point gap (307-280) over teammate Junqueira by eight points after Australia. With a maximum of 35 points available in Mexico City if Junqueira won both qualifying points, led the race, set the fastest race lap and won the event he could tie with Bourdais but lose the tie-breaker based on having won fewer events than the Frenchman. Therefore, Bourdais needs to increase his 27 point advantage to 35 over Junqueira at the end of the day on Sunday.

"We need to finish every race in the top five and we should be all right," said Bourdais. "I don't want to risk everything to win it in Australia. If the circumstances are all together right there to allow me to win it, then for sure I'm going to take it. But, you know, if Bruno wins the race and we finish second, then fine, we just score big points again, and it would be hard for Bruno to win it still. The very important thing, as my engineering said on the Champ Car website, I think the goal is to both finish and we should be able to put a strong 1-2 for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR). That would be really cool."

If the team is able to secure first and second-place in the season-ending standings it would be the first time in team history. In their four championship-winning seasons (1984, 1991, 1993, 2002), three of which came with a two-car team, the best collective effort was in 2002 when Cristiano da Matta brought NHR its fourth title and teammate Christian Fittipaldi finished fifth. With six wins and seven poles in 12 races so far this season, Bourdais could match the best single season result of any NHR driver if he can match Michael Andretti's eight wins and eight poles in 17 races in 1991 en route to his lone series title and the third of four for NHR. Eight wins in a season is also a series record that is held by Al Unser Jr. in addition to Michael Andretti, although both Unser Jr. and Andretti earned his results in season with more races than the 14 Bourdais will compete in this season.

"We have things pretty well under control," said Bourdais who finished 17th here last year after he crashed at the beginning of a downpour that brought the race to a temporary halt. "We've been strong pretty much in any race. I'm looking forward to the last two races. The closer you get to the end of the championship, the important each race gets but you have to treat each as one event. They pay the same points and you're just trying to get them all. All you can do is be fast on the racetrack and stay out of trouble and that's our goal."

In their previous 13 years of racing here, NHR has earned three wins (Da Matta 2001, Tracy 1995, Mansell 1993), six poles (Bourdais 2003, da Matta 2002, Mi. Andretti 1995 & 1991, Mansell 1993-1994) and six podium finishes (3rd - Fittipaldi 1998, Mi. Andretti 1997, Ma. Andretti 1994). Bourdais feels there is no reason he and his teammate cannot again fight for pole and bring NHR their third consecutive on this track as well as their first win here since 2001 when da Matta drove to victory.

"The race track is very challenging," said Bourdais of the 2.795-mile temporary street course. "Last year I had a fast car and sat on pole so I think we are looking good for this race," said Bourdais. "In Surfers last year I was in the middle of a big fight for the championship between Bruno and Paul. I just had to exit myself and it was somewhat frustrating but the McDonald's car will be quick again this year. We (Paul Tracy) had contact at the start that really bent the suspension and then when the first downpour of rain came on the racetrack I lost control of the car. I was really upset because I thought we had the potential to get a good result but I just couldn't lead my own fight."

As has been the case all season, the drivers need not look any further than the next pit stall to find their closest challenger. Junqueira has continued the consistency he displayed to earn him second place finishes to the champion in 2002 and 2003, which earned him the distinction of being the first driver to have done so since his fellow countryman Emerson Fittipaldi finished runner-up twice in the early '90s. In 69 career starts, Bruno has finished on the podium 24 times. With remaining races in Australia and Mexico City, Junqueira intends to add to the eight podium finishes he has earned so far this season as well as add to his win in Montreal earlier this season.

"I think it's been a pretty good season for the PacifiCare Newman/Haas team," said Junqueira, who has finished second six times this season. "We've been consistent. We're getting great results and doing a big fight with Sebastien for the championship. We are a little bit down with two races to go, know we need to have a very good two races, finish strong, and hope that Sebastien has a bad result for us to win the championship. So I'll try to do my best. I'll try to do two good races and see what happens. I'm working hard and hope can win before the end of the year and finish as strong as possible and see what happens. Every race pays the same amount of points but for sure at the end of the year it's very important to do well. We know what needs to happen for us to fight for the championship in Australia and I hope I can win and keep the championship open to the last race of the year."

Although his 15th, 14th, and 21st place finishes don't mirror the competitiveness he has shown in Australia, Junqueira has come close to winning the pole and event twice. He was the provisional polesitter in 2003 but started second and led a race high 29 laps in the 47-lap event but crashed late in the race and finished 15th. In 2002, he lost pole position to NHR driver Cristiano da Matta by a mere 1-1000ths of a second and led eight laps but finished 14th due to the timing of the rain-shortened event that favored backmarkers. He started and finished 21st in his first race here in 2001 due to contact. Junqueira is looking forward to continuing the fight for his first championship title in Australia as well as turning his results around on the 2.795-mile street course.

"I think the whole PacifiCare team is doing a good job," said Junqueira. "We had a good start at the beginning of the year but some that were not so good in the middle. We are starting to put the results together again and I hope we can continue it until the end of the year. I'm quite happy that every year I've been competitive. I'm fighting for the win, fighting for the championship. That keeps me motivated. It is very important to be consistent like that. I've been very lucky to have a great team to give me a good car to always fight for the wins. I like a lot to race in Australia. I like the track. The last two years I was leading the race, dominating the race but in 2002 the weather dictated the winner and in 2003 they closed the pit when I was going to pit and it put me in the back. I was leading the race there and I hope I can lead the race until the end and have a good race result this year."

Although both drivers hope to come away with a 1-2 finish for the team in Australia, each of the top 14 drivers in the standings have placed in the top five in at least one race this year, showing that all of them have the ability to make a move that could really shuffle that standings as the 2004 season draws to a close. Whatever the result, one thing is certain. The Surfer's Paradise event is a favorite among drivers and fans alike. The wildly-popular Australia event draws some of the biggest crowds of any sporting event in the country on annual basis with more than 250,000 fans coming through the gates in each of the last 10 seasons. Last year's attendance of 306,184 was an event record and was capped by a crowd of over 108,000 fans streaming through the gates on race day.

"The race in Australia is a great event with a lot of people," said Bourdais. "There is a very nice crowd and beautiful weather. It is a beautiful place with a very nice street course and it's a lot of fun to be there. It is a very long trip but once you get there it's a relaxing and enjoyable place. This year my girlfriend is going to be able to come with me so I guess you could say it's kind of a vacation race. It's close to the end of the year and everybody is happy to be there with the nice beach. Everybody has a good time there."

"I think Australia is a very nice country," added Junqueira. "Because of the big time difference and the long flight you have to go earlier. This year is actually going to be the first time I am going to Sydney. I'm going to spend the weekend there before the race. It's a very nice track and the fans love us there. Everything put together makes it one of the best races of the year."

The Lexmark Indy 300 gets underway October 22nd with practice and qualifying, with the final grid set by Saturday's qualifying. Sunday's 57-lap race will get underway at 2:30 local time and can be seen on a tape-delayed basis on Spike TV, Sunday, October 24 at 4 p.m. Fans can also follow all the action live via the Race Director feature on the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com.

Sebastien Bourdais, #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

"For sure, it would be really nice to be able to wrap this up in Australia, especially because the gap is going to be pretty wide over there. But what can I say? It's not the main target. Bruno is going to be right there. It's going to be a fight until the end. Obviously, it would be really cool. But if we have to wait until the very last lap of the last race, it will still be as good as ever. For sure I would be very happy to celebrate the championship over there because there is always a big party at the end of the weekend but I have no problem to wait until the end of the season.

"The race in Australia is a great event with a lot of people. There is a very nice crowd and beautiful weather. It is a beautiful place with a very nice street course and it's a lot of fun to be there. It is a very long trip but once you get there it's a relaxing and enjoyable place. This year my girlfriend is going to be able to come with me so I guess you could say it's kind of a vacation race. It's close to the end of the year and everybody is happy to be there with the nice beach. Everybody has a good time there.

"We have things pretty well under control. We've been strong pretty much in any race. I'm looking forward to the last two races. The closer you get to the end of the championship, the important each race gets but you have to treat each as one event. They pay the same points and you're just trying to get them all. All you can do is be fast on the racetrack and stay out of trouble and that's our goal. We need to finish every race in the top five and we should be all right. I don't want to risk everything to win it in Australia. If the circumstances are all together right there to allow me to win it, then for sure I'm going to take it. But, you know, if Bruno wins the race and we finish second, then fine, we just score big points again, and it would be hard for Bruno to win it still. The very important thing, as my engineering said on the Champ Car website, I think the goal is to both finish and we should be able to put a strong 1-2 for Newman/Haas Racing. That would be really cool.

"The race track is very challenging. Last year I had a fast car and sat on pole so I think we are looking good for this race. In Surfers last year I was in the middle of a big fight for the championship between Bruno and Paul. I just had to exit myself and it was somewhat frustrating but the McDonald's car will be quick again this year. We (Paul Tracy) had contact at the start that really bent the suspension and then when the first downpour of rain came on the racetrack I lost control of the car. I was really upset because I thought we had the potential to get a good result but I just couldn't lead my own fight.

"The straightaways are very long in Australia so I'm expecting to see pretty powerful use of it (Push to Pass) and a lot of passing. I'll probably have to keep some for the end of the race because it might be crucial by then."

Bruno Junqueira, #6 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone:

"I think it's been a pretty good season for the PacifiCare Newman/Haas team. We've been consistent. We're getting great results and doing a big fight with Sebastien for the championship. We are a little bit down with two races to go, know we need to have a very good two races, finish strong, and hope that Sebastien has a bad result for us to win the championship. So I'll try to do my best. I'll try to do two good races and see what happens. I'm working hard and hope can win before the end of the year and finish as strong as possible and see what happens. Every race pays the same amount of points but for sure at the end of the year it's very important to do well. We know what needs to happen for us to fight for the championship in Australia and I hope I can win and keep the championship open to the last race of the year.

"I think the whole PacifiCare team is doing a good job. We had a good start at the beginning of the year but some that were not so good in the middle. We are starting to put the results together again and I hope we can continue it until the end of the year. I'm quite happy that every year I've been competitive. I'm fighting for the win, fighting for the championship. That keeps me motivated. It is very important to be consistent like that. I've been very lucky to have a great team to give me a good car to always fight for the wins.

"I like a lot to race in Australia. I like the track. The last two years I was leading the race, dominating the race but in 2002 the weather dictated the winner and in 2003 they closed the pit when I was going to pit and it put me in the back. I was leading the race there and I hope I can lead the race until the end and have a good race result this year.

"I think Australia is a very nice country. Because of the big time difference and the long flight you have to go earlier. This year is actually going to be the first time I am going to Sydney. I'm going to spend the weekend there before the race. It's a very nice track and the fans love us there. Everything put together makes it one of the best races of the year.

"I think the Push to Pass will be really good in Australia because of the long straights. That's a track where in the past we saw a lot of passing and with Push to Pass this year, it's going to be even more exciting for the fans."

-nhr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , Emerson Fittipaldi , Cristiano da Matta