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



SURFERS PARADISE, Queensland, Australia (October 19, 2005) --- Like the 2004 event here, McDonald's0x00ae driver Sebastien Bourdais will arrive to the 2.795-mile temporary street course in Surfer's Paradise, Australia with a chance to clinch the Champ Car World Series' most prized honor -- the Vanderbilt Cup. Also similar to the 2004 season is the fact that the only driver standing in his way is his teammate and pilot of the PacifiCare-sponsored entry. Due to an accident not of his own making, that driver is not Bruno Junqueira but Spaniard Oriol Servia, who has impressed many since joining the team while Junqueira recovers from an accident in the Indy 500 on May 29.

Bourdais entered the 2004 weekend with a slimmer margin of 27 points over second place but this year he holds a nearly-insurmountable lead of 67 points (310-243) over Servia with a maximum of 70 left in the two races this season. It's only the second time in Newman/Haas Racing's (NHR) 23-year history that the title fight is between its two drivers. Servia could remain a contender until Mexico City if he earned the maximum of 35 points in Australia (fastest in both qualifying sessions, setting the fastest race lap, leading the event and winning) if Bourdais doesn't earn any points in qualifying, doesn't lead a race lap or set the fastest lap and finished last in the 19 car field (two points) or is 36 points or less in arrears. Although an unlikely scenario, the Surfers Paradise track has a history for unpredictability with 14th different winners in the 14 events held here.

"I haven't really thought out a strategy heading into the race in Australia," said Bourdais, who won the 2004 title in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford title with seven wins and eight poles. b^0x001cI'm just going to treat it as another race; try to go for it and win. For me the work is done on my side. Setting the fastest time in qualifying on Friday or Saturday is just going to change the time frame of when I clinch because it should take place at some time over the weekend. The McDonald's team is just going to try to win both poles which is what we try to do every weekend. I don't race for championships; I keep in mind that I need to finish each of the races but if I have a winning car I try to get that result. If I don't have a winning car, I just try to get best out of it and hope for a podium. It's a testament to how good Newman/Haas Racing is that they have been able to give me a car that is capable of winning so many times."

"It's great to be a contender for the championship even if I only have a slim chance," added Servia, 31. "The team believed in me from the start and so did PacifiCare so I am glad to give them all the podiums so far and especially the win in Montreal and put them in the position of fighting for another 1-2 finish in the championship. There are two races left and two opportunities to win and were going to try our best to do this. Bruno brought PacifiCare wins in Montreal and Australia last year and it would be nice if I could do that for them again this year."

If Bourdais and Servia have their way, the 15th running of the Lexmark Indy 300 will have its 15th different winner as neither driver has won here. In the 14 previous races here, NHR has earned four wins (Junqueira 2004, Da Matta 2001, Tracy 1995, Mansell 1993), six poles (Bourdais 2003, Da Matta 2002, Mi. Andretti 1995 & 1991, Mansell 1993-1994) and eight podium finishes here. Bourdais was the polesitter here in 2003 and the provisional polesitter in 2004 which guaranteed a front row start despite being third fastest in qualifying here last year. Contact limited his finish to 17th place in 2003 and he lost the lead to Junqueira after the final stop in 2004 en route to second place. He's hoping to not only celebrate a championship on Sunday night but also a race win on what he considers one of the most challenging courses of the season as well as on of the best events.

"The Surfers Paradise track is great and the Aussie's are really deep into racing," said Bourdais who has played an integral role in possibly bringing France their first win in the Nation's Cup in the 10 years of Champ Car's special award. "It's one of the best street courses we race on for sure. It's long, really challenging, really fast and technically challenging. There are a lot of things to figure out, just one of the best venues in the series and a nice trip. It's a big party in Surfers; the streets are all full of people.JThere is a lot of beer flowing and quite a bit of excitement. The fans have a great time and we do too because of the proximity of everything.JThe beach is right there and it's the end of the season and everything is a little more laid back even if there is a lot of pressure."

It will be Servia's sixth race here and he's hoping to turn his luck around at this track. In his five previous starts, his best finish is ninth place in his rookie season in 2000 and best start is sixth in 2003. He retired due to mechanical failure in two events and from contact in another. Since joining NHR he has put together the most competitive season of his Champ Car career. If he continues the consistency, he stands a good chance of finishing on the podium as he has done in seven of the nine races with the team (DNF & 4th place in other two)."The track is a great challenge," said Servia who joined Bourdais and other drivers in a Rally racing event here as well as participated in a beach volleyball match with the Miss Indy contestants among other activities. "There is also great scenery with the ocean along the back straight. It makes for great TV, great pictures and great fun. One year my car broke on the back straight. If your car has to break down, I can't imagine a better place for it to happen. I was there by the beach at the ocean watching the race. I think (the race in) Surfers is a great success because of the racetrack layout. It's great fun; it's long and has a great fast, challenging chicane. There are hard braking zones, overtaking zones so that's why I think it's so successful. The fans have such a good time watching the cars go through those corners that they always bring more friends the next year. It's become such a huge event now and that's why it's such a big party. It's just an excuse to watch race cars and have a good time and enjoy the night. Overall it's a great event and I'm looking forward to it."

After his second place finish to Bourdais in Las Vegas, Servia was able to increase his lead over third place Paul Tracy from four to 27 (243-216). Servia has 29 more than fourth place Justin Wilson (243-214) and 57 over Mario Dominguez (243-186) with a maximum of 70 points available in the final two events in Australia and Mexico City on November 6. NHR is ensured of a sixth title this season and their first back-to-back in their 23rd season. The legendary Mario Andretti brought NHR their first championship title in their second season of competition in 1984 while his son Michael earned the second in 1991. Reigning Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell earned back-to-back racing titles when he brought the team their third championship in 1993. Cristiano da Matta won the title in 2002 and Bourdais won the fifth for the team last season. Winning the championship was NHR's first goal and finishing one-two with their two drivers, something they did for the first time last season, is their second goal.

"Newman/Haas Racing has had great drivers over their 23 years and it would be a great honor to be the first to bring them back-to-back championships," said Bourdais. "It shows how strong the organization is because the competition was tougher this season. Everyone has worked extremely hard this year, harder than ever because the series has run this same car for a few years now and the knowledge of the car was spread throughout the series and it was hard to get an edge on the competition. After clinching the title, my next goal would be to help the team get another 1-2 finish in the championship like last year. Oriol has done a great job this season. After Bruno's accident, it was hard to imagine that we could still attempt to put both the McDonald's and PacifiCare cars in the first two spots of the standings. It was a setback for the team but everyone worked even harder to get the results and we will continue to work hard to try to do this again."

The series is expecting another great crowd this season and hopes to top the 309,583 that attended the Lexmark Indy 300 over a four day period last year. On track festivities will begin on Thursday when support series take to the track. Champ Car practice and qualifying will take place on Friday and Saturday and the race will take place Sunday afternoon with the green flag flying at 1:15 p.m. local time. Fans can follow the action live via the Race Director feature available on the official website of the Champ Car World Series,, with the race beginning stateside at 11:15 p.m. Saturday evening. The 57-lap race can be seen in the U.S. via tape-delay on SPEED Channel, with coverage getting underway Sunday, October 23 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Nigel Mansell , Mario Dominguez , Mario Andretti , Sébastien Bourdais , Cristiano da Matta