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



- McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais earned a history making third consecutive Champ Car World Series title after an eighth place finish in the action-packed 58-lap Lexmark Indy 300. Bourdais became only the second driver to win three consecutive Champ Car titles in the 97 year history of the sport and was the first in the modern era (1979-on). Ted Horn earned titles in 1946, 1947 and 1948 while Bourdais duplicated the feat 58 years later. Like his winning effort in 2005, Bourdais started the event on the 2.795-mile street course from second place but was unable to repeat his victory due to a variety of factors. The start of the race was yellow flagged due to the second half of the field being strung out. The Champ Car race director then called for a single file start and the field began the race.

Bourdais was on a conservative fuel strategy in order to potentially run one or two laps longer than others but was able to maintain his second place position behind first time pole sitter and Surfers Paradise native Will Power from Team Australia. On Lap 13 Bourdais was unable to hold off Paul Tracy who passed for position but he was not worried about regaining the spot as he expected to run longer than Tracy and possibly Power on his first stint. Unfortunately the outcome of that possibility will never be known as the second of five caution flags of the day was brought out when Dan Clarke made contact with the wall and the field utilized the opportunity to pit on Lap 14. The McDonald's crew replaced his red Bridgestone option tires with standard black ones and he exited his pit box.

Needing to finish ninth or better if second place in the point standings, A.J. Allmendinger, won, he dodged his first bullet of the day when Paul Tracy dove out of his box and into Will Power in pit lane. Bourdais, whose pit was at pit out, narrowly escaped being collected in the melee and followed them. Simultaneously, Allmendinger left his pit box with the fuel apparatus still attached to his car and once it broke free of his car and pit fire ensued. Tracy received a punctured tire due to hitting Power and dropped down after returning to the pits which left Bourdais fourth behind two cars who had yet to pit and Power who was third. Once the race resumed he held fourth place when the title was decided on Lap 19 when Allmendinger made contact with the wall exiting Turn 3 and retired in 16th place.

A race win was still in the forefront of the team's mind and everyone remained focused on the task. Bourdais moved into third when temporary race leader Jan Heylen pitted during Allmendinger's caution on Lap 21. Once the race resumed, Bourdais maintained a 0.5-second gap behind Power and on Lap 28 pulled alongside the Aussie but was slightly squeezed along the inside wall, into the Oil Dry and onto the rough surface which caused him to lock up his tires and slide. The approaching lefthander had a run off area ahead and Bourdais hoped to get there unaffected but unfortunately Power turned left and his left front wheel made contact with the right rear of Bourdais' car. Bourdais drove into the runoff area and slid his car back around and rejoined the field but Power stopped on course due to damage to his car that had already lost bodywork due to the contact in the pits with Tracy.

During the stop to restart Power, Bourdais made his second stop on Lap 30. Once back on track, when the race was restarted he moved from 10th place to ninth after he passed Andrew Ranger who dropped back from fourth. The following lap Champ Car officials gave him a black flag, drive through, penalty for "avoidable contact" with Power which he served on Lap 33 and dropped to 12th place. Three laps later, on Lap 36, he set the fastest lap of the race thus far although Tracy bettered the lap later.

In an effort to possibly get back to the front, Bourdais was called into the pits for his final fuel stop when the pit window opened on Lap 37. Once the field began making their final stops he climbed up to seventh place by Lap 52 of 58. Wanting to end the event on a high note he tried to set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap and was one second up on the fastest time but he made a mistake that caused him to drive into the runoff area and he took the checkered flag in eighth place after losing a position to Charles Zwolsman.

Holds an insurmountable lead over second place Allmendinger (353-285) with one race to go in the championship and therefore clinched his third straight title.

Following are his post race comments:

"I had to be careful, because all I needed to do was finish, but I had to make sure I was going to finish," said Bourdais. "I think when I first came in 2003 never would have thought I was going to be part of that kind of dream, and I have to extend a very special thank you to Carl, Paul, Bernie and the whole team because they've been awesome and without them I would certainly not be there in front of you guys.

"I might sound a little arrogant saying it, but I think it's never been done before. Back in '46, '47 and '48 it was a completely different format, and back then the competition was so different, it's very difficult to compare. I think to me the real years start in '79 when this whole thing started and there was no dirt involved anymore and, you know, it's just a great feeling. Also I got my first win on an oval this year, on a real oval, in Milwaukee, and it was a very high point of the season. Was again, you know, very much due to the efforts of the team. And it just made for a complete season. And it's tough to come back over all that's been done in the last three years, but there's so much we could say that I'm just going to leave it as history."

"And you know the second, once A.J. had his problem, it was all for the win because we really didn't have anything to fight for anymore. It was win or nothing. And then after that, after the incident with Will, and we decide we were going to have to make it on the three stops, it was kind of make it to the finish. So at the beginning I think we were saving a lot of fuel, trying to make it, and I think we were doing it probably a lot further than Will and certainly a lot further than Paul, who apparently was struggling, and he was just making a mistake, falling back and then coming back, and it was just tough as a result because he wasn't saving as much fuel and he was being aggressive when he was coming back on us. At some point I made a small mistake in the first chicane, and it wasn't my time to try and contest him because he made it around on the outside and it was just too risky. So I just let him around. And then we will never know if I was going to make it or not because the yellow came out. And during that yellow, during the pit stop, Paul ruined Will's race, because at that point Will's car was damaged. And on the restart he wasn't as quick as he had been the race before. And I tried to take off time but wasn't quite close enough. But coming after the second chicane, I had a very good run. I pushed it past and made the move on him and he squeezed me just a little bit and I don't know what happened, but the car started to run really, really hard over the bumps in the middle of the track, and as soon as I touched the brakes, the right front locked and I was never going to stop the car so I just bailed out. And unfortunately Will either thought I was going to make the corner or I don't know what. He turned and we made a small contact, which had no incident on my car but apparently damaged his. And my race was ruined from there on because we had to make it on the three-stop strategy, and you know it was just going downhill from there. Later in the race, we were still in it because the team decided to pit me as soon as the window opened in order to pick up some positions but we received a penalty after that so that really wrapped our race. And then in the last lap I let Bruno go and tried to set the best lap and it didn't work out either, because I locked up the wheel being like a second faster than what I had been doing the whole race. So that was going to be a 33 or 32.9 or 8 or something at that point which was pretty quick, but no matter what, nothing was working today and I went straight in the chicane in turn 8 and that just made for a complete disappointment for the day. But in the meantime, we have to stay positive because it's probably, you know, it's definitely a historical day for the series, for the team and for me.

"Actually, I told them, because A.J. was stopped on the racetrack, and you know I completely understood what was going on from there on. Once I saw him stop on the racetrack, I knew the championship wasn't in doubt, and I went on the radio and said, "Let's go racing now," because we've been holding back all the time and making sure not to get into any kind of trouble. I went and I tried and it didn't work."

- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira struggled with a loose car and trouble on a pit stop to finish sixth in the 58-lap Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia after he started fourth. The start was yellow flagged as the back half of the field was not packed up which led to a call for a single file start. Junqueira held fourth place for the first 9 laps after reporting that his car was loose on the alternate red Bridgestone tires and soon thereafter lost two places to eventual first-time winner Nelson Philippe and A.J. Allmendinger. He came in for his first pit stop on Lap 14 during the caution for Dan Clarke who crashed but was unable to maintain his position due to a rare mishap in the pits when the outside front tire changer lost the wheel nut. The stop dropped Junqueira to the back of the field although his pit problem was not as bad as others. Third place runner Paul Tracy dove out of his pit box and into previous race leader and polesitter Will Power and the two received damage to their cars. Power lost bodywork while Tracy had to pit again for a flat tire. Also during the stop, Allmendinger left the pits while the fueling apparatus was still attached to his car which led to a pit fire and subsequent stops. Once the race resumed Junqueira moved up from 13th through the field and was in tenth place before his next stop on Lap 21 during the caution to remove the crashed car of Allmendinger. Despite dealing with a flat spotted tire, he again moved up through the field from 11th place and ran as high as second place for six laps before his final stop on Lap 43 of 58. He returned to the race in sixth place but temporarily dropped to seventh for two laps after losing a position to Andrew Ranger after a battle. He moved into sixth place on Lap 52 after Antonio Pizzonia, who temporarily led the race, made his final stop. He collected 19 points for his sixth place finish but dropped from a sixth place rank to seventh with a total of 196 points.

Following are his post race comments:

"At the start of the race I was getting good fuel mileage but the car got really loose on the red tires," said Junqueira. "I lost a couple of positions but it was still going okay but on the first stop a wheel nut was dropped and we went to last. We were patient and passed people and finished sixth. The car wasn't good and I don't know why because it was good yesterday. I am really happy for Sebastien. He deserved the championship because he drove very well this year."

- UP NEXT... The Champ Car World Series will take two weeks off before the season finale in Mexico City on November 12.

-credit: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Antonio Pizzonia , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Nelson Philippe , Andrew Ranger , Jan Heylen , Charles Zwolsman , Will Power , Daniel Clarke