CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Penultimate round preview

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS LOOKS TO CLINCH SECOND CONSECUTIVE CHAMP CAR TITLE IN THE 15TH RUNNING OF THE LEXMARK INDY 300 INDIANAPOLIS (October 13, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais ( ...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS LOOKS TO CLINCH SECOND CONSECUTIVE CHAMP CAR TITLE IN THE 15TH RUNNING OF THE LEXMARK INDY 300

INDIANAPOLIS (October 13, 2005) -- Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has a hammerlock on the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford as he looks to apply the finishing touch on a championship season in this weekend's Lexmark Indy 300.

However, despite holding a 67-point lead with just two races left on the schedule, Bourdais will take to the most unpredictable course on the Champ Car circuit in search of his second consecutive crown. The 2.795-mile street course in Surfers Paradise, Australia has long been a place where anything can happen -- and usually does. From the first race that saw former drag racer John Andretti take the win to last year's thrilling battle that went to Bruno Junqueira, the Australia event has always provided the massive Gold Coast crowds with wall-to-wall action.

Further illustrating the unpredictability of the event, the Lexmark Indy 300 has never had a repeat winner in its 14 years, marking the longest stretch without a repeat race winner of any track in Champ Car history. Seven series champions have scored victories in Australia while four drivers have earned their very first Champ Car wins there. Interestingly, Bourdais is not one of the 14 drivers that own previous Australia titles, although his Newman/Haas Racing squad has captured four prior Gold Coast victories

The weekend could shape up to be a big one for Bourdais, who could actually clinch the Vanderbilt Cup on Saturday if he were to lead Friday and Saturday qualifying. Even without qualifying success, he could become the first back-to-back champion since Gil de Ferran (2000-01) with an 18th-place finish on Sunday. Bourdais carries a streak of eight consecutive top-five finishes into the weekend, and would become just the 10th driver in Champ Car history to earn nine straight with another top-five in Australia. He won the pole in Surfers Paradise in 2003 and finished second last season to teammate Junqueira.

The battle for the series lead won't change hands this weekend, but the fight for the runner-up spot continues as Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looks to seal the deal on his best-ever Champ Car season. Servia was the beneficiary of contact between Bourdais and 2003 series champ Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Las Vegas as Tracy's misfortune allowed Servia to open a 27-point lead in the hunt for second place in the standings. The Spaniard has scored podium finishes in six of his last seven starts but has just one top 10 to his credit in Australia.

Meanwhile, Tracy has had more than a little success in Australia. A veteran of 12 starts, he has started fourth or better in each of the last nine Surfers Paradise events including a polewinning effort last season. The challenging street layout provided a high point in the Canadian's career in 2003 when he clinched his first and only Champ Car title with a 13th-place finish in Australia. Justin Wilson (#9 SanDisk Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is also poised to complete his best Champ Car season, sitting just two points behind Tracy with two races to run. He qualified seventh and finished eighth in his first Champ Car run in Australia one year ago, and has qualified in the top 10 in all but one of the season's previous 11 races.

Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make his return to the Surfers Paradise streets after two years in Formula 1, returning to the site where he officially pressed the champion's number '1' on his car in 2002. Da Matta has started in the top 10 in each of his four Australia starts, including a run from pole in 2002. The Brazilian scored a victory in 2001 and has led laps in each of his last two trips. The other returning Gold Coast race winner comes out of the Forsythe Championship Racing stable as Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) looks to reprise his 2002 success. The Mexican is currently fifth in the points chase after a strong fourth-place run in Las Vegas and has five consecutive top-10 finishes.

Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will seek a cap to his strong first Champ Car season by locking up the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Award in Australia. The German enters the weekend with a 40-point lead over Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the rookie standings, with Andrew Ranger (#27 Mi-Jack/Tide Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) standing just seven points behind Bremer. In order for Bremer to keep Glock from clinching the rookie award -- and becoming the first German driver to take the honor -- he must outscore the Rocketsports driver by five points over the weekend.

Battles resound throughout the standings sheet as the season winds down, and the fight for positions in the top 10 is no exception. The four drivers currently holding the sixth through ninth spots in the order are separated by just 11 points, with each position in the final standings worth an extra $10,000 in year-end bonus money. Veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the parade heading into the weekend with 173 points, giving him a one-point cushion over seventh-placed A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Vasser is one of the quartet of previous Australia race winners here this weekend, having won from pole during his 1995 titlewinning campaign.

The 10th annual Nation's Cup may find a new home after this weekend as well as the French duo of Bourdais and Nelson Philippe (#34 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) leads the standings by 23 over Canadians Tracy, Ranger and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Canada is the defending winner of the Nation's Cup, having captured it for the first time a year ago, while France will be looking for its first-ever award. Servia is the lone standard-bearer for Spain, but has carried his homeland to the third spot in the standings, 59 markers out of first.

The Lexmark Indy 300 will see a pair of young drivers making their Champ Car World Series debuts as 19 cars are expected to take the green flag in Surfers Paradise. Phoenix, Arizona's Michael McDowell (#31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) takes over as a teammate to rookie points leader Glock while Australian Will Power (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) makes his debut as Team Australia rolls out a third car for its home event.

The 20-year-old McDowell is no stranger to followers of the open-wheel racing ladder, having won the 2004 Star Mazda North American championship. He has competed in the Grand American Rolex Series championship in 2005 and is currently seventh in the series point standings. He is expected to race in both the Champ Car and Grand-Am events in the season finale in Mexico City. A former WKA national karting champion, he follows in the steps of recent Champ Car stars such as A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Michael Valiante as drivers that have come up through the U.S. karting ranks.

Power has an equally impressive background as the 24-year-old Aussie makes the move up to Champ Cars after spending the majority of the season in the World Series Powered by Renault. Power is fifth in this year's championship standings after scoring wins at Le Mans and on the Bilbao street circuit. He previously had run two seasons in the competitive British F3 series, scoring six podium finishes.

In addition to the new debuts, Fabrizio Del Monte (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make his second start in the series. Del Monte competed in the season opener in Long Beach with Jensen Motorsports, starting 19th and finishing 16th despite having no testing time prior to the event. HVM Racing's Rodolfo Lavin (#55 HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes off his second top-five finish in four races, having placed fifth in Las Vegas.

The Lexmark Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise 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, www.champcar.ws, 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.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Justin Wilson , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Michael Valiante , Michael McDowell , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Rodolfo Lavin , Nelson Philippe , Ronnie Bremer , Timo Glock , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing