CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Race report

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CLINCHES 2005 BRIDGESTONE PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POWERED BY FORD TITLE IN CHAMPIONSHIP STYLE WITH VICTORY IN SURFERS PARADISE SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 23, 2005) -- Putting an exclamation point on ...

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS CLINCHES 2005 BRIDGESTONE PRESENTS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES POWERED BY FORD TITLE IN CHAMPIONSHIP STYLE WITH VICTORY IN SURFERS PARADISE

SURFERS PARADISE, Australia (October 23, 2005) -- Putting an exclamation point on another championship season, Newman/Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) claimed the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship in grand fashion Sunday, storming to a win at the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Bourdais wrapped up the title with his sixth victory of the season, making him the third driver in the last four years to win the race in which he clinched the Champ Car crown. He led 38 of the day's 57 laps and set a new race-lap record, breaking the seven-year-old mark held by fellow two-time Champ Car title winner Alex Zanardi. The victory makes Bourdais the first back-to-back Champ Car king since Gil de Ferran in 2000-01 and also makes him the 15th driver in the 96 years of Champ Car racing to win consecutive championships. He took the win by more than nine seconds ahead of A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Intel Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who matched a career-high finish, followed by veteran Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who scored the 33rd podium of his career.

But the road to victory was anything but easy for Bourdais as 105,297 rabid race fans piled into the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street course for the 15th running of the Australian event. Bourdais narrowly escaped calamity in the first corner as polesitter and NHR teammate Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the victim of contact from fourth-place starter Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Servia and da Matta spun off to the right of the chicane after contact, collecting former Australia winner Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in the process and bringing out the caution flag.

Bourdais escaped damage but found himself behind nemesis Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on the restart as the veteran had been able to sneak past the Frenchman during the melee. Tracy roared away on the Lap 4 restart and paced the first 19 laps of the day, in the process becoming the first driver of the day to break the aforementioned race-lap record. Bourdais kept the pressure on, never falling more than two seconds behind, while RuSPORT teammates Allmendinger and Justin Wilson (#9 SanDisk Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) held down the third and fourth spots respectively.

Tracy held the point until pitting on Lap 19, one lap before Bourdais, but gave up the lead during that cycle of stops as Bourdais' crew short-filled the champion's car, getting him out with a 2.8-second lead over the 2003 titlewinner. Tracy's chase ended soon after the cycle of stops however, as he suffered a terminal gearbox problem on Lap 24 that doomed him to a 17th-place finish.

The retirement of Tracy moved Allmendinger to second behind Bourdais, but it was a Team Australia altercation that brought the young American to the leader's rear wing. Caution fell over the circuit for the second and final time on Lap 29 when Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had contact with new teammate Will Power (#25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in Turn Three.

Allmendinger had to deal with the lapped car of Marcus Marshall (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on the restart, but he slipped around the rookie and took the chase back to Bourdais. Allmendinger's teammate was not as lucky however, suffering a punctured tire when trying to pass Marshall, forcing him to the pits and out of the battle. The two leaders commenced to running their fastest laps of the day, putting two seconds per lap on the field, but Bourdais proved equal to every thrust by Allmendinger as the two ran away from the field.

The final round of stops yielded no changes among the two leaders, but it did end Servia's podium charge as a problem with his right-rear tire cost him precious seconds during the stop. Servia showed his strength after the first-lap contact, charging from 17th to finish fifth despite having to make an extra pit stop.

Bourdais rolled away after his second stop and cemented his win while Allmendinger contented himself with the runner-up spot. Vasser turned his fastest laps of the day in the final stage of the event, holding off Tagliani for the final podium spot. The Team Australia driver came home in fourth while Servia rounded out the top five.

Rocketsports Racing's Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) clinched the 2005 Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year title with a sixth-place finish, becoming the first German-born driver to win the Champ Car rookie award. Wilson ended his day in the seventh spot, but still moved into third in the final standings and enters the Mexico City finale with a 10-point lead over Tracy for the third position.

Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led a spate of five straight rookie finishers from the eighth-spot, while Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. Sperafico earned the extra championship point for gaining the most positions on the day, finishing ninth after starting 18th.

The series will put a bow on the 2005 season in two weeks' time with the season-ending Telmex/Tecate Gran Premio de Mexico City Presented by Banamex, November 4-6 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS

Jimmy Vasser: "All credit to my PKV Racing team. They've been working really hard since Montreal. Been on the shaker rig three times, a on the track for a test. These cars are an awful lot of mathematics. We've been working real hard crunching the numbers trying to make the team better. I think it's starting to show. Street circuits have been our weakness all season long. But we made it a little better for the race. However, we ended up with a podium finish. I think it's starting to show that the hard work on the team is starting to pay off."

A.J. Allmendinger: "RuSPORT gave me a great car today. I can't say enough about my team. They just keep fighting to improve the car. It looks like from the lap times we had everybody else covered, but I was just trying to hang on to Sebastien. After the second pit stop, he had about 10 seconds on me. At the end, pushed a little bit to see what car still had. But I'm pleased to be on the podium here. Everybody in the series talks about what a feeling it is to be on the podium in Surfers Paradise. Glad I get to enjoy it."

Sebastien Bourdais: "It was a nice win, very straight forward once everything sorted out in the pit strategy. I was just very happy to see how quick we were again. You know, such a great reward for this team that's working so hard. Obviously you're going to say I won the back-to-back championship, but without the organization around me, I would be nothing. I can't be grateful enough for all this hard work. It's just unbelievable. One and two for the second time in a row in the championship. I guess Newman/Haas Racing is going to have a tough time to top it up again next year. It's tough to keep up with that."

NOTEWORTHY

* Sebastien Bourdais is the third driver in the last four years to clinch the series title with a victory, and is the first driver to clinch the championship with a victory at Surfers Paradise. He has a streak of nine consecutive top-five finishers that he will carry to Mexico City.

* Today's event attendance of 105,297 brings the final Lexmark Indy 300 attendance to 316,459 -- a new record for the Surfers Paradise event.

* Paul Tracy led 19 laps to day, bringing his season total to a series-leading 512. This marks the fourth season that Tracy has led as many as 500 laps in a season.

* Bourdais again finished every lap of the event and has failed to complete just one of the year's 1,240 laps.

* France takes a commanding lead in the Nation's Cup standings with today's performance, carrying a 32-point lead over Canada to the season finale. France will be looking to seal its first victory in the 10 years of Nation's Cup competition.

Bourdais became the 15th driver to win consecutive Champ Car titles with today's win. Ted Horn (1946-48) is the only driver to win three consecutive Champ Car crowns.

-ccws-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Ronnie Bremer , Marcus Marshall , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta