McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS HOPES TO RAISE HIS GAME IN THI WEEKEND'S MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER JUNQUEIRA AIMS TO CONTINUE MOMENTUM FROM SECOND PLACE IN PREVIOUS RACE TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 5, 2006) ---...
McDONALD'S DRIVER BOURDAIS HOPES TO RAISE HIS GAME IN THI WEEKEND'S MOLSON GRAND PRIX OF TORONTO; HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS
DRIVER JUNQUEIRA AIMS TO CONTINUE MOMENTUM FROM SECOND PLACE IN PREVIOUS RACE
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 5, 2006) --- After escaping injury from a scary crash that saw Paul Tracy roll over his head and end his race on Lap 1 in the previous event in Cleveland, McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais lost only four points of ground over second place Justin Wilson (166-140) in the title battle of the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford championship. He knows a strong finish in this weekend's 86-lap Molson Grand Prix of Toronto could help him keep the wolves at bay with RuSPORT's Wilson only 26 points behind and A.J. Allmendinger who won the past two events since switching to Forsythe Championship Racing, only 31 back.
"At the beginning of the season we were afraid that RuSPORT would be tough and were also concerned with PT (Paul Tracy) because you can never count him out," said Bourdais who has four wins, one third and an 18th place finish due to contact with Tracy in Cleveland so far this season. "Now there is not one guy at Forsythe to beat, but two. Basically we now have to add another driver to the mix. A.J. is carrying the momentum from a couple of good races. He's been in the car at the right time too. Forsythe had a good test at Portland and at Cleveland they've had the best car the last two years. We'll see what happens in Toronto but PT won there in 2003 and was running with us in 2004 and 2005 so we know they have a good setup there so we will have to raise our game. It just makes it nicer if you can win."
In just three starts on the streets of Toronto Bourdais has earned two pole positions and one victory (2004) on the course, and has finished in the top-five in each of his three starts. He started from pole the past two years but was unable to earn back-to-back wins here after he led the first 34 laps before contact with Tracy while the two were racing out of the pits limited his result to fifth place. He is optimistic the team can continue to improve on their racing package after competitive runs on the streets of Toronto.
"It's a place we've had a really good balance the last two years with the McDonald's car so I'm pretty happy to come back to Toronto," said Bourdais. "It's a great race for Champ Car. The track is pretty bumpy and it is getting rougher and rougher every year although the track guys are trying to smooth it out and get rid of the bumps that appeared over the winter. The winters are pretty rough there and it takes it toll on the track so you have to get the balance right, get the car as low as you can but obviously the big bumps stop you from doing so and that's the biggest challenge."
Since joining the series in 2003 as the reigning Formula 3000 champion Bourdais has won 20 races and 21 poles in his 51 starts. The Cleveland DNF was only his third in the past 30 races. Bourdais and the McDonald's team have no intention of changing their usual routine to make up for an 18th place finish in an attempt to earn a third consecutive title for the first time since Ted Horn accomplished the feat from 1946-1948.
"There is no real strategy right now to winning the championship," said Bourdais, who moonlighted as a TV broadcast commentator for a Belgian network at the United States Grand Prix last weekend. "We are just trying to stay focused on what we do; everybody is really aware of that. We are just trying to do the job they way we know it and it's been working fine so far. We don't need to add any pressure to it; everybody knows what we want to achieve here and how big a deal it is and we've done it the last couple of seasons so we just keep our heads down and try not to think too much about it. We are just focusing on the task ahead and try our best to get it done."
In the previous 20 years of racing on the streets of Toronto Newman/Haas Racing has earned a total of seven wins, four poles and 15 podium finishes. Their most recent pole came last year by Bourdais and of their 15 podium finishes, their most recent came last year with Oriol Servia, who filled in for injured Hole in the Wall Camps driver Bruno Junqueira, and nearly won his first Champ Car event but relinquished the lead with 11 laps to go and finished second to Wilson. Junqueira was onsite last year to watch his friend Servia earn a strong result and helped celebrate the finish at a party thrown in his honour by his racing peers.
"Toronto was the first race I was fit enough to travel to last year and I was really looking forward to it after the accident in Indianapolis," said Junqueira. "I had just taken the cast off my left ankle the day before and I couldn't walk very well and I still had a little bit of pain but I really wanted to be with the Newman/Haas team and see the race. Paul Tracy and his friends organized a Sunday night party for me and it was pretty nice. It was called "Party Till You Break Your Back" which was pretty funny, I enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately I couldn't be at the party very long but it was very nice what they did for me."
In the first five races of the season, Junqueira qualified no lower than fourth place but was mired in the bottom half of the series ranking due to begin taken out of two races on the first lap and other various misfortunes. With his fourth place finish in Portland and second in Cleveland he moved from a 16th place rank to eighth with a total of 87 points after Round 6 of 15. A strong finish in Toronto could move him closer to fourth place ranked Andrew Ranger who is within reach with a total of 99 points. In the past three of his four races here he has started third twice (2002 and 2004) and second once (2003) although contact took him out of all but one race where he finished third in 2003. He knows that racing on the tight 1.755-mile street course not only requires skill but also a little luck.
"My last race in Toronto two years ago was not good," recalled Junqueira. "We qualified third and I was hoping for a big fight between me Sebastien and (Paul) Tracy but on the first lap, in the first turn Mario Dominguez hit me and took me out of the race. It was the only DNF (did not finish) I had in 2004 and it was a shame. Toronto is a hard track, very narrow and fast so you need to be up there. Turn 3 is 185 mph and then you are braking, downshifting to first gear so it's quite exciting and there is a lot of action. It's an exciting track that is very technical and physical because it's often hot there. The best thing is the crowd though; it's a great crowd and its one of my favorite races of the season."
This weekend's Molson Grand Prix of Toronto can be seen live Sunday, July 9 CBS Sports beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. SPEED will re-air the broadcast on its cable network July 19 beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.