CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Newman/Haas Racing race report



PacifiCare driver Oriol Servia was poised to earn his first Champ Car win after leading 20 laps in the Molson Indy Toronto but eventual race winner Justin Wilson passed him with 11 laps to go in a race that saw 21 of the final 29 laps run under caution including the final lap of the previously scheduled 88 lap event that ended early due to the 1 hour 45 minute time limit. Servia earned his third career second place finish as well as his third podium in four races since he joined Newman/Haas Racing (NHR). Throughout his first stint, Servia attempted to conserve fuel on the 1.755-mile temporary street course and reported that the car had too much understeer and dropped back from third place Justin Wilson so the team altered his fuel mileage target and he cut a previous gap of four seconds in half before he made his first pit stop on Lap 33. The PacifiCare crew refueled the car, replaced the tires and made a wing adjustment in the hope of lessening the understeer and Servia rejoined the field ahead of Justin Wilson, who also stopped on Lap 33. Once race leader Sebastien Bourdais and second place Paul Tracy pit on the next lap, he moved into second place behind Paul Tracy who continued on course despite losing the left front portion of his front wing when he and Bourdais came into contact racing out of the pits while Bourdais dropped back in the field. By Lap 37 Tracy had increased his previous lead to 13 seconds over Servia but when Tracy later caught up to traffic, Servia began to close the gap. The first caution period of the day came out for Cristiano da Matta, who was hit by Ricardo Sperafico who has just returned to the track from the pits after 57 laps had been completed.

Prior to the caution flag coming out Servia had closed to within six seconds of Tracy, who had yet to replace his damaged front wing. Tracy, who had only taken on a partial tank of fuel on the previous pit stop in order to catch up to Bourdais, had been preparing to make his second stop on that lap but the caution flag caused the pits to close and he remained on track. On the following lap, Servia moved into the lead when Tracy slowed on the front straight due to running out of fuel and retired in 16th place. He held the position on the restart with the help of Ford's Push to Pass button but the caution flag reappeared one lap later when Bjorn Wirdheim made contact. Once his car was removed the race was restarted but went yellow again one lap later for contact involving Marcus Marshall, Nelson Philippe, Timo Glock. For the third straight time he used the Push to Pass to attempt to keep the lead on the restart on Lap 72 and kept Wilson behind him temporarily but the Englishman successfully passed him on the inside of Turn Three on Lap 77. The following two laps, Wilson repeatedly set the fastest race laps while Servia was holding off a charge by Wilson's teammate A.J. Allmendinger for position. On Lap 81 of the previously scheduled 88 lap event, Allmendinger clipped the inside wall and subsequently crashed in Turn Four and brought out the final caution of the race, which ultimately ended on Lap 86 due to the one hour 45 minute time limit. He collected 27 points for second place and one for leading the event for a total of 107 to move up to fifth place from his pre-race rank of seventh.

Following are Servia's post race comments:

"It feels good to put the PacifiCare car on the podium again," said Servia who turns 31 on Wednesday. "I feel very happy. I didn't lie when I said that every session we are one step closer to the win. If it's just one more step, I guess it must happen in the next race. We're really going the right way. After looking at the fastest lap times, I really see that Justin was really fast. I mean, he's a second clear of me. I knew he was faster than me in turn three. I was actually slow the whole race. Under braking and at the apex of turn three was my weak point. It's not where you want to have a weak point around this track because it is almost the only place to overtake. I was suffering a little bit. In the last lap when I was ahead of him (Justin), I tried to push really hard in the last three corners before the start, in turn one, to try to have as much track between us as I could because I knew he was better under braking. That lap that he was a little closer, he used the 'push to pass' and there's not much you can do; you cannot block nowadays. He had the position. Then I knew he had no more 'push to pass', and there were still many laps to go. The yellow is just what I really wanted. Unfortunately, we didn't get any restarts so I didn't get to use my last shot of the 'push to pass'. My car was very solid but I think we could have made it a little faster. It was a very safe setup. We just had a little too much understeer at all times. Every lap, they were telling me, 'Push, push, push, you're catching Tracy.' I felt I was really struggling. But I saw I was catching him half a second a lap. Anyway, I think he also deserved the win."

McDonald's driver Sebastien Bourdais reclaimed the points lead with a fifth place finish after starting from pole and leading a race-high 34 laps in the Molson Indy Toronto but lost the lead of the race after the first round of pit stops due to a racing incident with previous second place runner Paul Tracy as the two were racing out of the pits. Bourdais entered the event with a one point deficit to Tracy but built a 15 point lead (150-135) after Tracy finished 16th due to running out of fuel after he led 22 laps. Bourdais fought off a hard charging Tracy on the first lap but settled into a rhythm while conserving fuel and proceeded to build a two second lead over the hometown favorite and set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 29 before the pair made their first pit stops on Lap 34. The McDonald's crew pulled the refueling gear from him car and it appeared that Tracy's crew followed their lead and the duo accelerated from their pit boxes, located at pit out.

Bourdais pulled in front of Tracy and had to move to his right to keep his wheels within the blend line or risk a penalty. When he pulled over to keep in contact with the line, his right-rear wheel made contact with Tracy's front wing, breaking it in half. Bourdais suffered an immediate puncture of the tire, dropping him to 10th place, while Tracy continued on track with his broken front wing. Bourdais steadily moved up through the field as attrition set in and bettered his fastest race lap on Lap 43 although it was later beaten by winner Justin Wilson. He took the checkered flag in fifth place after 21 of the final 29 laps were run under caution and the race ended two laps early due to the one hour 45 minute time limit. He collected 21 points for fifth place and one for leading the event and regained the points lead he lost in the previous race in Cleveland. He has 150 points to Paul Tracy's 135. Following are his post race comments:

"The McDonald's car was very, very good and it's a shame that we didn't get the result we were capable of again," said Bourdais. "The race started well; I did what I had to do and that was save fuel and still keep the lead. The car was good and I was pretty happy with how the race was going. I might have been able to work harder and save more fuel than I did because PT made the same as us so I might have been able to do better. The race was going alright and I was pulling a lead on him and it was looking good but before the pit stop I caught traffic and he caught back up to me. On the stop, I'm pretty sure they watched us fuel and then pulled when we did so he could try to get ahead of us. We got a run leaving the pits but he stayed there and I had to keep two wheels under the line and he stayed there too and we touched. He probably didn't realize that I was not going to be able to move to the left otherwise I would have been penalized. It was a racing incident but it was frustrating because this year when we seem to have a real chance to win the race but we don't. I didn't see the video but I think I was clearly in front because his front wing and my right rear tire touched. I was almost a car length ahead of him and my right rear tire hit his front wing and it cut my tire so I had to pit to replace it. We knew the right rear was down but the real problem was that I was coming back to the pits too fast and flat spotted the left front and didn't know it because the car was leaning toward the flat tire side but we only replaced the right rear. The left front tire was down to the cord and I had to run a full stint on it and go fast as well to catch up. I guess the incident hurt Paul more than us because he didn't get many points and we were able to salvage some. Every race is going to have to be approached one at a time. It's going to be a tough fight and now Justin is back in the race and anything can happen."

Up Next...

The inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton, Round 7 of 14, will take place next weekend. Due to the tight turnaround the team will have 1.5 days to prepare the race cars for the event before the transporters depart Lincolnshire for Edmonton.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Bjorn Wirdheim , Nelson Philippe , Marcus Marshall , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta