VANCOUVER (July 21, 2004) --- After wins in the previous Champ Car World Series races in Portland, Cleveland and Toronto, McDonald's Â® driver Sebastien Bourdais could match a series record with his fourth consecutive victory in this weekend's ...
VANCOUVER (July 21, 2004) --- After wins in the previous Champ Car World Series races in Portland, Cleveland and Toronto, McDonald's ® driver Sebastien Bourdais could match a series record with his fourth consecutive victory in this weekend's Molson Indy Vancouver. In order to match the record one of the competitors he will need to beat is his own teammate, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira, who led the event last season until a ruling forced him to turn over the lead and ultimately the win and accept a second place finish.
In his only race here, Bourdais started fifth on the 1.781-mile temporary street course at Concord Pacific Place in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Although it was a difficult event for him, he rebounded from a race-high six pit stops to finish third.
"Vancouver was a tough race for us," said Bourdais. "We had a pretty terrible start and ran into Roberto (Moreno) at the beginning and then had a crash when I left the pits with a new set of tires. There was a pack up on the race track and I bumped into the guys and had to stop again to change the front wing. It just went from bad to worse for five laps and then after we had a pretty clean race we worked all the way back and finished third so I was pretty pleased with the performance of the McDonald's car. It's a pretty tough race track and experience counts a lot."
The second year driver has used experience to collect four wins in six races so far this season including the past three in Portland, Cleveland and Toronto. With a 28-point lead over his teammate Junqueira (164-136), he has managed to build the largest gap over second place so far this season. A win in Vancouver would tie him with former Newman/Haas Racing driver Cristiano da Matta as well as Alex Zanardi and Al Unser Jr. as the only drivers since 1971 to win four consecutive races. He hopes to continue the momentum he has built this season on the streets of Vancouver.
"Compared to last year we have the same level of speed but the thing is we are much more successful and we haven't had bad luck so far," stated Bourdais who put France in the lead for the Nation's Cup for the first time in series history. "It's a much better year for us. We have a full time sponsorship with McDonald's and that helped our program. Things are looking pretty good. We won four races out of six and we just hope to continue this. I think when I have clean air in front of me I don't make a lot of mistakes. I try not to make mistakes when I get up front. The toughest part is to get up front and then basically you just hang on."
With the exception of the previous race in Toronto where he had an incident with Mario Dominguez on the first lap, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira has displayed a knack for earning a substantial amount of points each weekend. In six races he has earned one pole (Long Beach) and finished second four times. He was competitive here in each of the sessions last season and challenged for the pole after being the provisional polesitter on Friday. Once the green flag was shown, he took the lead from polesitter Paul Tracy but on Lap 17 Champ Car officials ruled that he had jumped the start and subsequently forced him to relinquish the position to Tracy who went on to built a gap of 18 seconds en route to victory. Junqueira hopes to earn the victory he looked set to achieve last season in what will be his fourth start here.
"Last year in Vancouver there was a big battle between me and (Paul) Tracy," said Junqueira. "We were fighting every day for the pole. I got the pole on the first day and he got the pole on the second day. At the start I passed him and after 17 laps in the race they said I blew the start and they told me to let Tracy pass me. That was the most unusual thing to happen to me in my life. It was difficult because I lost my concentration for 20 or 30 laps until I picked up the pace again. That was enough for Tracy to open a big lead."
Junqueira held the championship lead for three races this season, the most of any driver, but an 18th place finish after contact with Mario Dominguez on the first lap in Toronto dropped his rank to second behind Bourdais by a 164-136 margin. He holds a slim seven-point lead over third place Patrick Carpentier who has 129. With the halfway mark of the 16-race season approaching fast, Junqueira knows a strong finish in Vancouver is important to his championship aspirations.
"Vancouver is a good race track," said Junqueira. "I like to race in the city of Vancouver. It's one of my favorite cities we race in all year. Last year I finished second and this year I hope the PacifiCare car will do even better because the Championship is very close. It will be important to finish well."
In the 14 events that have been held in Vancouver, Newman/Haas Racing has won three (1996, 1992, 1991), all with Michael Andretti behind the wheel, and started on pole four times, the most recent coming in 2002 when Cristiano da Matta set the existing track record. Da Matta was leading the event when he stopped on course with a drive shaft failure. Junqueira appeared to have a strong chance to bring the team their first win here since 1996 before his penalty last season.
Street course races have supplied a lot of excitement over the years and this year's event in Vancouver should be no exception with the addition of Ford-Cosworth's Push 2 Pass button. The 12-turn course on the streets of Concord Pacific Place features one of the longest and fastest straightaways of any Champ Car street course and both drivers believe the unique layout of the course will add to the excitement.
"It's a challenging track and as a matter of fact it probably has one of the longest full throttle periods of time during the year with (the course in) Elkhart Lake," said Bourdais. "From Turn 4 all the way down, it's flat even through the kink so you are a long time at full throttle. It's exciting. There is high braking and the corners are slow which makes it an interesting and challenging track. Push to Pass will be very powerful if you use it there but you won't have so many shots. You can only use a couple of times so you have to make sure if you use it you pass."
"I think in Vancouver the Push 2 Pass will be a big factor because of the long straight on the back of the track," added Junqueira. "If you use it right you can pass the guy in front of you."
Both Junqueira and Bourdais list Vancouver as one of their favorite cities on the 16-race schedule. They are not alone as the three-day total for last year's event here was 162,271 and the over the past 10 years the event has drawn at least 155,000 fans annually.
"I like racing in Vancouver - it's a nice city with a lot of race fans," said Junqueira. "That's for sure the nicest thing about racing in Vancouver. It's a very beautiful city with a lot of mountains and the ocean. I wish I had more time to spend a few days there."
Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver 85-lap race can be seen on HDNet as well as Spike TV. The Spike broadcast will be live in the Eastern and Central time zones, and can be seen at 4 p.m. in the Pacific region. Fans can also follow all the action of the Champ Car World Series through the new Race Director feature on the series' official website, www.champcarworldseries.com.
Newman/Haas Racing, owned by actor/race car driver Paul Newman and racing entrepreneur Carl A. Haas, is the most successful team competing in the Champ Car World Series. The team is in the midst of their 22nd season in Champ Car competition in 2004 and will attempt to score their fifth overall title after winning 77 races and 81 pole positions. Current drivers Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais were preceded at the team by Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi and Cristiano da Matta. For more information log on to www.newman-haas.com, www.brunojunqueira.com, www.sebastien-bourdais.com or www.champcarworldseries.com.