Sunday, April 22, 2007
Bourdais puts stamp on convincing Houston win
HOUSTON -- Sebastien Bourdais couldn't stop his car toward
the end of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston.
Not a bad problem for a driver when he's trying to win a race --
unless he's totally out of control.
But if the 28-year-old Frenchman was having car problems Sunday,
he hid them well, winning in Houston for the second straight year
and grabbing the inside track for his fourth consecutive Champ Car
Sebastien Bourdais celebrates after winning the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston for the second time. He won the inaugural race last season.
"There was just no bite anymore on the brakes," he said. "It
wouldn't slow down. I don't know what happened. It was a weird
feeling, very uncomfortable."
His car was still the best of the field.
Bourdais earned his 25th career win in his 62nd start,
continuing his unprecedented dominance of the circuit. Brakes or
not, Bourdais decided to finish his second win of the season in
style, turning his fastest lap (58.018 seconds) on his 93rd and
final trip around the 1.69-mile street course next to Reliant
Bourdais has won 14 of his last 24 starts. With his victory
Sunday, Bourdais overtook points leader Will Power in the
standings. Power, who started on the pole, damaged the nose wing on
his car three times and finished 11th.
Beyond his own car problems, Bourdais got some luck at the end
when another one ran out of gas.
Bourdais went for a pit stop on the 68th lap, while rookie
Tristan Gommendy stayed on the track, gambling that he wouldn't
have to stop again for fuel.
If a caution flag had come out, the drivers would've held their
positions and Gommendy would've been able to save gas and cruise to
But like they do most times in Champ Car these days, things went
Bourdais' way. The yellow never came and Gommendy ran out of gas on
lap 87 as Bourdais slipped past him.
"I had the feeling where it's either going to go our way and we
were going to win it," Bourdais said, "or it's going to go his
way and he's going to win it. That's racing, I guess."
Bourdais cruised from there with rookie Graham Rahal, his
Newman/Haas/Lanigan teammate, protecting him in second place. The
18-year-old Rahal, who skipped his senior prom in Ohio to race in
Houston, finished 4.819 seconds behind Bourdais and became the
youngest top-three finisher in series history.
"It was an all-around good weekend for the entire team," said
Rahal, the son of three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal.
Robert Doornbos, another rookie, was third, 7.061 seconds behind
Bourdais reached 104.430 mph on his fastest lap. He had the best
qualifying times on Saturday, but he was bumped from the pole when
Champ Car penalized him for blocking Power. Bourdais still secured
a front-row start by taking the provisional pole on Friday.
Bourdais unintentionally cut across a flat chicane on the first
lap and passed Power a few seconds into the race. Englishman Justin
Wilson, who started third, then passed Power when the Australian
started a frustrating day by drifting wide on Turn 4.
Champ Car officials ordered Bourdais to relinquish the top spot
for his early short cut and Wilson took his first lead of the
On the 14th lap, Bourdais ducked inside Wilson and passed him.
Within seven laps, Bourdais had stretched the lead to 5 seconds.
Bourdais took his final pit on the 68th lap, just ahead of the
race's worst tangle.
Power started the mess when he clipped Mario Dominguez, lost his
nose wing and slid into a bank of tires. Not far away, Katherine
Legge tried to cut inside of rookie Neel Jani, but the two collided
and spun out. Legge, Jani and Dan Clarke, who came around a turn
and hit Legge's car, were knocked out of the race.
Gommendy's PKV Racing team then gambled by ordering him to stay
on the track. He led 18 laps before the vapor ran out and allowed
Bourdais to take over.
"Between this and the fact that the car wouldn't stop toward
the end of the race," Bourdais said, "it was a little bit
frustrating. But I guess we made it stick and it's even sweeter at
The first in-race caution appeared on lap 27 when Roberto Moreno
clipped Matt Halliday. The 48-year-old Moreno was a last-minute
replacement for Alex Figge, who aggravated a back injury in
practice on Friday.
At that point, Oriol Servia, who needed a victory to extend his
contract with Forsythe Racing, cut short a pit stop and jumped to
second place, behind Bourdais. Servia was filling in for the second
straight week for Paul Tracy, who fractured a vertebra in his back
during a practice run last week in Long Beach.
Team owner Gerry Forsythe said he expected Tracy to be ready to
race in Portland in June. But he also said he'd considered entering
three cars and giving Servia at least one more ride.