Tuesday, July 10, 2007
With F1 calling, will '07 be Bourdais' Champ Car swan song?
By Terry Koshan
Special to ESPN.com
TORONTO -- If life is lonely at the top, Sebastien Bourdais knows the feeling.
After a horde of media cleared away, the defending three-time Champ Car champion sat on a cement barrier in the pits on Sunday afternoon in Toronto, trying to make sense of his slip in the drivers' standings after the Steelback Grand Prix.
Bourdais had just been knocked out of the race after his McDonald's car was punted from behind by Robert Doornbos, a rookie on the circuit who has become Bourdais' nemesis. The result capped a rough few weeks for Bourdais. He finished second to Doornbos in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, a week earlier, and afterward refused to shake Doornbos' hand. Prior to that race, Bourdais had to quit after 67 laps in Cleveland because of mechanical problems.
Though he has won three of Champ Car's seven races in 2007, Bourdais, who is tied for 10th on the all-time win list with 26, is not comfortable. He was ahead of Doornbos by two points, 147-145, in the drivers' standings before the race began. When the rain-slicked track had cleared, Bourdais was third with 161 points, three behind the leader, Doornbos, and one back of second-place Will Power.
"We have been a contender forever now and it is tough when you feel like circumstances don't go your way," Bourdais, one of the most successful drivers in Champ Car history, said as his wife, Claire, waited patiently at arm's reach. "But at the same time it can be a little bit expected, perhaps. We have had three seasons trouble-free, and it is kind of catching up to us right now."
The next race in Champ Car is not until July 22 in Edmonton, an event that will finish the Canadian Triple Crown stretch in the schedule. But as the rest of the drivers return to their respective homes for some rest before heading to northern Alberta, Bourdais will be in Belgium, putting in one final test for the Toro Rossi Ferrari team on the Spa racetrack Wednesday and Thursday as he attempts to achieve his goal of cracking the Formula One loop next year.
It will be the third and final test for Toro Rossi for Bourdais.
Although the Champ Car season has not yet reached its midway point, is the 28-year-old Bourdais already thinking that this, in all likelihood, will be his last go-round in Champ Car?
"Well, first of all, I am not out of here yet, and secondly, I want to try to win the championship here," Bourdais said. "My dream is to be in Formula One, but if I don't make it, it will not be the end of the world.
"I will have two days of rest when I get there so I won't be too tired. I am confident about it. I have raced and won at Spa in Formula 3000 the year I won the GP2 championship [in 2002]. So it's not like I am going there blind."
Truth be told, the native of Le Mans, France, who lives in Tampa, sounded like he needed a change of pace for a few days.
"We're going to switch modes now and go there with a different attitude," Bourdais said. "We will try to enjoy ourselves and put this weekend behind us."
When Bourdais returns for the Rexall Grand Prix in Edmonton, he will not have an easy time trying to regain his foothold atop the standings. Power and Doornbos easily are legitimate threats to become the first Champ Car World Series champ other than Bourdais since 2003 (when Paul Tracy won), and Justin Wilson, who sits fourth with 138 points, made clear his aspirations following the race in Toronto.
"I would like to just sneak up on them," said Wilson, who was third in Toronto but has yet to win this season. "If we get our act together and get on the podium every race, we can do it. Take it one race at a time and we'll see what happens in the championship."
Terry Koshan is a sports reporter at the Toronto Sun.
My dream is to be in Formula One, but if I don't make it, it will not be the end of the world.