Bourdais Earns 2nd Straight Champ Car Win
HOUSTON (AP) _ Sebastien Bourdais won again in the Champ Car World Series on Saturday night, holding off Paul Tracy by 1.238 seconds in the Grand Prix of Houston.
Bourdais overcame a No. 5 starting position and a slow early pit stop to win for the seventh time in nine starts and the second time this year. He also won the season-opening race in Long Beach on April 9.
Bourdais led the final 33 laps on the 1.69-mile course set up in the 345-acre parking lot next to the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
The 27-year-old Bourdais took another step toward becoming the first driver since Ted Horn in the 1940s to win three consecutive Champ Car titles.
Tracy, Champ Car’s winningest active driver, never led en route to his 19th career runner-up finish _ and the fifth time he has finished second to Bourdais. Dominguez, who earned his first career pole Friday, led 64 of the first 66 laps but settled for third, 2.287 seconds behind Bourdais.
The victory finished an up-and-down week for Bourdais, who married longtime girlfriend Claire Ragot last weekend in Le Mans.
Bourdais had the fastest qualifying time in Thursday’s provisional qualifying, but two hours after the session ended, his Ford-Cosworth-powered Lola failed an inspection. It was three pounds underweight and Bourdais’ time was disqualified.
But with team co-owner Paul Newman and his new bride watching from the pits, Bourdais held nothing back from the start of Saturday’s race, weaving his way to third in the first eight laps. He passed his Newman/Haas teammate, Bruno Junqueira, on lap 9, then overtook Dominguez on lap 27, just before the yellow caution flag appeared for the first time.
Every driver on the lead lap went to the pits on the next lap and Dominguez got out ahead of Bourdais to move back in front. Bourdais lost the critical seconds when an air pump malfunctioned during the pit stop.
Tracy, who started from the No. 3 position, patiently watched the duel ahead of him for the first half of the race, staying within 2 seconds of the lead.
Dominguez maintained his cushion until the 67th lap, when his brakes locked heading into the fifth turn. Bourdais and Tracy passed him as Dominguez spun his car in a runoff area and quickly got back in the race.
Bourdais got four new tires on a 9.9-second pit stop on the 70th lap and his timing was perfect. He returned to the track just before Charles Zwolsman rubbed tires with Will Power and hit the wall, forcing another caution.
Tracy also made a speedy stop before Zwolsman’s wreck to keep pace with Bourdais. The race restarted with 24 laps to go.
Alex Tagliani crashed into Oriol Servia in the same turn where Power and Zwolsman collided, drawing another caution flag with 11 laps left.
The race restarted for the final time with only five laps remaining, but Tracy couldn’t mount a serious challenge before Bourdais crossed the finish line.
The Champ Car series was back in Houston for the first time since 2001, when it was run on a downtown course. Drivers complained all week about the dangerously hard and frequent bumps on the road course and race officials responded by shortening the race from 115 to 100 laps.