View from the Topside
A well deserved second title for Sebastien Bourdais

   by Rick Benjamin
October 25, 2005

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Bourdais high-fives crew after win
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

We now know the answer to the question of whether the pressure would get to Sebastien Bourdais, as the 2005 battle for the Champ Car championship wrapped up. Bourdais was obviously wound tight as the weekend began, hoping to dominate both rounds of qualifying and put an exclamation point on his second straight title. Our sources on the ground in Surfers indicated Bourdais was curt with many questioners, after being quizzed repeatedly on the state of his relationship with chief rival Paul Tracy.

Their battle is becoming legendary. Weíve catalogued their many run-ins on the track, dating back to Australia in Sebís rookie season of 2003, running through their crap-out at Vegas a couple of weeks ago. While in most cases thereís nothing to blame except hard racing and that vibrant rivalry, clearly PT is frustrated that he has not had the speed Bourdais has exhibited at most events this year, and that when he has been fast, he hasnít been able to close the deal (see: Toronto, Denver, and Vegas, 2005).

Bourdais was the class of the field again
Champ Car

For Bourdaisí part, I suspect he feels he hasnít received his proper due from fans and media given his sterling accomplishments in just three seasons. For whatever reason, be it Gallic indifference or Newman/Haas envy, it appears Sebastien hasnít yet been as warmly embraced as he might have been. I believe heís earned the accolades heís received, even though he drives for Champ Carís dominant team. Sometimes it takes fans awhile to warm up to big winners and dominant players and I suspect thatís the case for Bourdaisí relationship with the paying spectators. He is gentlemanly and warm to young fans, giving of his time, and comfortable talking in the paddock area. But he is driven, determined, and totally dedicated to his craft, as his results prove conclusively.

Tracy, veteran hand at all this, has probably mastered the PR war between the two. PT is always quotable and there is considerable belief among those who cover Champ Car that Tracy has gotten inside Bourdaisí head. Unfortunately for the Thrill, that advantage hasnít translated into on-track victories. But the good news for all of us is that it appears Paul will remain with Forsythe Championship Racing for the foreseeable future and that the Tracy-Bourdais battle will continue to rage.

Meanwhile, the question of who else will drive for Newman/Haas should make good off-season fodder. Thereís no reason to think Bruno Junqueira will lose his ride, and Oriol Servia has certainly made a compelling case for a third seat at N/H if one is available. There have been rumblings for months that the team would expand but their decision to stick to two cars for Mexico City even though Bruno might well be able could indicate N/H will remain a two-car team at least for now.

Maybe the more intriguing scenario in the next few months will revolve around what happens at PKV Racing. Itís starting to appear that Jimmy Vasser could well step aside after Mexico City, which will be a huge loss for Champ Car. No driver can run forever and Champ Car is surely among the most physically demanding series in the world. But as Jimmy showed us at Surfers by running third heís still extremely capable, and I submit the Champ Car World Series can benefit greatly for the next season or two if the í96 champ sticks around awhile yet as a driver. We know heíll remain a force in the series via his stake in PKV but I for one think heís got another victory or two in his bag of tricks.

AJ is still looking for that first win
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

RuSPORT continued its string of strong showings over the weekend as well, with AJ Allmendinger second and Justin Wilson fourth. RuSPORT will work hard over the winter to find the needed speed to climb the next step on the ladder and have at least one of its drivers in contention for the 2006 Champ Car title. Watching them work toward that goal will be a joy next year.

Iím also encouraged by the performances this past weekend of Michael McDowell and Will Power. Power ran in the top ten several times, and McDowell raised the level of performance seen by the Rocketsports 31 team with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the seat. RHR should be a Champ Car star for seasons to come, and it may be merely that the all-elusive team chemistry just never came together for Ryan and Rocketsports. But McDowell will be a star and itís a coup for Champ Car to have another young American gun in its arsenal. Power made a convincing case for his ascension to Champ Car full time, and itíd be great if Derrick Walker and his partners can find the funding to expand to three cars full-time in í06.

Next up we head south of the border in a few days to write the final chapter of the 2005 season. Itíll be a huge party with tight points races at stake just about everywhere behind Sebastien Bourdais. For Seb, itíll be a coronationÖone he well deserves.

The author can be contacted at feedback@autoracing1.com

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Columns by Rick

Las Vegas GP Preview

Champ Car Laguna Seca postscript

Champ Car on verge of significant announcements

2007 NASCAR Media Tour Day 1

We enjoy the PRI Trade Show

A joyful holiday season this year for Champ Car teams

Who will have rides in Champ Car in 2007?

Looking ahead to Mexico City

What will Champ Car look like in 2007?

Road America postscript and new 2007 venues

Looking ahead to Road America

Looking ahead to Montreal

 Looking ahead to Denver

Looking ahead to Edmonton - Many storylines

For Allmendinger, life could not be any brighter

A big sigh of relief

Bourdais threatening to make it a runaway

Houston postscript

Looking ahead to Houston

Long Beach postscript

Paul Dana was living his dream

2006 Champ Car seats filling up

A view from the top - Miscellaneous pres-season ramblings

A look at the All-American Driver Challenge

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 4 Wrap-Up

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 3 Familiar Faces

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 2 Toyota announces teams

2006 NASCAR Media Tour - Day 1

Some off-season thoughts heading into the holidays

A look at the collapse of the National Sprintcar League

Champ Car: Miscellaneous Ramblings

Champ Car teams/drivers in transition over the winter

A well deserved 2nd title for Sebastien Bourdais

We look at the benefits of the new Champ Car

Who will win Champ Car's only Superspeedway race?

A look ahead to Las Vegas, Champ Car's only Superspeedway race

Bourdais' winning percentage stacks up with the best of them

Looking ahead to Denver and Paul Tracy's first NASCAR race

Looking ahead to San Jose

Champ Car hits a home run in Toronto

Send F1 far from these shores

Milwaukee musings

May Happenings

Newman/Haas has a good chance to win Indy 500

Sebastien Bourdais and ALMS are making news

Bristol review, Long Beach preview

A look back at Sebring

A peak at Champ Car TV for 2005

IROC is foreign for the open wheel drivers

Rolex 24 Recap: A short day for Champ Car drivers

Champ Car drivers take on other stars in Rolex 24

Champ Car is in the driver's seat

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