MEXICO CITY, Mexico - Despite a penalty imposed from an infraction during morning warm-ups, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais closed out his Champ Car career with a win in Sunday’s Tecate GP of Mexico Champ Car race. Polesitter Will Power from Australia could not hold off Bourdais and had to settle for second place ahead of Oriol Servia who passed two cars on lap 60 to gain the final podium position.
Carl Haas, Sebastien Bourdais and his daughter Emma, Paul Newman and Mike Lanigan celebrate Bourdais’ final Champ Car win
Rookie American Graham Rahal and Canadian Paul Tracy rounded out the top-5.
Power led early but then just before the first pitstop Bourdais smoked Power to take the lead. He then stayed out one lap longer than Power and when all the pitstops were done, Bourdais had a 2 second lead on Power, a lead he would never relinquish despite a late caution for the stalled car of Katherine Legge that bunched the field.
With a 100 HP difference from the push-to-pass the sprint to the finished promised to be an exciting one but Bourdais was not to be denied as he drew away from Power to secure his final win by 1.905 seconds.
For Bourdais it closed out an incredible five years in Champ Car where he broke the record with four straight championship titles. He also won more poles/start and had more race wins/start than any driver in Champ Car history.
In 73 starts Bourdais had 31 wins, which ties him for 8th on the all-time Champ Car win list with Al Unser Jr. and Paul Tracy.
On the podium an emotional Bourdais broke down in tears as the events of the day and the past five years came to a head.
"After being penalized once and then suffering some kind of a weird yellow, as I said, that was pretty high up there for me. You know, we tried to do the best we could to stop the pressure from building around us, but there was just no way out.
"Everybody was really emotional today, and I was, too. I had to leave a couple of times before jumping in the car. I couldn’t hold it. It was really, really strange just to finally realize that it was going to be the last time. When I closed the visor it was all business. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because the Push‑to‑Pass and the fact that it increased the importance of it this weekend, it was going to be super hard. We just had the better car and the team once again just pulled it off. We had a good start and great strategy and great speed, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s racing; it always comes back down to this. It doesn’t matter how many hurdles you put in your way. It’s irrelevant for the most part when you get such a day.
"I tried to pass the message along that we had done it about 30 times, and I really wanted to add another one, and we needed to do it. I could really feel that the boys were just kind of freaking out, and Dave couldn’t even change a wheel this morning and things like that. So it was really hard. He took the time to make a little speech on the out lap and just try and regroup everybody and say, let’s do this one more time. We know what we’ve got to do, so let’s do it. We did just that, and it was an awesome day.
"There was no better way to finish off this chapter of my career. I really felt like everybody deserved it in the team, and it was on my side to finish it off because the cards were on the table and played pretty much. It was up to me to make the best use of it.
Sebastien Bourdais celebrates his win with donuts
"During that first stint when Will was saving quite a bit of fuel and Justin didn’t seem to be too much of a factor, at some point I thought he was just going to go for it, try and pass me, which would have really dropped me in a big hole because it would have been a heartbreaking situation whether to save fuel or not save fuel, as you all know, because if a yellow was to happen, we would have just lost a track position and really tough to make back, less Push‑to‑Pass.
"You know, we just really didn’t hold anything back, and I saved more fuel than I was supposed to because I wanted to give it a try at the end of the first stint, and it worked out. Will lost the rears and started to have a much tougher time to make up the mileage and had to slow down, and that’s when I decided to go for it.
" knew I wasn’t going to have a ton of shots at it because obviously with only 53 seconds of Push‑to‑Pass and about 18 seconds every time you use it in the front straight, it was going to go away in a hurry. You know, from there it was just a straightforward race, the way we like them and the way we’ve controlled quite a few. And it means ‑‑ it probably tops everything else, between the emotion, the performance on the racetrack and the way things turned out, obviously it’s quite complete."
Tecate was happy to see Mario Dominguez finish 8th, a good result for the Pacific Coast Motorsports team. He originally was classified as 7th but was moved back a spot due to Turn 17 exit line infractions.
Justin Wilson clinched second place in the Champ Car World Series Driver’s championship, not by way of a stellar performance, but through the mechanical misfortunes of Robert Doornbos, Justin’s main rival for the second position in the championship. Justin battled fuel problems and some minor handling issues while Doornbos had clutch problems that put him out of the race.
Justin commented “Although I’m disappointed with tenth in the race, we finished second in the championship, which was our main goal coming into this weekend and I really have to thank my entire team, who have worked so hard all year and have kept their spirits high all the way to the end. I’m also grateful to CDW and all our partners for being such great sponsors."
However, despite a long pit stop to fix a faulty clutch, Doornbos did turn the fastest lap of the race and beat Will Power for 3rd in the final standings by getting that one point.
To loud cheers from the crowd, the ‘Flying Dutchman’ rejoined the race on lap 38, and then proceeded to run what amounted to a pair of flat-out, three-lap qualifying runs. His best time was a scintillating 1 min 24.713 secs, putting the single point for fastest lap beyond the reach of his rivals.
It had been a fantastic effort from Doornbos, but no less than from his mechanics. From the time the problem arose on the No 14 car to it rejoining the race, only 51 minutes elapsed. In that time, his crew had stripped the car of its bodywork, dropped the floor, split the engine and gearbox, replaced the clutch and then reassembled everything. Their reward was to see Robert become the highest finishing Champ Car rookie since Juan Pablo Montoya, in 1999.
Oriol Servia had to overcome a bad start but drove a fantastic race to come back to finish 3rd.
"At the start it wouldn’t go in gear. The gearbox stayed in neutral, neutral, neutral, and when it finally went in gear the engine died, even before I tried to clutch it. It was a little bit of a bad start, but Jimmy came in the radio and said, listen, these are longer races than what we had over the weekend, and he was there every lap with me and was pushing me, was telling me where everybody else was.
"At the last call we were both talking about the blacks or reds, and we both decided reds, and it was the right call. It just feels good when you’re able to work together as a team and you’re able to support each other like that. Obviously the last race I came in sixth or seventh and we were able to pass Paul and Pagenaud in the last three laps, and it was fantastic."
Simon Pagenaud finished sixth in the race and eighth in the championship to complete his rookie Champ Car season, while Bruno Junqueira finished seventh to equal his position in the final championship standings. Mexico City native Mario Dominguez wound up eighth in the Pacific Coast Motorsports machine after being penalized one position for crossing the line at the exit to Turn 17 multiple times. Nevertheless, Dominguez still earned the bonus point for improving the most positions from start to finish. PKV Racing’s Neel Jani finished ninth and Wilson completed the top 10.
Sebastien Bourdais #1 McDonalds Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 1st) – You know, we tried to do the best we could to stop the pressure from building around us, but there was just no way out. Everybody was really emotional today, and I was, too. I had to leave a couple of times before jumping in the McDonald’s car. I couldn’t hold it. It was really, really strange just to finally realize that it was going to be the last time. When I closed the visor it was all business. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy because the Push to Pass and the fact that it increased the importance of it this weekend, it was going to be super hard. We just had the better car and the team once again just pulled it off. We had a good start and great strategy and great speed, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Will Power #5 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 2nd) – “It would have been nice to win the last race of the season, considering we had pretty good pace in qualifying. The car was a little bit too loose coming down the straight. But as the season goes, we’ve had the pace all year, we’ve just had really bad luck in the races with mechanical failure and a couple other things. I think that we’ll be strong next year. I think we learned a lot in how to win a championship this year and what not to do. I look forward to it, good result the last race. It’s about time we finished on the podium. Yeah, looking forward to next year.
Oriol Servia #22 Pay by Touch MegaSpirea Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 3rd) – “We were there, and it wouldn’t go in gear. Stayed in neutral, neutral, neutral, and when it finally went in gear the engine died, even before I tried to clutch it. It was a little bit of a bad start, but Jimmy came in the radio and said, listen, these are longer races than what we had over the weekend, and he was there every lap with me and was pushing me, was telling me where everybody else was. At the last call we were both talking about the blacks or reds, and we both decided reds, and it was the right call. It just feels good when you’re able to work together as a team and you’re able to support each other like that. Obviously the last race I came in sixth or seventh and we were able to pass Paul and Pagenaud in the last three laps, and it was fantastic.”
Graham Rahal #2 Medi | Zone Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 4th) – "Overall it was a good day for the Medi | Zone team. It was good to pass guys and move into the top three. It would have been even better to hold onto third place and end the season on the podium but (Oriol) Servia was on the red Bridgestone alternate tires and I was on the primary ones and he also had more Power to Pass. He closed on me so fast it caught me by surprise. It was impossible to hold him off because he had so much grip. All in all it was good to end the season with a competitive day and run up front most of the race. Obviously I would have had a little better season and catch Doornbos. He had some luck mid season when we had some bad luck. Overall I am happy to finish fifth in the season standings. I am already looking forward to next season."
Paul Tracy #3 Indeck Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 5th) – “(On the race) I got a great start and jumped a couple cars on the grid. The car was okay, but not great. It got really loose halfway through each stint, so that’s really what we were fighting. I couldn’t really lean on the rear hard enough. We just finally got a half-decent result. The team has worked really hard this year, and we haven’t really had a lot of highlights. It’s been all lowlights. To come and have a good race—and we had a good race in Australia—it’s something we can build on for ’08.” (On the departure of Sebastien Bourdais) “I just wish him luck. He’s a great driver, and he’s a fantastic personality. All the Champ Car people want to see him do well in Formula 1.” (On Bourdais tying him for sixth on the all-time Champ Car win list) “Me, him and Al Jr. are all on the same number. I’m going to try to get ahead of that next year.”
Simon Pagenaud #15 Aussie Vineyards Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 6th) – “This was the best race I have had all year, honestly. We finally got the Aussie Vineyards car right in the race. On the second stint we went out on blacks and the car was really nice and I came back and passed Tracy. It was a great race. I think the Cosworth Power-to-Pass did really well. It made it hard to save fuel, but then it made for interesting racing. It’s a shame that there was a shootout in the end because we were P4 and ended up P6. It’s all about learning and it was a good rookie season. We will see for next year now. I have learned from all my mistakes that I have made this year and hopefully next year I will be up there fighting for the championship.”
Bruno Junqueira #19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 7th) – “I’m ok with our result today. It is a shame that we had to end the season like this. I’m disappointed that I lost two spots in the championship point standings. I would have liked to finish in fifth instead of ninth. Now I can take a little break from racing and get ready for the 2008 season.”
Justin Wilson #9 CDW Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 10th) – “We had a fuel pressure problem that started early in the race, where the car would just cut out in some of the corners and on the straightaway. My engineers sorted out that if we kept the fuel tank above 12 gallons, the problem would go away. Running this track on a full tank of fuel makes the car slow, so that didn’t help our times and we had to make extra stops to keep the fuel level up. Although I’m disappointed with tenth in the race, we finished second in the championship, which was our main goal coming into this weekend and we got lots of points on our frequent fueler card! I really have to thank my entire team, who have worked so hard all year and have kept their spirits high all the way to the end.”
Nelson Philippe #34 Juniper Soul Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 12th) – “I feel absolutely gutted, this was not the results that we were hoping for. It’s a tough way to end the season. This has been a short season for myself only running in Australia and then here. Hopefully next year I can compete the entire year so I can be at the front. A really big thank you to Eric for his support and I appreciate that he trusted me to drive his car for these last two races. Also I want to thank the entire team and all of the mechanics and I hope to see them again next year.”
Alex Tagliani #8 Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 13th) – “It is definitely not the way that we wanted to end the season. For our last race together, it is definitively something that makes me sad, but we have been struggling with the #8 Rocketsports car all weekend. We have destroyed every set of tires that we put on the car during the race, because we never got the set up. The boys worked very hard in the pits, as everyone has been trying real hard. This is the type of track where everything needs to be perfect, like you need to have a car that allows you to go quick in medium-to-high speed corners, and we had such a bad, bad, bad push in the car that is was devastating out there on track when we were trying to make a long run. When we came out of the pits, it was like the first lap and second lap we were running an 87.8, so the performance out of a one-lap run was not bad, but five laps into the stint the car was going away so bad that we were dropping 5 seconds a lap and it was really tough to stay on line. So, it is a season filled with great potential, but with a couple of bad lucks that kept us from finishing on the podium and higher up in the championship. Overall, the team has been trying very hard all season, and I would like to thank them for all their hard work and dedication. Now we just have to look at the future. For me, I am already going to be looking for what I am going to be doing next year and Champ Car is definitely my choice.”
Katherine Legge #11 Dale Coyne Racing Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 15th) – “I was disappointed to end the season like we did. We would have liked to finish in the top ten, but we had a mechanical failure with the car. I tried my best to get it re-started but it just would corporate for me. I’m just really sorry because my team did another outstanding job this weekend getting the right setup on the car. All we can do is look at all the positives and prepare for next season.”
Robert Doornbos #14 Team Minardi USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 16th) – “It’s really not the way we wanted to finish the season. We worked hard all weekend for a mega result today, and judging on our lap times, we could have accomplished just that. We had one of the fastest cars out there, but it’s a mechanical sport, and these things happen. I have to give a big, big thank you to all the mechanics who got me back out on the track, just to make sure we didn’t lose third place (in the overall Championship). All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year – it’s a great group of people at Minardi Team USA, but third place isn’t good enough and we’ll have to do better next season.”
Dan Clarke #4 Minardi Team USA Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone (Finished 17th) - “I was really looking forward to a great race here in Mexico City, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Obviously it’s disappointing to finish off the season this way, but these things happen. I’m glad to see all the enthusiastic fans show their support here and hopefully next year they will come out to cheer us on again. We’ll gladly seal the envelope on the 2007 season - put it all behind us - and focus on 2008.”
||Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan Racing
||Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan Racing
||Forsythe Championship Racing
||Dale Coyne Racing
||Pacific Coast Motorsports
||Pacific Coast Motorsports
||Forsythe Championship Racing
||Dale Coyne Racing
||Minardi Team USA
||Minardi Team USA
**Finished 7th but was moved back to 8th due to a turn 17 line infraction