Both McDonald’s® driver Sebastien Bourdais and Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal departed the 2006 Grand Prix of Houston with something that would help them later in the season. Bourdais earned his second of four consecutive wins on the city streets around Reliant Arena and built a sizeable cushion in his bid for a third consecutive title while Rahal discovered the formula that would enable him to go on to win an Atlantic series-high five wins en route to second place rank by seasons end. Both are hoping for more of the same this weekend. In the video to the right Sebastien Bourdais talks about doing three straight races, defending his title and passing at Houston.
“The confidence built through starting the season strong with four wins last year was very much of a positive,” said Bourdais, who led a total of 33 laps and set the fastest lap time in the 2006 Houston race. “We had a bad event in Las Vegas but the McDonald’s team came back to win in Long Beach and I hope we can carry that momentum over to Houston.”
This year’s event will be run on Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday night like last year. Bourdais recovered from losing provisional pole on Thursday due to disqualification (under weight), and wound up with a lower than usual starting position of fifth place. At the start of the event he charged to the front and pressured race leader Mario Dominguez into a mistake to take the win. He following his season-opening win in Long Beach up with one in Houston then went on to win in Monterrey, Mexico and on the oval in Milwaukee. He has fond memories of his charge to the front at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park.
“It was a pretty hectic race in Houston last year for the McDonald’s team,” said Bourdais, who vaulted from 13th into third in the series point standings, only 19 behind leader Will Power after his win last Sunday in Long Beach. “Definitely the hardest piece of work was passing Mario. The first four drivers to pass were kind of not easy but were surprised that I was actually forcing the issue so early on in the race. And by the time I got to Mario I think he was aware that I was on the move and he was pretty quick so it was pretty tough. It would have taken quite a few efforts to actually get to pass him but it worked out when he made the mistake.”
The Grand Prix of Houston marks the third consecutive race in the 2007 Champ Car World Series season. Teams have been presented a new challenge with the addition of the all new Panoz DP01 chassis and long hours have been put in to ensure the best possible result. Newman/Haas/Lanigan team members worked until midnight on the eve of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and returned to work at 4:30 a.m. on race day. After a redeye home from Los Angeles after the race, they spent a day at home before traveling to Houston on Tuesday morning to prepare the race cars for the 1.658 mile street course in Houston. While the team was hard at work, McDonald’s driver Bourdais put in more hours behind the wheel driving his motor home from Los Angeles to Houston.
“To just go to one race after another is something I used to be very familiar with,” said Bourdais. “When I was in Europe I used to race six of seven weekends in a row between the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the month of June with F3000 and the FIA GT and other races. These three races in a row are definitely bringing me back in the day. Claire, Emma and I were able to make a road trip out of it in our new motor home but it will be good to get to Houston.”
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