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Surfers success fuels Champ Car drive into finale

Sunshine on another big Surfers crowd

The Lexmark Indy 300 at Surfers Paradise event that concluded last Sunday once again proved an outstanding success with huge crowds, happy sponsors, celebrity appearances and a race won by Sebastien Bourdais that will go down in history. Now the Champ Car World Series heads to Mexico City for its 2007 season finale from Nov. 9-11, the Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex, which also promises to be one hot ticket.

The final four-day attendance figures in Australia was 314,136, an increase over last season and continued evidence that the Surfers Paradise event remains one of the crown jewels on the Champ Car schedule. Much of the attention this year centered around Team Australia and its local hero Will Power, though it was French teammate Simon Pagenaud who escorted rock band Good Charlotte’s lead singer and his pregnant girlfriend Nicole Ritchie through pit lane on race day.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who attended two days of the event, was pulling for Power, who failed to finish the race, but left the event happy.

“Obviously I’m a bit disappointed about Team Australia, (but) you can’t help but get swept up in the excitement of such a big international event and it’s a great opportunity for the Gold Coast to be on display for the world.”

In an editorial the day after the race, the Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper labeled it “the greatest single weekend in the Gold Coast’s dynamic calendar of major events,” citing the $60 million annually that it generates for the area. Lexmark Indy 300 Chairman Terry Mackenroth promised a bigger and better event next season. Greg Hooton, the Lexmark Indy 300 General Manager, plans to keep this event growing for years to come.

“Our current agreement will take us through to the 2008 event and we expect to cement a formal arrangement between the Queensland Government and our event partners IMG to take us through another five-year contractual period up to and inclusive of the 2013 event,” Hooton said. “We look forward to working together with the state government well beyond 2008. Together, we have worked tirelessly to make this event not only one of the most successful in Australia, but more strategically one of the true iconic motorsports events in the world.”

Numerous international, national and regional companies offered their support, including Juniper Soul, which signed with Nelson Philippe and Conquest Racing for the last two races of the season. Additionally, PBS Equities displayed its colors on the #8 Rocketsports entry driven by Alex Tagliani.

While Philippe and David Martinez made their Champ Car comebacks in Australia, so too did Tecate, a long-time partner in the Series through teams and events. Though the formal Tecate business announcement will be held until the Mexico City race week, the familiar Tecate logo was back on the side of a Champ Car in Australia driven by Pacific Coast Motorsports’ Mario Dominguez. Tecate previously sponsored former Champ Car driver Adrian Fernandez, one of the most popular drivers in Mexico.

Dominguez and fellow Mexican David Martinez will be among the favorites at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Martinez finished 10th in his Australian debut last weekend, and he will be looking to build on that solid result in front of his home crowd, which thanks to the great turnout in Australia will almost certainly count Champ Car fan number 2 million in 2007. Although Mexicans love to cheer for their native drivers, the spectators also are expected to fully support Bruno Junqueira, who is looking for a fourth consecutive podium for Dale Coyne Racing; Sebastien Bourdais, who will be competing in his final Champ Car race before he moves to Formula One next year; long-time favorite Paul Tracy who missed last year’s race due to injury; and the talented rookie field led by Robert Doornbos (who has clinched the Rookie of the Year title), Graham Rahal, Pagenaud and Neel Jani.

The Mexican fans will get their first taste of Champ Car standing starts introduced this year as well as the DP01, which has proven to be quicker than the Lola in most markets. Additionally, Champ Car will be conducting a special experiment with the engine in Mexico that will almost certainly guarantee faster times, particularly given the longest straight of all Champ Car circuits at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The announcement regarding the special experiment, designed to provide data for possible racing enhancements for the 2008 season, will be made by Champ Car next week.

While Bourdais’ victory in Surfers Paradise locked up the season-long championship, two drivers will be fighting for second place and the unofficial “tag” of 2008 pre-season favorite due to Bourdais’ pending departure. Justin Wilson currently sits in second place with 270 points, but he’s only 8 points ahead of rookie sensation Robert Doornbos. Wilson finished second in Australia while Doornbos was fourth. Wilson won in Assen this season while Doornbos has been at the top of the podium in Mont-Tremblant and San Jose.

The Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex takes place Sunday, Nov. 11, and will be broadcast live on ESPN 2 at 2 p.m. ET.

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