With his fourth consecutive title wrapped up and only one race to go before he departs to live his lifelong dream of competing in Formula One, McDonald’s driver Sebastien Bourdais could take it easy this weekend and rest on his laurels that include a 42 percent win average, 43 percent average of starting from pole and an amazing 60 percent average of finishing on the podium in his 72 Champ Car races to date. But Bourdais, true to form and a true champion, will do everything in his power to end this weekend’s Gran Premio Tecate Presented by Banamex season finale – and Champ Car career – on the top spot of the victory podium in what is sure to be an emotional event for all of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR).
“I hope the McDonald’s team can put on a good show again in Mexico City,” said Bourdais who clinched his first title in 2004 with a win at the 2.7 mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and followed it up with another here last year. “Obviously you don’t want to finish your career in the series with some frustration or regret. We’ll give our very best and hope we can finish in style. Obviously I owe these guys my total dedication. We've been working really hard together for these past five years. You know, I just couldn't stand myself if I didn't give it all I had until the very end. They deserve the very best, and we're going to do just that until the very end.”
In December of 2002, Bourdais earned his position at Newman/Haas Racing at a driver shootout and quickly proved he deserved the selection by winning three races and five poles in his rookie season as well as 2003 Rookie of the Year honors. Since then he and the McDonald’s team have earned four consecutive championships and set many records along the way. His personal best season win total is seven in 2004 and 2006 and he could better his own mark with a victory this weekend which would tie him with Michael Andretti (1991) and Al Unser Jr. (1994) for most wins in a single season in the CART / Champ Car modern era (1979-present). In order to end his Champ Car career with a win, one of the drivers he will have to beat is Justin Wilson, whom Bourdais passed here last year in a breathtaking final lap battle.
“The race was an exciting one,” Bourdais said of the 2006 event. “I guess we put on a heck of a show for the fans. There were a lot of speed differences at times because some guys had the Bridgestone alternate tires on while others had the primary tires on so there were different paces. That’s what really allowed us to pass Justin. He decided to go with new tires on the last stop and we didn’t change them to save time and kept the old, wet (rain) tires on what was pretty-much a drying track towards the end and he was struggling. We had a good run and it was, for me, one of the best races in a long time.”
Bourdais has been one of, if not the, most dominant drivers in Champ Car history but it’s said that all good things must come to an end. That won’t happen until the conclusion of Sunday’s season finale though and as the desire to win at NHLR will take precedence over emotion, the McDonald’s team will be concentrating on ending Bourdais’ reign at Champ Car with another win on Sunday. However, the Frenchman is quick to point out that although this is his final race with the team, the relationships that have been forged will continue.
“We have one more race to go before we turn the last page of my Champ Car career and it’s done and over,” said Bourdais. “All I hope is that people remember that we went after it and we gave it our very best, and we haven't won these four championships just kind of waiting for the points to accumulate and just being consistent. We obviously tried to put on the best show we could, and we had a lot of fun doing it. We've won the championships but not only done that. I think I grew up as a man and as a driver. I learned a lot from a lot of obviously very experienced people, and I've learned from the best. But these guys, they're really close friends and everything, so I think we'll still stay in touch, and, like I said ‑‑ it's not because I'm going to move on to another challenge that I'm going to forget. Not at all; it's going to be something that will stay a part of me forever.”
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