Sebastien Bourdais wins Grand Prix for third consecutive year

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LONG BEACH — Sebastien Bourdais has gone from one extreme to another. From the nightmare that was three bad days in Las Vegas, to yet another dream run in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. Bourdais survived three re-starts, including one with less than two minutes left in the race, to win for the third consecutive time here in front of about 90,000. Seconds after crossing the finish line, Bourdais did the customary victory donuts in his No. 1 McDonald’s ride. “It feels really good for the whole McDonald’s team,” said Bourdais, who is part of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. “They worked their tails off all winter. I really, really couldn’t feel any worse than what I was feeling after Vegas, making all those mistakes. “I think we worked on the car a little bit to make me a little more comfortable and we got things figured out. … We got ourselves together and we didn’t panic after Vegas, which was pretty crucial because many teams could have completely went out and fell apart and we didn’t. I’m just really glad that we stayed together and got it done here again.” Bourdais, the three-time defending series champion from France, had two poor days of qualifying, then completed only 30 laps April 8 at the Vegas Grand Prix, finishing 13th. Sunday’s win was his 24th career Champ Car victory, tying him for 12th place with Bobby Rahal. It was also Bourdais’ 36th podium in just 61 starts and he is the first driver to win three consecutive races here since Al Unser Jr. did it from 1989-92. Oriol Servia, who was driving for the injured Paul Tracy, started 14th and raced incredibly, and finished second. Will Power, who won last week in Vegas, was third, Justin Wilson took fourth, Alex Tagliani was fifth, Bruno Junqueira was sixth, Neel Jani seventh and Graham Rahal finished eighth. After Alex Figge (who finished 16th) crashed into the tires on Turn 9, the third yellow caution flag of the day came out with about six minutes to go in the 1 hour, 40-minute race. Bourdais, who started from the pole, had more than a 3-second lead over Servia at the time. The re-start came with 1:39 left, but Bourdais promptly used 11 seconds of his power-to-push horsepower and quickly pulled away from Servia, who began the re-start right on Bourdais’ tail, yet finished 2.614 seconds behind. Each driver is allotted 60 seconds of power-to-push during the race. When they hit that button, it gives them an extra boost of speed. “All the re-starts today were a little tricky,” Bourdais said. “You want to re-start the race as soon as possible, but because of the cool temperatures, every time you would slow down, at the re-start the car was sliding all over the place, especially at the hairpin. Oriol nearly collected me when I slowed the car down to make the turn.” “I was trying,” Servia said, giving jokingly to Bourdais the business in the post-race news conference as they sat side-by-side on the dais. “But I knew if I could just get the car to turn and get a good launch off the hairpin, I was safe,” Bourdais added. “I’m just glad everything turned out all right and we have kind of turned things around a little bit.” Bourdais still had 47 seconds left of power-to-push at that last re-start, but Servia had used all of his. Bourdais said there was nothing special about the use of his power-to-push seconds. “No, I think it’s always the same strategy,” said Bourdais, 28. “You use it when you need it. Up until the end of the race, I really didn’t feel like I needed to protect or to do anything. … But sometimes you make great use of it and sometimes it can’t help you at all. There is no need to melt the engine if you dont have to.” As impressive as it was for Bourdais to come back with a victory after doing so poorly last week, it was the performance by Servia that might have been most impressive. He was only driving for Forsythe Championship Racing because Tracy suffered a back injury during morning practice Saturday. “As you can well imagine, I wasn’t expecting to be here when I came on Friday,” Servia said Servia, of Spain. “I’m just very happy. I was given the opportunity and I knew the car was going to be good and the team was going to do a good job. And I wasn’t too rusty, so I knew I could do the job, too.” Power started in the front row, and early on it appeared he might stay neck-and-neck with Bourdais. But he had problems getting his car into first gear, thanks to the new paddle shifter, at the first re-start and it cost him. “I was fumbling around and I got in throttle late,” Power said. “So there was no way. I knew I was going to lose some positions. I would say I had my foot on the throttle when I went down gear, so that’s why I didn’t go down. I learned for the next time. I was expecting a good fight with Sebastien, but when I made that mistake on the re-start, it just totally finished my race.” With that in mind, Power, who races for Team Australia, was satisfied with the podium finish. With his victory last week at the Vegas Grand Prix, he still holds the series lead with 59 points. Tagliani is second with 44 and Bourdais is third with40. Power passed Tagliani on the 77th of 78 laps to take third place. Tagliani was then passed by Wilson. “I had the chance and I took it,” Power said. “It was a clean pass. And I must say, it felt like a more satisfying day than last week because it was such a hectic race for me. It was a good result in the end. Good points, I’m on the podium and we can look forward to the next race.” That would be next Sunday in Houston. — Robert Morales, (562) 499-1338, Ext. [email protected]last_img read more