Bourdais makes it two straight at Cleveland

Updated: July 3, 2004, 9:48 PM ET
Associated Press

Sebastien Bourdais
CLEVELAND -- Once the first turn was over for Sebastien Bourdais, so was the race for everyone else.

Bourdais took the lead following a first-lap crash in Turn 1 that knocked out pole sitter Paul Tracy, then ran away to win his second straight Cleveland Grand Prix on Saturday.

After avoiding a chain-reaction accident just seconds into the race involving Alex Tagliani and others, Bourdais dominated to win by 15.130 seconds over Bruno Junqueira, his Newman-Haas teammate.

"It was a pretty uneventful race,'' Bourdais said, shrugging his shoulders.

Bourdais made it so with his third win in five Champ Car events this season.

He slipped around traffic in Turn 1, avoided contact and safely got through the track's treacherous hairpin where there have been accidents at the start four times in five years.

Bourdais admitted it took as much luck as skill to wiggle through the accident that ended the race for Tracy and rookie Justin Wilson, who also started on Row 1.

As some cars skidded and slid into each other, Bourdais could only hope he would escape.

"I saw smoke, I saw a lot of things flying over my head,'' said Bourdais, who led 88 of 97 laps. "I came out of it, and I thought, 'Well, everything is looking pretty good.' So I aimed for the apex and realized there was nobody around me.''

Despite being the apparent first domino in the fender bender, Tagliani worked his way back through the field and finished third, 27.584 seconds back.

Tagliani, who started in Row 3, tried to make up ground on the first turn with a daring inside move. He nearly pulled it off before he was hit from the side and pushed onto the infield grass by Wilson.

"I almost made it,'' Tagliani said. "I took a chance. It was well-calculated. Any driver would have tried the same thing, there was a huge opening. I could have won the race right there.''

Instead, Bourdais got his second straight series win on a weekend that started poorly for the Frenchman but couldn't have finished any better.

On Thursday, Bourdais was stripped of the provisional pole when Champ Car officials ruled he blocked other drivers in qualifying. On Friday, his session was cut short by an accident.

"I'm just glad it turned in our favor,'' he said. "For most of the weekend, I didn't think we were going to win this one.''

Junqueira, who has finished second four times this season, remained the championship points leader with 133. Bourdais is second with 130, followed by Patrick Carpentier (104) and Tagliani (86). Tracy and Ryan Hunter-Reay are tied for fifth (85).

Tracy's charmed weekend run ended in the calamitous Turn 1.

Starting from the pole for the first time in Cleveland since winning here in 1993, Tracy took a wide line into Turn 1 but got clipped when Wilson was tagged by Tagliani.

Tracy, who has taken out his share of drivers over the years, wasn't happy about Tagliani's risky driving.

"Tagliani was trying to pass a bunch of cars in the corner,'' Tracy said. "He goes by at 100 mph, way too fast into the corner where there was no opportunity, and Wilson had nowhere to go so he (Wilson) took me out.''

Parts of Wilson's car laid on the track as Tracy, whose No. 1 Forsythe sustained major damage to the right rear, attempted to get back in the race. However, he had to pit moments later.

The early exit contrasted the past two days for Tracy, who was awarded the provisional pole by officials Thursday and then won his 20th career pole Friday.

"It's frustrating because we had the fastest car all weekend,'' he said. "It was perfect. This is probably the worst luck we could have had.''

Tagliani wasn't sympathetic.

"He would have done it, too,'' Tagliani said. "I don't feel sorry for him at all.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press