Bourdais wins third straight with ease

Updated: July 11, 2004, 8:03 PM ET
Associated Press

Sebastien Bourdais
TORONTO -- The look of surprise on the face of Sebastien Bourdais made Jimmy Vasser laugh.

"It was pretty wild out there and I had a great seat for a lot of the action,'' said Vasser, the runner-up in the Toronto Molson Indy. "Apparently, it was all behind Sebastien.''

Bourdais somehow avoided trouble Sunday on the way to his third Champ Car win in a row and didn't even realize how chaotic it was on the tight 1.755-mile, 10-turn street course at the edge of downtown Toronto.

After the race, Bourdais listened closely, looking somewhat surprised as Vasser and third-place finisher Patrick Carpentier talked about the wild race that included seven caution flags and plenty of collisions and near misses.

"About the only thing I can say is I'm glad I was out front because it looks like it was real crazy out there,'' Bourdais said. "Apparently, I missed a lot of it. I just tried to keep my nose clean and stay focused out there.''

The 25-year-old Frenchman started from the pole and was virtually assured of his fourth win of the season and taking over the season point lead from Bruno Junqueira when his Newman/Haas Racing teammate crashed on the first turn of the race.

Bourdais was totally in charge throughout the caution-filled race that was ended at just 84 laps -- 11 laps early -- because of a 1-hour and 45-minute time limit.

Bourdais' seventh career victory and fourth in the last five races moved the second-year Champ Car driver to a 28-point (164-136) lead over Junqueira after six of 15 events. Carpentier is third with 129 points and Paul Tracy fourth with 108.

Vasser, who also managed to avoid trouble throughout the race, got one last shot at the leader on a restart two laps from the end. But the former series champion came up 1.396 seconds (about 20 car-lengths) short.

"For sure, I was trying to stay with him in case he made a mistake,'' said Vasser, who got his first podium finish since becoming an owner-driver at the start of the season. "But there was no grip out there and I was just trying to save myself and not do anything stupid.''

Mario Haberfeld finished fourth, followed by hometown favorite Tracy, rookie Gaston Mazzacane and Alex Tagliani.

Defending series champion Tracy and nemesis Tagliani, whom Tracy has blamed for putting him far behind in the 2004 points race, stayed away from each other Sunday, but each was penalized twice for running into other cars.

Bourdais' task became easier when Junqueira, who came into the race with a two-point lead over Bourdais, collided with Mario Dominguez, taking both of them out of the race.

Tracy, trying to turn around a disappointing season at the track where he won from the pole a year ago, started second and was able to pressure Bourdais for a while.

But the native of suburban Scarborough fell behind rookie Justin Wilson on his first pit stop.

Battling with Wilson for second, Tracy came up short on an outside pass, darted to the inside and ran into the slower car of Wilson as the latter started to slide. Champ Car immediately penalized Tracy for avoidable contact, sending him slowly down pit lane for a drive-through that took him out of contention.

Tracy was penalized with another drive-through later in the race after crashing into Michel Jourdain Jr. as Tracy charged off of pit road on cold tires.

Gerald Forsythe, who is both the owner of Tracy's car and one of the owners of the Champ Car World Series, was furious, particularly about the first penalty.

"I could take four or five people out of the stands over there and they'd do a better job than the Champ Car officials,'' Forsythe said.

Tracy, who was fined $15,000 last month in Portland, Ore., after criticizing officials for allegedly allowing Tagliani to block him for a dozen laps, sarcastically said the officials "did a fine job today.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press