Officials rule Bourdais intentionally blocked Power
HOUSTON -- Sebastien Bourdais complained about other drivers blocking during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Houston, but apparently he wasn't paying attention to his own rearview mirrors.
Champ Car officials took away the lap that earned the Frenchman pole position Saturday afternoon when they determined he impeded other drivers during the session.
The ruling moves Las Vegas winner Will Power into the top starting spot for Sunday's 1 hour, 45-minute contest (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). Bourdais, who won the provisional pole Friday, will start second ahead of Justin Wilson.
In the post-qualifying press conference, Bourdais gave a hint that he might have known what was coming.
"I think there was a ton more in the McDonald's car and I was very happy with the balance," reported the three-time series champion. "But I got one clear lap out of 15 and I guess everybody ran into the same problem.
"The head of the pack catches the tail in three laps, meaning right when you start to be fast," he added. "I was the first one to hit traffic, then I had to try and fall back down the pack. I ended up apparently screwing around with Will and everybody else. There was just no room for me -- it was like I was not allowed to go on track today."
Power, who claimed his third pole in the last five Champ Car races dating to 2006, admitted he had traffic problems of his own. But he didn't single out Bourdais as the culprit -- publicly, at least.
"Like everyone says, it was really hard to get a lap," remarked the Australian. "Everyone keeps backing each other up. Then you go for it and you catch someone."
The penalty also creates a two-point swing in the championship standings, as Power now receives the point for winning the Saturday pole and Bourdais doesn't.
"We are very happy," Power said after learning of the ruling. "Obviously it's not the best way to get pole, because Sebastien did have the quickest lap. But we were on a hot lap and he blocked us.
"I lost my quickest lap yesterday for blocking Justin Wilson and the rules are the rules. I just want to thank the guys because they gave me a great, quick car and now we just need to win another race."
Bourdais was not contrite after being informed of the penalty.
"I think I am the kind of guy that admits when I have done something wrong and I do not think this is the case," said Bourdais, who averaged 105.845 mph on his fastest lap on the 1.69-mile street course next to Reliant Stadium. "The only reason why [Team Australia] protested is because they saw the potential that they could nail us, not because they were quicker, but because they were slow on that lap.
"That lap would not have changed the outcome of qualifying, but they don't care about that. It's just like a payback that goes on and on and on. If they can nail us they are just going to nail us."
Ironically, Graham Rahal, Bourdais' teammate at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, complained that Power blocked his best qualifying lap. Rahal will start sixth.
"I had a lap that probably would have put us third, but both Will and Robert [Doornbos] blocked me so that was it," said the 18-year-old rookie. "It's just disappointing. They weren't on good laps so they should have gotten out of the way, but instead they decided to ruin mine."
Champ Car officials also penalized Alex Tagliani for "unsafe re-entry to course." Tagliani will start eighth on the grid Sunday.
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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