Bourdais puts stamp on convincing Houston win
HOUSTON -- Sebastien Bourdais couldn't stop his car toward the end of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Houston.
Not a bad problem for a driver when he's trying to win a race -- unless he's totally out of control.
But if the 28-year-old Frenchman was having car problems Sunday, he hid them well, winning in Houston for the second straight year and grabbing the inside track for his fourth consecutive Champ Car title.
"There was just no bite anymore on the brakes," he said. "It wouldn't slow down. I don't know what happened. It was a weird feeling, very uncomfortable."
His car was still the best of the field.
Bourdais earned his 25th career win in his 62nd start, continuing his unprecedented dominance of the circuit. Brakes or not, Bourdais decided to finish his second win of the season in style, turning his fastest lap (58.018 seconds) on his 93rd and final trip around the 1.69-mile street course next to Reliant Stadium.
Bourdais has won 14 of his last 24 starts. With his victory Sunday, Bourdais overtook points leader Will Power in the standings. Power, who started on the pole, damaged the nose wing on his car three times and finished 11th.
Beyond his own car problems, Bourdais got some luck at the end when another one ran out of gas.
Bourdais went for a pit stop on the 68th lap, while rookie Tristan Gommendy stayed on the track, gambling that he wouldn't have to stop again for fuel.
If a caution flag had come out, the drivers would've held their positions and Gommendy would've been able to save gas and cruise to victory.
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But like they do most times in Champ Car these days, things went Bourdais' way. The yellow never came and Gommendy ran out of gas on lap 87 as Bourdais slipped past him.
"I had the feeling where it's either going to go our way and we were going to win it," Bourdais said, "or it's going to go his way and he's going to win it. That's racing, I guess."
Bourdais cruised from there with rookie Graham Rahal, his Newman/Haas/Lanigan teammate, protecting him in second place. The 18-year-old Rahal, who skipped his senior prom in Ohio to race in Houston, finished 4.819 seconds behind Bourdais and became the youngest top-three finisher in series history.
"It was an all-around good weekend for the entire team," said Rahal, the son of three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal.
Robert Doornbos, another rookie, was third, 7.061 seconds behind the winner.
Bourdais reached 104.430 mph on his fastest lap. He had the best qualifying times on Saturday, but he was bumped from the pole when Champ Car penalized him for blocking Power. Bourdais still secured a front-row start by taking the provisional pole on Friday.
Bourdais unintentionally cut across a flat chicane on the first lap and passed Power a few seconds into the race. Englishman Justin Wilson, who started third, then passed Power when the Australian started a frustrating day by drifting wide on Turn 4.
Champ Car officials ordered Bourdais to relinquish the top spot for his early short cut and Wilson took his first lead of the season.
On the 14th lap, Bourdais ducked inside Wilson and passed him. Within seven laps, Bourdais had stretched the lead to 5 seconds.
Bourdais took his final pit on the 68th lap, just ahead of the race's worst tangle.
Power started the mess when he clipped Mario Dominguez, lost his nose wing and slid into a bank of tires. Not far away, Katherine Legge tried to cut inside of rookie Neel Jani, but the two collided and spun out. Legge, Jani and Dan Clarke, who came around a turn and hit Legge's car, were knocked out of the race.
Gommendy's PKV Racing team then gambled by ordering him to stay on the track. He led 18 laps before the vapor ran out and allowed Bourdais to take over.
"Between this and the fact that the car wouldn't stop toward the end of the race," Bourdais said, "it was a little bit frustrating. But I guess we made it stick and it's even sweeter at the end."
The first in-race caution appeared on lap 27 when Roberto Moreno clipped Matt Halliday. The 48-year-old Moreno was a last-minute replacement for Alex Figge, who aggravated a back injury in practice on Friday.
At that point, Oriol Servia, who needed a victory to extend his contract with Forsythe Racing, cut short a pit stop and jumped to second place, behind Bourdais. Servia was filling in for the second straight week for Paul Tracy, who fractured a vertebra in his back during a practice run last week in Long Beach.
Team owner Gerry Forsythe said he expected Tracy to be ready to race in Portland in June. But he also said he'd considered entering three cars and giving Servia at least one more ride.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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