Power wins wet Steelback Grand Prix for second career victory
TORONTO -- With rain pouring down and visibility near zero when he got behind other cars, Will Power decided it was time to get aggressive.
The Australian drove from fourth to first in 14 laps, finally splashing past rookie Ryan Dalziel to take the lead with 23 minutes to go, and went on to an easy victory Sunday in the messy Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto.
To get to the lead, Power also had to pass three-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Neel Jani. Thanks to a series of late caution flags, he was able to go after each of them in turn.
"I was close behind Sebastien and I knew he was quite tentative in the wet and I attacked him," Power said. "I got him on a restart. Then the next restart, I got Neel and the next restart, I got Dalziel. It's just about being aggressive at the right time and not hitting anyone."
Once last year's top Champ Car rookie got to the front, he was able to pull away, building leads up to five seconds before slowing a bit at the end as he wrapped up his second career victory. The win moved Power from third to second in season points, putting him solidly in contention for the championship with Bourdais and rookie Robert Doornbos.
"I just drove so hard here because we've just had so much bad luck in the last few races," said Power, whose first Champ Car victory came in the 2007 opener in Las Vegas. "I didn't care; I just went hard. The car was good in the wet. It was good in the dry, and we stuck it to them."
Bourdais started from the pole, lost the lead to Oriol Servia at the start and never gained control of the race. The Frenchman was running fourth late in the timed 1-hour, 45-minute race when Doornbos skidded on the wet track, banged into the rear of Bourdais and sent him backward into a tire wall, ending his day.
Bourdais wound up ninth and Doornbos, who killed his engine at the start and began the race last, finished sixth, taking the series lead heading to Edmonton, Alberta, in two weeks. The Dutch driver has 164 points to 162 for Power and 161 for Bourdais, who went into the race with a two-point edge on Doornbos.
Doornbos was driving under a cloud after being accused last week of illegal blocking as he held off Bourdais to gain his first Champ Car win in Mont-Tremblant near Montreal. But Bourdais didn't appear upset at the Dutchman this time.
"It looked like we had a target on the rear wing of our car," said Bourdais, who was clipped earlier in the 73-lap race by Justin Wilson and rookie teammate Graham Rahal. "It's really a shame. When the rain came out, I wasn't quite willing to risk it all and Justin passed me and Will passed me. Then Robert made a small mistake and big consequences. I know he probably didn't do it on purpose, but it's a shame for the championship."
Jani finished a career-best second, although he was nearly three seconds -- half the front straightaway -- behind the winner. Wilson wound up third, followed by rookie Simon Pagenaud, who got hit and lost his front wing on the opening lap, and Bruno Junqueira.
It rained hard in the morning, but the race began on a drying track with all drivers using slick tires. Rain began again about halfway through, and most drivers pitted quickly for rain tires. The rest of the race was run in the rain, with rooster tails of water coming off the cars.
Only eight of the 17 starters were running at the finish, although not necessarily because of the wet conditions.
The race got off to a wild start, with two crashes on the opening lap.
First, Pagenaud got hit from behind by Alex Tagliani and lost his wing. Two-time Toronto winner and local favorite Paul Tracy then collected the wing, sitting in the middle of the track, and pushed it through several turns before finally running over it and skidding into the wall.
Cars scattered trying to get by Tracy and the debris from his wreck. Rookie Tristan Gommendy soared high into the air and landed on his wheels after he ran over the rear of Jan Heylen's car. Meanwhile, Katherine Legge slid into the rear of Tracy and rookie Alex Figge hit her car. Rahal also slid through the debris, bounced off the wall and continued.
Servia, who led until he pitted on lap 34, was never able to get back in front. He wound up 10th, spinning and hitting a wall on lap 57 with about 25 minutes remaining.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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