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Bourdais tightens grip on series lead with Belgium GP victory

8/26/2007

ZOLDER, Belgium -- Sebastien Bourdais loves racing in
Europe.


Closing in on an unprecedented fourth straight Champ Car title,
the Frenchman dominated the inaugural Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday
for his sixth victory of the season.


It was also his third win in three Champ Car starts on this side
of the Atlantic, after winning races in Germany and England when
the circuit last visited Europe in 2003.


"It was really good to be back in Europe and race in front of
as close [to] a home crowd as it was for me," Bourdais said.


Belgium and France share a border and French is one of the
official languages, so Bourdais had plenty of support in his mother
tongue.


"It was really enjoyable," he said.


The Frenchman, who is in his last Champ Car season before
joining Formula One, also won this season at Long Beach, Houston,
Portland, Edmonton and Elkhart Lake.


Bruno Junqueira of Brazil was second on the 2.5-mile circuit at
Zolder. Graham Rahal, Bourdais' rookie teammate at
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, was third.


The 28-year-old Bourdais started from his fifth pole of the
season and the 30th of his Champ Car career.


Bourdais got away to a clean start while Dutch rookie Robert Doornbos overtook Will Power, who started next to Bourdais on the
front row, on the first turn.


"It was wheel against wheel on Turn 1 and it's always a nice
moment for a driver and I got the best side of it, so I was
straight away in the chase with Sebastien," Doornbos said.


But Doornbos faded after burning too much fuel early in the race
and ended seventh.


The disappointing finish for Doornbos and Power, who was fourth,
was a bonus for Bourdais as the Dutchman and Australian were second
and third in the standings going into the race. Their positions in the standings didn't change, but Bourdais stretched his lead over both.


"Both Robert and Will don't finish on the podium so I guess we
got it all this weekend," Bourdais said. "But there are still
four races to go so we are going to keep on plugging away and
hopefully we can wrap this up before the end of the season."

Bourdais pulled away from Doornbos and Power before the safety
car came out on Lap 16 because of loose stones at a chicane.


All drivers took the opportunity to pit, and Bourdais, Doornbos
and Power held on to their top three places.


Bourdais again stretched out his lead after the pit stop only to
see the field bunched again when Alex Figge skidded into a gravel
trap on Lap 26, bringing the second caution flag of the race.


After the leaders pitted for the second time, the 18-year-old
Rahal went ahead and Bourdais dropped to seventh.


Bourdais went into the pits for the third time after Minardi
Team USA driver Mario Dominguez lost a rear wheel, bringing another
warning flag.


When racing resumed, Simon Pagenaud had taken the lead from Jan Heylen of Belgium and Tristan Gommendy, but all three had pitted
twice. Bourdais was in fifth place.


Despite strong local support, Heylen knew he couldn't hold on to
the position.


"I already knew I had to pit again," he said, adding that he
struggled through most the race after his car lost its seventh
gear.


As Heylen and the other leaders pitted for the third time,
Bourdais regained first and built up a 13-second lead over
Junqueira.


That cushion allowed Bourdais to cruise home for victory while
Junqueira managed to hold off Rahal, who was third for the second
straight race despite starting from 13th on the grid.


"I am very happy ... my first podium of the year," Junqueira
said. "I usually get 10 every year. This one's very sweet."


The Champ Car circuit moves to the Netherlands for next
weekend's Grand Prix in Assen. Races in Australia and Mexico
follow, before the season-ending race in Phoenix.