Bourdais tightens grip on series lead with Belgium GP victory

Updated: August 26, 2007, 10:27 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Sebastien Bourdais
MICHEL KRAKOWSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesWith Sunday's win, Sebastien Bourdais inched closer to his goal of becoming the first driver to win four straight Champ Car series titles.

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."

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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.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press