Bourdais caps fourth straight series title with Mexico GP victory
MEXICO CITY -- Sebastien Bourdais went out a winner as well as a champion in his final Champ Car race, overcoming a penalty and a lead-trimming yellow flag to win the Mexican Grand Prix before heading off to Formula One.
Bourdais held off pole-sitter Will Power for his 31st career victory -- tied with Al Unser Jr. and Paul Tracy for sixth in series history. And the Frenchman did it in only 73 career starts over five years.
"I'll miss it a lot,'' he said, struggling to control his emotions -- both over the end of his ties to longtime Newman-Haas-Lanigan teammates and anger at the prerace penalty for laying rubber in the pit box.
The 28-year-old driver said he'll be in Europe by Tuesday testing cars for the Toro Rosso team he's joining for Formula One next season.
"I don't really know what to expect,'' he said.
Bourdais said he broke down in tears twice before the race as he "finally realized it was going to be the last time,'' and it affected his crew as well.
"The boys were really freaking out," he said. One crew member "couldn't even change a wheel'' before they had a prerace meeting and calmed themselves, he added.
Emotions were heightened by what Bourdais termed a "weird'' yellow flag for a small amount of debris on the track that robbed him of most of his hard-built lead late in the race and a prerace penalty for laying rubber in the pit box that cost him 22 seconds of push-to-pass power. Asked about that, he burst out with an expletive.
But at the end, it was a day of praise: "He's the best and most complete race driver I've ever raced against,'' said runner-up Power.
"I think he's going to show Formula One the level we have here,'' said Oriol Servia, who came in third.
Team Australia's Power led the first 23 laps before Bourdais shoved past with a burst of his now-scarce push-to-pass power, which gives Champ Car drivers a few, restricted seconds of horsepower boost to use as they choose.
Power said he also hit the button, but "I used it too late. I should have defended a lot earlier.''
Push-to-pass power was increased for the Mexico race. Champ Car gave drivers 60 seconds of 50 horsepower boosts at earlier races, while they had 75 seconds of 100 horsepower boost at the 2.774-mile Hermanos Rodriguez road course. The cars' Cosworth engines produce roughly 750 horsepower without the boosts.
Justin Wilson of Britain struggled, finishing 10th, but came second in the standings to Bourdais, just like last year. He entered the race just eight points ahead of rookie of the year Robert Doornbos, whose challenge ended when he missed most of the early race with mechanical problems.
While Bourdais is headed to Europe, the future of the season's No. 2 driver is unclear because Wilson's RuSport team will close unless a major donor or sponsor suddenly appears.
"We've been told the team is closing down. That is obviously disappointing. I don't know what the future offers,'' he said.
The series itself, however, seems slightly less shaky than in past years. At least, there has been far less speculation that financial troubles will sink it in the offseason.
Power finished fourth in the point standings with 262, a shade behind Doornbos's 268.
Servia survived a stall on the standing start that dropped him to the back of the grid, then fought his way back up to third. He jumped to sixth in the season standings.
Minardi Team USA suffered a disastrous end to the season due to problems with the standing start of the Mexico race. Dan Clark failed to complete the first lap while Doornbos dropped out after three laps, missing about half the race before he was able to limp back onto the track.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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