Bourdais' day ruined by uncharacteristic engine failure
Points leader Sebastien Bourdais appeared to be on his way to another fine finish until his engine gave out in the Grand Prix of Cleveland, writes John Schwarb.
CLEVELAND -- Early signs pointed toward another dominant day for points leader Sebastien Bourdais at the Grand Prix of Cleveland.
The pole-sitter and winner of the past three events in the Champ Car World Series jumped out quickly, building a two-second lead after 17 laps and leading the first 27 in all.
He surrendered the lead to Will Power in the pits, but continued to lurk through the middle of the race. On Lap 56, he clocked the fastest lap of the day, covering the 2.1-mile Burke Lakefront Airport course in 57.601 seconds and earning an additional championship point.
But just 11 laps later, his engine failed in the middle of the course, bringing him to a standstill. He had to be pulled back to the pits, and the team couldn't fix the problem. He was scored in 12th, with 67 of 89 laps completed.
"I'm not sure exactly what the failure is on the engine, all of a sudden it just let go and that was it," said Bourdais, a two-time Cleveland winner.
He had battled Power for much of the race, but Power also fell out of contention with a failure, for him it was the left-front tire.
"I guess it's not a good day for the fast cars," Bourdais said.
Despite the poor finish, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver held on to the points lead, three ahead of Minardi rookie driver Robert Doornbos. Team Australia's Power slipped to third, nine points behind Doornbos.
Rare clean start for Cleveland
For a change, Cleveland didn't have disaster in the first turn of the first lap.
Six of the past seven events at Burke Lakefront Airport had first-turn incidents, including last year when Paul Tracy went airborne and landed on top of Bourdais' car, knocking the Frenchman unconscious.
Sunday marked the second race Champ Car used its new standing start, and -- as at Portland two weeks ago -- this one went off without a problem. The field of 17 then successfully negotiated Cleveland's hairpin Turn 1. Bourdais led the way through, having chosen to start on the outside with his pole position.
"There were a lot of cars on the verge of running into each other, but it didn't happen," Tracy said.
Matos back in front in Atlantic
Anywhere but Portland, Ore., Raphael Matos is the man in the Champ Car Atlantic Series, the developmental league for the Champ Car World Series.
The second-year driver returned to the winning form he had in the season's first three events by dominating at Cleveland. Matos led all 42 laps Sunday morning, building a 4-second lead after just three laps and ultimately winning by a half-second over rookie J.R. Hildebrand.
The race had a scary moment on Lap 16, when rookie Adrien Herberts got airborne and upside-down in Turn 1. He skidded through the turn on his roll hoop, flipping back onto the wheels in the grass. Herberts was treated at the track's medical center and released.
After that incident, which brought out the only caution of the race, the field restarted and Matos continued to hold off the field for his fourth win of the year.
"I was able to pull a gap on the restart," Matos said. "I made a mistake here last year, I was pushing way too hard to win the race, and I just didn't want to make the same mistake. I knew that with the pace that I was going, I was able to keep my gap with J.R."
Matos finished fourth and sixth in a doubleheader at Portland two weeks ago. He increased his points lead to 30 ahead of Sierra Sierra Enterprises teammate James Hinchcliffe.
Forsythe Racing's Oriol Servia drove the last 24 laps of the race without a left sidepod. It flew off on its own on the frontstretch, but the team opted not to take the time to fix it. Servia finished seventh. Race officials reported three-day attendance of 151,426, including 65,000 on race day, a 28 percent increase from 2006.
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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