The top three may have finished how they started, but Sebastien Bourdais and the Newman/Haas Lola team had to be at their
brilliant best to eventually halt the challenges of Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger. In the process, Bourdais scored his third victory in a row and now has a very healthy 25 point lead in the race for the Vanderbuilt Cup over Justin Wilson.
From the start, Bourdais took the lead, but could never shake off the RuSPORT Lola pair. When a full course yellow was
issued to retrieve debris from the back straight, it coincided with scheduled pitstops. And as the pack of cars filed into the pitlane, they were separated from each other by mere car lengths.
Wilson's crew turned the Briton round in time to jump Bourdais out of the pits. On the restart, Wilson, Bourdais, and
Allmendinger had to pass Dan Clarke's CTE-Racing HVM Lola machine to lap it, and Allmendinger grabbed the opportunity
to go three-wide and take Bourdais too inwhat was an inspired move.
With RuSPORT running on their second set of optional soft tyres, Bourdais did a magnificent job of holding on to the back of them, and when he was able to run two laps longer than Allmendinger and one lap longer than Wilson before the second round of pitstops, it was enough to get the Frenchman out ahead of them.
Wilson gave it all he had, but a small off-track excursion broke the back of his challenge, and in the closing five laps, the top three cruised to the flag.
"Well, that was a heck of a day, that's for sure," said Bourdais after the race. "I think you had a great showing from the three top cars of the beginning of the season. I think we really gave each other a run for our money.
Allmendinger was further hampered by feeling obliged to let Forsythe's Mario Dominguez past him on the lap he emerged
from the pits on cold tyres, as Champ Car came down particularly heavily on blocking in this race. Allmendinger was further badly baulked by the battle between Clarke and Katherine Legge, who showed their was no love
lost between them following their Houston altercation a week previously.
"It was for the most part a steady day," said Allmendinger. "For me, the black Bridgestone tyres were probably a bit better than the alternate reds. I probably made a mistake by telling the team to go to the reds on the second set of tyres.".
The all-British tussle over 13th eventually resulted in Legge being given a black flag for blocking, and the same fate befell Newman/Haas Racing's Bruno Junqueira as he battled with Paul Tracy's Forsythe car for fourth. This seemed a curious decision, given that by the time Junqueira got the penalty, Tracy was ahead. Tracy had nothing to offer the top three, and when all were flat out, he was losing on average half a second a lap, but he came home fourth.
Teammate Dominguez had little better luck, bottled up behind the curiously slow PKV Racing car of Oriol Servia for the
first stint. Eventually he clinched sixth, after holding up the impressive and composed Andrew Ranger (Conquest Racing) in the closing laps.
Alex Tagliani of Team Australia had a quiet race, and apart from a couple of minor moments at Turn 3, he spent his
closing laps in cruise mode, but doing just enough to hold off Dominguez.
The next round on the Champ Car schedule is at the historic Milwaukee Mile oval on June 4.
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Sebastien Bourdais Newman Haas 1h 39:50.252
2. Justin Wilson RuSPORT +3.066
3. A.J. Allmendinger RuSPORT +14.132
4. Paul Tracy Forsythe +47.222
5. Alex Tagliani Team Australia +57.778
6. Mario Dominguez Forsythe +58.782
7. Andrew Ranger Mi-Jack Conquest +59.302
8. Oriol Servia PKV +1:13.956
9. Cristiano da Matta Dale Coyne +1:14.958
10. Bruno Junqueira Newman Haas +1 lap
11. Will Power Team Australia +1 lap
12. Charles Zwolsman Mi-Jack Conquest +1 lap
13. Dan Clarke CTE HVM +1 lap
14. Nicky Pastorelli Rocketsports +1 lap
15. Katherine Legge PKV +1 lap
16. Jan Heylen Dale Coyne +5 laps
17. Nelson Philippe CTE HVM +76 laps
Fastest lap: Bourdais, 1:14.529 on lap 65