It was a little bit street party, a little bit street fight and a whole lot of Sebastien Bourdais on a sunny Sunday in San Jose as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford hit the 1.443-mile downtown street circuit in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Bourdais led 69 of 97 laps today to score his fifth win of the season, outlasting Cristiano da Matta and his RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson to win the Canary Foundations Grand Prix of San Jose Presented by Taylor Woodrow in front of a weekend crowd totaling 155,934.
The Newman/Haas Racing driver had things his own way over the first half of the race, although Paul Tracy actually held the lead for the first three laps before Champ Car Race Control ruled that Tracy had passed the polesitter prior to reaching the start/finish line at the start of the race. That determination came during the first of five caution periods on the day, this one coming on Lap 3 when Will Power initiated contact with Oriol Servia, leading to a spin that ended the day of luckless Bruno Junqueira.
Having been reestablished as the leader, Bourdais set the pace ahead of Tracy, da Matta, Andrew Ranger and Dan Clarke at the Lap 6 restart. Meanwhile, local hero A.J. Allmendinger had gotten dropped to the back of the pack, restarting 14th after having to get a new nose cone due to contact on the first lap.
Clarke immediately set about moving up the queue, passing Ranger and da Matta in Turn One, and then getting a free run around Tracy after the Canadian nosed into the Turn Six tires. Upon hitting second place, Clarke immediately started turning laps as fast as Bourdais as he began eating into a 10-second lead. Clarke's job got a lot easier on Lap 36 when Katherine Legge had contact with the tires, sending everyone down Pit Lane.
Clarke came out of the pits right behind Bourdais, with Tracy, Nelson Philippe and Alex Tagliani making up the remainder of the top five on the Lap 41 restart. Clarke's day soon turned to heartache however as the young Brit suffered a gearbox failure on Lap 50, ending his day and leaving him to finish 17th.
The gloves came off just as the yellow was about to come out as Tracy and Tagliani had a major incident in Turn Six. Tracy had gone down the runoff area after missing the turn, and roared back on to the track right in the path of the oncoming Tagliani, ending the race for both Canadian stars. The battle, having ended on the track, spilled back into Pit Lane as Tagliani confronted his countrymen twice in an incident that eventually escalated into fisticuffs. Champ Car Race Operations is reviewing the incident to determine what, if any, action will be taken.
The lengthy cleanup sent the leaders back down Pit Lane for their second stops, a set of stops that would further damage the championship hopes of Allmendinger, who had battled back to eighth after his opening-lap misstep. Fearing a punctured tire due to the debris from the crash, Allmendinger pitted during a closed pit, resulting in another penalty, dropping him back to 12th.
Servia and rookie Charles Zwolsman both eschewed pit stops with the rest of the leaders and combined to lead the next 25 laps, with Servia ceding the position to Bourdais when he finally had to make his final fuel stop. But the field came right back to Bourdais' rear wing with 15 laps to go when Ranger was the victim of contact in Turn 1, bringing out the final caution flag of the day.
Having battled all day, da Matta found himself in the second spot on the restart, with Wilson and Philippe lined up behind. But once the green flag dropped, Bourdais left the field in his wake, snapping off his three best laps of the day to establish a four-second lead. Da Matta ably held on to second while Wilson contented himself with a podium finish, having gained nine positions after starting 12th.
Philippe maintained the fourth spot, matching his career-best for a finish on the road or street course, and moved up two positions in the point standings. Mario Dominguez rounded out the top five, marking the third top-five of the year, interestingly enough, done by three different drivers. The finish for Dominguez boosted him into fourth in the point standings with five events to run.
Power rebounded from his early contact to finish sixth, matching his career-best result set a week ago in Edmonton. The result also allowed him to widen his lead in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings, as he now holds a 25-point bulge over Clarke and has 27 markers over Legge. Allmendinger fought back to place seventh with Servia, Zwolsman and Rocketsports' Nicky Pastorelli rounding out the top 10, the latter serving as Pastorelli's second top-10 of the year.
The Champ Car World Series will next be in action in two week's time, heading to the Mile High City for the Grand Prix of Denver August 12-14.
QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE FINISHERS
Justin Wilson: It obviously felt great to get on the podium after a day like we had yesterday. Things didn't work out. I gave the crew lot of work to do. Just very pleased to try to repay some of their efforts. They did a fantastic job in the pits today to give us the opportunity to move up.
Cristiano da Matta: It's great to get this result because I admit, there have been some times when I wondered if it was going to happen again. Now that pressure is off and I can focus on making the car better and becoming a consistent threat for podiums and top-fives.
Sebastien Bourdais: The only thing we need to do is keep on finishing and then we'll see. It's very hard to clinch the championship a race or two before the end. It's probably going to come down to the wire. I mean, Justin, you can see, even when he has a bad weekend, he manages to bounce back and from 12th finishes 3rd.
· Champ Car Vice-President of Operations Tony Cotman made the following statement concerning the A.J. Allmendinger pit penalty on Lap 53. "Although I understand A.J. and his team are upset, the facts are there are many different ways for the teams to be informed that the pits are open. They can be informed via Champ View, via radio and the pit open/closed sign at pit entry. I waited one extra lap to go green as I knew the consequences of my decision would be important to A.J. finishing on the podium. After listening to race-control radio recordings, using TV to show the pit closed board was out, timing and scoring data, and not to mention that all the other teams waited until the next lap to pit, I feel my decision was accurate.
· Sebastien Bourdais led 69 laps today, giving him 1,514 on his career. He moved up today to 18th on the all-time laps-led list, passing former champions Alex Zanardi and Danny Sullivan.
· Sebastien's win from pole this weekend was the 13th of his career, moving him past former champion Michael Andretti for fifth on the all-time list of wins from pole.
· The three-day attendance figure for this weekend's event at San Jose was 155,934, up more than 2,000 from last season. The attendance figure boosted the 2006 total Champ Car attendance to more than one million after nine races. The current Champ Car total is 1,076,530 with five races remaining on the schedule.