Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Champ Car series in Mexico City for season's last race

AP , MEXICO CITY

As the Champ Car series ends with its final tomorrow in Mexico City, Bruno Junqueira finds himself swapping secrets with the man who may keep him from the season title: Newman/Haas teammate Sebastien Bourdais.

"For sure, it's a little harder to race a teammate because we work together," Junqueira said on Thursday, a day before the start of qualifying.

"I think one of the reasons we are fighting for the championship is because we all share together," he added, referring to car setups and driving styles that work on different tracks.

"We're working together on the track," Bourdais agreed. "It's a completely open book. We both share all the data, so there are no secrets."

Bourdais, the Frenchman running in the McDonald's Lola-Ford, needs only a ninth-place finish to take the title only a year after winning the rookie of the year award.

Bourdais said he'd try to avoid problems on Sunday, but that doesn't mean he's giving up. ``The safest place to be,'' he said, ``is in front of the race.''

Junqueira was runner-up to Cristiano da Matta in 2002 and to Paul Tracy last year, and he's trying to avoid becoming the first driver since Johnny Rutherford in 1974-1976 to finish second three consecutive years.

"I know I will have to have a great race ... and hope that Sebastien has some kind of problems," said the Brazilian, who pilots the PacificCare Lola-Ford.

Junqueira is coming off of a victory at Surfers Paradise, Australia, that kept him alive in the championship chase. Bourdais finished second.

Event organizer Federico Aleman said 300,000 tickets already have been sold. Last year's attendance was 402,000, with 221,000 showing up on race day itself in North America's largest city.

Mexico has played an increasingly important part in the historic but struggling series, with major Mexican sponsors seeking to reach Mexican-American fans north of the border, and four competing Mexican drivers.

Alumna said Mexico City officials promised that if a Mexican achieves a podium finish, police would block off traffic around the Independence Monument, where Mexicans traditionally celebrate sporting triumphs.

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