Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Bourdais continues string of successes

AUTO RACING Sebastien Bourdais made it three wins in a row amid scorching heat down Mexico way in the Grand Prix of Monterrey

AP , MONTERREY, MEXICO

French driver Sebastien Bourdais of Newman Haas Racing Team during the Champ Car Series Monterrey Grand Prix in Monterrey, Mexico, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Sebastien Bourdais overcame a slow early pit stop to win his third straight Champ Car race on Sunday, edging Justin Wilson by 3.065 seconds in the Grand Prix of Monterrey.

Bourdais and Wilson went at each other all afternoon during a virtually crash-free race despite slippery conditions on the asphalt. The 3.3km Parque Fundidora road course curves around a rusty, long-closed steel mill in Mexico's third-largest city.

"I think we really gave each other a run for our money," Bourdais said. "Nobody could lay back or anything. It was running flat out the whole time."

The French winner finished in 1 hour, 39 minutes, 50.252 seconds and had an average best-lap speed of 96.099mph (154.623kph). England's Wilson finished in 1:39:53.318 and averaged 96.049mph (154.542kph) in his fastest time around the course.

The heat was a factor during the 76-lap race, with temperatures at 36?C at the start. On the track, they climbed to 51?C.

American A.J. Allmendinger was third, 14.132 seconds off the lead. He was followed by Canadians Paul Tracy, 47.222 seconds behind Bourdais, and Alex Tagliani, whose time of 1:40: 48.030 was nearly 58 seconds slower than the winner.

Bourdais, the only Champ Car winner this season after victories to start the year at Long Beach and last week in Houston, started first after winning Saturday's qualifying session, becoming the first driver since Randy Mears from 1988 to 1991 to win four straight poles at the same event.

The 27-year-old Frenchman has never started anywhere but up front since first coming to Monterrey in 2003. He last won on this course in 2004.

Bourdais held his lead for the first 23 laps on Sunday. But Wilson's crew was quicker when both cars pitted during a caution because of debris on the course, and the Briton moved into first place by three lengths.

"I really thought we had things under control. But then we got out of our box and I saw we were second and from there on I knew it was going to be a tough race," Bourdais said.

Allmendinger then pulled off a risky inside pass to briefly move Bourdais into third.

"I got around Sebastien on the restart, but more than anything I kind of knew I was probably using more fuel than he was and that he could go longer than me," Allmendinger said. "I was just thinking the first two races he had too many easy victories, so I wanted to make him sweat just a bit this time."

Bourdais, with his new bride watching from the pits, and Wilson started on option tires, which feature a softer compound and better grip. Bourdais switched to regular wheels during his first trip to the pits while Wilson went with another set of options, known as "reds."

Wilson led for 28 laps, but Bourdais' early move to regular tires eventually paid dividends. He reclaimed second place, then ran his gas tank down to fumes waiting for Wilson's second pit, which came in lap 55. Bourdais pulled off a lap later, then got back out faster and used the red tires, which quickly heated up to the track's blistering surface, to stretch his advantage to nearly five seconds in the closing laps.

"The second start, I just didn't do enough fuel saving," Wilson said. "We thought we were good, but Sebastian was just too quick at the end. It's how it is. We did everything we could this weekend."

Bourdais' Newman/Haas teammate and the 2005 Monterrey winner, Brazilian Bruno Junqueira, was black-flagged early for blocking Tracy and never recovered. He finished 10th.

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