The festivities from Long Beach are winding down as the Champ Cars just finished their second race of the season. The Long Beach Grand Prix has been a fixture on the open-wheel schedule for more than 20 years and even if the series has lost some of its drawing power, the racing was as good as ever. Two-time defending champion Sebastien Bourdais looked to make it a threepeat on this oceanside street course that has been labeled America's Monaco. Close enough to Hollywood to bring out the stars, the Long Beach weekend even hosts its own celebrity race, which we covered Sunday morning. One of the celebs on hand for that race served as honorary starter for the GP. And Star Wars creator George Lucas did a better job on the stand than he did in the Scion on Saturday. ALMS also made an appearance this weekend in Long Beach for the first time ever, and based on the crowd, we'd guess it will be back. But Sunday was all about Champ Car.
After a rough start to the season in Las Vegas, three-time defending series champion Sebastien Bourdais was looking to get back on track, so to speak, and return to his winning ways. With two previous wins here, it came as no surprise to find him on pole for Sunday's main event. Looking to have a successful follow-up to his Vegas win, Team Australia's Will Power (almost as good a name as Scott Speed for a racer) bested teammate Simon Pagenaud for second on the grid. Behind Pagenaud were Alex Tagliani (RSPORTS), Bourdais teammate G. Rahal (Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan Racing), Former F1 pilot Robert Doornbos (Minardi Team USA), Justin Wilson (RSPORTS), former champion Bruno Junqueira (Dale Coyne Racing), Tristan Gommendy (PKV Racing), and veteran Mario Dominguez (Forsythe Championship Racing). One late substitution found former series regular Oriol Servia filling in for the injured Paul Tracy in the other Forsythe car. Servia qualified 14th. Race day was typically spectacular with a big crowd, endless blue skies, and lots of excitement. Click through to see the race results.
[Source: Champ Car World Series]
From the drop of the flag, it looked like Bourdais would easiily retake his spot at the head of the class. The three-time defending Champ Car World Series champion walked away from the field, building a 20-second lead before the first round of pits. Those came during a yellow brought out when Pagenaud failed to negotiate turn eight leading onto the back straight. One car stayed on track during the yellow so Bourdais was technically second for a while, but it was really just semantics. During those first 50 laps, however, there was plenty of action behind the #1 McDonald's car. Servia had decided to make the most of his guest stint and was charging up through the pack. Amazingly, he had moved into second just before the incident and was able to make up that 20-second gap immediately. At the restart, Bourdais thanked him for the visit and powered ahead once more.
Bourdais pulled out another 20-second lead before Alex Figge went hard into the wall at the exit of turn 9. He appeared conscious but safety crews used a brace and board to secure him and load him into an ambulance. He gave his hometown fans a wave and thumbs up on his way in. That gain erased Bourdais' lead, and with just a couple of laps left, the field was bunched up heading into the tight hairpin leading onto the start/finish straight. Sebastien knew what to do and slowed the field enough to cause a traffic jam before punching it and rocketing away once again. It was more a race for second at that point as Bourdais stayed ahead for his third straight victory on this famed street circuit. He's the first to get the hat trick since Little Al won four in a row from 1988-1991.
Oriol Servia held on for second in the #3 INDECK car, while Will Power had to take two steps down on the podium since last week in Las Vegas. Power had managed to slip past Justin Wilson and Alex Tagliani on the next-to-last lap for third. Wilson followed him through for fourth while Tag held on for fifth. Tagliani was followed by Bruno Junqeira, Neel Jani, Graham Rahal, Ryan Dalziel, Katherine Legge, Tristan Gommendy, Dan Clarke, Robert Doornbas, Simon Pagenaud, Matt Halliday, Alex Figge, and Mario Dominguez. Sebastien celebrated his return to the top with a few donuts at turn one. But the celebration will be short as the series packs up and heads to Houston next weekend.
Finish Driver Team Laps Gap Status
- S. Bourdais Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan Racing 78 Active
- O. Servia Forsythe Championship Racing 78 +2.614 Active
- W. Power Team Australia 78 +3.866 Active
- J. Wilson RSPORTS 78 +5.325 Active
- A. Tagliani RSPORTS 78 +6.179 Active
- B. Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing 78 +6.394 Active
- N. Jani PKV Racing 78 +7.710 Active
- G. Rahal Newman/ Haas/ Lanigan Racing 78 +8.267 Active
- R. Dalziel Pacific Coast Motorsports 78 +8.962 Active
- K. Legge Dale Coyne Racing 78 +9.886 Active
- T. Gommendy PKV Racing 78 +10.335 Active
- D. Clarke Minardi Team USA 77 +1 Lap Active
- R. Doornbos Minardi Team USA 74 +4 Laps Active
- S. Pagenaud Team Australia 73 +5 Laps Active
- M. Halliday Conquest Racing 72 +6 Laps Mechanical
- A. Figge Pacific Coast Motorsports 69 +9 Laps Contact
- M. Dominguez Forsythe Championship Racing 7 XXX Contact