Power wins Champ Car finale
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, April 20th 2008, 21:58 GMT|
KV Racing's Will Power earned a comfortable victory in the last ever Champ Car race at Long Beach - taking the lead from fourth on the grid at the start and then controlling the entire race.
Franck Montagny took second for Forsythe Pettit Racing in his first American open wheel outing, with Mario Dominguez securing Pacific Coast's first podium finish in third.
Power made an exceptional getaway at the standing start, coming from the outside of row two to dive inside pole-sitter Justin Wilson (Newman Haas Lanigan) into the first corner.
Wilson stayed on Power's tail and had a look at reclaiming the lead on an early restart after Mario Moraes crashed his Dale Coyne Panoz at Turn 1 and prompted a full course yellow.
But that proved to be Wilson's only chance to challenge Power, as the British driver retired on lap 12 with what he suspected was an engine failure.
"I noticed a couple of laps before that the engine note had changed and it felt like it had dropped a couple of cylinders, so I think it blew up," Wilson said. "We were just sat there waiting to pass Will in the pit stops."
Walker Racing's Alex Tagliani stepped up to challenge Power after Wilson's retirement, and pushed the KV Racing driver hard in the middle of the race. Tagliani's best opportunity to claim the lead came when the duo pitted as one for their first stops, but KV were able to get Power out ahead again.
Power then accelerated away from the field in the second stint, extending his lead to as much as six seconds.
In a bid to close the gap at the end of the race, Tagliani switched back to the softer Bridgestone tyres in his final stop. But instead of closing in on Power, the Canadian fell dramatically off the pace, suffering from both fading tyres and a lack of push-to-pass time.
Montagny, who had briefly got ahead of Tagliani in the final pitstop sequence only to lose the place again on his out-lap, repassed the Canadian for second on lap 69 and then set off in pursuit of Power.
Seven laps later Tagliani lost the final podium place to the charging Dominguez, and by the end of the race the Walker Racing car had fallen right back to seventh position.
"We decided to go on Bridgestone reds and they were grippier for one or two laps but the degradation was pretty horrible," he said. "We were sliding off everywhere and it was difficult to keep up the pace with the guys running on black tyres."
Power ultimately won by five seconds from Montagny, as the former Super Aguri Formula One driver made an exceptional US racing debut in what could be a one-off appearance.
"I think it's not too bad for my first race in Champ Car, my first time here, and as a rookie," Montagny said. "The team did a fantastic job and gave me a very good car during the race. I think America suits me."
Power said he appreciated the significance of winning the final race to be run under the Champ Car banner and rules package.
"It means a lot - we were looking to win this championship this year and then suddenly the series changed," he said. "This is a great way to finish off Champ Car."
Behind the delighted Dominguez, Enrique Bernoldi finished fourth for Conquest Racing, and Oriol Servia recovered superbly to take fifth in the second KV car despite stalling at the start.
Bernoldi's teammate Franck Perera ran third early on but fell back at both pitstops and then lost places to both Bernoldi and Servia in the closing laps, coming home sixth ahead of Tagliani.
Forsythe Pettit's David Martinez and HVM driver EJ Viso drove quiet races to eighth and ninth, with Jimmy Vasser taking 10th on his one-off return for KV Racing.
Paul Tracy's hopes of victory ended early on when his Forsythe car suffered a right rear puncture on only the third lap. He fell to the tail of the field and could only recover to 11th.
St Petersburg winner Graham Rahal also had a difficult afternoon. A spin while racing Montagny for third dropped him to 12th, but he got back up to seventh before crashing on the final lap.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Will Power KV Racing 83 laps 2. Franck Montagny Forsythe Pettit + 5.094 3. Mario Dominguez Pacific Coast + 15.516 4. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest + 25.677 5. Oriol Servia KV Racing + 26.276 6. Franck Perera Conquest + 28.067 7. Alex Tagliani Walker Racing + 36.518 8. David Martinez Forsythe Pettit + 37.127 9. EJ Viso HVM + 44.944 10. Jimmy Vasser KV Racing + 48.635 11. Paul Tracy Forsythe Pettit + 55.956 12. Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing +1:07.553 13. Graham Rahal Newman Haas Lanigan + 1 lap 14. Alex Figge Pacific Coast + 1 lap 15. Nelson Philippe Minardi HVM + 3 laps 16. Antonio Pizzonia Rocketsports + 3 laps Retirements: Driver Team Laps Roberto Moreno Minardi HVM 63 Juho Annala Rocketsports 42 Justin Wilson Newman Haas Lanigan 12 Mario Moraes Dale Coyne Racing 5