Analysis: Dramatic First for Wilson

A daring late-race pass gave Justin Wilson and the RuSPORT team their maiden Champ Car victory in Toronto this afternoon

Analysis: Dramatic First for Wilson

Wilson stormed down the inside of leader Oriol Servia with 11 laps of a thrilling and turbulent race remaining. A heavy accident involving AJ Allmendinger and Mario Dominguez three laps later allowed Wilson to secure his first series victory under a full-course caution.

The story of the first half of the race was the increasingly tense battle between title rivals Sebastien Bourdais (Newman/Haas) and Paul Tracy (Forsythe). Polesitter Bourdais safely led through the first corner, rebuffed a determined attack from Tracy at the turn three hairpin, and then calmly resisted the Canadian's constant pressure during the opening laps.

Wilson was initially able to tag along behind them, while the rest of the pack, led by Servia, struggled to match the top three's pace. As the first stint drew on, Bourdais and Tracy started to stretch their legs and leave Wilson standing too, just as Newman/Haas gave Servia the green light to use a more aggressive fuel mixture.

The Spaniard quickly shook off early pursuers Alex Tagliani, Jimmy Vasser, Allmendinger, Andrew Ranger and Cristiano da Matta, and closed in on Wilson.

On lap 33 the two leaders dived into the pits as one. The Forsythe team chose to short-fuel Tracy in a bid to jump him ahead of Bourdais, and sure enough the Canadian exited his pit stall marginally in front. Bourdais had more momentum however, and began to edge ahead of Tracy as the pair raced side-by-side down the pit lane.

There was only going to be room for one of them once they reached the pit exit - but neither was willing to back down. Contact between the right rear of Bourdais' car and Tracy's left front ripped half the wing from the Forsythe Lola's nose section, and left Bourdais with a puncture. Naturally their teams had differing perspectives on the incident.

"I really do think Paul was at fault," said Bourdais' engineer Craig Hampson. "He was trying to force Sebastien over the yellow line (separating the pit lane from the racetrack) but we were seven-eighths of a car length ahead. Paul really didn't need to hit him."

"We were over the blend line first and obviously Bourdais was not prepared to let us go ahead," retorted Forsythe vice-president of operations Neil Micklewright.

The Champ Car officials declared the collision a racing incident and declined to penalise either party.

While Bourdais had little option but to nurse his hobbled car back to the pits for new tyres, Tracy chose to press on regardless of his wrecked front wing, hoping to stay out until his second scheduled stop.

A truly remarkable drive followed. The entire left side of Tracy's front wing had been removed, yet he continued to lap at almost the same pace as he had prior to the incident, despite the drastic handling imbalance that the damage must have caused.

A very slow stop for Wilson had allowed Servia into second place, albeit 13s behind Tracy. Despite Tracy's heroics, his advantage started to dwindle a little, and the lead margin shrunk to six seconds as the final pit window approached.

So far the race had run unusually smoothly by Toronto standards. Mario Dominguez and Ryan Dalziel both had to pit for early repairs after separate first corner incidents, but all 18 cars were still running and there had been no full-course yellows. But the serene first half of the race gave little indication of the tumult that was to follow...

The initial catalyst for the chaos was a collision between Cristiano da Matta and Ricardo Sperafico on lap 56. Da Matta (PKV Racing), who had spent his entire race in the wheel tracks of highly impressive rookie Ranger's Conquest Lola, arrived at turn one just as the lapped Sperafico (Dale Coyne Racing) emerged from the pits. The two Brazilians made heavy contact, with da Matta slamming into the outside wall.

"I couldn't even see where he hit me," said da Matta. "Two weekends in a row with zero points - not good."

A full-course yellow was ordered and the pits immediately closed, in accordance with the 2005 regulations.

At that very same moment, Tracy was entering the pit lane for his final stop and the much needed nosecone change. He hurriedly aborted his pit visit to avoid a penalty for stopping in a closed pit, not realising that he only had a few drops of fuel remaining.

Tracy only made it as far as the start/finish line before grinding to a halt. The crowd favourite's brave drive had come to an end in the most bizarre and undistinguished way, leaving Tracy fuming over the radio.

Once the pits were open, Tagliani jumped Wilson and moved into second behind new leader Servia. Allmendinger, who had been racing hard with Tagliani all afternoon, now ran fourth ahead of Vasser, Ranger, and the rapidly recovering Bourdais and Dominguez.

The first few attempts to restart the race proved ill-fated. First Bjorn Wirdheim slammed his HVM car into the turn eight wall just before the green on lap 62.

No sooner was the debris cleared and the action recommenced than Ryan Hunter-Reay caused another multi-car incident by hitting Nelson Philippe at turn one. Team Australia's Marcus Marshall was pinned between Timo Glock and the spinning Philippe, but miraculously only Marshall suffered terminal damage in the ensuing clash.

Wilson took full advantage of the few seconds of green flag racing on offer, and passed Tagliani for second. Both RuSPORT cars were on the move when racing finally resumed in earnest, with Wilson climbing all over the back of leader Servia even as his teammate Allmendinger squeezed past Tagliani for third at the hairpin.

Servia only had to hang on for a dozen more laps to take his first Champ Car win (and first race victory in any series since French Formula Three in 1997!), but Wilson also had a debut win in his sights and was not planning to meekly follow the leader home.

On lap 77 he dived down the inside of Servia under braking for the hairpin and snatched the lead, and began to pull away at a ferocious rate. With Servia otherwise engaged fending off the charging Allmendinger, Wilson was able to open up a 6s cushion after just three laps in front.

Allmendinger was desperate to make it a RuSPORT one-two, but pushed too hard and slid into the turn six wall on lap 80. The #10 Lola had barely come to rest before the unsighted Dominguez ploughed into it. Thankfully both drivers were unhurt, but the carnage was such that the race hit its 1h45m time limit while still under caution.

Wilson could therefore celebrate a spectacular first Champ Car World Series race victory, with Servia forced to accept second place once again. Tagliani was thrilled with third, while Vasser had to work tremendously hard to fend off Bourdais for fourth in the closing laps.

Ranger should have been sixth, but a gearbox problem cruelly robbed him of the position and top rookie honours during the final caution. The uncompetitive Rocketsports cars of Hunter-Reay and Glock duly inherited sixth and seventh, ahead of Alex Sperafico, who made a quiet debut for HVM.

Dalziel's early delay meant that he never really got involved in his first Champ Car race, but he drove sensibly and consistently for ninth place ahead of the delayed Philippe. All 18 cars may have survived the first 50 laps, but only 10 were running at the chequered flag...

The result gives Bourdais a 15-point Championship lead over Tracy, while Wilson leaps back into contention in third place, 22 points behind the series leader.

Wilson Takes First Champ Car Win
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