Bourdais spins and wins

Sebastien Bourdais delivered a virtuoso performance to chalk up his fifth victory of the season at Denver and increase his championship lead over Bruno Junqueira. In a drive more reminiscent of Alex Zanardi's patented come-from-behind charges than his own unflustered style, Bourdais recovered from a first-lap spin to win by the simple expedient of catching and passing anyone who stood in his way

Bourdais spins and wins

"It is my most beautiful win for sure," said a jubilant Bourdais. "When you are on the pole and have a difficult start and then work your way back from 13th to first, I think it's pretty amazing. Especially since the rules couldn't help us to try and gamble with the strategy - we just had to pass guys on the racetrack.

"At the start of the race everything went wrong, but I knew we had a good car and as long as I didn't go a lap down it would be possible to come back. But I didn't think we could win. I am very, very happy."

Against most expectations, the tortuous Denver track played host to one of the most exciting street races in recent memory. There was drama right from the start, when Newman/Haas team-mates Bourdais and Junqueira tangled at the first corner in a mirror image of their pas de deux at Road America two weeks ago.

Junqueira made the better getaway and attempted to pass the polesitter around the outside of the double-apex right-hander, only to tighten his line and force Bourdais to pinch his car across the apron on the inside in a vain effort to avoid a collision. The pair made only light contact, but it was enough to tip Bourdais into a spin while Junqueira scooted off in the lead.

On the heels of their Road America skirmish, the incident didn't exactly serve to thaw the increasingly frosty atmosphere in the Newman/Haas camp.

"I came on the outside of Sebastien, gave him room...I don't know, I guess he braked too late on the dirty side and we hit," said Junqueira plaintively. "I play hard, but clean and luckily we were both able to keep in the race."

Not surprisingly, Bourdais begged to differ, adding that, "You are very lucky, Bruno, that I am a gentleman, because I could be pretty hard on you."

A chain-reaction accident ensued in the midfield, triggering an immediate full-course yellow. When the dust had settled Junqueira led from Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier, Mario Dominguez and Oriol Servia.

Meanwhile Bourdais set about salvaging his afternoon from an inauspicious 13th place. He made short work of his first few targets, climbing to eighth by lap 12. It took him somewhat longer to dispatch Ryan Hunter-Reay for seventh, which became sixth after Carpentier gave up an unequal struggle with badly worn rear tyres and pitted on lap 25. AJ Allmendinger was the next to succumb when Bourdais made a bold move at Turn 5 - not a recognised overtaking spot.

Meanwhile the battle was joined at the front of the field, Tracy having closed onto Junqueira's gearbox when the Brazilian got bottled up in lapped traffic. The Forsythe team elected to short-fill Tracy at the first round of pitstops to release him into the lead. The ploy left Newman/Haas on the back foot, the more so because Junqueira spent his second stint struggling with his brake balance and deteriorating handling.

The on-form Dominguez took advantage of a braking miscue by Junqueira to slip by into second place at half-distance, by which time Bourdais had moved up to fourth after demoting Servia at the pitstop exchange. The Frenchman reeled in Junqueira in no time and promptly outbraked him at Turn 9. Junqueira's attempt to retaliate along the start/finish straight got short shrift from Bourdais, who offered a brief Gallic gesture before disappearing into the distance.

Lapping more than half a second faster than his nearest competition, Bourdais whittled the deficit to Dominguez to a few car lengths by the time he pitted on lap 67. But victory still looked like a tall order, as Tracy held a handy 5s cushion over the Mexican Herdez Competition driver, with Bourdais resuming a further 24s in arrears following his stop.

Time was running out for the Frenchman, but he was handed an olive branch when the pace car had to be deployed to remove a stricken Hunter-Reay from the middle of the road at Turn 9.

That set up a 12-lap shootout to the chequered flag. At the restart Bourdais wasted no time getting past Dominguez, surviving a wheel-banging moment at Turn 1 that looked for a moment like it would undo all his good work. Instead Dominguez was tapped into a half-spin, but expertly recovered and lost only one more place (to Junqueira).

Tracy, meanwhile, was struggling to get his front tyres up to temperature and suddenly found Bourdais snapping at his heels. When the Canadian got out of shape going onto the long back straight with 10 laps to go, Bourdais didn't need a second invitation, diving up the inside under braking for Turn 9. Once into the lead he took off like a scalded cat, pulling out over seven seconds in the space of the final 12 laps and setting the fastest lap of the race on his penultimate go-round!

Tracy admitted he simply couldn't live with Bourdais on this day.

"It just didn't go our way today," he said. "I thought we had the race until the yellow came out. But there wasn't much I could do when Sebastien came up behind me; he had a faster car, as he has done all weekend. Right now everything he touches turns into a Golden Arch, so that's just the way it is..."

Behind Junqueira and Dominguez, Allmendinger came home fifth in the RuSPORT team's home event, having leapfrogged Servia at the final round of pitstops. The Spaniard's Dale Coyne Racing Lola had been emitting wisps of smoke intermittently throughout the second half of the race, but fortunately the problem proved to be an air jack dragging on the road surface rather than a terminal engine malaise.

Justin Wilson won a race-long battle with Mario Haberfeld to finish seventh for Conquest Racing, while Carpentier's early first pitstop proved costly as he slipped all the way to ninth. Fellow French-Canadian Alex Tagliani survived front and rearward impacts with other cars at different points in the afternoon to round out the top 10 for Rocketsports.

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