German 500: Bourdais wins thriller

Sunday's Champ Car race at Eurospeedway at times resembled an Indy Racing League race, with plenty of wheel-to-wheel dicing and a few frighteningly close calls. The man at the centre of the action all day long was Sebastien Bourdais, who added another page to his remarkable rookie season by winning a thriller over Mario Dominguez and Michel Jourdain in a photo finish. Bourdais' margin was .084 second over Dominguez and 0.245 second over Jourdain

German 500: Bourdais wins thriller

Pole man Bourdais ran in the top three throughout the 154-lap contest, but he was never able to shake the pair of Mexicans - both of whom recovered from CART-assessed penalties to contend for the victory. Bruno Junqueira edged Oriol Servia for fourth at the line, albeit 12 seconds behind the leading trio.

After Newman/Haas duo Bourdais and Junqueira swapped the lead throughout the first 27-lap stint, Dominguez took the lead on Lap 35 to begin an epic battle with Bourdais. Mario strongly defended his position by weaving down the pit straight and on several occasions he nearly pushed Bourdais into the pit wall. After about ten laps of weaving, Champ Car officially warned the Herdez team that Dominguez' tactics were being watched, though the battle raged on the track.

When the leaders made their third pit stops on Lap 81, CART officials held Dominguez in his pit for an additional 5 seconds as a penalty for repeated blocking. The Herdez team was furious, and two crewmen tried to pull the Champ Car officials out of the way so that Dominguez could continue. He did, resuming in fifth place, helped by a full course yellow for debris that came out on Lap 83.

Junqueira still remained a factor, but he faded in the final two stints. By the time the leaders made their final stop on Lap 135, Jourdain had caught up from an early penalty for hitting Rodolfo Lavin and Patrick Lemarie in the pits, and he went from third to first on the final exchange. But it took Bourdais and Dominguez just a few laps to work their way past, setting up a 10-lap shootout to the finish.

Now Bourdais was the car in front doing the weaving, though Dominguez was able to pull alongside repeatedly. But he never had the power to finish the move, and he fell just a hair short on the run to the line.

"That was a lot of fun, but there was a little stress, too," remarked Bourdais after winning on his oval debut. "It was a great race with Mario. The team gave me a great car and it was a perfect weekend.

"When we arrived in traffic, the race started properly," Sebastien added. "I learned quite a lot racing with Mario. I wasn't quite fast enough to overtake when I was side-by-side. But in the last stint, I learned to get through traffic better and the inside line was better. It was a high-speed game but I think I did pretty well."

Dominguez has been the surprise of the 2003 season, and he found Sunday's result bittersweet.

"I had a lot of fun racing wheel to wheel with Sebastien," he said. "It was very clean and very aggressive. But I'm very disappointed with the penalty the officials gave me for blocking. As far as I can tell, I didn't do anything wrong.

"When I was behind Sebastien, he did the exact same thing but he didn't get a penalty," Dominguez continued. "Someone needs to talk to CART about that because I think they are wrong. I was doing all the right moves and I think Sebastien was too. If not, I want to see the video."

Jourdain said his Lola-Ford wasn't quite fast enough to pull out the win. "A tough day," he said. "The last yellow let us close the gap but I just didn't have anything for them. I was OK in the draft but I couldn't do anything by myself."

Junqueira was crushed to again be outpaced by his rookie team-mate, but
he had the consolation of leaving Germany as co-championship leader. Early season pacesetter Paul Tracy paid the price for his high-downforce setup and finished 12th, two laps down. Tracy and Junqueira are tied on 66 points, with Jourdain on 56, while Bourdais moved into the championship hunt with 49 points.

"Europe was disappointing," Tracy said. "We came in with a 26-point lead and we left tied for first. We're going to have to work hard to get back on track for Milwaukee."

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