Wilson wins season finale
Justin Wilson turned in a consummate performance to close out the 2005 Champ Car season with a second career victory in Mexico City
The Englishman never put a wheel wrong on a day when most of his rivals appeared to be suffering from an overdose of adrenalin, conserving fuel when necessary and streaking into the distance when conditions allowed in the closing laps.
Only two drivers were able to hold a candle to Wilson - his teammate A.J. Allmendinger and newly re-crowned Champion Sebastien Bourdais.
Allmendinger didn't have the pace to challenge when it really counted, but came home second to ensure a first ever 1-2 finish for the RuSPORT team, while Bourdais' progress was hampered by an engine-related problem that necessitated several extra pit visits.
"After the first lap it was pretty much clear sailing for me," said Wilson. "It got a bit tight at the first corner. AJ and I both went in pretty hot, and I couldn't get the front end [of the car] to turn, which was a sign of things to come.
"So the first stint was tricky - I just had to hang in there and wait until we could make a change at the pit stop. After that the car was much better and we just got quicker and quicker as the day went on."
Wilson made a clean getaway from pole position, but a skirmish between Allmendinger and a fast-starting Paul Tracy in the first chicane complex left the Canadian with a flat tyre - and set the tone for a race of non-stop incident.
Tracy hobbled back to the pits and rejoined at the tail end of the field, but would go on to play a leading role in the rest of the afternoon's proceedings.
Meanwhile, Wilson and Allmendinger pulled out a handsome lead over Bourdais in the opening laps. However, just when the Frenchman appeared for once to be outclassed, he began to reel in Allmendinger, who in turn started to put some pressure on his teammate.
As he later explained, Wilson was struggling with a touch of understeer on his #9 Intel-sponsored Lola and had his work cut out keeping his two pursuers at bay.
Bourdais was looking particularly menacing and narrowly failed to snatch second from Allmendinger when the American strayed his left-rear wheel onto the grass turning into the stadium section on lap 18.
A couple of laps later, the pace car was deployed following a massive accident for Ronnie Bremer, who lost control of his Dale Coyne Racing Lola in the final 140mph left-hander of the notorious Esses. The Danish rookie mercifully escaped injury but the circuit was littered with debris and a lengthy clean-up operation ensued.
Most drivers took the opportunity to make their first pit stops - except for HVM's Rodolfo Lavin and Tracy, both of whom had snuck in just before the yellow and now inherited the top two places.
A couple of laps earlier these two were seemingly out of the picture altogether after losing time with a spin and a puncture, respectively; but due to Champ Car's practice of closing the pitlane as soon as a full-course caution is declared, they had succeeded in leapfrogging the entire field!
Mexico's Lavin had the expectations of a nation on his shoulders as he took the restart on lap 27, but with Tracy buried in his slipstream he didn't appear to have much chance of holding onto the lead. With surprising audacity, however, he braved it out with the 2003 series Champion all the way through the chicane - only to sustain a right-rear puncture for his troubles.
Wilson took advantage of the commotion to retake the lead along the short back straight. When Allmendinger tried to follow suit, Tracy unceremoniously moved across on him and squeezed him all the way to the grass - an unsubtle piece of blocking that earned him a drive-through penalty and left his former karting protege fuming.
Meanwhile, Bourdais had fallen to the very back of the field after making no fewer than three pit stops under the full-course yellow. He had been complaining of poor engine response for several laps and the Newman/Haas crew eventually decided to change the ECU in a bid to fix the problem.
It had the desired effect, and Bourdais set about salvaging a decent finish with an impressive march up the lap chart, making it to ninth place by the second round of pit stops.
Through that middle stint Wilson steadily edged away from Allmendinger, lapping with exemplary consistency in the mid-1:30 range and building a six-second cushion before taking on service on lap 49.
The RuSPORT duo appeared to have the race bought and paid for, but a pair of late full-course yellows gave them a few anxious moments.
The first was occasioned by a collision between Timo Glock and Mario Dominguez. The German rookie had been driving beautifully for Rocketsports, climbing from 12th on the grid all the way to fourth, but misjudged an outbraking attempt at the chicane and slid into Dominguez - much to the chagrin of the partisan crowd, which had been cheering its favourite son to the echo.
At the subsequent restart, it was Bourdais who erred, with a lunge inside Cristiano da Matta at the chicane that sent both of them spinning into the kitty litter and ended the Frenchman's fine recovery drive. It was Bourdais' first retirement of the season.
Tracy, meanwhile, had somehow contrived to make it back up to fifth place. Not content with that, he outgunned both Oriol Servia and Glock at the final restart on lap 65, conjuring a third-place finish from an afternoon that was turbulent even by his standards.
Wilson, though, had been a model of smoothness and control, and showed his true pace by romping away from Allmendinger, Tracy, Servia and Glock over the final half-dozen laps. As a measure of his supremacy, his fastest lap was a full eight-tenths of a second faster than Allmendinger's (set on the same lap).
Veteran Jimmy Vasser finished sixth for PKV Racing, while Mi-Jack Conquest Racing's Nelson Philippe and Andrew Ranger claimed seventh and ninth respectively. The teenagers were sandwiched by Alex Tagliani and impressive rookie Will Power of Team Australia.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Justin Wilson RuSPORT 1h 58:23.479 2. A.J. Allmendinger RuSPORT + 3.936 3. Paul Tracy Forsythe Championship + 6.784 4. Oriol Servia Newman Haas + 9.634 5. Timo Glock Rocketsports + 9.923 6. Jimmy Vasser PKV + 10.477 7. Nelson Philippe Mi-Jack Conquest + 13.347 8. Alex Tagliani Team Australia + 14.139 9. Andrew Ranger Mi-Jack Conquest + 15.189 10. Will Power Team Australia + 16.184 11. Michael McDowell Rocketsports + 18.060 12. Mario Dominguez Forsythe Championship + 18.678 13. Charles Zwolsman Team Australia + 19.459 14. Cristiano da Matta PKV + 21.675 15. Rodolfo Lavin HVM + 1 Lap 16. Homero Richards HVM + 1 Lap RETIREMENTS: Driver Team On Lap Sebastien Bourdais Newman Haas 61 Ricardo Sperafico Dale Coyne 54 Ronnie Bremer Dale Coyne 18 Fastest lap: Justin Wilson, 1:28.479 on lap 68
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