8 April 2007
Las Vegas 2007: Will 'powers' to first victory.
The Champ Car World Series saw its 2007 season open at a new venue, with a new car and a new race winner as Team Australia's Will Power converted pole position into victory in the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix.
Australian born Power, driving for the Derrick Walker/Craig Gore co-owned Team Australia outfit, capped a weekend of 'firsts' for the series as he crossed the finish line 16-seconds ahead of Minardi Team USA's rookie Robert Doornbos. In doing so Power became the first Australian to win a Champ Car event and laid to rest some of the fears that the 2007 season would turn into a Sebastien Bourdais benefit.
Although the first race of Champ Cars Panoz 'era' was blighted by a small, 17-car grid, several early caution periods and an uncomfortable level of mechanical problems Power proved himself a worthy winner by leading 38 of 68 laps around the new 2.44-mile Vegas strip street circuit.
The inaugural Vegas Grand Prix certainly got started with a bang as outside front row qualifier Paul Tracy wrestled the lead away from Power at the first corner with a brave outside pass whilst behind them, Newman-Haas rookie Graham Rahal saw his Champ Car debut come to an end on the start line when he hit the wall.
Tracy continued to lead during the subsequent caution period and, in a stuttering start to the new season, it wasn't until lap eleven, following another caution period, that Power was able to return the favour and retake the lead with another clean 'racing' pass.
When Briton Dan Clarke hit the tyre barriers on lap 14, spoiling a good top six run for the Minardi Team USA driver, fears grew that the race would turn into something of a farce but despite an unusual amount of mechanical problems, including a series of apparently faulty refuelling systems that ruined potential winning runs from Tracy and Dale Coyne Racing's latest recruit Bruno Junqueira, the remainder of the race ran without interruption.
Despite resuming the lead during pitstops, Tracy's bid for victory was basically ended as early as lap 27 when his Forsythe team were unable to get the fuelling rig to connect, forcing the Canadian to make another stop several laps later. Although that effectively put Power in the driving seat for the rest of the afternoon it gave Tracy an opportunity to really hammer the new car and do some important 'overtaking research.' On both counts, the new Panoz stood up well, which at least bodes well for the remainder of the season, once the current spare parts shortage and mechanical niggles are sorted.
Following Tracy's slightly delayed final stop, Power resumed the lead for good on lap 55 having also waited through a protracted pit stop window that also saw his former Team Australia stablemate Alex Tagliani and an on-form Junqueira take turns in the lead. While Tracy would go all out guns blazing in the closing laps to fight back and take the final podium position, was able to cruise through the final 13 laps to the chequered flag.
“We had a good car,” stated Power. “It handled well all day. The only issue I had was a really long brake pedal at the end of the race. But we had an 18-second lead, so we just brought it home and brought Derrick Walker his second win since '99. It's his birthday. So a pole and a win, I think that's a pretty good present for him.”
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