Triple defending Champ Car World Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais shrugged off his nightmarish Las Vegas weekend to dominate Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and open his 2007 victory account at the second time of asking.
The Frenchman strolled to his third consecutive victory around the testing 1.97-mile Californian street circuit, comprehensively outclassing the rest of the field in a race that was still a far better advertisement for the new-look series than last weekend's shaky start in Las Vegas.
Although Bourdais' 24th career CWWS win (from just 61 starts) didn't come in a race packed with overtaking there was plenty of close quarters street course action to be found and, more importantly, the new Panoz chassis stood up far better mechanically than in the season opener just seven days ago.
From the drop of the green flag the 17 strong field successfully negotiated the notoriously tricky first turn without a major pile-up for the first time in what seems like a decade with both drivers and event organisers breathing s collective sigh of relief that the already thin field wasn't depleted any further. Poleman Bourdais charged into a relatively unchallenged lead with outside front row starter and Las Vegas victor Will Power slotting in nicely behind the #1 McDonalds machine. A little further round the opening lap Pacific Coast rookie Alex Figge did run out of track but managed to keep his car off the walls and out of the barriers and returned to action one lap adrift without the need of a full course caution.
Team Australia driver Power was able to keep Bourdais honest through the opening couple of laps with his former Team Oz teammate Alex Tagliani forming the RSPORTS filling in a yellow and green sandwich in third place with impressive rookie Simon Pagenaud holding down fourth. However the early rhythm was disrupted on lap nine when Forsythe Racing's Mario Dominguez clouted the tyre barriers in turn nine to bring out the first full course caution period.
While the leaders chose to stay out several drivers running outside the top ten, including Paul Tracy's last minute replacement Oriol Servia, PKV Racing teammates Tristan Gommendy and Neel Jani and Minardi's Dan Clarke, dived onto pit road for an out of sequence stop that would have great bearings on the final results.
On the lap eleven restart Bourdais got the perfect jump on Power, who in turn found Tagliani forcing his way into second place but while the veteran Canadian driver had the pace to stay ahead of the Aussie born series sophomore the race leader was in a different class and had soon opened up a lead of nearly five seconds.
Power kept a watching brief of Tagliani as the race headed towards the first round of pitstops for the leading runners with Pagenaud and his fellow rookie Graham Rahal looking far more settled this weekend than last rounding out the top five.
The leaders began making their first stops on lap 30, briefly allowing Servia to take the lead before he had to pit on lap 39. However in the interim the Spaniard was able to use the clean air he enjoyed to vault past everybody bar Bourdais when he returned to the track on lap 42.