Paul Newman and Carl Haas moved closer to a landmark century of Champ Car race wins as Sebastien Bourdais took his second straight success of the season by successfully defending his Grand Prix of Houston crown.

The Frenchman overcame a variety of problems to add victory to that which he took in Long Beach last weekend, starting with the decision to strip him of his fastest lap from qualifying several hours after the session had finished. Starting from the front row alongside new poleman Will Power - the source of the complaint that saw the penalty applied - Bourdais then incurred the wrath of the stewards a second time by cutting the chicane on lap one, but also got his breaks when it appeared that the race may turn against him.

Instead of being forced to cede his early lead to Power, the Frenchman had to hand over to Justin Wilson, who took advantage of an alleged brake test on the Australian to slip into second on the opening lap. While many thought that Bourdais would be asked to drop in behind the poleman, who had been most disadvantaged by the short-cut, he was only asked to give up one place, and quickly reclaimed the advantage from Wilson after the Briton had led for 15 laps.

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From there, Bourdais ran up front until the opening round of pit-stops, although the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team revealed that he had not been able to hear its instructions owing to a loose earplug. While others adopted different strategies and took spells in the lead according to how their races fell, Bourdais returned to the front of the field for the bulk of the 1hr 45min race, but found himself trailing fellow Frenchman Tristan Gommendy as a lengthy yellow flag period took the race into its final quarter hour.

Although an upset appeared to be on the cards, particularly as Gommendy pulled out a couple of seconds on the McDonald's car, the PKV rookie was praying for another yellow as his decision to stop early meant that he was going to come up short on fuel. The longed-for incident never came and, while PKV's calculations proved correct, a pick-up problem dealt a cruel end to Gommendy's spirited race, the navy blue Panoz crawling to a halt within touching distance of pit-lane.

Once restored to the front, it was plain sailing for Bourdais, who had NHLR team-mate Graham Rahal playing rear-gunner in second spot. However, the Frenchman had one more score to settle and, with Power setting fastest laps in search of points, set about topping the Australian's efforts. With push-to-pass to spare after his front-running afternoon, Bourdais had an ally in his quest, reeling off successive fastest times in sight of the flag to ensure that he left Texas restored to the head of the championship and with a three-point lead of his arch-rival.

Power, however, was no longer in position to challenge for big points after a string of incidents left him a lap down on the leader and scrabbling for any points he could salvage. Having brushed the wall when Wilson forced his way through on the opening lap, the Team Australia car also made contact with the Briton's on the day's first restart, necessitating both to visit the pits for repairs. If Power's day wasn't ruined at that point, it was around mid-distance when Mario Dominguez's trajectory down the turn six escape road forced the #5 car to make contact with his rear, adding further delays. The erstwhile points leader eventually came home eleventh.

It was a story of what could have been for several drivers, with Wilson also set back by the brush with Power - although the Aussie required the more extensive cosmetic repairs - and then a spin of his own in the latter stages. At that point, Wilson had forced his way back into the top six, passing RSports team-mate Alex Tagliani in the process, but his mishap dropped him to the tail of the top ten by the chequer.

Forsythe stand-in Oriol Servia could also have laid claim to a podium, if not the overall win, having moved up into second after the first round of pit-stops. Calling in for fuel and tyres slightly earlier than Bourdais meant that the Spaniard was on a marginally different strategy, but his downfall came at the hands of his own team-mate, if slightly unfortunately. Making his final stop, Servia was about to rejoin the fray when Dominguez arrived, momentarily blocking the Long Beach runner-up in his stall. That was enough to allow Bourdais extra time to make his stop, and promoted Rahal and Robert Doornbos into the podium positions. Bourdais' own final stop came under the microscope when the NHLR car appeared on pit-road with the final yellow of the day already flying, but the stewards adjudged the Frenchman to have been committed at the time of its arrival, paving the way for win number 26 of his career.

Rahal duly became the youngest Champ Car podium visitor as he crossed the line four seconds adrift of his team-mate, completing the first Newman/Haas 1-2 since Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira accomplished the feat at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2005. Having missed his high school prom to race, Rahal made the most of a top six grid position to run in the leading group throughout, picking up places as those around him faltered.

Doornbos, too, made up good ground, vaulting from a lowly 13th at the start to seventh in the early laps. From there, slick pit work from the Minardi Team USA crew moved the Dutchman into contention and, when Servia suffered his pit-lane problems, Doornbos was well set to claim his second podium in three races.

Servia came home fourth, holding off the impressive Simon Pagenaud, who upheld Team Australian honours in fifth, despite having had to make an early pit-stop that threw his tactics off balance. However, the reigning Atlantics champion turned some rapid laps midway through the 93-lap event, hauling himself back up the field to claim a top five finish.

The Frenchman was comfortably clear of Dominguez, who somehow survived his own mishaps to take sixth spot, just ahead of Bruno Junqueira, who shrugged off a spin into the same turn six run-off that ended Dominguez's front-running performance a year ago, to claim another top seven result for Dale Coyne Racing. Ryan Dalziel and the luckless Tagliani filled the remaining top ten positions, ahead of Wilson.

Tagliani was the victim of an unintention punt from Katherine Legge midway through the race, having appeared to check up while Dominguez had a moment ahead of him. Legge, however, was not quite so blameless some laps further on, when a speculative attempt to pass the recently-pitted Neel Jani ended with both retiring. Until that point, the Swiss driver had apepared to be on course for a solid top five result, if not better, but contact from legge's Dale Coyne entry put the Red Bull PKV car out on the spot.

If the thought of ending the aspirations of one of manager Kevin Kalkhoven's drivers was not bad enough, Legge's front wing broke in the incident and, trapped under the front of her car, left her helpless to avoid her own contact with the barriers. Although the impact was slight, an unsighted Dan Clarke then clouted the rear of the yellow-and-black machine, confirming Legge's retirement and putting an end to his own afternoon, which had already started two laps after everyone else.

The three retirements were, until Gommendy's unfortunate exit, the only casualties of the afternoon, although Matt Halliday rounded out the finishers after another fraught afternoon for Conquest Racing. The Kiwi came home 16 laps adrift of Bourdais after contact and a puncture, placing behind Gommendy in the final result. Roberto Moreno, meanwhile, completed his comeback with Pacific Coast Motorsports by steering Alex Figge's regular mount to twelfth spot, three laps down.