24 June 2007
Cleveland 2007: Tracy wings it.
When Power made his second stop, it was Tracy who took over at the front, the rest of the leaders having either followed or pre-empted the Team Australia car's move. Quick work from Derrick Walker's squad, however, had Power back in position to retake the lead when Tracy pitted, again with Bourdais in his mirrors.
The sight of the red-and-yellow McDonalds machine was fleeting, however, for, on lap 68, Bourdais was out, the victim of a rare mechanical problem for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team as his engine went sick. Once again, Cleveland proved to be an unhappy hunting ground for the reigning champion, who was left to watch as his points lead faced being whittled away.
Bourdais had barely had time to get his helmet off and begin discussing the problem with his crew when his luck received its first boost. Power, having been comfortably leading, was now motoring decidedly more slowly, initial fears for his engine giving way to the sight of a tyre trying desperately to work its way off the rim. The Australian barely made it back to the pits with rubber on all four corners, but his hopes of winning had gone, the Team Australia car dropping to an unrepresentative tenth by the flag.
With Bourdais out of the role of chief pursuer, it was once again Tracy who took over at the front, but with Rahal hot on his heels and eager to exact some measure of payback for the pair's earlier clash.
Tracy, however, was made of sterner stuff, keeping the youngster at bay with a blend of feisty defence and judicious use of the 'power to pass' button, until Rahal was made to suffer for his own out of sequence stops by requiring a splash-and-dash with just four minutes remaining on the race clock. He would eventually come home in eighth.
With the second NHLR car gone from his mirrors, Tracy may have been expecting an easy ride to the chequered flag, his only concern being his own fuel levels, but rookie sensation Robert Doornbos had other ideas.
The Dutchman closed inexorably onto the back of the Forsythe car and, with decidedly more power to pass remaining, looked the favourite should it come to a shoot-out, but again Tracy defended for all he was worth, the Minardi car never quite close enough for Doornbos to warrant using the 'magic button' in his cockpit.
The late problems for Bourdais and Power, allied to Rahal's emergency top-up, promoted those behind them a place or two, with Neel Jani quietly making his way into the final podium spot after a solid, if uneventful, race.
The Swiss rookie had half a second in hand over Justin Wilson at the end, the Briton a little more comfortable with his gap back to Simon Pagenaud, who had started on the front row and looked on course to give Team Australia more joy until a long second pit-stop.
Alex Tagliani kept up his consistent start to the year in sixth, albeit well adrift of the top five. In turn, the Canadian held a useful gap back to the second Forsythe car, Oriol Servia once again unable to match his promising start to the season. Rahal and Power then sandwiched Ryan Dalziel in ninth, the Scot having risen from 16th on the grid.
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