1 July 2007
Mont-Tremblant 2007: Doornbos rains on NHLR parade
Robert Doornbos presented Minardi Team USA co-owner Keith Wiggins with the perfect birthday present as he took victory in an unpredictable Champ Car Mont-Tremblant, but the win left Sebastien Bourdais seething as Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's 400th race went unrewarded.
The Frenchman had led early on after chaos at the series' third standing start, but had to give best to his Dutch rival as the weather played havoc with track conditions and strategy. The real bone of contention, however, was Bourdais' claim that Doornbos had illegally blocked him while they were dicing - a suggestion that was roundly condemned by the Canadian crowd...
The talking points got underway even before the field had been given the green light, as PKV polesitter Tristan Gommendy was wheeled off the grid when his car refused to fire. With the French rookie out of the way, Bourdais had a clear run at second-place qualifier Will Power into turn one, but was helped in his quest to take an early lead when the Australian stalled - along with Team Australia colleague Simon Pagenaud and Conquest's Jan Heylen.
Even with the advantage he was handed, Bourdais' start also appeared to be a little iffy, the McDonalds car seeming to creep before the signal to go was given. The stewards deliberated the matter for some time, before eventually deciding to give the three-time champion the benefit of the doubt.
That left Bourdais in an early lead from Doornbos - already up from fifth on the grid - Justin Wilson, Neel Jani and Dan Clarke as the field used the chicane on the opening lap - something that had only been decided in the run-up to the race. Heylen's stranded car, however, prevented the Frenchman from making good his escape, instead bringing out the safety car and bunching the pack together.
That was good news for the two Team Australia drivers, who were able to race around and catch up to the tail, while Paul Tracy, who had thrown away eleventh on the grid by crash his primary car in morning practice, had already gained six positions from the back of the field in the back-up.
By the time the green was given on lap three, Gommendy too was back in the fray, albeit two laps down. It was a deficit the Frenchman would be unable to make up in the course of the hour-and-three-quarter event, although he was up to twelfth, and last classified runner, by the chequer to add ten points to his tally from the weekend.
Bruno Junqueira became the race's first retirement as Dale Coyne Racing's weekend refused to improve, the Brazilian pitting with suspected engine problem after just six laps, having risen to tenth off the line.
Junqueira's retirement aside, however, the opening few laps provided little incident save for a spin by Paul Tracy, after the Canadian was tapped by the ambitious Power on lap 15. Tracy was always intending to run alternative strategies in an effort to move himself up the field, and was the next to pit, fitting another set of slicks just as the first of the afternoon's rain arrived.
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