Newman-Haas Racing's Sebastien Bourdais failed to wrap up the 2003 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year title during Sunday's Grand Prix Americas in Miami when a collision with Paul Tracy led to the Frenchman's second retirement in the last three races.

Carrying McDonald's famous 'Golden Arches' for the final time this season, Bourdais looked capable of a podium finish in the 135-lap blast around Miami's 1.15-mile Bayfront Park street circuit before being forced out of the running after just 69 laps when Championship leader Paul Tracy ran into the rear of the #2 Lola-Ford, terminally damaging both machines.

Despite a suspected bent suspension Bourdais completed an inch-perfect pass for third on Tracy just one turn before Tracy unwisely tried to make a quick comeback.

A potential opportunity to close on third place ranked Michel Jourdain in the point standings was taken away but fortunately the other three drivers in the top-five of the Champ Car World Series point standings ran into trouble as well over the weekend on the tricky 1.15-mile street course.

Bourdais was third fastest in provisional qualifying on Friday but dropped back to fourth in final qualifying. At the start of the race he moved alongside third place starter Oriol Servia but lost his momentum and fifth place starter Tracy was able to pass him. He ran within .7-seconds behind Tracy until he encountered lapped traffic, which then dropped him to a 1.8 deficit. On Lap 22 Bourdais again began to pressure Tracy and attempt to set up a pass as he was within .5 seconds of the driver but still unable to do so.

The majority of the field made their first of two mandatory pits stops each 50 laps on Lap 40 during a caution period for the stalled car of Geoff Boss. Bourdais maintained his position when he returned to the track but moved into fourth place when third place runner Oriol Servia crashed on the restart and brought the caution flag back out.

During the caution period, Bourdais informed the team that he had brushed the wall before his pit stop when he was trying to pass the lapped car of Patrick Carpentier and had sustained damage to the front steering link, the rod that connects to the wheel to steer the car.

Even so, once the race restarted on Lap 53 he again began to pressure Tracy for position. On Lap 62 he told the team via radio that he was trying to pass Tracy but the Canadian was not using the proper braking line. Simultaneously, CART began to watch Tracy for blocking. On Lap 69 Bourdais passed Tracy in Turn 1 and was almost one car length ahead going into a corner when Tracy's front right wheel hit Bourdais' left rear. Bourdais stopped on the spot while Tracy continued on course and into pit lane.

After being push-started Bourdais drove to the pits and retired because his front suspension was damaged, as was his rear wing mount. Bourdais retired in 17th place without points and for the third time this season a podium finish fell from his grasp due to something out of his control.

"It was a really stupid thing to happen," said Bourdais. "I tried five times to pass Paul and he did the same thing every time. He moved over on me. It is something that can be avoided. We are friends and we respect each other but this was a stupid thing to happen. I was ahead of him and he hit my rear wheel. I wanted to earn a good finish for the McDonald's/Lilly team but he could hurt himself more because of the championship. I'm not sure why he took the unnecessary risk.

"I brushed the wall earlier in the race trying to lap Patrick and damaged the car. My car was down on performance because I had a bent steering link but I was still able to make a charge on him. A third place finish and a good amount of points evaporated."

Although he failed to clinch the rookie of the year title last weekend, Bourdais now needs to score just nine points through the final three races to be assured of the crown even if Manning wins all three races and takes every bonus point available.

 

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