Photo Credit: champcarworldseries.com
2006 is here and it really all begins (in LA) at the Long Beach Grand Prix. This year will be the 32nd year the vision of Chris Pook will be run in the streets of Long Beach.
It is this venue that helped add to the legends of racing elites like Mario and Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Danny Sullivan, Alex Zanardi, Paul Tracy, and Sebastien Bourdais to name a few.
The green flag drops on the first qualifing session today at 2:05 PM PST. Sebastien Bourdais from the Newman-Haas Racing Team (ChampCar champion of the last two years) was second quickest to Justin Wilson in the testing sessions held last week at Fontana. Bourdais looks to be the first driver to "three-peat" as champion of an open-wheel racing series since Ted Horn did it through 1946-1948.
The beauty is the venue (photo above).
This from Robin Miller at Champ Car World Series -
ROBIN MILLER'S STRAIGHT FROM THE GEARBOX
There are several plausible reasons why Sebastien Bourdais won't walk away with his third straight Champ Car title this year.
Bruno Junqueira, three times a bridesmaid in this series, has the fire and experience to unseat his teammate at the top of the heap.
Justin Wilson, a two-time winner in 2005, is real comfortable with his surroundings as he begins his third season and he's got the team and talent to pull it off.
Paul Tracy, whose 30 victories are tops among active drivers, certainly possesses all the right stuff and has the added incentive of making up for last year's disappointment.
A.J. Allmendinger, a champion at every level during his still developing career, is as quick as anybody on four wheels and just needs to improve his consistency to be a challenger.
Oriol Servia, runner-up in the point standings a year ago, has moved to a new team but his smarts and savvy should bring out the best of PKV Racing.
Any or all of these drivers could unseat Bourdais but, at the end of the 15-race schedule, the championship is going to have to come through the 27-year-old Frenchman.
"It's going to be a learning process but there are some very clever people on this team and we'll do our best to be competitive," said the 31-year-old Spainard, who will also be tutoring rookie teammate Katherine Legge.
At the end of the day, it's going to take an idiot to pick against Bourdais. Or somebody who flunked out of Ball State.
I'm going with Mr. Wilson in 2006 so that should make Sebass feel pretty confident
By the way, this is a track where the IRL has never been!
UPDATE: from CCWS website -
Sebastien Bourdais paced the opening practice session of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season today, besting the 18-car field in Friday morning's 75-minute practice at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Bourdais got around the 1.968-mile street course in 1:08.948 (102.756 mph) to pace the morning's outing, coming in a tenth-of-a-second ahead of Team Australia's Alex Tagliani.
Tagliani (1:09.030) , A.J. Allmendinger (1:09.043), Justin Wilson (1:09.180) and Paul Tracy (1:09.225) rounded out the top five in the session, which was run without incident. Team Australia's Will Power led the six-car rookie class in the morning and was 10th overall.
NOTE: The first eight places were within one second of each other.