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2007 Champ Car Series Year in Review
By Steve Schwarz, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Another Champ Car World Series season has been put in the books and Sebastien Bourdais won the driver championship again, his fourth in a row.
Another Champ Car World Series season was just completed and for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, an eighth title (by five different drivers). In 25 years the team has earned 107 poles and 105 wins taking the title in 1984 (Mario Andretti), 1991 (Michael Andretti), 1993 (Nigel Mansell), 2002 (Cristiano da Matta) and Bourdais (2004-2007).
In 2006, Bourdais led the series from wire-to-wire scoring seven poles, seven wins and 11 podium finishes.
This year didn't start out nearly as well with the defending champion finishing a distant 13th in the season opener on the streets of Las Vegas. Will Power won the Vegas Grand Prix and still led the series after race No.2 at Long Beach following a third-place finish.
But Bourdais won in Long Beach, his third straight in the series' most important and visible race. It was the first of three consecutive wins for the Frenchman as he took control of the series.
Bourdais and Newman/Haas/Lanigan stumbled a little through the middle portion of the season finishing 12th in Cleveland and ninth in Toronto before regrouping and winning five of the final seven events for a dominating 83- point win.
The No.1 McDonald's Cosworth-Panoz driver, who had already announced that he was leaving the series at season's end to head to Formula One's Toro Rosso team, completed his Champ Car career in style, beating Power to his final CCWS checkered flag by 1.905 seconds.
The victory was Bourdais' eighth of the season and 31st of his Champ Car career. In 73 career starts, the Frenchman earned an amazing 28 poles, 31 wins (42.46%) and 44 podiums. Bourdais' win percentage dwarf those of the all-time series greats - A.J. Foyt (67 wins in 369 starts = 18.16%), Mario Andretti (52 wins, 12.77%), Bobby Unser (49 wins, 18.91%) and Michael Andretti (42 wins, 13.59%).
Justin Wilson (-83) and Robert Doornbos (-96) finished a distant second and third, respectively. Wilson prevailed for second place with consistency, winning just once, but posting 12 top-10s. Doornbos, in his rookie season after driving in F1 with Minardi, won twice, but just nine top-10s left him third overall.
The series, which already has struggled for recognition, will be even more desperate for coverage with the loss of Bourdais.
Truly, the only "big name" left in the series is Paul Tracy, who finished a distant 11th overall and won just once. He seems past his prime and not able to carry the series on his back. The series can not survive unless it finds a new "star" to shoulder the load.
Wilson and Doornbos, don't seem to have the star power, nor Power, Oriol Servia, Alex Tagliani or Katherine Legge. There is one name that might excite the fans to buy a ticket...Graham Rahal, son of racing great Bobby Rahal.
Playing "second banana" to Bourdais at Newman/Haas/Lanigan, Rahal earned a fifth-place in the standings with 11 top-10s. He has to become a "star" if the series is to continue in these troubled times for open-wheel racing in America.
The split in 1996 into two competing series', has killed off most open-wheel fans or at least sent them running to NASCAR. Whether they will ever return is the question that worries both the IndyCar Series and the Champ Car Series owners every day.
For the Champ Car Series, with no Indianapolis 500 type event to fall back on and no superstar to lead them in 2008, the future is even more in doubt than ever.
For those who still love all types of open-wheel racing, there is very little to be excited about in this series. Which could explain why eight of next year's 14 events will be held outside of the United States.
Hopefully, the series can survive by going abroad, but I doubt it.
12/27 11:42:42 ET
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