SLF: Brilliant Bourdais is back with a bang

By Andy Darley

CalendarSunday, September 6th, 2009

 
 

Sebastien Bourdais shrugged off his Formula One nightmare and rediscovered the taste of champagne by winning the 100,000 Euro ‘dash for the cash’ final as Superleague Formula visited Estoril in Portugal.

The Frenchman lined up fourth for the ‘super final’ sprint, contested by the six highest-scoring cars of the weekend, but was in the lead by the end of the first lap after overtaking Anderlecht and Liverpool, and benefiting from an error by Corinthians’ Antonio Pizzonia who ran wide on cold tyres while leading.

“This feels pretty good,” he said after his victory. “I’ve never even attempted a standing start in this car before, but it went pretty well in the Super Final. I was using a new set of tyres that allowed me to push and I was able to get through to win.”

His Sevilla team remain bottom of the championship, despite his second place in race two, as it was a late entry and has competed in fewer races than its rivals. No points are awarded for the super final, only money.

Sebastien Bourdais - a winner again

Sebastien Bourdais - a winner again

Liverpool increased their lead in the championship to 58, Adrian Valles taking second in the opening race and ninth in the second. Closest rivals FC Basel and Tottenham had miserable weekends, Spurs emerging a point ahead of the Swiss team in second place despite retiring from the second race on lap one with mechanical problems.

Valles said: “Our aim before the start of this weekend was to create a big gap to our rivals in the championship race and we have done that. We’re extremely competitive and more wins are possible for the rest of the season and we need to keep pushing to increase our advantage ahead of the final round at Jarama. We can’t relax because everyone is really quick.”

Tottenham driver Craig Dolby, the last remaining British driver in the series, managed eighth in the first race while Basel’s Max Wissel suffered a pre-race gearbox problem and was unable to start, receiving no points and lining up for the next race from the back row. A 25-second penalty in the second race for taking his pitstop at the wrong time ensured he was classified down in 11th.

Bourdais shares the champagne

Bourdais shares the champagne

Four-time Champ Car champion Bourdais made a slow start to the weekend, qualifying poorly and dropping to last in the first race after making early contact with the erratic Maria de Villota, who was making her debut in the Atletico Madrid car and proved a menace to a number of her rivals.

But as the race continued he got to grips with the unfamiliar car, working his way through to 11th out of the 18 entrants. Meanwhile at the front the driver he replaced at Sevilla, Esteban Guerreri, was storming to a highly impressive win. Knocked down from first to third in the pitstops by Valles and Pizzonia, he fought back to overtake them both on the track and secure the victory.

Yelmer Buurman took fourth for Anderlecht and John Martin fifth for Rangers.

The reverse grid for the second race contained a hole on the second row as FC Midtjylland were forced to start from the pitlane, and Enrique Bernoldi in the Flamengo car from row three and Bourdais from row four both made the most of it, the Brazilian taking the lead and the Frenchman reaching third place on lap one.

The pair were split by another Superleague debutant, FC Porto’s Alvaro Parente, driving in front of his home fans for the club he’d supported since childhood. He took the lead in the pitstops and for a while led a train of ex Formula One drivers, as Bernoldi and Bourdais were followed by Pizzonia and Giorgio Pantano. Running with them was Guerreri, two laps down after an early stop for repairs but matching them for pace, and Anderlecht’s Buurman.

Bourdais finally got past the veteran Bernoldi and set off in pursuit of Parente over the closing laps, falling just short of preventing a popular home win. Buurman beat the fading Pizzonia and Pantano for fourth. Martin was eighth after being knocked into a spin by de Villota.

In the super final Pantano suffered immediate mechanical problems and Buurman was left at the standing start. Pizzonia built an early lead but lost it running wide, recovering to run fourth before eventually retiring. Valles led briefly but was almost immediate swallowed by both Bourdais and Guerreri, and the Argentinian pressed his replacement in the Sevilla car all the way to the end without finding a chance to strike.

Esteban Guerrieri channels his inner Usain Bolt

Esteban Guerrieri channels his inner Usain Bolt

Nevertheless, he was pleased with his weekend: “I’m really proud for the team which has done a very good job all weekend long. The car has been consistently fast which we showed by winning race one. In the super final I tried to push Sebastien as hard as I could to force him into a mistake, but he drove really well. I’m happy for all Olympiacos fans and now I’m hoping to stay with the team for the final two rounds of the season.”

Bourdais said: “This has been a rollercoaster weekend with lots of ups and downs. We started slowly but picked up the pace all the way through and now it has finished with a massive high. This championship is pretty tough. There are lots of very good drivers all using the same machinery which makes it a real challenge. But if I can continue to learn the car and repeat what we achieved here in the next two rounds, then I am definitely up for it.”

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