None of the three Brits running in the final race of the 2007 Champ Car season were happy with how their afternoon went – but Justin Wilson had the consolation that his only rival for second place in the championship had an even worse time of it.
The Mexican Grand Prix was – inevitably – won by the departing Sebastien Bourdais, who overcame emotion in the pit lane and spirited Aussie Will Power on the track to ensure he left for Formula One with a final victory under his belt.
Wilson needed a good result compared with Minardi’s Robert Doornbos in order to secure second place in the championship, but found his race crippled by a fuel pressure problem that led to the engine cutting out at some corners unless the tank was topped up with gas.
This, of course, meant a slow car and an extra pit stop – forcing him down to a 10th place finish that would have been very vulnerable to Doornbos, had the Dutchman not had greater problems of his own.
On lap three the Minardi’s clutch failed and Doornbos was forced into the pits, with retirement looming. Instead, his mechanics spent most of the next hour rebuilding his car from the ground up before sending him out again with a clear mission: setting the fastest race lap and thereby earning the single point needed to ensure he, and not Power, finished third in the championships.
This he duly did, but the pace he achieved, combined with Wilson’s woes, left his team thinking ruefully of what might have been. “We had one of the fastest cars out there,” said Doornbos, “but it’s a mechanical sport, and these things happen.”
Wilson said later: “Although I’m disappointed with tenth in the race, we finished second in the championship, which was our main goal coming into this weekend and we got lots of points on our frequent fueller card.
“We had a fuel pressure problem that started early in the race, where the car would just cut out in some of the corners and on the straightaway.
“My engineers sorted out that if we kept the fuel tank above 12 gallons the problem would go away. Running this track on a full tank of fuel makes the car slow, so that didn’t help our times and we had to make extra stops to keep the fuel level up.
“I really have to thank my entire team, who have worked so hard all year and have kept their spirits high all the way to the end.”
While Doornbos’s mechanics worked miracles to get him back on the track and flying, his team-mate Dan Clarke had a briefer, quieter day – retiring from the race with clutch problems on the first lap.
He said: “I was really looking forward to a great race here in Mexico City, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Obviously it’s disappointing to finish off the season this way, but these things happen.
“I’m glad to see all the enthusiastic fans show their support here and hopefully next year they will come out to cheer us on again. We’ll gladly seal the envelope on the 2007 season – put it all behind us – and focus on 2008.”
Katherine Legge also had a disappointing day, although this time without the added pain of seeing her team-mate on the podium as at the previous three races. She was classified 15th, behind everyone but Clarke and Doornbos, and was even keener than “Speedy” Dan to move on and focus on next season.
She said: “I was disappointed to end the season like we did. We would have liked to finish in the top ten, but we had a mechanical failure with the car. I tried my best to get it re-started but it just would not cooperate for me.
“I’m just really sorry because my team did another outstanding job this weekend getting the right set-up on the car. All we can do is look at all the positives and prepare for next season.”