Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal Join the Mazda Grand Prix

By: Kraig Johanssen

After a six week interval from Champ Car racing, McDonald's® driver Sebastien Bourdais and Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal are excitedly anticipating their return to competition this weekend in the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland Presented by Joe's Sports and Outdoors and sponsored by Mazda the maker of . Bourdais is hoping to continue his streak that earned him wins in the past two events and also make up for the lost opportunity last year to win a series-record fifth consecutive victory in Portland while Rahal hopes to add to the "firsts" that have come on this track.

According to Bourdais who has finished on the podium here in three of this year's four races including a win from pole in 2004, "We missed a chance to win five in a row last year in Portland for the McDonald's team. The start was really messed up last year. Basically Bruno, my teammate, thought he was in command and he should have been but the flagman just threw the green flag and the whole right side of the grid never went. It was a disaster and we ended up seventh after Turn 1. It was basically tough from there but we still had a good recovery and made it back to third. We have a very fast McDonald's car but a little better luck would have helped at the start. "

For the last 23 races held at the 1.964-mile road course, Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) won seven with the most recent coming from Bourdais in 2004 from pole. Mario Andretti also won the pole for the team in the first event here in 1984 while Bruno Junqueira earned for the team its fifth last year on this track.

The team was able to snap 15 top-three podium finishes out of the 23 races. The first three events of the season were held on street courses in Las Vegas, Long Beach and Houston, and on this season Bourdais is looking forward to returning to a road course after a successful test here at the beginning of the six week break in May.

Bourdais who took over the lead in the point standings after his second win of the season in Round 3 in Houston and is only three points ahead of Will Power in the standings (73-70) said, "We tested well at Portland and hope to apply that experience to the race weekend and others after it. Testing is just that; you can't say if it's going to work for sure. I think it is going to be nice to race on the road courses. It's a different stretch during the season. We've had three back to back on the streets and after the Portland road course race it gets pretty crazy again but we'll get back in the groove after the six week break. "

During the six weeks interval Bourdais has remained busy and has driven a Champ Car, Formula One car and Peugeot sports car in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans that would be follow the Portland race in his hometown of Le Mans, France on June 16.

Bourdais who will travel from France to Portland, a 9-hour time difference, for the race and return to his homeland on Monday said, "I didn't have much of a break since the last race in Houston, that's for sure. After Houston I went to Le Mans and did a 24 hour endurance test with Peugeot (24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16), then the Portland test, go to the Bahamas for my honeymoon with Claire which we never had. Then I went to France for a test with Toro Rosso and then the Champ Car PR tour in Brussels and Paris before I came back to the States for a day before going to the test at Mont Tremblant. Then I went to the pre-qualifying test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans before I come to Portland. It never stopped. "

He also added, "I am looking forward to getting back to a road course. Usually street races have always been my favorite but when you start off with three street races in a row its nice to take a step back and go to where racing originated - at the proper road courses like Portland. For us it was a great experience to test at Portland before the race to see how physical the place is in a Champ Car since I had never been there in a Champ Car. Although a lot of teams tested there I think it will give us a leg up once we come back for race weekend since we'll have a baseline for the car setup. The test was great. Any time I can get in the car is good for me at this point. "

The victories earned by Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi, Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira, Bourdais and Oriol Servia have brought the team a total of 99 wins after Bourdais drove to victory in the previous race in Houston. The team will now focus on winning another - their milestone 100th. Also, Champ Car star Paul Tracy will make his return to the series after recovering from an injury in a practice crash in Round 2 in Long Beach which forced him to miss two races.

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