EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – Sebastien Bourdais came up with an unlikely victory Sunday in the inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton, and all it took was a mistake-free race on a day when nearly everyone else was messing up.

The reigning Champ Car World Series champion came from a 10th-place start after crashing in qualifying on Friday and captured his first victory since the season-opener in April at Long Beach.

The Frenchman was able to slice through heavy traffic on the fast, 1.973-mile, 14-turn circuit and move into contention, but it took mistakes by both A.J. Allmendinger and his RuSport teammate Justin Wilson of England to give Bourdais a shot at the 12th victory of his career.

Oriol Servia, subbing for injured Bruno Junqueira, also avoided trouble and gave the Newman/Haas Racing team a 1-2 sweep, finishing 0.596-seconds – about 10 car-lengths – behind his teammate.

“It was a pretty unexpected win today. I would have been happy with a top five,” Bourdais said after celebrating with some smoking doughnuts in front of more than 80,000 spectators, most of whom were cheering for his bitter rival, Canadian driver Paul Tracy, who finished third.

“I was just hanging on, trying not to make a mistake,” Bourdais added. “There were some faster drivers out there, but they all made mistakes. I don’t know, maybe they were all tired. This is a very, very tough track.”

Allmendinger, a 23-year-old American and last year’s top rookie, started from the pole for the first time in his career. He appeared on the way to his first victory until he bounced off the wall, damaging his transmission, while leading just eight laps from the end of the 88-lap event.

The frustrated Allmendinger, who led a race-high 40 laps, wound up 14th.

Wilson, who won his first Champ Car race a week earlier in Toronto, appeared to get a break when a crash by Bjorn Wirdheim brought out the second full-course caution flag of the race on lap 76. The Englishman was trying hard to conserve fuel as he trailed his teammate and tried to stay ahead of the hard-charging Bourdais.

As the cars picked up speed for a restart on lap 79, Wilson suddenly spun out. He fell all the way to eighth place before getting back in line. He wound up fourth, just behind Tracy.

“It was a simple driving mistake,” Wilson said, looking embarrassed. “It’s hard to believe. I really messed up.”

Bourdais, who was in third and had trailed the RuSport pair by nearly 22 seconds before Wirdheim’s accident tightened up the field, was shocked when Wilson and then Allmendinger slipped up just ahead of him.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw Justin spin in front of me and then A.J. made a small mistake – and that’s all it took out there was a really small mistake,” Bourdais said. “(Allmendinger) probably deserved this year. He was fast all day long.”

Servia, who took over the other Newman/Haas car after Junqueira broke his back in a crash in May at the Indianapolis 500, might have had a shot at his teammate in the final laps but chose to err on the side of caution.

“I wanted to put some pressure on Sebastien and hope he would make a mistake, but I didn’t want to do anything stupid and cost us both a podium (top three) finish,” the Spaniard said.

Tracy, who slipped from 15 to 21 points behind Bourdais in the battle for the season championship, appeared to have one of the strongest cars in the early going. He took second place from Wilson at the start and chased down Allmendinger, passing him for the lead on lap 19.

But the 2003 series champion had problems with his front brakes after his first pit stop and Wilson and Allmendinger both took advantage to move past Tracy, who never got back into contention.

“We would like to have finished ahead of Sebastien, but it just seems like he has a lucky horseshoe right now,” said Tracy, who finished behind Bourdais after they collided coming out of the pits in Toronto and lost the points lead.

Mario Dominguez finished fifth and rookie Ronnie Bremer was sixth, the last two drivers on the lead lap.

AP-ES-07-17-05 1835EDT


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