The Race for the Vanderbilt Cup

The Race for the Vanderbilt Cup

07.08.2007: The Race for the Vanderbilt Cup

Three-way Race Promises to Add Excitement to the Champ Car World Series

As the Champ Car World Series prepares to head to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America, the Race for the Vanderbilt Cup continues to add an extremely interesting subplot to a season filled with great stories.

The Vanderbilt Cup – Established in 1904 by William K. Vanderbilt Jr., The Vanderbilt Cup is America’s first major Motorsports trophy. Resurrected in 1996 to serve as the race trophy for the US 500, the re-creation of The Vanderbilt Cup was produced by Tiffany and Co.

The trophy is considered priceless since any re-creation of The Cup must meet approval of the Vanderbilt family. Starting in 2000, The Vanderbilt Cup has been awarded to the Champ Car World Series champion. The original Cup sits in the Smithsonian Institute.

Comfortable up Front – Since coming to North America to drive in the Champ Car World Series, Sebastien Bourdais has led the Series points standings after 42 of the 68 races he has competed in. This includes the incredible 2006 season in which the Frenchman led the points standings wire-to-wire. In all, the three time champ, Bourdais, has spent nearly 62% of his time in Champ Car at the top.

Bridging the Gap – Rookie Robert Doornbos cut his championship deficit in half at San Jose. After struggling in Edmonton, the Dutchman used a heavy right foot and a little luck to earn his second career win at San Jose. The win along with points leader Sebastien Bourdais’ fifth place finish has Doornbos within 10 points of the Series lead.

Powerful Start – Sophomore Will Power is currently sitting third in the Race for the Vanderbilt Cup, 24 points back of Bourdais. After final qualifying two weeks ago in Edmonton, the young Aussie was tied with Bourdais for second in the standings.

Unfortunately, a broken piece in his steering assembly saw Power finish 15th in Edmonton, while Bourdais triumphed. Power reversed his ill fortune at San Jose though, as he started 12th but moved up to fourth at the checkered flag.

Valuable Bonus Points – There are four bonus points available during a Champ Car World Series race weekend. One for fastest in Friday’s qualifying, a second for fastest in Saturday’s qualifying plus one for fastest race lap, as well as one for the most positions gained during the race. With nine races in the books, there have been 36 bonus points awarded and Sebastien Bourdais has taken the most advantage of the bonus system.

The three-time champion has secured 14 bonus points or 39% of the available points. Robert Doornbos, who is second in the standings, has earned a scant three bonus points while Will Power, who is currently third, has earned six bonus points.

Roller coaster Ride -- CDW driver Justin Wilson must feel like he is on a summer tour of amusement parks as the British driver spent most of the summer gaining ground in the Race for the Vanderbilt Cup. At San Jose he reached the peak of the hill after claiming the pole position on Saturday, trailing points leader Sebastien Bourdais by just 29 points.

Race day, he found himself at the bottom of the hill when contact with Dan Clarke sent Wilson to the pits for 21 laps while his CDW crew repaired the car. After only salvaging a 13th place finish, and the bonus point for fastest race lap, Wilson now trails Bourdais by 41 points. 

Talented Rookie Class – Two rookies are currently sitting in the top-five in the Race for the Vanderbilt Cup. Robert Doornbos is second and Neel Jani is fifth. On the outside looking in are Simon Pagenaud (sixth) and Graham Rahal (seventh). Since 1979, two rookies have never finished in the top-five.

Championship Debut – Only twice since 1979 have rookie drivers claimed the series championship. The first was Nigel Mansell in 1993. Mansell was a rookie in title only as the 1992 F1 World Champion moved to the United States to try his hand in Champ Car. Juan Montoya is the only other rookie to claim the Championship when he won it in 1999.

Current Standings – Sebastien Bourdais leads the standings with 216 points and Robert Doornbos is second with 206 points. Sitting in third place is Will Power with 192 points and holding on to the fourth spot is Justin Wilson with 175 points. Rounding out the top five is Neel Jani with 175 points. Click this link to see the full standings.

The Champ Car Points System -- A driver can earn a maximum of 34 points during an event weekend. 31 points are awarded to the race winner along with bonus points for the fastest driver in qualifying on both Friday and Saturday.

During the race a bonus point is given to the driver that records the fastest lap as well as to the driver who makes up the most positions during the race. The gap in points awarded between first and second is four, while the number of points between each position from two through 10 is only two markers. From 10-to-20 only one point separates each finishing position.

The larger gap between first and second rewards the winning driver for his accomplishment and gives more value to a race win. The current points system was put in place for the 2004 season and marked the first change since 1983.

Finish Points Finish Points Finish Points Finish Points

1st 31 - 6th 19 - 11th 10- 16th 5

2nd 27- 7th 17 - 12th 9- 17th 4

3rd 25 - 8th 15- 13th 8 - 18th 3

4th 23- 9th 13 - 14th 7 - 19th 2

5th 21- 10th 11- 15th 6 - 20th 1

 

Below is a chart of the top-three contenders for the Vanderbilt Cup showing their progress to the coveted trophy throughout the season.

 

The Last 10 Champions:

2006 Sebastien Bourdais 2001 Gil de Ferran

2005 Sebastien Bourdais 2000 Gil de Ferran

2004 Sebastien Bourdais 1999 Juan Montoya

2003 Paul Tracy 1998 Alex Zanardi

2002 Cristiano da Matta 1997 Alex Zanardi

 

 

- Tom McGovern -  photos Champ Car

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07.08.2007 / MaP

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