F3000 REPORT

Bourdais breaks the mold

Ten years ago the DAMS team was the one to beat in Formula 3000. In 1990 Jean-Paul Driot's team won the title with Erik Comas and there was a second title in 1993 thanks to the efforts of a rising star called Olivier Panis and a third in 1994 with Jean-Christophe Boullion. But then things began to go wrong. There was only one win (for Tarso Marques) in 1995 and it was not until 1997 that the team won again - thanks to the efforts of Jamie Davies at Enna-Pergusa in Sicily.

Since then there has been a drought of victories. That changed at Silverstone with Sebastien Bourdais sweeping to a brilliant first victory on a day when all his rivals were making mistakes. Bourdais started third on the grid and took advantage as the men ahead of him blew it. The three regular championship challengers - Justin Wilson, Tomas Enge and Mark Webber - were all caught on the hop but all scored points and so the championship battle remains tight with four races to go.

Qualifying for the Silverstone event resulted in an all-Coca-Cola Nordic Racing front row with Enge again faster than Wilson but Webber was only fourth, Bourdais having snuck ahead of mark by the tiniest of margins. Also in the hunt was Ricardo Mauricio (Red Bull Junior Team), Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) and Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior Team). There was then a gap of three-tenths of a second back to another gaggle of cars which featured Bas Leinders (KTR), Giorgio Pantano (Team Astromega) and Jonathan Cochet (Prost Junior Team). Missing from the action was David Saelens (European Minardi) who spun off and suffered a minor back injury when his car bounced heavily across the Silverstone sandtrap. Saelens suffered compression of the spine when his car landed awkwardly but he should be back in action within three or four weeks.

At the start of the race Enge and Wilson went off into the lead while Webber made a better start than Bourdais and grabbed third. But Bourdais was not happy with that idea and drove around the outside of Webber at the first corner to put Webber back in his place. The pair were followed by the fast-starting Manning and Mauricio.

In the early laps the two Coca-Cola cars were nose to tail and on the fourth lap Wilson tried to pass Enge at Stowe. The Czech driver was in no mood to give way and Wilson ran wide across the grass. This allowed Bourdais to move to second place. Wilson managed to get back on the track in time to stay ahead of Webber.

In the laps that followed Bourdias chipped away at Enge's lead but he remained in control until it started to rain on lap 17. The changing conditions allowed Pizzonia to snatch sixth from Mauricio and he then went past Manning as well. It was not wet enough for rain tires but was damp enough to be treacherous and on lap 19 Enge ran wide at Copse and in doing so allowed Bourdais and Wilson to pass him. When the rain increased Pizzonia again showed that he was the man to beat and on lap 27 he overtook Webber to take fourth. Two laps later a promising run by Pantano ended with the Italian spinning out of eighth position.

The race order seemed to be settled but on the last lap Enge faded badly and was overtaken by both Pizzonia and Webber.

Bourdais duly won his debut Formula 3000 victory amid much excitement in the DAMS camp. The team has not won a Formula 3000 race since 1997 - and it has been a long wait.

"Sebastien did a great job and made no mistakes," admitted Wilson after the race. "The circuit was very difficult because of the weather and you did not know what was going to be around the next corner."

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