GRAHAM RAHAL EDGES PAGENAUD AT THE FINISH IN MONTREAL
 
 

MONTREAL, Canada (August 28, 2006) –In a thrilling, though one day late, conclusion at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie Graham Rahal held off series championship rival Simon Pagenaud in the closest finish of the season, winning the Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal Atlantic race in dramatic fashion.

The race provided edge-of-the-seat action over the final two laps and a result that left the Atlantic Championship undecided, setting the stage for a duel for series crown at the season finale in a few weeks.

After heavy rains doused the classic road circuit on Sunday, the penultimate round of 2006 Atlantic competition was postponed until Monday after the 24-car field ran two laps under caution Sunday in the downpour. Under cloudy skies and cool conditions, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe led the field to a single-file green flag restart on the still-drying track just before 8:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Hinchcliffe, the native of Toronto who won his first Atlantic pole on Saturday, paced the first five laps but with a dry-racing set-up on a damp track, he struggled to keep both Pagenaud, who started second, and Rahal, the third-place starter, behind him. On Lap 6 of the 26-lap event, all three drivers converged making an interesting battle for the lead. Hinchcliffe and Pagenaud wound up going for the same racing line as the two cars made light contact with each other. Pagenaud was able to get by Hinchcliffe briefly, but the contact also opened the door for Rahal, who also made it by Hinchcliffe. The 17-year-old son of three-time Champ Car champion and former Atlantic racer Bobby Rahal seized command of the race coming out of the tight hairpin turn as he edged by Pagenaud.

With a number of series racers battling for position on a slick track, there was lots of action and contact among the competitors on the race circuit. Despite the fierce action, there were no caution flags or major incidents after the race restart following the rain delay.

The battle for the lead began to heat up again in the closing laps of the event. Pagenaud, who enjoyed a 17-point lead over Rahal in the race for series crown entering the race, began to reel in his chief rival for the crown. Pagenaud was right on Rahal’s tail for the final two laps of the event. He made two attempts to pass for the lead on the final orbit of the Villeneuve circuit as a lapped car added to the drama in the battle on the last lap. As the drivers approached the finish line, Pagenaud dove inside for one last-gasp effort and he nearly pulled it off. In the end, however, Rahal edged his foe to the stripe by just .073 of-a-second for the closest finish in years in the Atlantic series.

Rahal claimed his series-leading fifth win in his unbelievable rookie season with today’s effort and he also tightened the screws in the championship chase in the process. He now trails Pagenaud by just 12 points, 253-241, heading into the season finale at the Grand Prix of Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, September 22-24. Pagenaud demonstrated great competitiveness and fire in his sixth podium finish of the year and the Team Australia French rookie also secured his series-leading ninth top-five effort in 11 races. With Sunday’s result, only Pagenaud and Rahal can now claim the series title in the 33rd season of Atlantic racing.

Hinchcliffe completed a banner weekend with a third-place finish for Forsythe Racing. The series top Canadian racer scored his third podium of the year and elevated himself to eighth in the championship standings.