MILWAUKEE (May 31, 2003) – Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his first career win cruelly ripped away from him in Long Beach when his transmission seized with seven laps to run after the Team Rahal driver had dominated all day long.
Under Saturday’s moonlit sky in Milwaukee, Jourdain made sure that the Fates had made their last meal of him, leading a CART Champ Car race record 233 laps of the 1.032-mile Milwaukee Mile and holding off late charges from Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to claim the first win of his eight-year CART Champ Car career in front of a hardy group of 34,712 race fans.
Jourdain was clearly the class of the field on a cool Milwaukee night that saw the cars of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series run under the lights for the first time in its 25-year history. Jourdain stormed to the lead on the first green-flag lap, sweeping around polesitter Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and would hold the point for the next 57 circuits. After giving up the lead to Carpentier on Lap 60, Jourdain came back and took command, claiming a lead that he would not relinquish of the last 177 laps as he roared to his first win.
“I mean, it's perfect and Long Beach where I thought I had it won and didn't, so just so many things can go wrong; especially in a short oval,” Jourdain said. “It was just so many things that can go wrong in the pit like in Long Beach so just had to always be careful. The car was so fast and we wanted to finish. Then after the last restart, I just wanted to go fast as possible just enough to keep them behind me. I didn't want to catch any traffic because that would be another thing that could stall us. So it just went perfect.”
But the win was not as easy as it appeared to be on the stat sheet. Fierce battles raged behind Jourdain as Servia, Carpentier and Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went side-by-side early and often in their fight for a Milwaukee podium. Servia and Tracy would swap the second spot on five occasions, Servia sweeping inside of the points co-leader in Turn One on Lap 30 to start the festivities, while Tracy would return the favor on at least two restarts.
“Paul Tracy taught me a few things on restarts tonight,” Servia said. “Each time on the restarts, I would tell myself that this would be the time that he would not get me, but I would see his nose in my mirrors coming out of Turn Three. But we had a great car and were able to run him down.”
But running down Jourdain was a different matter as the Team Rahal driver would build a 10-second lead on the field at one point, but caution periods would eliminate his large advantages throughout the evening. He had an 8.2-second lead eradicated by Ryan Hunter-Reay’s (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) crash in Turn Two on Lap 86, and had another large lead erased when Joel Camathias (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) crashed in Turn Two.
Jourdain would have to fend off the field on a pair of late-race restarts, the first caused when Tracy’s team failed to get his left rear wheel secured during a pit stop that saw the team drop the car off the air jack. Tracy’s wheel became detached on his out lap and brought out a caution with 214 laps to go, a caution that was extended when Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) crashed on the restart lap and set the yellow warning lights ablaze for the next 13 laps.
Servia and Carpentier chased Jourdain to the flag on Lap 238 but would have to do it twice as starter J.D. Wilbur would wave off the restart and force the field to form up again when the green flag was waved with 11 laps to go. Servia stayed within reach of Jourdain at the drop of the flag with Carpentier giving tight chase as the final orbits clicked by. Servia closed to within a half-second of the leader with five laps to go, and Carpentier turned the fastest lap of the race with two laps to run, but Jourdain would hold off the pack and beat Servia to the line by .468 seconds.
The runner-up position was a career-best for Servia and marks the first time in his career that he has compiled top-five finishes in three consecutive events. The run vaulted Servia into seventh place in the points, moving him up four spots in the standings.
Carpentier earned his first podium of the season by finishing just .704 seconds behind Jourdain, marking the second consecutive race in which the top three finishers have been within one second of each other. He would move into the top five in the season point standings by earning his 14th career Champ Car podium and his second at the Milwaukee mile.
“I really loved it. It was a great race. I had some good passes, but I had the best seat, I was behind Paul and Oriol and I could see these guys battling it out on the restarts,” Carpentier said. “I really enjoyed it, this race I have enjoyed on oval the most in quite a few years. CART made a lot of changes to a lot of things for this weekend and we have new wings, more downforce, and Bridgestone came up with the right set of tires, and everything was really good. Often CART gets criticized about decisions they make, but tonight they made all the right decisions.”
Rookie Darren Manning (#15 Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was just 1.104 seconds behind Jourdain in posting his best-ever CART Champ Car finish, improving a race-best seven spots from his grid position to take top rookie honors as well as being the top-finishing Reynard in the 250-lap event. Polesitter Tagliani would round out the top five with Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) coming home in sixth.
The race would run 17 of the first 18 laps under caution, two when CART Race Control decided to start the race under a yellow flag in order to help the cars get some heat in their Bridgestone tires. On the first green flag lap, Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got loose in Turn Two and spun into the wall, collecting the cars of Patrick Lemarie (#27 Scientific Atlanta Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Junqueira was transported to Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital for precautionary x-rays and a CAT scan, both of which came up negative. He will fly home to Miami on Sunday and will undergo a precautionary examination by CART Medical Director Dr. Steve Olvey.
Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would finish eight while rookies Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10. The series will have a week off before heading to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the June 15 Grand Prix of Monterrey.
CART CHAMP CAR SATURDAY QUOTEBOARD
- Michel Jourdain leaves Milwaukee with the points lead for the second consecutive year, but leaves this time with his biggest-ever advantage, as he will carry a 10-point lead to Laguna Seca. He set a CART race record for most laps led in a race, eclipsing the previous mark of 222 led by Nigel Mansell in Michigan 1995.
- Sebastien Bourdais maintained his lead in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings with a ninth-place finish, but had his advantage whittled down by Darren Manning. Bourdais will carry a 19-point lead into Laguna Seca. Saturday’s race was the first that Bourdais has not led during the 2003 season.
- Jourdain has taken the series points lead in laps led with 282, while Carpentier takes the series lead in laps completed, having run 845 of the 849 laps this year. Carpentier is the only driver to have finished every race this season.
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I couldn’t have asked for more from the team. The car was just perfect. It was very emotional for me. I was almost crying in the car those last few laps. This is probably the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life. Racing at night here in Milwaukee here is wonderful. Now I think all of our races should be at night.”
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It was a good race. We got a good start, I think I passed two cars, and just kept moving on. The car was great, it was quick, and it just feels bad not to win it when you are that close! But I guess only one can win it, so it's a good job. (On battling with Paul Tracy): It was definitely hot; we passed each other three times. It was definitely good.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It was good. I loved it. I love driving at night. We got a little too loose at one point and I couldn’t be aggressive on the restarts as much as I wanted to. I was just really hanging on, the steering was really tough. That’s life though. We got some points and gained some ground in the championship.”
DARREN MANNING (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I knew the first day that we got to run at night that we had a great car for the night conditions. It’s a shame we didn’t get to put in a qualifying run because I had a perfect car which I think showed in the race. I’m just so frustrated with that mistake coming out of the pits (on Lap 59). I big time got in the grass coming off the pit speed limiter. The tires were just so cold. The car was great though! I was able to put the car wherever I wanted. The guys gave me fantastic stops throughout the race. Finishing fourth is another improvement for the team, so overall I have to be happy.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I was very happy with the car we set up and our quick results yesterday. The car performed well on its own, but it wasn't so great in traffic. It was too loose and I felt it slip away from underneath me on the marbles, when I got too close to the car ahead of me. I decided to keep it steady and keep my distance, rather than loose it. I was pushing as hard as I could, especially in the end, and it was a real struggle to keep the car in control. The great pit stops from the Rocketsports crew put us back in fifth after a setback from some evil turbulence. We finished in the top five and I'm satisfied to have kept things steady and cool.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “At the beginning, I was probably too conservative. I wasn’t 100 percent happy all weekend with the car and that made me less aggressive on the restarts especially with the [cool] conditions. At the halfway mark, I was getting my act together and I was not losing positions but I was not comfortable. The rear of the car was moving a little bit and I was not comfortable putting the power down. We made some changes and the car was better. Unfortunately we had some confusion on our last pit stop and we lost two or three positions. Everybody makes mistakes and that was a little bit of a misfortune. Otherwise we had a good day. Driving at night wasn’t a problem. My main concern was cold tires. That was the trickiest part for me.”
MARIO HABERFELD (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I got close to [Jimmy] Vasser and got a lot of understeer, but when I got even closer I got oversteer and because of the angle of the steering wheel I couldn’t make the adjustment I needed. Luckily the pits were right there and I was able to come in. I lost a little time with that, but the guys reacted really well considering they didn’t know I was coming in. We had a bad stop late; trouble with the right rear. I think otherwise we could have maybe finished fifth.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I think this was the toughest race so far of this season. We did not have a good car and really couldn't run that well in traffic. But the pit strategy was great and so were the pit stops. We got as much as two laps down but were able to fight back to be on the lead lap for the end of the race. We got lucky on the early race incident; after Bruno spun in front of me I thought it was all over. But the crew did a fantastic job getting a new nose put on the car under the yellow and getting me back out there. It's not as good of a result as we had hoped for but we gutted it out and brought home some points which is very important.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I didn’t have much grip for the entire race. We kept on working on it as the race went on but it never improved. On the first stint I was just trying to survive. The way we were using our tires was not right for this event for whatever reason. It was just hang on, hang on for the entire race.”
TIAGO MONTEIRO (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We had a good car, so it’s a shame we lost a lot of positions at the beginning when I had to let up to avoid the early spin by [Bruno] Junqueira. I had to go all the way back to second gear, so that cost me about four or five places. I had some really good laps and pushed really hard. Unfortunately with our pit strategy I got stuck behind a back marker for too long, otherwise I think we could have finished in the top six or seven.”
JIMMY VASSER (#12 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I don’t know what to say. It was an extremely frustrating night for me. I managed to get all of my laps back, but just about everything that could go wrong went wrong in the pits. We had a fire, got a flat, we made seven stops to everyone else’s four.”
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “You can't win championships with things like that happening. We need to do a better job as a team. To get 64 points in the first three races and only three points in the next three, it's bitterly disappointing. We were poised for a great battle to the finish and I believe we could have pulled it out at the end, but fate intervened. Obviously, I'm not happy with the way things turned out, but you can't dwell on the points that again got away from us. You just have to keep working and making sure that you keep putting the team in a position to win races.”
RODOLFO LAVIN (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “On the restart, someone went to the inside and I went a little bit wide and went into the gray and the car just didn’t grip in the front. It may have been cold tires, but I warmed the tires as just as I’d done for the other restarts. It’s really disappointing because we were running a good race up until that point. We were in seventh at the time and it’s a shame to lose a strong finish for Corona and for the team.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#31 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We fought the car all weekend. I was running well despite the handling, I had just set the fastest race lap and then lost it. It was a very tough weekend for us and I am happy it is behind us. Now we’ll turn our focus to Laguna Seca, I won there last year, it was my first victory in Atlantic and I am looking forward to a good weekend there in the Champ Car.”
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I’m very sorry that I couldn’t run a good race for the PacifiCare team. We were three wide on the start and I was in the middle going into the corner and I had to back off the throttle. I got on the throttle after that and lost control of the car. I was really excited to race here because I like the one-mile ovals. I’m looking forward to Laguna Seca and Portland.”
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I wasn't really involved in the first accident but got caught up in it anyway. Bruno (Junqueira) spun in front of me and I moved so that I would be able to get through without a problem unfortunately someone, I think it was Lemarie, spun behind me and slid into me from the back. That is what pushed me into Bruno. I've very disappointed for the team that we weren't able to finish both cars. We're showing a lot of reliability and speed. Unfortunately for us, this is the second time this season that we've been put out of the race by someone else's accident.”