CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Round seven preview

Michel Jourdain Jr. looks to hold Newfound CART Champ Car lead as series heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. INDIANAPOLIS (June 9, 2003) - Michel Jourdain Jr. ( ...

Michel Jourdain Jr. looks to hold Newfound CART Champ Car lead as series heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

INDIANAPOLIS (June 9, 2003) - Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will float back to Earth this weekend after a week of sitting on Cloud Nine as a career night at Milwaukee saw him lead a series single-race record 234 laps, claim his first CART Champ Car win and take a 10-point lead in the series standings.

Jourdain and crew will lead the charge to picturesque Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round 7 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, as the series heads to one of the nation's top permanent road courses after a pair of oval-track events. Twenty-three championship points will be up for grabs in a tight title chase that could see any one of 13 drivers emerge from the weekend with a top-five spot in the season standings.

Team Rahal's Jourdain holds the lead in the standings after his Milwaukee win, but heads to a Laguna Seca track that has stymied him for much of his career. Jourdain's ninth-place finish last season was the only points-paying finish the Mexican veteran has earned in his previous seven visits to the Monterey track. He would seem to be with the right team in his quest for Laguna success however, as his Ohio-based Team Rahal has earned eight race wins and four poles at the Monterey track, four of those wins coming in succession from 1984-87 with team owner Bobby Rahal at the wheel.

Of course, the man directly behind Jourdain in the season standings has had a fair amount of success at Laguna Seca, as he has had nearly everywhere that the series hits, as his 22 race wins would attest to. But this visit to the Monterey Peninsula comes with a heightened sense of urgency for 1993 and '94 race winner Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who is looking to end a skid that has seen him score just three championship points in the last month. Tracy, who built a seemingly insurmountable lead with three wins in his first three starts this season, has now fallen off the top spot after a Milwaukee race that saw pit problems end what had been a top-three run.

The other returning Laguna Seca winner will look to his thorough knowledge of the tricky California layout for some help as Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) seeks to get himself back in the points race. Vasser has had great success at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in his Champ Car career, having scored top-10 finishes in seven of the last eight years, a stretch that includes a victory in 1997.

Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has had a pair of good runs in his previous visits - having finished seventh in his rookie year of 2001 and fourth a year ago - but comes off a Milwaukee race that ended after just three laps when he spun and hit the wall. Junqueira was uninjured in the accident but had to skip a rainy test day last week at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Despite the early Round 6 exit, the Brazilian sits just 11 points behind Jourdain in the championship hunt and is the only driver to complete all 445 of the road-course laps run this season.

The West Coast swing that includes Laguna Seca and Portland provided a jump start to Patrick Carpentier's (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) 2002 season, as the Canadian scored top-five finishes in both races to build the momentum that would carry him to wins at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio. Patrick comes to Laguna with momentum already on his side however as he earned his first podium of the season with a third-place effort at Milwaukee. Now fifth in the points, Carpentier leads the loop in laps completed (845 of 849) after earning his 14th career podium.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is another of the drivers in the CART paddock that circles the Laguna Seca date on their calendars when the slate comes out, and will be gunning for a chance to move into the title hunt. Fernandez, who is currently eighth in the standings, has tallied championship points in eight of his last 10 trips to Monterey. He earned points-paying finishes in every stop between 1993 and '96 and put points on the board again in four straight trips from 1998-2001.

Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will make his first trip to the fabled layout, leading a contingent of seven rookies into Laguna Seca. Bourdais has qualified on pole for two of the three road-course races this season and claimed his first-ever Champ Car victory on the tight Brands Hatch circuit, but will be going head-to-head with the famous Corkscrew turn for the first time as he looks to hold on to his fourth-place position in the point chase.

Walker Racing's Darren Manning (#15 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) comes to Monterey on the best run of his young Champ Car career. The British rookie has climbed higher on the results sheet on nearly every weekend, culminating with a career-best fourth-place finish at Milwaukee. Manning has closed the gap in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings on Bourdais to just 19 points and has moved into ninth place in the overall standings.

Another of the drivers on the upswing sits in the Visteon/Patrick Racing pits as Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) has vaulted to seventh in the points despite scoring just two points in the year's first three races. A second-place run at Milwaukee gave Servia three consecutive top-five finishes for the first time in his career and has one of Champ Car's founding teams looking for its first win since 2001.

Patrick's win came courtesy of Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in 2001 at Vancouver, but the veteran has some Laguna success on his racing resume as well. The Herdez Competition driver finished as the runner-up to Bryan Herta in 1999 and was fourth in 2001, and will be looking for a strong run to vault himself into the top 10 as the series schedule starts to heat up.

Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes off his first Laguna top 10 a year ago, and is riding the momentum of having brought Rocketsports Racing its first-ever Champ Car pole when he was awarded the top spot at Milwaukee. Tagliani took his fourth career pole by virtue of his Saturday practice time when Saturday's night qualifying session was rained out. Tagliani went on to score his third top-five finish of the season and is 10th in the point standings.

Gualter Salles (#11 Alpina/Golden Cross Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be making his second start of the season in the Dale Coyne entry but heads to a track where he is a bit more comfortable after his debut resulted in a 13th-place run at Milwaukee. Salles has not run at Laguna Seca since 1997 but earned his best-ever CART Champ Car finish that day, coming home in seventh after starting 18th.

Another driver that can call up his Laguna Seca experience - albeit from the Champ Car Ladder System - resides in the American Spirit Team Johansson pit as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) looks to reprise his race win from last year's Toyota Atlantic Championship. Hunter-Reay rolled from the pole, led all 30 laps and claimed the first of his three Atlantic wins last season as he bested Rocky Moran Jr. by more than eight seconds.

Many of the future stars of the series will be on display for the Monterey fans as the Champ Car Ladder System will take to the track as well in the form of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The Atlantic Championship will race on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time with the BDPS event running Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.

The Grand Prix of Monterey will take place on June 15, and will be broadcast live by CBS Sports at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by qualifying coverage on SPEED Channel starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Gualter Salles , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Rocky Moran Jr. , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain