Champ Car World Series rookie Sebastien Bourdais slows Tracy express as everybody heads to high-speed war at EuroSpeedway LAUSITZ, Germany (May 8, 2003) - The racing gods did something at Brands Hatch that none of the competitors in the ...
Champ Car World Series rookie Sebastien Bourdais slows Tracy express as everybody heads to high-speed war at EuroSpeedway
LAUSITZ, Germany (May 8, 2003) - The racing gods did something at Brands Hatch that none of the competitors in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford had been able to do this season as Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) saw his run for a fourth straight win ended by a faulty gearbox.
Tracy had won the first three races of the season and scored the pole for the fourth-round battle at Brands Hatch last Monday, but his premature departure left the door open for a new winner and also turned up the heat on the Champ Car points chase.
Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took full advantage of Tracy's problems and finally got through a race without his own trouble, as he outdueled Newman/Haas Racing teammate Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on the tight Brands Hatch short circuit to score his first-ever Champ Car win.
This week's stop on the 19-race tour will be the polar opposite of Monday's Brands Hatch battle as the 750hp Champ Cars will get a chance to flex their considerable muscle for the first time this year, as they head to the 2.029-mile EuroSpeedway Lausitz for the German 500. The high-banked layout will host the Champ Cars for the first time since its inaugural visit in 2001and will also see the first oval-track shootout of the season for the drivers.
Nine members of the current crop of drivers were competing in the series during the 2001 German visit, giving them a slight edge over the rest of the field, but the biggest advantage could come from the fact that a handful of the pilots have never raced on an oval of any type in their careers in the top tiers of open-wheel racing.
Of those drivers that competed in what was then called the American Memorial out of respect for the World Trade Center attack, Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) bring the fondest memories into this weekend's race at the state-of-the-art facility. Carpentier earned one of his 13 career Champ Car podiums with a third-place run there while Servia finished fifth in what would be a season-high finish for the Spaniard.
The race was won by Kenny Brack, although the victory celebration was muzzled by a violent accident that occurred with 13 laps to go when Alex Zanardi (#66 Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was involved in a wicked crash as he was coming out of Pit Lane with a chance to win the event. Zanardi suffered the traumatic amputation of both of his lower legs in the accident, but made a triumphant return to the series last season when he lit up the crowd by serving as Grand Marshal at the Molson Indy Montreal.
This weekend will see the inimitable Zanardi return to the Champ Car community in even grander fashion as he will get a chance to complete the final 13 laps that he did not run in 2001. Zanardi will drive a car equipped with a hand-control clutch and accelerator as he will strap into a Champ Car for the first time since his terrifying accident.
The superspeedway at Lausitz produced a great race in 2001 for the Champ Cars, and is expected to do so again as the last time the turbocharged 750hp machines did battle on a large oval, Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) won with the fastest average speed in open-wheel racing history as he completed 500 miles around California Speedway last November while averaging 197.995mph.
Vasser leads a trio of drivers that earned oval-track wins last year as Junqueira (Motegi) and Tracy (Milwaukee) will look to make their marks at the massive EuroSpeedway track, while Carpentier (Michigan) and Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also have oval victories on their Champ Car resume.
Having come agonizingly close to snaring his first win in Long Beach, Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would appear to have a strong shot at climbing the podium at EuroSpeedway. His Team Rahal squad has been one of the strongest on the superspeedways in the recent seasons, taking wins with Vasser last season at California as well as with Kenny Brack at Lausitz in the 2001 event. Max Papis also had good success on the ovals during his years with Rahal, including taking his first career win at Homestead. Brack and Papis finished first and second respectively for Rahal during the 2001 running of the American Memorial.
Junqueira is still looking for his first win of the 2003 campaign, but has put himself well into the title chase with three podium finishes in the first four races. The Brazilian finished a season-best second in Brands Hatch and is the only driver to have completed every lap this season - although he has not led any of them - allowing him to climb within 11 points of the frontrunning Tracy.
Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes off another successful weekend that saw him earn his second career podium finish and his first in a full-distance event. Dominguez finished a strong third at Brands Hatch, giving him back-to-back top-five finishes for the first time in his young career. The Herdez Competition driver's only other podium came on a rain-shortened day in Surfers Paradise a season ago.
Of the rookies, only Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) has Champ Car oval experience as the Brit made his debut in the series last season with a ninth-place run at the Rockingham Motor Speedway oval. Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard Bridgestone) will use his Champ Car Ladder System upbringing to his advantage as he has raced on ovals during his years in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic Championships.
But while Bourdais might not have actual Champ Car oval racing experience, he and his Newman/Haas teammate Junqueira have tested on the Phoenix oval during the preseason and come into the event as the hottest drivers in the series. Bourdais became the first rookie to win a race since Dominguez took the Surfers event last year, and his win in just his fourth start made him the fastest rookie to win since Scott Dixon won in his third start in 2001 - a feat that matched Juan Pablo Montoya's third-race triumph in his rookie season of 1999.
Bourdais also moved into the lead in the series Rookie of the Year standings, taking an eight-point lead over Mi-Jack Conquest Racing's Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). All but one of the rookies have scored championship points this year while Patrick Lemarie (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Joel Camathias (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) have helped their cause by making it to the finish of each of the events.
The fifth round of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will take place on May 10-11 with one round of qualifying on Saturday May 10. The German 500 event will get underway at 8 a.m. Eastern Time on May 11, with live audio available on the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com. The event will be televised on a same-day, tape-delayed basis by CBS on May 11 at 1 p.m. Eastern.