Team Rahal looks to continue super speedway success LAUSITZ, GERMANY . . . The CART Champ Car World Series super speedways have been kind and cruel to Team Rahal over the last five years. Entering this weekend's German 500 at EuroSpeedway...
Team Rahal looks to continue super speedway success
LAUSITZ, GERMANY . . . The CART Champ Car World Series super speedways have been kind and cruel to Team Rahal over the last five years. Entering this weekend's German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. hopes to continue that trend of success that has seen Team Rahal lead 796 laps in the last eight super speedway races.
The team's super speedway run which began during the 1999 season has seen heartbreaking moments like Max Papis running out of fuel with a sizable lead on the last lap at Michigan in 1999 and the infamous teammate collision between Kenny Brack and Papis while running 1-2 at Michigan in 2001. Those tracks have also included some of the most glorious moments in team history such as the front row qualifying sweep at Michigan in 2001, the 1-2 finish by Kenny Brack and Max Papis at the EuroSpeedway in 2001 and Jimmy Vasser's dominating win at Fontana in 2003. In the last eight CART Champ Car World Series super speedway races, Team Rahal has won twice (Germany '01 & Fontana '03) and finished second three times (Fontana '99, Fontana, '00, Germany '01).
"Team Rahal has been one of the more dominate teams in the series over the last five years on these tracks," said Jourdain. "The team has a great feeling for what they need to do to get the car ready to be successful. It is a great feeling to go to the track and know that you will have a car that will be among the fastest on the track."
Jourdain has run just one super speedway event with Team Rahal. That was Fontana last November. In his Team Rahal debut on the big track Jourdain led ten laps and was among the quickest cars on track all day before an engine failure ended his day on lap 219. Jourdain was battling with his teammate Vasser who went on to win the race posting the fastest 500-mile win in history (197.995 mph avg).
"We as a team take a lot of pride in our success on these tracks over the last several seasons," said Ray Leto, Team Rahal's Champ Car team manager. "A lot of credit has to go to Ford-Cosworth for the job they have done over the years in giving us an engine that struck the right balance between power and mileage. This year of course everyone has Cosworth power so that won't be an advantage but we feel we have a good understanding of what we need to do for the car to be at its best. This will be a unique event in that the rules for this week are tied to the rules from last week. This isn't our normal speedway set-up but we as a team looked at the two events and determined what we felt was the best set-up to allow us to be successful at both tracks."
Jourdain enters the German 500 third in the CART Champ Car World Series championship with 42 points, 12 behind second place Bruno Junqueira and 23 behind points leader Paul Tracy. The 42 points in four races equals the best start (2002) of Jourdain's eight year Champ Car career. Jourdain has a pair of second place results this season and was apparently on his way to his first career win at Long Beach three-weeks ago when a failed gearbox left him stranded in the pits.
"I have put Long Beach behind me," said Jourdain. "We showed everyone in the series that we could dominate a race with what we did at Long Beach. We did everything but win. I know my first win is coming and it is only a matter of time. I know Team Rahal has had a lot of success on these kinds of tracks so maybe this is the weekend when we break through."
IMPROVED QUALIFYING HAS BEEN A KEY TO '03 SUCCESS
One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through four races Jourdain's average starting position is fifth as opposed to an average starting slot of 14th in 2002. Having started in the top-five in three of the four races has let the steady Jourdain move to the front and has made the Gigante pit crew, the defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champions, a significant weapon in moving the #9 car to the front.
"Michel had really matured as a driver," said three-time series champion and Team Rahal co-owner Bobby Rahal. "He and his engineering staff identified qualifying as an area they had to improve and he has done that. After Long Beach I don't think there is anyone who doubts that this kid has what it takes. I said when we signed him in 2002 that he was a diamond in the rough right now that diamond is shining brightly. I told him to hold his head high and be proud of what he did accomplish because it was significant. Someday I think people will look back at that race as one that helped define Michel as a driver."
DÉJÀ VU FOR JOURDAIN AND THE GIGANTE TEAM
Michel Jourdain Jr. has amassed 42 points through the first four events of the 2003 season. Ironically Jourdain had the same number of points last season after four races. The difference was in 2002 he was leading the series championship but hadn't finished higher than fourth. In 2003 he has been on the podium twice and led 48 laps yet ranks only third in the title chase.
ANOTHER POINTS PAYING WEEKEND FOR 'MR. CONSISTENT'
Since he joined Team Rahal at the start of the 2002 Champ Car season, Michel Jourdain Jr. has been the model of consistency. Jourdain posted points paying results in his first 17 events with Team Rahal last season, establishing a team record for consecutive points paying finishes.
In 23 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 21 times. He has collected seven top-five results and 17 top-ten finishes. Only twice in the previous 23 events with Team Rahal has Jourdain failed to finish a race. With victory in sight, a gearbox failure at Long Beach left Jourdain with his second Team Rahal DNF and his first since Fontana in November of 2002. At Fontana where led ten laps and appeared to be headed for a podium finish before an engine failure ended his day.
A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed and miles logged. The DNF at Long Beach dropped Jourdain from a 2003 tie with leaders Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira to fifth in laps logged and miles completed.