Third straight race win puts Team Player's driver Paul Tracy into the Champ Car record book. Long Beach, California, April 13, 2003 Paul Tracy of Team Player's emerged the winner of a fascinating and furious-paced Grand Prix of Long Beach ...
Third straight race win puts Team Player's driver Paul Tracy into the Champ Car record book.
Long Beach, California, April 13, 2003 Paul Tracy of Team Player's emerged the winner of a fascinating and furious-paced Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, making him the first driver in Champ Car World Series history to start the season with three straight victories. It was also the first time that Team Player's has won three consecutive races.
In crossing the finish line just over four seconds ahead of runner-up Adrian Fernandez, of Mexico, Tracy became the first driver in a major motorsports series to go three-for-three at the start of a season since Al Unser Sr. in the 1971 USAC Champ Car series, a forerunner to what is now the Champ Car World Series.
Tracy's teammate Patrick Carpentier recorded his best performance of the young season with a sixth-place finish, while fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani was 10th. The third spot on the podium went to Brazilian Bruno Junqueira.
From the moment the green flag was waved, and Tracy roared past pole-sitter Michel Jourdain Jr., the 90-lap race settled into a compelling duel between the two, who entered the day 1-2 respectively in the drivers' standings. Tracy held the lead through the first 27 laps, while Jourdain Jr., who gained the lead when Tracy, because of fuel consumption, had to pit one lap earlier, stayed ahead for much of the race.
The turning point came with just 7 laps left (lap 83), when Jourdain, leading Tracy by almost three seconds, ducked into the pits for a mandatory splash of fuel and ran into gearbox problems while he was in the pit box, ending his race. Tracy, who took on a splash of fuel and sticker tires in a masterful Team Player's pit stop one lap earlier, squeezed just ahead of Fernandez on his return to the track. Tracy steadily widened his lead over Fernandez in the final few laps.
"We needed some luck to keep the winning streak alive, and we had some of that today," said Tracy, who has moved into a commanding lead in the drivers' standings (64-38 over runner-up Bruno Junqueira. "I was pulling out all the stops, doing everything I could, but it wasn't enough to overtake Michel. He definitely had the measure of me until that last pit stop.
"We had to pit a lap earlier than Michel throughout the race because we weren't getting the fuel mileage we wanted. We had to have good out and in laps. And then, with the pressure on in that last pit stop, when we needed a flawless stop to be able to get out ahead of Adrian, Team Player's did a fantastic job. That was definitely the most physical race I've ever done."
Carpentier, running off pit sequence, was right behind then-leader Oriol Servia when he headed into for his last pit stop, on lap 62. But misfortune befell Carpentier when the car stalled and he returned to the track in 13th position, forcing him to battle hard for his sixth-place finish.
"Under the circumstances, it's disappointing," remarked Carpentier, who is tied for sixth place in the overall standings with 18 points. "The car was excellent and I was conserving fuel as much as I could by running in fifth instead of fourth gear. Team Player's strategy was working well until the last pit stop, when I put the car in gear, gave it the fuel and it stalled. We've had a good enough car to potentially win in the first three races, but it hasn't materialized."
Following a two-week break in the schedule, Team Player's crosses the Atlantic for the first of two European races in Brands Hatch, England, on Monday, May 5.