CHAMPCAR/CART: Monterey: Team Rahal Track Talk

Team Rahal looks for continued success at Laguna Seca. HILLIARD, OH . . . Team Rahal has won 13 races in the ten seasons of the team's existence winning on ten different CART tracks. The only track where Team Rahal has multiple victories has...

Team Rahal looks for continued success at Laguna Seca.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Team Rahal has won 13 races in the ten seasons of the team's existence winning on ten different CART tracks. The only track where Team Rahal has multiple victories has been Laguna Seca Raceway, the historic 2.238-mile road course in Monterey, California, where three of the team's 13 wins have been compiled.

In winning the CART stop in Monterrey three of the last four years, Team Rahal has won with a dominating car and with pit strategy. In 1998 and 1999 Bryan Herta dominated winning from the pole for his first two CART victories. Herta was even dubbed by Rahal "The King of Laguna Seca" for impressive manner of his back-to-back wins.

In 2001 Max Papis pitted five times and ran an alternative fuel strategy en route to winning the timed race. For Papis it was his third career win and second of the 2001 season.

It is fitting that Laguna has become Team Rahal's track because during his legendary racing career Laguna Seca was Bobby Rahal's track. Rahal won four straight years at Laguna Seca (1984-87) and compiled 12 top-ten results and seven top-five finishes in 16 starts.

"I have always had a very good performance at Laguna either as a driver or as an owner," said Rahal. "That success wasn't just in CART. I won a Can-Am race at Laguna in 1979 which was my first big racing win in North America. It has been a very good place for us and we always look forward to running at what is truly one of the great track in the United States."

Jimmy Vasser, driver of the Shell car who grew up in nearby Morgan Hill, CA, has also crafted his own legacy of success at Laguna Seca. Vasser won at the famed track in Formula 2000 and twice in Atlantics (1987 & 1991) and in CART in 1997. Vasser has tallied four top-five results in the last six races including a fifth place finish in 2001.

"There is a lot of history at this track and growing up nearby I gained an appreciation for how special this place is, said Vasser. "This is always one of the races I look forward to on the schedule. It is a tough demanding track and it certainly isn't the easiest track to pass on, but you know you have done something special if you are successful here."

Gigante driver and current CART points leader Michel Jourdain Jr. is looking to breakout this weekend at Laguna Seca. In six career starts at Laguna Jourdain has never finished higher than 20th. Jourdain has posted four straight top-five results in 2002 and has taken over the points lead for the first time in his seven year Champ Car career.

JOURDAIN CARRIES THE CART POINTS LEAD TO LAGUNA SECA

The breakout season for Michel Jourdain Jr. is one of the great stories of the 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season. Jourdain joined Team Rahal in late January and only posted four days of testing prior to the season opener. The lack of testing hasn't affected him at all.

In four races the 25-year-old native of Mexico City has posted four top-five results and has taken over the points lead for the first time in his seven year Champ Car career. Prior to joining Team Rahal, Jourdain had posted one top-five result in 101 CART starts. Since joining the team to drive the Gigante car, Jourdain hasn't failed to finish in the top-five.

"The chance to drive for Team Rahal was a great opportunity, the kind of opportunity I had been looking for my entire career," said Jourdain. "Everything has fallen into place and we have been able to produce some solid results, but I know we can do better. At that start of the season I set a goal for myself of winning my first race and finishing in the top-ten in the championship. I feel both of those goals are within my reach."

When Jourdain signed with Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal felt the team had signed a "diamond in the rough." After four races Jourdain has surprise even Rahal. "Michel is doing everything we hoped and more," said the three-time CART champion. "We thought good things were in store for him but I really thought this kind of success would come after an adjustment period. So far he really hasn't set a foot wrong and he has had good pit strategies which has helped, but in the end he is driving and driving well."

VASSER LOOKING FOR POINTS

1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser comes to Laguna Seca in 11th place in the championship with 21 points. It is not where Vasser thought he would be after joining Team Rahal as the driver of the Shell car in the off season. Two DNF's, both outside his control, have hampered the Shell car's point production.

"You have to have a bit of luck in this business and we have had two races where Lady Luck was against us," said Vasser. "On the bright side we have been fast at every track. We had a killer car at Mexico but we got taken out by someone else and we had a freak problem with the fueling system at Motegi. At Long Beach we could have won but the other guys caught a break with a yellow and we had a pretty good car at Milwaukee. Everything is in place for us to be successful and now it is just a case of taking advantage of our strengths and scoring some serious points. It is a long season and the championship usually comes down to the final few races."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Michel Jourdain