Paul Tracy leads 69 laps in romping to second consecutive win, widening points lead with Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix victory.
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 23, 2003) --Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) mentioned after winning the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that he was not accustomed to having a fast start to a season, having never won a season-opening race in his Champ Car career.
However, after Sunday's romp in the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix, the Canadian is going to have to used to it.
Tracy took a lead he would never relinquish on Lap 17 of the 85-lap event to claim his 21st career Champ Car win in front of 92,713 fans and take an 11-point lead in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season standings. Tracy had the field covered for most of the day, holding a commanding 25-second lead at one point, and showed that he had an iron will to go with his lead foot as he battled a fierce stomach problem that cropped up halfway through the race.
"I got something going on with my stomach," Tracy said. "Right about from mid race, my stomach's been upset. I don't know what the problem is. But I've got a really upset stomach right now. I don't know if maybe the drink bottle that was in the car maybe. The only thing I can think is maybe the drink bottle in the car maybe didn't get cleaned properly from the last race until now. About 30 laps into it, my stomach started really getting upset."
But the active Champ Car victory leader did not let the problem affect his on-track performance however as he thwarted challengers on a pair of late restarts and overcame a brief off-track excursion to take the win. He faced a late restart with second-placed Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) in his mirrors but was equal to the task, pulling away to a 2.039-second margin of victory.
The early part of the event went as it did in the season opener as Tracy slotted himself in behind polesitter Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Newman/Haas Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and gave chase for the first 16 laps, never falling further than a second behind the leader. Unfortunately again, just like in the opener, a miscommunication during pit stops cost the Newman/Haas squad a chance at victory.
The second yellow flag of the day waived on Lap 14 when Patrick Lemarie (#27 Scientific Atlanta Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) lost power on the frontstretch, sending the balance of the field down Pit Lane for service. However, both the lead car of Bourdais and the second-placed car of Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) eschewed their chance to pit, putting them at the back of the field when they pitted during the Lap 17 caution period.
That move cost Bourdais 14 places on the grid, but the Frenchman set a furious pace in trying to get back in the fray. He set the race's fastest lap and climbed back to sixth by making some skilled passes, but brushed the wall and damaged his suspension on Lap 40, ending his day.
Tracy had his only anxious moment of the day on Lap 40 during his second pit stop when a problem with his pit-lane rev limiter led to a stall, costing him a large portion of what had been a 23-second lead prior to the caution flag. Jourdain made his first appearance behind Tracy after that stop as his Team Rahal squad got him out ahead of Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).
The Rocketsports crew fell back to fifth as the two cars ahead of them short-fueled their cars, a strategy that put them ahead briefly, but would not pay dividends as the new Champ Car team reclaimed their third spot in just five laps. That move was aided slightly when Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went off course trying to make a pass for second, but Tagliani and the Rocketsports crew would need little in the way of help on the day as the Canadian roared to a third-place finish.
Ahead of Tagliani, Jourdain thrilled the hometown crowd as he held down the second spot, but could never make up much ground on Tracy as the Player's driver simply would not be caught. Jourdain had his last shot on the Lap 81 restart but took the green flag with the lapped car of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) between himself and Tracy, denying him the chance to climb on the tail of the ailing Tracy. With the one-car cushion, Tracy sped away at the restart and built himself the two-second margin he would use to take the victory.
"Paul was faster than I was for most of the day and I could never really make any gains," Jourdain said. "I was hoping that Ryan would make it a little easier for me on the restart but I could not get by to gain on Paul."
Jourdain would settle for a second-place run that matched his career high and made him the first Mexican driver to ever stand on the podium at a Monterrey race. Tagliani finished third ahead of Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who held off a furious rush from Junqueira to take the fourth spot. Junqueira rounded out the top five ahead of Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Manning survived two wheel-banging incidents to earn his best-ever Champ Car finish.
TOP THREE FINISHER QUOTES:
PAUL TRACY: I have to really thank Team Player's. The job that they did this weekend, we went testing, and found some new things on the car to help the setup. We came here and right off the trailer, the car was fast. We had a brand-new set of tires for every stint because we didn't run yesterday. You know, from about midway through every stint, I was saving the tires, then I could really turn it on and pull a gap out.
MICHEL JOURDAIN: Just to finish in the podium, it's great. To finish on the podium in Mexico is unbelievable. The crowd is just so great. They support us so nicely here. It's a great feeling.
ALEX TAGLIANI: I'm very satisfied, but there was sometimes where we were on the track maybe with different configuration car. I was pushing all the race. At a certain point, there was Bruno that was running really fast lap times. There was no way I was going to stop pushing because you never know. Another yellow flag, you know, it's all bunched up. So every time I was catching some back markers, I was trying to pass them as quick as I can to be able to put them between myself and the other cars.
* Paul Tracy became the first driver to win the first two races of the season since Rick Mears won at Phoenix and Atlanta in 1982, in a year that Mears would go on to win the season championship.
* Tracy and Michel Jourdain finished 1-2 for both of the first two races of the year, the first time that such a feat has been completed in Champ Car racing since Johnny Rutherford and Tom Sneva finished in the top-two spots in the first two races of the 1980 season.
* Paul Tracy has now led in three consecutive races dating back to last season, marking the first time that he has led in three straight events since the 2000 season.
* Alex Yoong earned a ninth-place finishing position in his first-ever Champ Car race, taking over for Roberto Gonzalez in the #11 Lotto Speed/Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone and scoring four championship points without the benefit of any prior Champ Car testing.