CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Race report

Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. ambushes Canadian frontrunners to steal CART Champ Car World Series victory at Molson Indy Montreal. MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 24, 2003) - Michel Jourdain Jr. ( ...

Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. ambushes Canadian frontrunners to steal CART Champ Car World Series victory at Molson Indy Montreal.

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 24, 2003) - Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) flew in under the radar like a Stealth Fighter in this weekend's Molson Indy Montreal, quietly building speed throughout the weekend while the other drivers captured the majority of the headlines.

But the biggest headlines are made on Sunday in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and the ones that will be written for Monday will scream Jourdain's name as the Mexican pilot stole out of Montreal with his second career series victory in front of a race-day crowd of 58,000.

Jourdain started his day in the fourth spot and picked his spots perfectly, using a combination of attrition, brilliant pit work from the two-time defending CART Pit Stop Champion Team Rahal crew and pure speed on the racetrack to climb through the field. He executed a tight pass on Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on his out lap after the first set of pit stops that would end up making the difference, although no one could have known that on Lap 21.

The first half of the race was all about hometown favorite Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who rolled away from Servia at the drop of the flag and went on to pace 52 of the first 55 laps of the day. Tagliani appeared to have the 2.709-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve all figured out as he built a three-second lead on his first stint and ramped it up to over six seconds at his first fuel stop.

But the advantage came with a hidden price as his Rocketsports Racing crew would end up having to fill his frontrunning car one lap earlier than the rest of the field, which were slated to pit every 20 laps. The strategy did not seem to be a costly one as the first two stints cycled through with Tagliani keeping his lead, although he would have two narrow escapes as those that pitted every 20 laps would come off Pit Lane just behind the leader.

One of Jourdain's worries took care of itself early in the going when Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun out of third place after braking deep into the tight Turn 10 hairpin. He would fall back to eighth and end up in trouble in the same spot on Lap 50 as he spun, stalled and brought out the caution flag, a bobble that sent the Brazilian to the back of the pack and left him scoreless for the second consecutive race.

The Junqueira spin also cleared another one of Jourdain's hurdles as the resulting caution period erased a 2.4-second Tagliani advantage, a lead that had already been halved by Team Rahal's quick work on Pit Lane. Tagliani continued to hold the point on the Lap 52 restart with Jourdain and Servia behind with the Player's duo of Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stalking in fourth and fifth as they had done for the entire first half of the day.

The mandatory 20-lap pit windows kept everyone from coming in for service during the lap 50 caution as they would have been unable to make to it the 75th and final lap without pitting again, so Tagliani found himself having to come in for his final service on Lap 58 while the remainder of the pack could run until Lap 60 without visiting their pit stalls.

Tagliani got his service and rejoined in the middle of the pack as he waited for the remainder to cycle through, but the extra two laps that Jourdain, Servia and the rest got to run saved them an extra second on Pit Lane, and gave them the boost they needed to rejoin the fray in front of Tagliani. The four-year veteran suddenly found himself four cars behind the race leaders, but was looking to make a couple of moves on Lap 61 as he attacked with hot tires while the rest of the field had to take manage out laps on cold rubber.

The attack ended after a handful of turns however as Tagliani ended up going through the grass in an effort to take fifth place from Tracy, and although he saved himself from disaster and kept the car running, the lawncutting effectively ended any chance he had of taking the win. The off-sequence Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led six laps but when he and two others pitted, Jourdain was promoted to the front.

Having seen a race where he dominated all day ripped from him late in the race at Long Beach, Jourdain knew what to do with the gift that had been bestowed upon him as he pulled away from Servia over the last 10 laps, stretching his lead by a quarter-second each lap before flashing under the checkered flag for his second career win. Behind him, Servia found his mirrors full of the rampaging Carpentier, who came from four seconds back to close on the rear wing with three laps to run. Servia would hold his spot however, matching a career high with a second-place run while Carpentier would round out the podium in third.

Tagliani did get a measure of satisfaction back on the last lap as Tracy would run out of fuel coming off of the last chicane, leaving the points leader to coast forlornly down the front stretch as Tagliani and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) slipped past. Tracy would end up sixth with Moreno picking up the seventh spot ahead of Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Darren Manning (#15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent and earned his seventh consecutive top 10.

The series now heads to Denver for the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver next weekend in the Mile High City. Paul Tracy keeps his points lead, stretching it to 28 points over Junqueira while Jourdain closed to with 35 points with his win.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE FINISHERS:

Michel Jourdain Jr.: "We had a quiet weekend until raceday. The rest of the guys were making us look bad in the papers but it is very satisfying to get this win. The team did a fantastic job in the pits and they deserve the win as much as anyone. I feel bad for Alex [Tagliani] because I know what its like to dominate a race like in Long Beach but not win."

Oriol Servia: "I'm not as happy now as I was when I took second in Milwaukee but it is still a good weekend for us especially after the last three races didn't' go so well. I was saving my car in the first two stints but when it was time to go fast I was still having trouble catching Alex. This is a good result for us and should give us momentum for Denver."

Patrick Carpentier: "I was having a great time out there pushing Oriol (Servia) so that he would make a mistake. I really wanted to pass him to have a better finishing position. The car was great and Team Player's did a wonderful job all weekend, especially today. We did have minor problems with the brakes because they were overheating but we managed to nurse them enough to finish on the podium. It's a great team effort and a great day. We put on quite a show and I hope the crowd loved it. It was a lot of fun. I guess it was Michel's (Jourdain) day and I'm happy for him."

NOTEWORTHY

* Michel Jourdain Jr's victory is his second of the year, making him the first Mexican driver to earn multiple Champ Car wins in a season since Adrian Fernandez won a pair in 2000. The win is also the 16th in the 11-year history of Team Rahal.

* Darren Manning's 10th-place finish made him the first Champ Car rookie to score seven consecutive top-10 runs since Canadian John Jones turned the trick in 1988.

* Today's event was the first since Nazareth in 2001 to have a pair of front-row starters that were yet to win a Champ Car event.

* Today's race-day crowd of 58,000 pushed the three-day attendance for the Molson Indy Montreal to 148,000.

-cart-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Michel Jourdain