CHAMPCAR/CART: Road America: Team Rahal Track Talk

JOURDAIN KNOWS WHAT HE HAS TO DO IN THE TITLE CHASE HILLIARD, OH . . . The 2003 season has been a resound success for Michel Jourdain Jr. and Team Rahal's Gigante crew. Jourdain has established career high's in points (125) , laps led (324), ...

JOURDAIN KNOWS WHAT HE HAS TO DO IN THE TITLE CHASE

HILLIARD, OH . . . The 2003 season has been a resound success for Michel Jourdain Jr. and Team Rahal's Gigante crew. Jourdain has established career high's in points (125) , laps led (324), podium finishes (5), pole positions (1) and wins (1) and yet the 26-year-old native of Mexico City is talking about the need to elevate his on-track performance. That kind of talk may cause some of the Champ Car drivers to shake their heads in amazement, but to Jourdain who is currently third in the Champ Car World Series championship, he knows the championship is slipping from reach unless he does produce at a higher level.

"We have had a good year, but at Team Rahal we expect to run for the championship, not just have a good season," said Jourdain. "Paul [Tracy] has had an unbelievable year and Bruno [Junqueira] has had a very consistent year even though he hasn't won. If we are going to win the championship we have to beat them on track. We can't be content with just finishing on the podium, we have to beat the points leaders on the track. There is still a lot of races to go, but time is starting to run out. Paul had a 36 point lead after Long Beach and three races later I was leading the championship. Things happen in this sport, sometimes things outside of your control. I can't worry about what Paul and Bruno are doing. All I can control is what my team is doing, and now is the time for us to get back to the level we were at a month ago."

Jourdain knows at what level the Gigante team needs to be. He was the class of the field at Milwaukee leading a series record 234 laps and winning his first race. At Laguna Seca the Gigante car was again the class of the field, but a failed tech inspection cost him the pole and forced him to start 13th. All he did on race day was drive from 13th to 4th on the 'impossible to pass' course at Monterey. A week later at Portland, Jourdain passed Tracy on the start was dominating the Portland race before a collision with Tracy left him a lap down and out of podium contention.

It is at that level that Jourdain wants to see his team. "It starts with me," said Jourdain. "I know every member of my team is busting their ass, but now we have to go the next level if we want to get ourselves back in the championship. We can't afford to make any mistakes and we need a little misfortune to find PT and Bruno."

Jourdain is on pace to post a 200 point season. In the past ten years only five drivers have topped the 200 point plateau and four of them have won the championship. Never in the 23 years since Champ Car went to the current points system have there been three drivers top the 200 point mark. "Most years my season would have me in the lead for the championship," said Jourdain. "This isn't like most years."

This week the Champ Car World Series heads to scenic Road America for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix of Road America. Elkhart Lake's Road America is a favorite track for most of the drivers. It is also one of the most demanding tracks both physically and mentally for a driver. Jourdain looks forward to the challenge.

"Once you have driven Road America you will always want to drive it again," said Jourdain. "I think every driver who has driven there was disappointed when the race was canceled, and every one was happy when it came back. We have had a very good car on the road courses this season and I know we will be strong this weekend. Now we have to take the strength and do something with it."

JOURDAIN CARRIES HIS POINT STREAK TO 11 STRAIGHT

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.

Don't look now but Jourdain is at it again. He has posted points in every race this season and has matched Bobby Rahal for the second longest points streak in Team Rahal history, 11 straight races. Prior to joining Team Rahal in 2002, Jourdain had never posted points in more than two consecutive races.

Ironically it was at Road America in 2002 that Jourdain moved past Rahal to claim the team mark for consecutive points paying results.

At Vancouver, Jourdain collected a fourth place finish, his seventh top-four result of 2003. In 30 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 28 times. He has collected 12 top-five results and 23 top-ten finishes. Only twice in the previous 30 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.

A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed (2,368) and miles logged (4,238). Jourdain enters the race at Vancouver once again as the series leader in laps completed (1,355) and miles logged (2,304).

QUALIFYING SUCCESS HAS RESULTED IN A PODIUM PRESENCE

One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through the first 11 races of 2003 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 eight of the first 11 races allowed the steady Jourdain move to the front of the points chase, and has made the Gigante pit crew, the defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champions, a significant weapon in #9 cars success.

At Vancouver Jourdain started fourth, his sixth top-four start of the season. Jourdain has three front-row starts including his first Champ Car career pole position at Long Beach in April.

TEAM RAHAL'S SINGLE CAR TITLE QUEST

Jourdain and the Gigante team are vying to become the first single car entry to win the Champ Car World Series championship since Jacques Villeneuve with Players in 1995. Only three have won the title with a single entry, including Bobby Rahal in Team Rahal's first year of operation 1992.

JOURDAIN 2003 vs. 2002 vs. Career

Jourdain surpassed his 2002 point total (105) in just ten races. Last season Jourdain averaged 5.5 points per race. In 2003 Jourdain and the Gigante team are currently averaging 11.3 points per race. Jourdain had just 61 points in his first six Champ Car seasons. In his first seven seasons in Champ Car Jourdain posted 166 points in 120 races. He is on pace to surpass his point total for seven seasons in 2003 alone. At the current pace he would 'double' his career points at Denver on Labor Day weekend. Since the start of the 2002 season when he joined Team Rahal Jourdian has amassed 230 points in the Champ Car World Series.

GIGANTE CREW IN CHAMPIONSHIP FORM AT VANCOUVER

The Gigante pit crew, regarded as one of the top pit crews in North American racing, was in top form at Vancouver, posting the least cumulative time in the pits of the 19 champ car crews. Jourdain's six man crew edged Paul Tracy's crew by eight tenths of a second. Over the last two races (Toronto & Vancouver) the Gigante crew has spent the least time in the pits by nearly three-seconds.

TEAM RAHAL LOOKING FOR FIRST WIN AT ROAD AMERICA

Team Rahal was founded in 1992 as Rahal/Hogan Racing and in the team's eleven previous trips to Elkhart Lake, the team has never won the Champ Car event at Road America. Team Rahal does have four podium results, including a second place finish by Bobby Rahal in 1996. Rahal twice finished second on the famed 4.048 mile course (1992 & 1993) and Kenny Brack finished on the podium in 2000.

Team Rahal's best qualifying result came in 2001 when Kenny Brack captured the pole position. Bryan Herta started second in 1998 the same season that Bobby Rahal started his career best third at Road America.

Michel Jourdain started 16th at Road America last season and finished ninth, his second top-ten result on the track. In 1999 Jourdain started 18th and finished seventh, his best career result at Road America.

JOURDAIN EYES 300 CAREER POINTS

With a top-five result this weekend at Elkhart Lake Michel Jourdain Jr. can surpass the 300 career point mark. Jourdain who has 291 career points has earned 230 Champ Car points in the last two seasons which is fourth highest total among the active Champ Car drivers.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Mario Andretti , Michel Jourdain