CART FedEx Championship Michel Jourdain, Jr., pilot of Team Rahal's No. 9 Gigante/Office Depot Ford, is currently enjoying the most successful of his six-plus seasons competing in CART. Jourdain has scored 12 Top-10 results, including five Top-5...
CART FedEx Championship
Michel Jourdain, Jr., pilot of Team Rahal's No. 9 Gigante/Office Depot Ford, is currently enjoying the most successful of his six-plus seasons competing in CART. Jourdain has scored 12 Top-10 results, including five Top-5 finishes, is the only driver in the series who has finished and scored points in all 15 races to this point and currently sits sixth in the championship standings heading into the Grand Prix Americas in Miami, Fla., on October 6th. Admittedly excited about racing on the downtown streets of Miami for the first time, Jourdain is also eager to finish the 2002 season on a high note, perhaps with his first career Champ Car victory.
MICHEL JOURDAIN, JR. - #9 Team Rahal Gigante Ford
CART IS STAGING A RACE ON THE STREETS OF MIAMI FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1995. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING THERE?
"Miami is obviously an important market for CART and for the Brazilian drivers and the Mexican drivers so it's going to be a huge event. I wasn't there the first time CART raced there but I've heard from many people that it was one of CART's biggest races ever. I think it's going to be similar to the atmosphere that exists in Long Beach, but it might be even bigger than that. I'm really, really looking forward to it."
CART HAS ADDED SOME NEW RACES THIS YEAR IN KEY MARKETS SUCH AS MONTREAL, DENVER AND NOW MIAMI. WHAT MAKES CART'S DOWNTOWN RACES SO SPECIAL FOR BOTH THE DRIVERS AND THE FANS?
"I think the biggest thing is that they're good for the fans because we go to their backyards to race and the whole city seems to get involved. There must be some people that don't like it because it closes some streets and creates some inconveniences but having the cars so close to the fans and racing on the same streets that they drive on everyday is exciting. You can hear the engines all over the city and these types of races are big, big events, and I think CART realizes that these types of races can be successful."
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR YOU AS A DRIVER TO RACE ON A TEMPORARY STREET COURSE COMPARED TO A NATURAL ROAD COURSE?
"Street courses are typically located on streets that everybody drives on everyday so they're usually pretty slippery, pretty bumpy and surrounded by concrete barriers. You have to be very, very aggressive to get a good lap but very smart at the same time because cannot just risk it or else you'll put the car in the wall. It's a lot of fun and I love racing on the street courses."
THINGS STARTED OUT VERY WELL FOR YOU THIS SEASON WITH FOUR CONSECUTIVE TOP-5 FINISHES BEFORE YOU ENCOUNTERED SOME ROUGH TIMES, ALTHOUGH YOU'RE THE ONLY DRIVER IN THE SERIES WHO HAS SCORED POINTS IN EVERY RACE. WHAT KIND OF SEASON HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU?
"Well, it started out very well for us but then we experienced some ups and downs and all that. This is such a competitive series that everybody is always fast and everybody has a chance to win the race, or at least finish in the top five, so you have to be at your best at every event. But I think everybody, except maybe Cristiano (da Matta) and Bruno (Junquiera), have had an up-and-down season, so hopefully we can close the season on a high."
YOU'RE A VETERAN OF THIS SERIES, BUT WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT YOU'VE LEARNED MORE THIS YEAR THAN YOU HAVE ALL IN YOUR PREVIOUS YEARS COMBINED?
"In some ways, yes, but in some ways, no. In many ways, I've learned so much from the people at Team Rahal who have so much experience like Scott (Roembke) and Jimmy (Vasser) and I'm so happy to be here with these guys."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF THIS YEAR THAT PERHAPS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF BEFORE?
"I don't know ... I think I've gained a lot of confidence in myself because being teammates with Jimmy (Vasser) ... I've been faster than him in many places and he's been faster than me in other places. But I've learned, maybe not learned, but gained confidence back that I had lost over the last couple of years and it feels good. I'm sure now that I can run with the fastest guys in this series and be competitive in every race where I maybe questioned that in the past."
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR STRENGTHS ARE AS A DRIVER?
"I think I'm good with the car and take care of the equipment, I think I'm consistent and I can be fast. On the flip side I think my weaknesses come sometimes in qualifying. I think if I can go out right away and get a few quick laps in right away I'm okay, but if I have a little trouble ... so far this season I've made some mistakes and it's not that much, it's just that I make a few little mistakes. I've also had some bad luck this year in qualifying, too, although I don't believe in bad luck. It's just that so many things have happened to me so many places in qualifying and that hasn't helped either. But you know at the end of the day what counts is the race and I've done well in the races. I think I've been fast, I've been consistent and I've been good with the car, and that's helped, too."
HOW FRUSTRATING HAVE YOUR PROBLEMS IN QUALIFYING BEEN FOR YOU?
"Yeah, I've talked a lot with Jimmy about some of the things that have happened to me in qualifying - they're crazy, you know. And some of the things that have happened to him in the races have been crazy, too, and I'd rather have the good things happen to me in the race. But you work hard to qualify well and to race well and it would make my life a lot easier to start in the front and we probably would have several podiums were that the case. I've been able to do fast laps, but it's just a matter of putting everything together and then we'll be good."
WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP FOR YOU TO TAKE AS A DRIVER AND HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT TAKING THAT STEP?
"Obviously, to win my first race. I think we just need to continue to do the same that got us into the position that we're in now. We've been fast in a lot of races this year and have some good finishes and if we can maintain our performance I think we'll take that next step soon for sure."