CHAMPCAR/CART: Vancouver: Race report

CART Champ Car points leader Paul Tracy becomes first Canadian driver to win consecutive races on home soil after winning Molson Indy Vancouver. VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 27, 2003) -- Canada has long been one of the strongholds...

CART Champ Car points leader Paul Tracy becomes first Canadian driver to win consecutive races on home soil after winning Molson Indy Vancouver.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 27, 2003) -- Canada has long been one of the strongholds of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, with crowds in excess of 160,000 coming out for a three-day weekend every time the turbocharged CART Champ Car World Series turns a wheel.

Now the country of Canada must be considered a Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) stronghold as the Scarborough, Ontario native became the first-ever Canadian to win consecutive events on his home soil, claiming today's Molson Indy Vancouver on the heels of his victory two weeks ago in the Molson Indy Toronto. The polesitter had another relatively incident-free day at the office as Tracy led 77 of the day's 100 laps to win the fastest Vancouver event since 1997, averaging 90.632 mph around the 1.781-mile Concord Pacific Place street circuit.

The win is the fifth of the year for Tracy, matching a career high, and is the 24th of his sterling career -- tying him with Bobby Rahal for fourth on the all-time CART Champ Car list. The series points leader started from the pole, but would need a ruling from the same CART stewards that he railed at earlier in the week to put him in front.

Fellow front-row starter Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the lead when the green flag finally fluttered through a cloudless Vancouver sky, starting the race after two laps were ran under yellow due to a Gualter Salles (#19 Alpina/Golden Cross Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) crash on the warmup lap. Junqueira beat Tracy into the first turn and would lead the first 21 laps with Tracy right on his tail for most of those laps, but was forced to give up the lead to Tracy on Lap 24 after CART stewards determined that Junqueira had jumped the start.

Citing CART Rule 6.20.1, Junqueira was found to have improved his position on the start before the wave of the green flag, so the Brazilian was forced to cede his position to Tracy on Lap 24. Tracy promptly responded by running the four fastest laps of the race to that point, building a three-second lead by Lap 27 leading to the first round of pit stops.

The end of the first stint sent the crowd of 66,077 into a frenzy as the Player's duo of Tracy and Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would pace the event, threatening to become the first Canadian-born drivers to finish 1-2 in a Canadian Champ Car event. Carpentier got some help with his move to second as Junqueira stalled while exiting his pit stall, allowing Carpentier to make the pass on Pit Lane.

The second stint was a big one for Tracy as he built a 14-second lead over Carpentier while Junqueira and Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) battled nose-to-tail for the third spot. Dismayed by the penalty that cost him his lead, Junqueira admitted to losing focus directly after the ruling as he gave up the fourth spot to Jourdain on a Lap 37 restart caused by a crash between Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).

The second round of pit stops yielded no change in the order but the hopes for a Canadian sweep were dashed soon after the fuel stops as Carpentier had his day ended after contact with the lapped car of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). The contact took Carpentier out of contention but helped bring a seemingly out-of-touch race back into play for rookie Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone).

Bourdais had a trying first 10 laps of the day, beginning in the first corner when his inside move on the start pushed Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) into the tire barrier. Then, after coming out of the pits after his contact with Moreno, Bourdais ran under the stopped car of Dominguez, who had crashed with Monteiro. But despite having to make six pit stops on a day when everyone else made three, Bourdais found himself in third place after the Carpentier incident.

From there it was just a matter of how big the lead would get for Tracy as the top four cars were separated by 45 seconds. Tracy would end up with the year's largest margin of victory, taking the checkered flag 17.820 seconds ahead of Junqueira. Bourdais would hold on for his fourth podium finish of the year while Jourdain was the last car on the lead lap in fourth.

Behind the top four came a fistful of rookies that were earning career-best finishes. Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) took his first-ever CART Champ Car top-five finish while Ladder System graduate Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) set a career best with a sixth-place run. Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) claimed the seventh spot while Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) put up a new career best with his eighth-place run.

Tracy would widen his points lead to 20 over Junqueira with the win while Jourdain maintained his third-place spot in the standings after 11 races. The series next heads to Road America for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America Presented by Briggs & Stratton Aug 1-3.

TOP THREE DRIVER QUOTES:

Paul Tracy: "About five laps before Bruno let me by, I knew that the call was coming. So I slowed down a little bit because we were pushing pretty hard. I backed off a little bit, cooled my tires down just a touch, didn't run the corners so hard. Once we switched positions, you know, I pulled away I think about six seconds in about six laps before the pit stop. From there, we had it under control."

Bruno Junqueira: "We are being very consistent. That's the most important thing. I think now there is going to be this stretch till the end of the year, a lot of back-to-back races. I think the best way to win the championship is to be consistent, and that's what we're going to try to do. Eventually, I hope we can win a race until the end of the year."

Sebastien Bourdais: "I think it's not the first time of the season, but definitely we had a great car this weekend. Just a shame we didn't start in a bit better shape. But we went through the entire race and made big progress, and finished third. I think it's a pretty good result."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Paul Tracy has led 525 laps after 11 events this year, marking the third time in his career that he has led as many as 500 laps. His career best came in 1993 when he paced 756 laps -- a total that is fifth best in CART history.

* Tracy's win from the pole was the sixth of his career, making him one of just six drivers to win as many as six CART Champ Car races from pole. He is now fourth on the all-time CART list with 24 victories, two behind third-placed Rick Mears.

* CART stewards were very busy during Sunday's race, handing down four penalties during the event. Bruno Junqueira was penalized for jumping the start while Rodolfo Lavin, Max Papis and Mario Haberfeld were all tabbed for blocking incidents.

* The race-day attendance for the Molson Indy Vancouver was 66,077, boosting the three-day total attendance to 162,271.

* The run of career-high finishes helped boost a number of drivers in the point standings. Darren Manning jumped to ninth with his top-five finish, Ryan Hunter-Reay climbed to 14th, Rodolfo Lavin moved up to 16th and Max Papis moved up to 19th.

* Both of the Dale Coyne Racing machines suffered contact that resulted in Gualter Salles and Geoff Boss having to miss the race. Both drivers had contact during their warmup laps, Salles' contact with the tire barrier being significant enough to cause the race to run under the yellow flag for the first two laps.

-cart-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Gualter Salles , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Geoff Boss , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing