CHAMPCAR/CART: Brands Hatch: Round four preview

Player's/Forsythe's Paul Tracy shoots for record-tying fourth consecutive Champ Car win as series heads to Brands Hatch. INDIANAPOLIS (April 28, 2003) - Having already etched his name into the Champ Car World Series record books by opening the...

Player's/Forsythe's Paul Tracy shoots for record-tying fourth consecutive Champ Car win as series heads to Brands Hatch.

INDIANAPOLIS (April 28, 2003) - Having already etched his name into the Champ Car World Series record books by opening the season with three straight victories, Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) now has his sights set on another series mark as he looks to become just the fourth man since the formation of CART to win four consecutive races.

Tracy became the first driver since the formation of CART in 1979 to win the first three races of a season as he kicked off the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford campaign, with victories in St. Petersburg, Monterrey and Long Beach, and now looks to join Al Unser Jr. (1990), Alex Zanardi ('98) and Cristiano da Matta (2002) as the only pilots to take four straight wins.

A fourth win to start the season would put Tracy in even more elite company after he joined Al Unser Sr. as the first Champ Car driver since 1971 to win the first three races of the year. A fourth win would push him closer to 67-time Champ Car race winner A.J. Foyt, who claimed the first seven events of the 1964 season.

Tracy and the rest of the 19-car field will have to tap into the knowledge gained in the early days of their careers if they are to taste victory champagne in Round 4 of the 2003 championship however, as the series heads to the Brands Hatch short course for the London Champ Car Trophy, which takes place on the 1.2-mile road course of the storied English racing complex on Monday, May 5.

Only a handful of the drivers on the Champ Car grid have ever raced on the seven-turn Brands Hatch track in their journey toward Champ Car stardom, as the series has not competed on the circuit since 1978 when Rick Mears took victory. Tracy, Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Darren Manning (#15 RAC Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) have all done battle on the Kent, England layout in open-wheel cars on their way up the ladder, but none have turned laps there in anything resembling a 750hp Champ Car.

Those drivers with experiences on the tricky circuit will carry fond memories of their past racing exploits with them as they strap in to chase the London Champ Car Trophy. Moreno won the 1980 Formula Ford World Cup Festival at Brands Hatch, Haberfeld won a pair of pole positions in F3000 competition at Brands Hatch while Manning finished second in 1992 and '93 in the Brands Hatch Winter Series.

The lack of experience on the seven-turn circuit could help balance the Champ Car field, especially after a Long Beach event that saw the value of track knowledge play a key role. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was dominated by the veterans as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) was the only rookie in the top 10 after 70 laps, and only late-race mechanical problems for Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) kept the lower half of the boxscore from being almost totally populated with first-year drivers.

The mechanical problem that sidelined Jourdain led to what has been the most poignant moment of the 2003 season as the Team Rahal driver had his first-ever Champ Car victory snatched from his grasp. Jourdain led 48 laps before his transmission seized during a pit stop with seven laps to run. The Mexican veteran is still enjoying a solid start to his 2003 campaign however, earning a pair of second-place finishes in the first two races of the year and holding down the third spot in the standings.

Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took advantage of Jourdain's misfortune to climb into the second spot in the series standings after earning his second podium finish of the season. Junqueira has made his moves on race day in the early going, taking top-five finishes in each of the year's first three races, despite having started in the first three rows only once in those three starts. He also joins points leader Tracy as the only drivers to have completed every lap so far this year.

Fernandez will also be looking to continue his recent hot streak that has seen him earn consecutive top-five finishes for the first time since taking over as the series' only owner/driver in 2001. The veteran driver vaulted into the fourth spot in the standings with his runner-up finish at Long Beach, marking the first time that he has been in the top-four in the title chase since the end of the 2000 season when he finished second.

The attention of the race-weekend crowd is sure to be focused on Walker Racing's Manning, who will be behind the wheel of a Champ Car in front of the home fans for the second time in his career. The 28-year-old Brit made his debut at Rockingham Motor Speedway last year and thrilled the locals by leading 18 laps and finishing ninth. This time around, Manning is coming off a race that saw him earn his first-ever top-10 starting spot and wound up with his second consecutive points-paying finish.

Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will be making his first-ever Brands Hatch appearance but comes off a Long Beach run that saw him earn the first top-five finish for Stefan Johansson's new American Spirit racing team. Vasser made up 10 spots during the Long Beach event to finish fourth and finds himself fifth in the season standings. Vasser's American Spirit stablemate partnered with Vasser to carry the fledgling team to its best day of the year as Hunter-Reay moved up five spots from his grid position to place seventh - the best finish of the former Toyota Atlantic driver's young Champ Car career.

Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) also made big gains in Long Beach, scoring his first points of the year in strong fashion, coming home in fifth place. The top-five run was the first since a win in Surfers Paradise for the Mexican sophomore. His Herdez Competition teammate was not as fortunate as a Lap 36 crash ended Moreno's day, but the wily veteran is still tied for sixth in the points after a pair of top-six runs to start the year.

The rookie contingent has been led for most of the race weekends by Newman/Haas first-year pilot Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), but the reigning F3000 champion has had nothing but bad luck on race days so far. Bourdais has earned a pair of poles and has led in each of the first three races - something a rookie has not done since 1993 - but has yet to finish in the top 10. Bourdais has made his money in qualifying, earning three of his five championship points by leading qualifying sessions.

As expected with nine rookies in the series, the battle for the Champ Car World Series Rookie-of-the-Year Award is tight with Haberfeld leading the way after three races. The Brazilian rookie tacked four points on to his lead with a ninth-place run in Long Beach, giving him a five-point margin over Manning and eight over Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Haberfeld owns the highest single-race finish of any of the series' rookies this season, having finished fourth in the season opener at St. Petersburg. None of the rookies have been able to score points in each of the first three races of the 2003 campaign.

The fourth round of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will take place on May 3-5 with one round of qualifying each on Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4. The London Champ Car Trophy event will get underway at 9 a.m. Eastern Time on May 5, with live audio available on the official website of the series, www.champcarworldseries.com. The event will be televised on a tape-delayed basis by CBS on May 10 at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Veteran racing teams such as Newman/Haas Racing, Player's/Forsythe Racing, Team Rahal, Patrick Racing and Walker Racing will compete with many new teams this year in pursuit of the Vanderbilt Cup. CART Champ Cars are thoroughbred racing machines that reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, showcasing the technical expertise of manufacturers such as Ford Motor Company, Lola Cars, Reynard Motorsport and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC. The 19-race 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will be broadcast by television partners CBS and SPEED Channel. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.champcarworldseries.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Foyt , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain