CHAMPCAR/CART: Champ Car returns from European swing

Champ Car World Series returns from successful European swing with new drivers in thick of 2003 championship hunt. INDIANAPOLIS (May 13, 2003) -- Two exciting races with packed grandstands, the emergence of new championship contenders and ...

Champ Car World Series returns from successful European swing with new drivers in thick of 2003 championship hunt.

INDIANAPOLIS (May 13, 2003) -- Two exciting races with packed grandstands, the emergence of new championship contenders and the emotional return of former champion Alex Zanardi to the driver's seat were all highlights of Champ Car's just-completed European swing -- a swing that saw a number of changes in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

The London Champ Car Trophy at Brands Hatch and the German 500 at EuroSpeedway Lausitz each met with great success in what has become an annual sojourn into Europe, drawing large crowds at each stop. A race-day crowd of 40,000 at Brands Hatch and 68,000 at EuroSpeedway has boosted the total attendance count to 633,771 fans after five races -- a number that is on pace to put the series at over 2.4 million in attendance for the seventh consecutive season.

The on-track excitement level was high enough to satisfy the huge crowds and should serve to draw even more fans in the coming races as the drivers of the Champ Car World Series put on thrilling displays of skill at both tracks. After a nearly flawless run on a tight, technical Brands Hatch track, the pilots went wheel-to-wheel early and often on the high-speed EuroSpeedway oval, in a race that featured 13 lead changes and established a new track race record of 170.903 mph during an event that was stopped only twice for caution periods -- both for non-incident related debris.

The trip saw the emergence of a number of new championship contenders, led by Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing. Enlightening critics that had not followed the exploits of the FIA International F3000 champion, Bourdais showed that he had the race speed to match his early-season polewinning performances by snaring his first two race wins on the European swing. He won Brands Hatch in a flawless effort, and then used every inch of race track to deny a pair of rivals that filled his mirrors on the way to the EuroSpeedway finish line.

Bourdais vaulted from 16th to fourth in the points chase with his two wins but was not the only driver to make major gains on the junket across the ocean. Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) earned back-to-back podium finishes for the first time in his career in finishing third at Brands Hatch and second at EuroSpeedway. Dominguez gave Herdez Competition consecutive podium placings for the first time in its long history and moved himself into fifth in the standings after five races.

Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was disappointed by not getting his first win of the season on the swing, but did manage to totally erase what had been a 26-point deficit in the title hunt as he joined Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) atop the standings with 66 points. Tracy would suffer problems for the first time all year after winning three straight races, but his teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) made up for Tracy's woes by placing fifth and seventh respectively in the two races to stay within reach of the leaders.

Bourdais was not the only rookie to find success on foreign soil as Walker Racing's duo of Darren Manning (#15 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) had strong showings. Manning earned a career-high seventh-place finish at Brands Hatch, and then bettered that with a sixth-place run in Germany. Lavin qualified a career-high eighth and placed ninth in earning his first-ever championship points.

The swing builds momentum for what should be another hallmark event in the Champ Car World Series as Round 6 of the 2003 campaign will see the 750hp turbocharged machines running at night for the first time in the long history of The Milwaukee Mile. Musco Lighting will turn night into day as the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite will take place on May 31, and will be broadcast live by SPEED Channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by live qualifying coverage on Friday night, with SPEED Channel coverage beginning at 9:30 p.m.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin