CHAMPCAR/CART: Elkhart Lake: Team Rahal Track Talk

Jourdain looks to make Team Rahal history. HILLIARD, OH . . . Michel Jourdain Jr. heads to Road America this weekend with a chance to write his name into the Team Rahal record books. Starting just his 12th race with Team Rahal the 25-year-old...

Jourdain looks to make Team Rahal history.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Michel Jourdain Jr. heads to Road America this weekend with a chance to write his name into the Team Rahal record books. Starting just his 12th race with Team Rahal the 25-year-old Jourdain has a chance to claim the team record for points scored in consecutive races .

Jourdain has finished every Champ Car race this season and has done so in the points giving him a career best 11 race point streak. That streak matches the points paying streak that team owner Bobby Rahal recorded in his final season as a driver in 1998.

Consistency has been the calling card for Jourdain in his first season with Team Rahal. He leads the series in laps completed and in miles logged and is the only driver in the series to have finished every race.

"My crew had given me a dependable car week in and week out and when we have had a problem like at Vancouver (he spun on warm-up lap) we have been able to recover and address the problems," said Jourdain. "We have had some success but I think we are just starting to scratch the surface of what we can achieve."

What Jourdain has achieved in 2002 is significant. Entering the 2002 season Jourdain had 101 Champ Car starts in six seasons. He had collected one top-five result (3rd at MIS in '01) and seven top-ten results while scoring a total of 61 career points.

In 11 races with Team Rahal Jourdain has eclipsed all of those totals. He has collected five top-five results and nine top-ten finishes. He surpassed his single season career high for points in three races and he bested his career total in nine events. He currently sits fifth in the points championship with 76 points, and is just ten points behind third place Bruno Junqueira.

"I said when we signed him that I thought Michel was a 'diamond in the rough' and that he would surprise a lot of people this season," said three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal. "It has been a joy to see him have the success that he has had this season, but he will be the first to tell you he isn't satisfied with just scoring points. He wants to finish on the podium and win races. The challenge before him is to take the step to the next level. That is a big step and it can take some time but knowing Michel like I know him, and knowing the people that are working with him, I know that step will come.

A problematic area for Jourdain and the Gigante team has been qualifying. Although he has finished well and scored points in each race, Jourdain's average starting position is 14th . That has left him fighting to move forward in the fiercely competitive world of CART.

"Certainly the biggest area of concern has been qualifying," said Jourdain. "A lot of factors have gone against us but the bottom line is that we must improve our starting position. The last couple of races (Vancouver and Mid-Ohio) we have had a pretty good car for qualifying but mechanical problems have disrupted our efforts on both days. It isn't like we have had some charmed season and that we haven't had problems or adversity, but our problems seem to come on Friday and Saturday and not on race day."

VASSER FOCUSED ON GETTING BACK TO THE PODIUM

The hard luck story of the CART season has been Shell driver Jimmy Vasser who has seen a season in which he figured to be a championship contender be sidetracked with five DNF's, three on the opening lap of the race.

Vasser has found his way to a points paying finish in three of the last four races including an eighth place finish last week at Mid-Ohio. All those results have done is convince Vasser there is no reason that the Shell team shouldn't be finishing on the podium.

"We missed at Mid-Ohio which is disappointing considering how well we tested there in May and how productive the Ford test at Portland was two weeks ago," said Vasser. "We are close but this series is so competitive and everyone is so good that if you are slightly off you are really behind in the game. We spent a few days at the shop in Hilliard reviewing our season and I think we have a good focus for this weekend. Lets face it we aren't coming to the track to finish eighth. There is no reason that we shouldn't finish on the podium and win races. Ford has made great strides with their engine program and seeing what Patrick [Carpentier] has been able to accomplish in the last month we know the Cosworth engine is capable of winning races."

Vasser captured Team Rahal's lone podium of the 2002 season which came at Long Beach in April of this season.

GIGANTE CREW LEADS THE CRAFTSMAN PIT CREW CHALLENGE

Team Rahal's Gigante pit crew holds a two point lead on second place Newman-Haas Racing and Players Forsythe Racing (85-83) in the fourth annual Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. The weekly competition awards points to the pit crews of the teams which finish the race and compile the least time in the pits.

Points are awarded in the same manner of CART championship points with 20 points being awarded to the crew which wins the round. The four crews with the highest point totals from the first 18 races and the pit crew of Cristiano da Matta which won a wild card spot at Chicago, will compete in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shootout at Fontana for the $50,000 first prize.

The Gigante crew has scored points in ten of the 11 events this season.

Team Rahal's Shell pit crew captured the 2001 championship in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge edging the two pit crews of Penske Racing and Paul Tracy's Team Green crew. Team Rahal has had a crew in the finals in two of the three previous competitions. Max Papis' Miller Lite pit crew finished as runner's up in 1999.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain
Teams Team Penske