CHAMPCAR/CART: Laguna Seca: Race report

Player's/Forsythe's Patrick Carpentier puts gift of CART Champ Car pole position to good use, leads wire-to-wire in winning Grand Prix of Monterey. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 15, 2003) -- Patrick Carpentier ( ...

Player's/Forsythe's Patrick Carpentier puts gift of CART Champ Car pole position to good use, leads wire-to-wire in winning Grand Prix of Monterey.

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 15, 2003) -- Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended Saturday's CART Champ Car qualifying session in the third spot but was awarded the pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Monterey a few hours later when erstwhile polesitter Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his car fail technical inspection.

Carpentier was elevated to the pole position due to the violation, and used that to great advantage, parlaying that top qualifying spot into his fourth career win in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, leading all 87 laps in claiming his first victory of the 2003 season.

"I knew starting position would be important and here we are, finishing up the way that we started," Carpentier said. "My car was really fast today but I felt like I had a stolen car with policemen chasing me because guys were in my mirrors all day long."

Carpentier led wire-to-wire but the race was anything but easy for the French-Canadian driver as he was shadowed most of the way, first by teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and then by front-row starter Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the final 10 laps. But despite the fact that he had a competitor breathing down his HANS device all day, Carpentier was equal to the task both on the track and on Pit Lane as he took his fourth career CART Champ Car victory.

The race started in dramatic fashion for Carpentier, who saw outside polesitter Junqueira preparing to jump the start, so he slowed down to make the gap a bit obvious to Official Starter J.D. Wilbur. But when he slowed, his teammate Tracy didn't, and popped him in the rear end. Neither car was damaged and Wilbur did in fact wave off the start, allowing the field to reform for a Lap 2 restart after what would be the only lap run under caution all day long.

Very fast on his first laps on cold tires, Carpentier was able to build healthy leads early in each stint, building a three-second lead after just nine laps before Tracy began to reel him back in. Tracy closed to within a half-second before the first round of pit stops but the Player's/Forsythe duo were making quick work of the rest of the field as the third-placed Junqueira was 11 seconds in arrears as the field headed for Pit Lane.

Carpentier beat Tracy back to the track after the first stops and again pulled out to a three-second lead over his teammate, but behind them, the Newman/Haas duo of Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) were closing as Junqueira whittled an 11-second deficit down to less than one second by time the second round of pit stops came around.

The leader survived a brief moment on the tight entrance to Pit Lane and again beat the field back to the track, but Tracy would suffer a problem as he hit the loose tire of Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was setting up for his stop.

"The guy from Fernandez was looking right at me and he set the tire down way out in the corner of the pit box, just to make things hard for me," Tracy said. "I'm just glad that CART looked at the tape and made the right call and didn't penalize us for it, because we always try to be courteous to each other and I think that in this case, we didn't do anything wrong."

There was plenty of good racing behind the leaders as well as Jourdain, who would start 13th after failing the technical inspection on Saturday, powered his way through the back of the field. He would do battle with Fernandez, Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on his way to the top five, and would end up saving his series points lead after a late-race pass of Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) put him in the fourth position.

Ahead of that scrum, Tracy would make a last-ditch effort to pass his teammate as they came out of the pits, but he would flat-spot his tires on a braking maneuver in Turn Two, causing a vibration that would cost him the shot at the victory. Junqueira would take advantage and move into second place while Bourdais moved into third briefly before a loss of boost pressure caused by a faulty pop-off valve ended his day.

The two leaders made their last stop on Lap 72 with Carpentier again coming off Pit Lane ahead of Junqueira. Good on cold tires again, Carpentier ran the fastest lap of the race on Lap 81, and while Junqueira did put together several fast laps including his best of the day on Lap 86, he would come up 0.844 seconds short. The win vaulted Carpentier ahead of Bourdais and into fourth place in the points, Jourdain holding the lead at 89, with Junqueira second with 83, Tracy third with 81 and Carpentier fourth with 70.

Tracy would round out the podium with a third-place finish while Jourdain and Haberfeld completed the top five. Servia would place sixth, marking the fourth consecutive event that he has finished in the top six. Fernandez fought through Pit Lane troubles to finish seventh with Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finishing the top 10.

TOP THREE FINISHERS QUOTES:

Patrick Carpentier: Bruno was behind me and I knew he was trying to play a game there and to get a good start, so I just kind of slowed down when he accelerated. I want to make it obvious, but Paul helped me to make it really obvious. He hit me at the back and my car went up in the air, didn't get the green flag; then the next start I left a little bit early, but it was a good start.

Bruno Junqueira: Just have to keep working hard and keep focused and I know that we have very good drivers and very good teams like Player's and Michel and my teammate, and I have to keep working hard. I think we're able to get a great result if we do that.

Paul Tracy: We had an opportunity to challenge for the win. I tried every way I could, without, you know, using the chrome horn or anything like that (laughs) but I was giving it -- trying every which way, you know, it made for an exciting race. Pat was in the dirt. I was in the dirt. We were trying all kinds of different lines.

NOTEWORTHY:

* Today's fourth-place finish allows Michel Jourdain Jr. to maintain his series points lead, marking the first time in his eight-year CART Champ Car career that he has had the points lead over two consecutive events.

* Today's victory for Patrick Carpentier was the first ever for Player's/Forsythe Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, was the first wire-to-wire win at the Monterey track since 1999 and was the first ever wire-to-wire win for Carpentier.

* Mario Haberfeld was the top-finishing rookie and the highest finisher among the Reynard contingent. The Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing driver moved into second in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings, just 17 points behind leader Sebastien Bourdais.

* Patrick Carpentier is the only driver to finish in the points in every race this season and leads the series in laps completed with 932 of a possible 936.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain
Teams Conquest Racing