Jourdain looks to come full circle with win at Long Beach. HILLIARD, OH . . . It was April of 1996 when a 19-year-old rookie named Michel Jourdain Jr. climbed into a Champ Car for his debut in CART. Just by taking the green flag Jourdain carved...
Jourdain looks to come full circle with win at Long Beach.
HILLIARD, OH . . . It was April of 1996 when a 19-year-old rookie named Michel Jourdain Jr. climbed into a Champ Car for his debut in CART. Just by taking the green flag Jourdain carved himself a niche in the chronicles of CART as he became the youngest driver in series history. Now on the eve of his eighth Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Jourdain finds himself in a dramatically different set of circumstances.
Jourdain enters the 2003 GPLB with back-to-back second place finishes. He is second in the Champ Car World Series championship, trailing only two-time 2003 winner Paul Tracy. Long gone is the wide-eyed rookie of 1996 who needed his Uncle Bernard to attend the drivers meeting to help him translate. In that rookies place is the confident veteran who has carved out a niche as a title contender.
"For me, winning is the final step I have to take in my development as a Champ Car driver," said Jourdain. "I am proud of what I have accomplished but it has just been preparation for what lies ahead. Long Beach has always been a special place for me because it is where my Champ Car career began. I feel we are close to winning and if my first win comes at Long Beach it would be unbelievable."
Team Rahal owner and three-time series champion Bobby Rahal continues to be impressed with Jourdain. "Michel continues to show a great deal of patience on the track, and his ability to avoid costly mistakes shows the maturity he has gained as a driver," said Rahal. "It is so easy to forget how young he is (26) because he has been around this series so long, but he is getting better all the time. He has a great deal of experience and he is using that experience to his advantage."
The biggest difference between 2002 and 2003 for Jourdain and the Gigante team has been their early success in qualifying. In 2002 Jourdain's average starting position was 14th, highlighted by top-ten starts at Monterrey, Mexico and Long Beach. In 2003 Jourdain has started fifth at both events and has parlayed that prime starting spot into podium results.
"We have gone to the first two races with a goal of qualifying in the top-five and we have done that," said Jourdain. "Qualifying is critical for us this year. We put a lot of effort into improving our qualifying position this season and so far it has paid off. Last year, based on where we qualified, we ran for top-ten results. This year if we can qualify in the top-five and do what we did a year ago then we should be racing for podiums. That will pay off in more points in the championship."
"Everything is clicking for the Gigante team," said Jourdain. "It is a great feeling to come to the track right now with the way things gave been going. We have a good grasp on the car and the guys on the pit crew are working very well together. We have been close on several occasions to getting that first win and I know our time is coming. If we keep building on the success we have had it will lead to more success."
BUSY WEEKEND PART 2 FOR TEAM RAHAL
For the second time this season, and only the second time in Team Rahal's twelve year history, the team will compete in three separate open wheel series on the same weekend. In addition to Jourdain's Champ Car World Series effort, the team will also compete in the Toyota Atlantic Championship with Danica Patrick at Long Beach. The third Team Rahal program in action this weekend will be Kenny Brack's Pioneer/Miller Lite entry in the IRL's IndyCar Series race in Motegi, Japan.
The first time the three programs ran on the same weekend (March 21-23) Team Rahal captured three top-five results, including podiums finishes for Jourdain (2nd) and Patrick (3rd).
"MISTER CONSISTENT" STAYS THE COURSE
Since he joined Team Rahal at the start of the 2002 Champ Car season, Michel Jourdain Jr. has been the model of consistency. Jourdain posted points paying results in his first 17 events with Team Rahal last season, establishing a team record for consecutive points paying finishes.
In 21 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted 19 points paying results. He has collected seven top-five results and 16 top-ten finishes. Only once in the previous 21 events with Team Rahal has Jourdain failed to finish a race. That was at Fontana in November of 2002, where he led ten laps and appeared to be headed for a podium finish before an engine failure ended his day.
Jourdain led the series in laps completed and miles logged in 2002. He is off to a strong start in those categories again in 2003, as he is one of only four drivers in the series to complete every lap in the first two events.
GIGANTE PIT CREW IN CHAMPIONSHIP FORM
Team Rahal prides itself on its strong pit crews, and at Monterrey, Mexico the Gigante crew finished second in cumulative pit time, trailing only Darren Manning's Walker Racing crew by six-tenths of a second. It marked the second straight race that Team Rahal was second in least cumulative pit time at a Champ Car World Series event.
For the season Team Rahal has spent just over three and a half minutes (3:31.664) in the pits during the two races an average of just 35.277 seconds a pit stop. That is the best pit total and average stop time of the eight teams who have completed both races. The second best total pit time belongs to Paul Tracy (3:53.778 seconds) or some 22 seconds behind Team Rahal's Gigante crew.
Team Rahal captured the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Championship (CPCC) in 2001 and 2002. Jourdain's Gigante pit crew comprised the bulk of the 2002 Shell crew which captured the CPCC title.