Bourdais 2nd in Mexico City; Junqueira's Illness Led to 7th - Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais pressured eventual winner Paul Tracy for the lead of the 70-lap Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa before he settled for a second...
Bourdais 2nd in Mexico City; Junqueira's Illness Led to 7th
- Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais pressured eventual winner Paul Tracy for the lead of the 70-lap Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa before he settled for a second place finish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. His seventh podium finish of the season enabled him to clinch the 2003 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year over closest pursuer Darren Manning. The field took to the track in front of a crowd in excess of 175,000 under sunny skies in Mexico's capitol. After the first attempt to start the race was waved off due to the front row being out of formation, the race got underway the next time by and the field traveled into Turn one four abreast on the first lap. Bourdais was able to move into third place ahead of second place starter Tiago Monteiro who was involved in a multi car accident that involved fifth place starter Darren Manning, Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain and Jimmy Vasser. After a full course yellow was brought for one lap he held third place through a restart on Lap 4 and until his first of three mandatory pit stops on Lap 19. He returned to the track in third place behind race leader Paul Tracy and teammate Junqueira. He maintained a gap of between one to two seconds behind Junqueira before the second pit stop on Lap 38. Quick pit work by the Lilly crew coupled with two gallons less of fuel enabled him to pass his teammate Junqueira in the pits and move to second place behind Tracy. He trailed Tracy by seven seconds until a full course caution period came out for contact between Jimmy Vasser and Alex Tagliani on Lap 41. The race restarted on Lap 43 and he was able to stay within half of a second of Tracy for the ensuing laps and closed to less than a car length before his third and final pit stop on Lap 57. He returned to the track behind Tracy but third overall as temporary race leader Adrian Fernandez was on an alternate pit strategy and would eventually make his final stop on Lap 63 of 70. On Lap 58, Bourdais almost pulled alongside Tracy but was unable to make an attempt to pass him. Unfortunately it appeared that his opportunity to pass Tracy had passed and he slowly began to increase the gap as the race continued. Meanwhile Mario Dominguez had begun to close in on Bourdais but still trailed by over one second. Bourdais took the checkered flag 1.782-seconds behind Tracy and earned 16 points for his effort to bring his total to 158 and maintained his fourth place rank. He set the second fastest lap of the race behind fellow rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay and increased his lead over fifth place Patrick Carpentier from a pre-race total of six points to 22 while his deficit to third place rank Michel Jourdain decreased from 29 points to 25. Following are his post race comments:
"I have two feelings right now," said Bourdais. "One is being happy that we clinched the rookie of the year award and the strong run for Lilly today. Pretty good weekend for me. The other feeling is disappointment for Bruno because I think he got the tourist disease. He got sick and spent most of the morning in the medical center. And obviously he didn't look that good from the middle to the end of the race. That's kind of a shame because he lost a lot of opportunity to win the Championship which was pretty much the main target for Newman/Haas Racing and obviously for me to help him. So it's racing, but it's kind of disappointing.
"I think in one way the late yellow helped us catch Tracy, but it killed the performance of the tires, as they went from cold to hot back to cold in just a short period of time. Before the car was running really, really well and then suddenly after the restart it was really, really difficult to try to pass Paul. Basically I pushed really hard after the last pitstop. I really overused my tires, I really tried everything I could, but you know when you are in the draft, you lose a lot of downforce and then you beat up your tires and then at that point that was already over. I had like five or six laps where just couldn't find a spot and just really tried all I could.
"I don't know how many people were here today, but it was like all the grand stands were sold out. It's a long track, a lot of grandstand, these ones are huge, and it's full and it's unbelievable to race in front of such a good crowd. The rookie of the year award was the main target this season for us, and we got it with two races to go so I'm very happy. We could have achieved that in Miami, but, you know, you know what happened. Obviously we knew that we were in pretty good shape. We had a big advantage over Darren (Manning) and were looking very strong here in Mexico, but now the biggest target is try to finish in the final podium and to make another podium final for Newman/Haas Racing. I think we closed the gap with Michel today. We got very important points and these next two races are going to be very difficult and I just hope to be there and to prove that I really deserve this final podium."
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira came into the weekend with a 13-point deficit to series leader Paul Tracy but a race day illness contributed to a seventh place finish after he started third in the 70-lap Gran Premio Telmex / Gigante Presented by Banamex/Visa. Immediately following the conclusion of the race day morning warm-up at 11:45 a.m. CT, Junqueira went to CART's Medical Center for stomach pain and nausea most likely caused by a reaction to food he ate for dinner the previous night. He was given two IV's to reduce his dehydration and was released prior to the 2:00 p.m. start of the drivers parade. The first attempt to start the race was waived off as polesitter Paul Tracy and second place starter Tiago Monteiro were not in adequate formation. Once the race started around the 2.786-mile road course, Junqueira temporarily pulled alongside Tracy but slipped back into second place ahead of Sebastien Bourdais and Monteiro who dropped to fourth. During the duration of his first stint, Tracy had built a 5.8-second lead over Junqueira before the first of three mandatory pit stops a maximum of 19 laps apart on Lap 19. He held his position but fell another three seconds behind Tracy by the time he returned to the track. On Lap 22 he beat Tracy's best lap time and had set the fastest lap of the race so far which he temporarily lost to teammate Sebastien Bourdais on Lap 25 but regained on Lap 30. On Lap 33 he bettered his lap time and trailed Tracy by eight seconds until the second of three stops on Lap 38. He lost one position to teammate Bourdais, who had a shorter stop due to taking on two less gallons of fuel than he did. Junqueira now ran six seconds behind Bourdais until the field was bunched together curtesy of a five-lap full course caution caused by Jimmy Vasser and Alex Tagliani, who made contact. Once the race was restarted on Lap 46 Monteiro pulled alongside the ailing Junqueira in Turn 1 and they battled for the next few turns before Junqueira fell in behind the rookie in fourth place. On lap 46 a full course caution was shown for the final time during the race when Roberto Gonzales and Darren Manning came together. When the race was restarted a few laps later, he held his position while fifth place runner Mario Dominguez began closing the gap and passed Junqueira on Lap 55 going into Turn 1. On Lap 57 the majority of the field entered the pits for their final stops. Junqueira returned to the track fifth of those on the same strategy but seventh place overall behind temporary leader Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain. Fernandez was on an alternate pit strategy as was Jourdain but the latter had already made his final stop and moved into fifth place as the frontrunners pit. Junqueira held seventh place until Lap 62 of 70 when Mika Salo dropped him to eighth with a pass at the end of the front straight. On Lap 63 he regained seventh place after Fernandez gave up the lead to make his final stop. Junqueira held the position for the ensuing laps and collected six points for his seventh place finish. Paul Tracy, Junqueira's main rival in the Championship hunt earned his seventh win of the season and collected a total of 22 points for winning the race, leading the most laps and setting the fastest lap time in provisional qualifying on Friday. He was able to increase his lead over Junqueira to 29 points (226-197) with two races remaining in the season and a maximum of 45 points. Tracy can clinch the series title with a win or a second-place finish in the October 28 Lexmark Indy 300 no matter what Junqueira does in the final two events. Failing a top-two finish, Tracy can lock up his first CART championship by finishing ahead of Junqueira, or unless Junqueira fails to make up eight points on Tracy. Following are Junqueira's post race comments:
"I felt like I was going to throw up the whole race," said Junqueira. "I think it might have been caused by the dinner I had last night. I had to survive the whole race only to finish seventh. It's very frustrating."
- Next Up...The Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford will travel to Queensland, Australia for the Lexmark Indy 300 on October 26. Junqueira started the 2002 event from second place and finished 14th in the rain-shortened event.