CHAMPCAR/CART: Mid-Ohio: Team Rahal preview

HILLIARD, OH . . . The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is less than an hours drive from Team Rahal's nearly 60,000 square foot headquarters in suburban Columbus, and thus the track has become known as the home track for the team's Champ Car and...


The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is less than an hours drive from Team Rahal's nearly 60,000 square foot headquarters in suburban Columbus, and thus the track has become known as the home track for the team's Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic programs.  Although the team doesn't run any more days there than any other team, the strong central-Ohio fan support and the longstanding relationship between Bobby Rahal and the Trueman family have cemented the bond between the two.
Founded in 1992 as Rahal/Hogan Racing, Team Rahal has never won on its home track.  In fact the team owns just two podium results on the famed 2.258-mile course in their 11 previous visits.  The last time a Rahal driver was on the podium at Mid-Ohio was 1998 when Rahal himself captured his last podium finish of his legendary Champ Car career.  Rahal also made the team's other podium appearance with a third place finish in 1997.
This year Team Rahal's Gigante driver Michel Jourdain Jr. comes to Mid-Ohio looking to give the faithful fans and the hardworking shop based employees a podium result.  "Mid-Ohio is a special place to Team Rahal because it is the team's home track," said Jourdain.  "Everyone from the shop comes to the track and for some of the people at the shop it is the only time during the course of the season that they get to see the team in action first hand.  Then there is the fantastic fan support we have.  It seems like every other person has something Team Rahal on, and that support is evident everywhere you go.  Sometimes I think the team might put extra pressure on itself for this event, but all we can do it focus on the job at hand and keep doing what we have been doing at the other races.  I know we can be fast and competitive here because we were fast here when we tested."
Jourdain, third in the Champ Car World Series championship, posted his best career finish at Mid-Ohio last year when he started 16th and finished 11th.  Jourdain knows he needs a strong result to close the ground on championship leaders Junqueira and Tracy.  "We have had a lot of success this season but we are falling behind in the championship.  Little things have sidetracked us over the last month and cost us dearly.  We need to get back to the level we were at in May and June.  There are still seven races to go.  With a few wins or strong results and a little bit of misfortune for Bruno and Paul we will be right back in this.  I know the team is working hard, but all of us, including myself have to go the extra mile right now to make sure we are successful."


Michel Jourdain Jr.'s 11 race point streak was snapped with a lap 11 crash at Road America and the resulting DNF.  It marked just the third time in 31 races with Team Rahal that Jourdain has posted a DNF and it marked only the third time he has failed to produce a point in a race weekend.
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.  This year he ran his point streak to 11 straight, matching Bobby Rahal for the second longest streak in team history. Prior to joining Team Rahal in 2002, Jourdain had never posted points in more than two consecutive races.
In 31 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 28 times.  He has collected 12 top-five results and 23 top-ten finishes.
A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed (2,368) and miles logged (4,238).  Jourdain enters the race at Mid-Ohio once again as the series leader in laps completed (1,365) and miles logged (2,345).


One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through the first 11 races of 2003 Jourdain's average starting position was fifth, as opposed to an average starting slot of 14th in 2002. Having started in the top-five in eight of the first 11 races allowed the steady Jourdain move to the front of the points chase, and has made the Gigante pit crew, the defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champions, a significant weapon in the success of the #9 car. At Road America Jourdain started tenth and was caught in an opening green flag lap incident that resulted in a DNF. Jourdain has failed to start in the top-six in only three of the 12 races (Brand's Hatch, Laguna Seca and Road America). At Laguna Seca he won the pole position on track, but was stripped of the pole winning time when his car failed tech inspection. He started 13th and finished fourth. Jourdain has three front-row starts in 2003 including his first Champ Car career pole position at Long Beach in April. Bryan Herta holds Team Rahal's best qualifying efforts at Mid-Ohio. In 1997 Herta took the pole. The following year he started third and in 1999 he started second. Herta was never able to capitalize on his great starting positions, posting DNF's in all three years. The last time a Team Rahal car started in the top-five at Mid-Ohio was in 2000 when Kenny Brack started fourth. The last two seasons the best starting position for a Team Rahal car has been 13th (Brack in '01 and Vasser in '02). "It is tough to pass at Mid-Ohio," said Jourdain. "We know going into the weekend that qualifying will be a key, so we are focused on being successful."


Jourdain and the Gigante team are vying to become the first single car entry to win the Champ Car World Series championship since Jacques Villeneuve with Players in 1995. Only three have won the title with a single entry, including Bobby Rahal in Team Rahal's first year of operation 1992. Jourdain enters Mid-Ohio trailing points leader Bruno Junqueira by 39 points and second place Paul Tracy by 36 points.

JOURDAIN 2003 vs. 2002 vs. Career

Jourdain surpassed his 2002 point total (105) in just ten races.  Last season Jourdain averaged 5.5 points per race.  In 2003 Jourdain and the Gigante team are currently averaging 10.4 points per race. Jourdain had just 61 points in his first six Champ Car seasons.  In his first seven seasons in Champ Car Jourdain posted 166 points in 120 races.  He is on pace to surpass his point total for seven seasons in 2003 alone. At the current pace he would 'double' his career points at Miami in late September.  Since the start of the 2002 season when he joined Team Rahal, Jourdian has amassed 230 points in the Champ Car World Series.
Jourdain is just off the pace to post 200 points this season.  In the last ten years only five Champ Car drivers have posted 200 points in a season and four of the five have won the championship.  This season two drivers (Junqueira & Tracy) are on pace to post 200 points and a third driver (Jourdain) is on pace for 197 points.


Jourdain and his three fellow Mexican drivers will meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox on Tuesday morning. President Fox will present each of the four drivers with a patch for their firesuits 'Hecho en Mexico' which means 'Made in Mexico.' Jourdain will present President Fox with a copy of his trophy from his first Champ Car win at Milwaukee.


With a top-five result this weekend at Mid-Ohio Michel Jourdain Jr. can surpass the 300 career point mark. Jourdain who has 291 career points has earned 230 Champ Car points in the last two seasons which is fourth highest total among the active Champ Car drivers.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Michel Jourdain
Teams HART