Lilly driver Bourdais finished ninth in Milwaukee Mile 250 while accident took Pacificare driver Junqueira out at start of race. - Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais battled an overheating engine in the early stages of the 250-lap Milwaukee Mile ...
Lilly driver Bourdais finished ninth in Milwaukee Mile 250 while accident took Pacificare driver Junqueira out at start of race.
- Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais battled an overheating engine in the early stages of the 250-lap Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 - CART's first night race - as well as struggled to find grip for the entire event and drove to a ninth place finish. With the four points he earned from his ninth place finish he was able to maintain his fourth place rank in the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series point standings. Rain washed out Friday night's qualifying session and the grid was set on combined practice times.
As it was his first experience on a one-mile oval the team planned to slowly get Bourdais up to speed and therefore did not concentrate on setting a fast lap in each session so he stated in 13th place. The majority of the field was concerned with the role cold tires would play on the start of the race as well as the restarts and when the Pace Car rolled shortly after 8:00 PM CT, the ambient temperature was 50 degrees.
The race started under caution to help the drivers raise the temperatures in their tires on the 1.032-mile short oval but when the green flag flew on Lap 4 Bourdais' teammate Junqueira lost control of his car exiting Turn 2 and collected Roberto Moreno before he hit the wall. While using evasive action Patrick Lemarie ran into the back of Mario Dominguez's car and the latter was the only driver of the four that was able to continue the race. During the long caution to clear the debris, Bourdais was concerned about the rising temperature of the engine and pitted on Lap 13. The team removed the ducts that regulate the air flow into the engine compartment and checked for any debris that would block airflow. In order to keep Bourdais from going one lap down to the leaders, he was sent back out before the leaders passed.
He returned to the pits on Lap 15 so the team could reinstall the ducts at a different setting and returned to the track ahead of the leaders and on the lead lap in 15th place. He reported a lack of grip to the team who began planning changes in an effort to improve the car on the upcoming pit stop. By Laps 73 he moved up to third place as the front runners were in the pits for their mandatory stop each 59 laps. He made his third pit stop on Lap 74 and returned to the race in 14th place after the team performed a routine stop as well as took out two turns of front wing - an aggressive change.
From Laps 86 and 133 he moved into ninth place before his fourth pit stop on Lap 133 and returned to the race in 13th place. For the duration of the next stint he swapped positions with his 2002 F3000 teammate Tiego Monteiro before his fifth stop on Lap 161. He returned to the track ahead of Monteiro and held the position until Lap 170 when he moved into 11th place. From Laps 203 to 213 he ran in 12th place after Monteiro passed him but moved as high as seventh place in the running order as the front runners made their final stops. Throughout the duration of the race there were seven caution periods for a total of 79 laps, four for contact but the incident with the most impact on the point standings was the one on Lap 214. Paul Tracy, who entered the race in a tie for the points lead with Junqueira lost the left rear tire in Turn 3 and coasted back into the pits due to an apparent failure to secure the bolt on the tire during their stop after the car fell off the airjack. Tracy made it back to his pit on three tires and subsequently returned to the track in 13th place but was sent to the rear of the field by CART Champ Car Chief Steward Chris Kneifel.
Meanwhile Bourdais continued on track until his sixth and final pit stop came on Lap 219 and he returned to the race in 10th place. On Lap 226 he passed Monteiro for the final time for ninth place and held the position until the checkered flag. Jourdain, in his eighth season, led a dominant 234 of the 250 laps around the historic Milwaukee Mile en route to victory which vaulted him from third in the standings to the lead with 77 points over Tracy (67), Junqueira (66) and Bourdais (53). Bourdais maintained his lead in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings with a ninth-place finish, but had his advantage reduced by Darren Manning who finished fourth. Bourdais has a 19-point lead heading into Laguna Seca. The event marked the first that Bourdais has not led during the 2003 season. Following are his post race comments:
"I didn't have much grip for the entire race," said Bourdais. "We kept working on it as the race went on but it never improved. On the first stint I was just trying to survive. The way we were using our tires was not right for this event for whatever reason. It was just hang on, hang on for the entire race. At the start our engine was overheating and we had to come in two times to adjust the inlet ducts for more airflow to the engine. I am just happy to bring the car home in one piece and begin work on Laguna and Portland."
- PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira avoided serious injury after he lost control of his race car and crashed during the first racing lap (Lap 4) of CART's first night event - the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 and retired in 17th place.
The race marked the coldest temperatures the Bridgestone/Firestone motorsports program has faced since it entered CART competition in 1995, and the field was warned to proceed with caution. Before the command "Gentlemen Start Your Engines" was given, the ambient temperature was 50 degrees but before the conclusion of the event, track temperatures dipped to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. At the start of the event on the legendary one-mile oval, Junqueira was possibly the victim of this very challenge as he lost control of his race car exiting Turn 2 when he applied pressure to the throttle after backing off when three-wide into a turn. The rear of his car spun around toward the outside wall and made hard contact. He collected the car of Roberto Moreno in the process. Simultaneously, evasive action by Patrick Lemarie led to his retirement as well as damaged the car of Mario Dominguez.
CART's Simple Green Safety Team was on the site immediately and he was carefully removed from his car and initially taken to CART's infield Medical Center for evaluation. Due to tenderness in his neck he was then taken via ambulance to Froedert Memorial Lutheran Hospital for precautionary x-rays and a CT Scan, both of which proved negative for damage. He was released from the hospital at approx. 12:45 AM CT on Sunday and planned to travel to Miami later in the day. On the strength of earning his first CART victory, Michel Jourdain jumped from third in the pre-race point standings to the lead with 77. Junqueira and Paul Tracy were tied in the point standings with 66 each prior to the event but Tracy only earned one-point for his 12th place finish after he ran in the top three prior to losing a wheel late in the race. Junqueira fell from his two-way tie for the lead to third place but is only 11 points out of the lead and one behind Tracy. Following are his comments:
"I'm very sorry that I couldn't run a good race for the PacifiCare team," said Junqueira. "We were three wide on the start and I was in the middle going into the corner and I had to back off the throttle. I got on the throttle after that and lost control of the car. I was really excited to race here because I like the one-mile ovals. I'm looking forward to Laguna Seca and Portland."
- Next Up...The CART Champ Car World Series will take a one-week hiatus before back-to-back west coast events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Portland International Raceway. Junqueira and Bourdais were ranked 1-2 respectively in the pre-season test held at Laguna Seca and both hope to bring the team the same result from 2002 when Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi finished 1-2.