CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Patrick Racing race report

Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia scores CART career best finish at historic Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Servia finishes second MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2003 -- Round ...

Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia scores CART career best finish at historic Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250

Servia finishes second

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2003 -- Round #6 - 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season - Visteon/Patrick Racing driver Oriol Servia finished a CART career high second Saturday evening in the historic Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 on the Milwaukee Mile oval in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Servia, behind the wheel of the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing entry, which is powered by Ford-Cosworth with a Lola chassis and Bridgestone tires, drove one of the most exciting, aggressive and hard fought races in his four-year CART career. The talented 28-year-old native of Spain engaged in a classic battle with Paul Tracy for much of CART's first-ever night race as the two competed for second place and the chance to try to overtake Michel Jourdain for the victory.

On a clear, but cold night where temperatures were in the lower to mid forties, Servia showed he had the car and the ability to contend for the victory from the outset of the race. The first three laps of the event were run under a yellow flag because of the cold conditions, but on lap four the track went green and Servia was on the move. Starting seventh, a CART career high sixth consecutive top-10 starting position, the resident of Miami, Florida passed two cars on the first green flag lap. However, before the field competed a full lap a three-car pile up brought out the second yellow flag of the evening. Servia moved up one spot while the debris was cleared when Patrick Carpentier's team chose to pit as the fuel window opened on lap 14. The race got back under way on lap 19 and Servia immediately passed Alex Tagliani to move into third place.

That set up what would prove to be the battle of the race as Servia began to stalk Paul Tracy, who was running in second place. The two produced much of the excitement in what turned out to be a thrilling race.

Servia, who obviously had the superior car over the long haul, drove a very smart race. He would concede a position rather than risk a crash, when Tracy, who had a good car on cold tires would employ a tactic on restarts learned from oval master Rick Mears and overtake on the outside in turn #1. Servia would then wear down Tracy and pass with an equally brilliant overtaking maneuver halfway through the stint. Ironically, Visteon/Patrick Chief Racing engineer, Steve Challis was Tracy's engineer last year when he dominated and won the 2002 Milwaukee Mile event. In all, Sevia passed Tracy four times, including once when the Visteon/Patrick Racing crew continued its outstanding pit work. Tracy re-passed three times.

After repeating the restart pass, mid-stint pass process for the final time during the fourth segment of the race both cars pitted for the fourth and final time on lap 213 of the 250-lap competition. That's when the wheels literally fell off for Tracy, as his crew failed to secure a tire properly. Servia once again got a great pit stop from his Visteon/Patrick Racing crew and rejoined the competition still in second place. As a result of Tracy's errant wheel the fifth yellow flag of the night was flown bunching the field and putting Servia directly behind race leader Jourdain. With 37 laps remaining in the race this looked like another opportunity for Servia, who had the best car on the track, to chase down Jourdain, who had a car that was pushing (understeer, where the car had trouble turning into a corner) and challenge for the win. Unfortunately, the last stint was punctuated by two yellow flags, which allowed Jourdain to defend his position and made it impossible for Servia to press his advantage.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team had a good race," Servia began. "We had a good start passing two cars, moved up a little more and then started to battle with Paul Tracy. Paul would pass me on the restarts and then I would pass him back. I think we passed each other three times each, and I will tell you it is not easy to pass Mr. Tracy," he noted. "The fight with Paul was good fun and a great battle. It lasted until the last 30 laps of the race when he had a problem," Servia said.

"The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team did a great job today, Servia noted. "The engineering staff led by Steve Challis gave me a great car and the crew did fantastic work in the pits. The Visteon/Patrick Racing car really made it easier tonight. It was very quick and the Bridgestone tires were very consistent throughout the race. It didn't matter whether the tires were cold, hot or old the car was really nice to drive the whole race," he explained.

Servia concluded by saying, "It just feels bad not to win when you are that close, but this is a very satisfying result for the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team. It is always fun when you are able to pass people and move forward. We just needed to pass one more car, but Michel (Jourdain) was very strong today. This race, we really began to show what we could do. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team just has to take one more step."

He has now placed in the points in five of the first six events of the 2003

CART World Chamionship Series, which is presented by Bridgestone and powered by Ford. He is solidly in championship contention sitting in seventh place in the standings with 40 points. Servia has jumped from 18th in the championship race to seventh in three races. He is 37 points out of first.

The second place showing is Servia's best finish in 59 CART career starts surpassing a third place performance in Detroit in 2000. It is his second career podium performance, a career high third consecutive top-five finish and his fourth consecutive points paying performance. Servia has now earned 26 CART career top-ten finishes including nine top-five showings (second, Milwaukee - 2003; third, Detroit - 2000; fourth, Rockingham - 2002, Brands Hatch - 2003; fifth, St. Louis - 2000, Vancouver and Germany - 2001, Fontana - 2002, Germany - 2003 ). Of the nine top-five finishes, six have come on ovals (second, Milwuakee - 2003; fourth, Rockingham-2002; fifth, St. Louis-2000, Germany-2001, '03, Fontana- 2002).

This is Servia's best finish in 16 starts over two years for the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team. He has finished in the points in ten of his 16 starts with six top-10 finishes and five top-five showings (second, Milwaukee - 2003;fourth, Brands Hatch - 2003, Rockingham - 2002; fifth, Fontana - 2002, Germany - 2003). Four of his five top-five performances with Visteon/Patrick Racing have come on ovals (second, Milwaukee - 2003; fourth, Rockingham-2002; fifth, Fontana-2002 and Germany-2003)

Saturday's second place showing was Patrick Racing's first podium finish since September of 2001 when Roberto Moreno won the race in Vancouver. It was the team's 70th start in Milwaukee where they have now qualified in the top-10 a total of 52 times, including 28 in the top-five with five poles and finished in the top-10 a total of 38 times including 23 top-five showings, 14 podium performances and three wins.

Next up for Visteon/Patrick Racing is the Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on June 13-15.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Rick Mears , Michel Jourdain