Team Rahal Track Talk Jourdain eyes top spot in Champ Car Championship MILWAUKEE, WI . . . Team Rahal's Gigante driver Michel Jourdain Jr. left the Milwaukee Mile as the CART Champ Car World Series points leader in 2002 and he hopes to...
Team Rahal Track Talk
Jourdain eyes top spot in Champ Car Championship
MILWAUKEE, WI . . . Team Rahal's Gigante driver Michel Jourdain Jr. left the Milwaukee Mile as the CART Champ Car World Series points leader in 2002 and he hopes to duplicate that feat in 2003. Jourdain started the 2002 season with four consecutive top-five results and as a result left Milwaukee with a seven point lead over Dario Franchitti. Little did anyone realize that Jourdain's stay atop the points would last a single event as Cristiano da Matta would begin his onslaught on the championship the following race at Laguna Seca.
"It was a thrill to lead the points last year because it was a real testament to all the hard work the team had logged in a very short amount of time," said Jourdain. "The funny thing is I think we are running a lot stronger now than we were at that time last year, but this year we are third in points. Anytime you can lead the points it is an honor, but it only really matters at one time and that is after we race at Fontana."
Team Rahal owner and three-time series champion, Bobby Rahal knows a thing or two about point battles and championship fights. "Consistency is what wins championships," said Rahal, "and Michel has certainly proved he is consistent. That consistency, as much as anything, is what has impressed me most since he joined our team. I always thought he had a great deal of potential, and we saw glimpses of it last year, but this year everything has come together. He is qualifying well, he is fast in the race and he is still not making the mistakes that can cost you points and position. I am very proud of the job Michel and the Gigante team are doing."
As Jourdain and the rest of the Champ Car World Series begin the post Memorial Day schedule, the championship race is wide open. Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira hold a ten point lead over Jourdian (66-56) who in turn holds a seven point lead over rookie sensation Sebastien Bourdais (49).
"The key is for us to keep doing what we have been doing all season," said Jourdain. "I know my team is going to give me a strong car each and every week and we have proven we can dominate a race. Long Beach was a disappointment because we didn't win, but everything else we set out to accomplish there we did. I know the first win is coming soon. Maybe it is this week or maybe it won't be until later in the season, but all we can do is score as many points as possible and position ourselves so that when the wins do come they will push us in front."
Jourdain does come to Milwaukee riding a small streak of Team Rahal success on the historic mile track. In 2000 Kenny Brack finished fourth, claiming Team Rahal's best result on the oval since Bobby Rahal finished second on the track in 1992. A year later Brack broke through for the team claiming the win at Milwaukee from the pole for his second straight series victory (Brack-to-Brack). Last year Jourdian made it three straight years with a top-five result when he finished fifth after starting 18th.
IMPROVED QUALIFYING HAS BEEN A KEY TO '03 SUCCESS
One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through five races Jourdain's average starting position is fifth as opposed to an average starting slot of 14th in 2002. Having started in the top-five in four of the five races has let the steady Jourdain move to the front and has made the Gigante pit crew, the defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champions, a significant weapon in moving the #9 car to the front.
In 2003 Jourdain has captured his first pole position (Long Beach) and matched his best career start on an oval (3rd at Germany). As a result Jourdain has posted a series best three podium finishes in 2003. A fourth podium finish and probable win escaped the young Mexican when his gearbox failed at Long Beach.
"We worked hard over the course of the winter on getting up to speed quickly and our qualifying procedure," said Jourdain. "A lot of credit has to go to Ray Leto [Champ Car Team Manager] and Todd Bowland [Gigante Race Engineer] for working with me. The results are showing each week. Instead of racing for a top-ten we are racing for a podium."
This week Jourdain has a chance to establish another personal best in qualifying. In his previous seven trips to the Milwaukee Mile, Jourdain has never started better than 18th.
ANOTHER POINTS PAYING WEEKEND FOR 'MR. CONSISTENT'
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 24 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 22 times. He has collected eight top-five results and 18 top-ten finishes. Only twice in the previous 24 events with Team Rahal has Jourdain failed to finish a race. With victory in sight, a gearbox failure at Long Beach left Jourdain with his second Team Rahal DNF and his first since Fontana in November of 2002. At Fontana he led ten laps and appeared to be headed for a podium finish before an engine failure ended his day.
A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed (2,368) and miles logged (4,238). Jourdain enters the race at Milwaukee currently third in points (56), laps led (48), laps completed (592) and miles logged (1,040).