CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee: Thursday practice report

Jourdain leads night Milwaukee practice MILWAUKEE (May 29, 2003) -- The Milwaukee Mile glowed under the glare of Musco Lighting for the first time in its long history Thursday night as the 700hp machines of the Champ Car World Series turned ...

Jourdain leads night Milwaukee practice

MILWAUKEE (May 29, 2003) -- The Milwaukee Mile glowed under the glare of Musco Lighting for the first time in its long history Thursday night as the 700hp machines of the Champ Car World Series turned their first-ever nighttime practice laps on the 1.032-mile oval.

The 90-minute session started as the sun slipped behind the newly-erected grandstands and ended under a star-lit sky as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) paced a 19-car field as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford prepared for its historic Saturday night event -- The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage.

Jourdain's best lap of 21.040 seconds (176.578 mph) put him atop the speed charts, as the Team Rahal driver looks for his first-ever Milwaukee podium finish. The eight-year veteran scored his first-ever Milwaukee points with a top-five run last season and established himself as one of the pre-race favorites with a blistering lap Thursday -- a lap that was a full second quicker than last year's polewinning time.

"The Gigante Team Rahal guys really gave me a good car this weekend," Jourdain said. "I was a little surprised with how much speed I was able to get through the corners. I really liked the new aero package and what we were able to do out there. Of course this is only practice, but I'm really excited about what we can do here this weekend."

Jourdain came through with his quick time on the 89th of his 90 laps turned on a cool Thursday evening, vaulting him ahead of series co-leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who sat atop the charts for the majority of the 90-minute session. Tracy led the afternoon practice and immediately took the point in the evening with a quick lap of 21.075 seconds (176.285 mph), but would run only 38 laps after brushing the outside wall.

"We're pretty happy. I mean, I brushed the wall, which wasn't good, but we saved some tires for tomorrow, so I'm pretty happy with the car on fresh tires," Tracy said. "I mean, we only ran under half the session, so the car is pretty good. It took guys a long time to beat my time, so I think if we can improve the car tomorrow, we'll be pretty strong."

Tracy was joined on the practice podium by teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who made a trip around the Milwaukee Mile in 21.146 seconds (175.693 mph). Carpentier, whose 1998 polewinning time of 20.028 seconds (185.500 mph) is still the Milwaukee track record, will be looking to break a two-year scoreless streak at the Mile and feels that he has a car to contend with on Saturday.

"The car was a lot better tonight than this afternoon," Carpentier said. "At the end there, we put on a new set of tires for qualifying just in case we can't run tomorrow in afternoon's practice session because of rain. As far as the lights go, it's pretty good. It's quite different than what I'm used to. You definitely don't see as clearly, but I still really like it. It was a good first time."

Many drivers took Carpentier's lead and strapped on new tires at the end of the session just in case tomorrow's qualifying runs are washed out by the rain that is predicted for the area. Five of the top nine finishers on Thursday all posted their fastest lap times within five minutes of the checkered flag -- a flag that was brought out about three minutes early due to a crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).

Last year's polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was on the pace again in 2003 as the Mexican veteran claimed the fourth position on the practice charts with a time of 21.155 seconds (175.618 mph). Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), the 1998 Milwaukee race winner, was the fastest Reynard on the day and rounded out the top five in the evening with a time 21.212 seconds (175.146 mph).

Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) slipped into the sixth spot as he looks to extend his run of top-five finishes to three consecutive races, while Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani (#33 Rocketsports Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill out the top eight.

Top rookie honors went to Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) who celebrated his team's new associate sponsorship with Carrera glasses by making an orbit of the Mile in 21.282 seconds (174.570 mph), which was good for ninth on the day, ahead of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who completed the top 10 with a lap of 21.408 seconds (173.543 mph).

Friday will see another one-hour-and-45-minute practice session beginning at 3 p.m., with single-car qualifying slated to begin at 8:30. The qualifying will be carried live by SPEED Channel.

QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. "The car was great from the moment we rolled it off the truck this morning. Everybody from CART and the lighting guys did a great job. It wasn't like racing at night. It was like racing at noon our there. I think everybody's going to be excited to see what we can do out there Saturday."

PAUL TRACY "We're pretty happy. I mean, I brushed the wall, which wasn't good, but we saved some tires for tomorrow, so I'm pretty happy with the car on fresh tires. It feels good (to run under the lights). There's no problem with the lights at all, and I'm pretty happy with the job that they've done here. We could probably use a couple more lights here and there, but overall I think they've done a good job."

PATRICK CARPENTIER "The car was a lot better tonight than this afternoon. I'm pretty happy with the setup we had tonight. At the end there, we put on a new set of tires for qualifying just in case we can't run tomorrow in afternoon's practice session because of rain. As far as the lights go, it's pretty good. It's quite different than what I'm used to. You definitely don't see as clearly, but I still really like it. It was a good first time."

NOTEWORTHY:

* Michel Jourdain's practice-leading time of 21.040 seconds was 1.136 seconds quicker than the 2002 polewinning time posted by Adrian Fernandez. In all, 17 cars posted quicker times than last year's polewinning time.

* Gualter Salles made his return to the Champ Car World Series on Thursday, taking over for Alex Yoong in the #11 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, finishing 17th in the evening practice session.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gualter Salles , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Dale Coyne , Michel Jourdain
Teams Dale Coyne Racing