Team Rahal Champ Car Track Talk Jourdain eyes first Champ Car win HILLIARD, OH . . . Nearly one month after the 2003 season opened, the Bridgestone presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford heads to Monterrey, Mexico for Round 2 of the...
Team Rahal Champ Car Track Talk
Jourdain eyes first Champ Car win
HILLIARD, OH . . . Nearly one month after the 2003 season opened, the Bridgestone presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford heads to Monterrey, Mexico for Round 2 of the 2003 Championship. For Team Rahal's Gigante driver, Michel Jourdain Jr., the last month has provided him an opportunity to focus on a career best second place finish at St. Petersburg. What that reflection has ignited in the 26-year-old native of Mexico City is an even greater desire to win.
"For me, winning is the final step I have to take in my development as a Champ Car driver," said Jourdain. "While I am very proud of everything that I have accomplished to this point in my career, to me it has just been preparation for what lies ahead. I know I have the team and the support I need to win and we [the Gigante team] have proved we can run at the front and be competitive."
Team Rahal owner and three-time series champion Bobby Rahal continues to be impressed with Jourdain. "Michel continues to show a great deal of patience on the track, and his ability to avoid costly mistakes shows the maturity he has gained as a driver," said Rahal. "It is so easy to forget how young he is (26) because he has been around this series so long, but he is getting better all the time. He has a great deal of experience and he is using that experience to his advantage".
For Jourdain, the podium finish in the season opener was the second podium of his Champ Car career and the first with Team Rahal. The result capped a strong weekend for the Gigante team. Jourdain was among the quickest drivers all weekend and he qualified fifth, which represented his best starting position in his 20 races with Team Rahal.
If there has been a weakness for Jourdian in his tenure with Team Rahal it has been his qualifying position. Last season his average starting spot was 14th. The handicap of poor starting position is not one Jourdain can afford if he aspires to win races and challenge for the championship.
"We went to St. Pete with a goal of qualifying in the top-five and we did that," said Jourdain. "Qualifying is a key for us this year. We have put a lot of effort into improving our qualifying position this season. It is really pretty simple. Last year based on where we qualified we ran for top-ten results. This year if we can qualify in the top-five and do what we did a year ago then we should be racing for podiums. That will pay off in more points and should move us higher in the championship."
This week Jourdain won't even leave his native country as he will race for the third time at Monterrey, Mexico. It was just over a year ago that Jourdain finished fourth at Monterrey in his Team Rahal debut. "It was certainly one of the best days of my career," said Jourdain. "The crowd was unbelievable and to do so well for my sponsor and my new team was a thrill."
For Jourdain, who grew up around the tracks of Mexico watching his father Michel Sr. and his uncle Bernard race, the opportunity to drive a Champ Car in his native country is a dream come true. "Winning in Mexico would be almost as big for me as winning the Champ Car championship," said Jourdain. "To share my first win with my countrymen would be a feeling I couldn't imagine. The success of the Mexican events is something I am so proud of. We have the biggest crowd in the series in Mexico City and we have two of the finest tracks we race on here in here in the series. It was a thrill when I drove here the first time in 2001 and it has been more enjoyable each time since."
BUSY WEEKEND FOR TEAM RAHAL
For the first time in Team Rahal's twelve year history, the team will compete in three separate open wheel series on the same weekend. In addition to Jourdain's Champ Car World Series effort, the team will debut the Toyota Atlantic Championship program of Danica Patrick. The debut of the Argent Mortgage Atlantic team marks Team Rahal's first full season entry into the CART Ladder System since the team ran a full-season program for Mike Borkowski in Indy Lights in 1998. The third Team Rahal program in action this weekend will be Kenny Brack's Pioneer/Miller Lite entry in the IRL's IndyCar Series race at Phoenix.
"It certainly is a test of our people and resources," said Scott Roembke, Team Rahal's Chief Operating Officer. "When we saw how this season was going to unfold with three cars in three series we knew it would present some unique logistical problems. Fortunately we have a great group of individuals who have addressed the issues that come with the multiple programs and multiple venues as just another challenge to be overcome.
"MISTER CONSISTENT" STAYS THE COURSE
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 a points paying result in his first 17 events with Team Rahal last season, establishing a team record for consecutive points paying finishes.
In 20 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted 18 points paying results. He has collected five top-five results and 15 top-ten finishes. Only once in the previous 20 events with Team Rahal has Jourdain failed to finish a race. That was a Fontana in November of last year where he led ten laps and appeared headed for a podium finish before an engine failure ended his day early.
Jourdain led the series in laps completed and miles logged in 2002. He is off to a strong start in that category again in 2003. At St. Pete he was one of only five cars to log all 105 laps and the nearly 190 miles.
GIGANTE CREW IN GREAT FORM AT ST. PETE
Team Rahal prides itself on its strong pit crews and at St. Pete the Gigante crew finished second in cumulative pit time, trailing the Player's Forsythe crew of Paul Tracy by only three-tenths of a second. The Gigante crew was nearly three seconds quicker than the third quickest crew the Newman-Haas crew of Bruno Junqueira.
Team Rahal captured the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Championship (CPCC) in 2001 and 2002. Jourdain's Gigante pit crew comprised the bulk of the 2002 Shell crew which captured the CPCC title.