CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: Team Rahal preview

Jourdain looks to maximize points at Montreal HILLIARD, OH . . . As the Champ Car World Series heads north to Canada this week for the third and final Canadian event, the Molson Indy Montreal, Team Rahal's Gigante Champ Car driver Michel ...

Jourdain looks to maximize points at Montreal

HILLIARD, OH . . .

As the Champ Car World Series heads north to Canada this week for the third and final Canadian event, the Molson Indy Montreal, Team Rahal's Gigante Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain Jr. is finds himself on a quest for points. Currently third in the championship, Jourdain trails points leader Paul Tracy by 47 points and second place Bruno Junqueira by 27 points. Catching the championship leaders won't happen in a single weekend, but Jourdain knows he must begin the process soon if he is to maintain his championship hopes.

"We need points and we need a lot of points," said Jourdain. "We didn't dig ourselves this hole in a single week and we aren't going to climb out of it in a single week either. I have always maintained that consistency wins championships, but when someone is consistently winning you are going to fall behind, even if you have a lot of podium results. Paul has been fantastic and he has taken advantage of every mistake that Bruno and I have made. Most years the seasons that Bruno and I have going would put us in the championship lead, but this isn't most seasons. This year Paul has performed at a level that makes what is a normal championship season not good enough. There are still six races to go and the challenge before us is to return to the level we were at in May and early June.

The way we ran at Milwaukee, Laguna and Portland is how we have to run if we are going to get ourselves back into the championship. I know we are capable of performing at that level, now we just have to do it." Jourdain has crafted a career year in 2003, posting career highs in points (137), podiums (5), top-five results (8) and laps led (324). Entering this season, Jourdain had a single podium result in 121 Champ Car starts. This year Jourdain has emerged as one of the bright young stars of the Champ Car World Series, collecting his first win in a dominating fashion at Milwaukee and becoming a crowd favorite with his easy going nature. What has hurt Jourdain the most is two races he dominated and could have easily won, but which he scored a total of three points. At Long Beach in early April Jourdain appeared to be headed for his first win when a gearbox failure left him stranded in the pits just seven laps from the checkered flag.

At Portland Jourdain was dominating the race before he was passed in the pits by Tracy on what was later ruled an illegal maneuver exiting the pits. Jourdain attempted a pass on Tracy a lap later and the two cars came into contact, spinning Jourdain and leaving him a lap down and relegated to 12th place. "Momentum can change quickly in this sport," said Jourdain. "After Long Beach I was 34 points behind 'PT' and three races later I was leading the championship. All I can worry about and control is my team. If he fails to finish or has a mechanical problem then we can benefit, but only if we are there when he stumbles. We have to beat him on the track, but there just aren't enough races left to make up the points. He has to make a mistake and we have to be ready to take advantage."

MISTER CONSISTENT BACK ON TRACK

Michel Jourdain Jr. has made consistency his calling card since he joined Team Rahal prior to the 2002 season. Last season Jourdain posted points paying results in his first 17 events with Team Rahal, establishing a team record for consecutive points paying finishes. This year he ran his point streak to 11 straight, matching Bobby Rahal for the second longest streak in team history, before posting a pointless DNF at Elkhart Lake. Prior to joining Team Rahal in 2002, Jourdain had never posted points in more than two consecutive races. In 32 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 29 times (90.6%). He has collected 13 top-five results and 24 top-ten finishes. A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed (2,368) and miles logged (4,238). Jourdain enters the race at Montreal once again as the series leader in laps completed (1,457) and miles logged (2,552).

JOURDAIN CREDITS QUALIFYING SUCCESS

One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through the first 13 races of 2003 Jourdain's average starting position was fifth, as opposed to an average starting slot of 14th in 2002. Having started in the top-five in nine of the 13 races allowed the steady Jourdain move to the front of the points chase, and has made the Gigante pit crew, the defending Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge champions, a significant weapon in the success of the #9 car.

At Mid-Ohio Jourdain started fourth, his seventh start from the front two rows this season. It also marked just the fifth time in Team Rahal history that a Team Rahal car had started in the first two rows at Mid-Ohio. Jourdain has three front-row starts in 2003 including his first Champ Car career pole position at Long Beach in April. At Laguna Seca he won the pole position on track, but was stripped of the pole winning time when his car failed technical inspection. He started 13th and finished fourth. Jourdain started 15th at Montreal in 2002 and brought the Gigante car home in sixth. Jimmy Vasser holds the Team Rahal mark for qualifying at Montreal, having started sixth last season.

TEAM RAHAL'S SINGLE CAR TITLE QUEST

Jourdain and the Gigante team are vying to become the first single car entry to win the Champ Car World Series championship since Jacques Villeneuve with Players in 1995. Only three have won the title with a single entry, including Bobby Rahal in Team Rahal's first year of operation 1992. Jourdain enters Mid-Ohio trailing points leader Paul Tracy by 47 points.

TEAM RAHAL STILL LOOKING FOR FIRST CANADIAN WIN

Team Rahal was founded in 1992 as Rahal/Hogan Racing and in the team's 26 previous trips to Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Trois Rivieres), the team has never won. Five times Team Rahal has finished second in a Canadian race, most recently when Michel Jourdain Jr. was the runner-up at Toronto in early July. Team owner and founder Bobby Rahal holds the other four runner-up results for Team Rahal. Rahal twice finished second at Toronto ('92 & '95) and twice finished second at Vancouver ('93 & '96). The best Team Rahal finish at Montreal was Jimmy Vasser's fifth place finish in 2002.

JOURDAIN 2003 vs. 2002 vs. Career

Jourdain surpassed his 2002 point total (105) in just ten races. Last season Jourdain averaged 5.5 points per race. In 2003 Jourdain and the Gigante team are currently averaging 10.5 points per race. Jourdain had just 61 points in his first six Champ Car seasons. In his first seven seasons in Champ Car Jourdain posted 166 points in 121 races. He is on pace to surpass his point total for seven seasons in 2003 alone. At the current pace he would 'double' his career points at Miami in late September. Since the start of the 2002 season when he joined Team Rahal, Jourdian has amassed 242 points in the Champ Car World Serie is on pace to post 200 points this season. In the last ten years only five Champ Car drivers have posted 200 points in a season and four of the five have won the championship. This season three drivers (Jourdain, Junqueira and Tracy) are on pace to post 200 point

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Michel Jourdain