CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Herdez Competition race report

You've probably heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it will change." That was certainly the case today in Surfers Paradise. The Champ Cars gridded just before 2:00pm local time under cloudy...

You've probably heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it will change." That was certainly the case today in Surfers Paradise. The Champ Cars gridded just before 2:00pm local time under cloudy skies with reports of rain and hail in Burleigh Heads, south of the track. An incident involving multiple cars, including championship leader Paul Tracy in the chicane on the first lap moved both Herdez drivers up the field; Moreno into sixth and Dominguez into fifth as he squeezed by his teammate. On lap ten and with rain approaching, Moreno set the race's fastest lap time. By lap 11, rain was falling on the back straight and it quickly progressing into a full-blown tropical storm. A full course caution was called on lap 12 when polesitter Sebastien Bourdais made contact with the walls on the back side of the track. When the pits opened, both Herdez cars made their first pit stop, with the 55 crew picking off Tagliani on pit lane. By the time the cars had exited the pits, conditions had worsened to the point where Champ Car officials were forced to red-flag the race at the completion of lap 13.

Just over 40 minutes later, the sun was out, the track was drying and the engines were re-fired for a revised race distance of 47 laps with Dominguez in third and Moreno in sixth. Moreno's race was soon over though when, on lap 18 he was hit from behind by Tracy and then pushed into Alex Tagliani. By the time he got going again, he had dropped to 11th. When he pitted on lap 23, the team determined that the car was too severely damaged in both the gearbox and engine radiator for him to continue.

Meanwhile, Dominguez continued to battle on track and was passed on lap 21 by Michel Jourdain; he remained in fourth until the next mandatory pit stop, which took place on lap 32 under a full-course caution. Unfortunately a miscue in the pits allowed Dominguez to exit with the outside rear tire not completely secured. Two laps later when the wheel and tire came free of the car, he limped to pit lane for a replacement dropping him almost to the back of the pack, in 13th. Never giving up, Dominguez soldiered on as cars continued to make contact with each other and the walls - the race was marred by nine full course yellow caution periods. He made a bold pass of Tagliani on lap 45 which vaulted him into seventh place, where he crossed under the checkered flags. However, CART rule 6.21.3A specifies that a car that loses a wheel on track will be penalized the loss of one lap and the team is fined $5000. When assessed, the penalty dropped Dominguez to 10th place, bringing home a three points for a long day's work.

Rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay pitted early for the second round of stops and capitalized on a yellow soon thereafter to take the lead on lap 33 and bring home his first victory. This is the second consecutive year that the Surfers Paradise race has been won by a rookie and means that this track retains the record for the longest streak without a repeat winner - now 13 years. Fellow rookie Darren Manning came home in second place with Hunter- Reay's veteran teammate Jimmy Vasser rounding out the top three.

Paul Tracy finished thirteenth and out of the points but, by virtue of Bruno Junqueira also failing to finish in the points (15th), Tracy wrapped up the 2003 drivers championship.

The Champ Cars return to action next weekend for the final round of the 2003 season for the King Taco 500 on the two-mile California Speedway in Fontana, California.

Mario Dominguez - Car 55

That was lot of work today! With everything that happened, I would have been happy with where we crossed the finish line in seventh! But rules are rules so we take our penalty. At least we finished and brought home a couple of points.

* Race distance was revised down from 65 laps to 47 due to the rain delay mid race.

Roberto Moreno - Car 4

It's very disappointing - things like this just shouldn't happen. I know Paul (Tracy) is fighting for the championship but he should be more careful. He hit me twice - and it would have been three times if I hadn't avoided him the first time through the chicane. I'm really disappointed for the Herdez Competition team - we had a really good car in the dry conditions - we had the quickest car on the track before the rain came. I feel confident we could have had a good finish if we could have continued.

* Race distance was revised down from 65 laps to 47 due to the rain delay mid race.

Fast Facts:

1. Moreno set the race's fastest lap on Lap 10 with a time of one minute, 35.561 seconds. Dominguez had the sixth fastest lap with a time of one minute, 36.144 seconds.

2. Dominguez maintains sixth place in the Champ Car World Series Drivers Championship with a total of 118. Moreno drops one spot to 13th with 67 points.

-hc-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Michel Jourdain