Paul Tracy takes australian roller-coaster ride to his first Champ Car Racing title. Surfers Paradise, Australia, October 26, 2003 Neither heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightning or contact with other cars could prevent Paul Tracy of PF Racing...
Paul Tracy takes australian roller-coaster ride to his first Champ Car Racing title.
Surfers Paradise, Australia, October 26, 2003 Neither heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightning or contact with other cars could prevent Paul Tracy of PF Racing from finishing the Lexmark Indy 300 on Sunday and claiming the first Champ Car title of his 13-year career. Tracy became the first Canadian driver to win a Champ Car crown since Jacques Villeneuve in 1995.
Tracy, who entered today's race with a 28-point lead over Brazil's Bruno Junqueira in the drivers' standings, clinched the title when Junqueira, seemingly headed to a podium finish, spun and crashed with 10 laps to go in the race, which had already been shortened from its scheduled 65 laps to 47 after heavy rain red-flagged it on lap 14.
With Junqueira out of the race and out of the points, Tracy, who had fallen two laps down after an early incident when he was clipped by Junqueira's teammate Sebastien Bourdais, and contact on lap 21 that damaged his rear suspension, went on to finish the race in 13th place. While that was one position out of the points, Tracy didn't need any points to clinch his first-ever championship.
Tracy's teammate Patrick Carpentier, who was directly behind Junqueira when the latter slipped out of the race, finished fifth, his eighth top-5 performance of the season. American Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race for his first Champ Car triumph, while British driver Darren Manning and American Jimmy Vasser completed the all-Reynard podium.
"The PF Racing team never quit, and to me, that shows the character of this team," said an emotional Tracy. "It would have been great to clinch the championship with a podium or race win, but under the circumstances, I'll take it any way I can. I certainly went through a roller coaster of emotions out there today. I don't know how to feel right now. The only thing I can say is that I'm happy to get it out the way and not have to go down to the final race to win the championship."
Tracy had started from the fifth position on the grid, but by lap three, he was at the back of the pack, after Bourdais came in contact with him on the first corner, an incident that Tracy termed "disgusting."
"I thought, well, we're not going to get any points today, so we'll have to set our minds for the next race," added Tracy, who continued to resign himself to that fate, until he saw Junqueira go off the track, with double-digit points in his grasp. "I couldn't believe it," said Tracy. "I radioed in and asked my crew what happened and they told me I was the champion."
Carpentier, who ran a strong race despite being weakened by the flu, said he was about 25 feet from Junqueira when the Brazilian driver spun off track. "On the previous lap, he closed the door on me and we touched slightly because I was trying to avoid him," explained Carpentier. "On the following lap, I was not even close. I guess he looked in his mirror to see if I was behind him and braked a little too late."
Of his fifth-place effort, which puts him 13 points (159-146) behind Bourdais for fourth place in the drivers' championship, Carpentier remarked: "The team had a good run today, and with some luck we could have won the race. But there was a bigger picture the championship was more important today. It's a great day for the team and for Paul and I'm happy for him."
The final race of the season the Fontana 500 - will be run next Sunday on the California superspeedway.