CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Team Rahal preview

Team Rahal Track Talk - Australia Jourdain seeks to finish career year with a flourish HILLIARD, Ohio - The championship scenario for Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. and the Gigante team has come down to the most basic of premise, sweep the ...

Team Rahal Track Talk - Australia
Jourdain seeks to finish career year with a flourish

HILLIARD, Ohio - The championship scenario for Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. and the Gigante team has come down to the most basic of premise, sweep the remaining points or step aside for the title hunt. Paul Tracy's dominating win at Mexico City in which the points leader led 64 laps en route to his seventh win of the season, pushed Jourdain to the brink of elimination.

"Realistically we aren't going to win the championship, but as long as we have a chance I won't give up," said Jourdain. "Paul gave us chances at Elkhart Lake and Miami to pull ourselves back into the championship, but we didn't take advantage of the opportunities. We are 14 points behind Bruno and if I can't win the championship then I want to finish second. A lot of what we accomplish on track the next couple of weeks will set the tone for next season."

Jourdain has enjoyed a career season in 2003 establishing career marks in points (183), wins (2), podium results (6), laps led (347) and matching his career best for top-ten results (14). Jourdain has emerged as one of the bright young stars of the Champ Car Worlds Series and at 27 years of age he to lead Team Rahal's challenges for the Champ Car championship in the future.

With two races remaining Jourdain sets his sights on becoming the first Team Rahal driver to amass 200 points in a season. He enters the race at Surfers Paradise a mere 17 points from the 200 point plateau.

"These days when people talk about Michel they are talking about a championship contender and a complete driver," said Bobby Rahal. "He has done an outstanding job this season, an effort that most years would have resulted in a championship. The biggest difference in Michel is the increased confidence I see in him as a driver. Michel goes into every race expecting to be on the podium and to challenge for victory. When a driver has that mindset they are going to be tough to beat."

This week the Champ Car Worlds Series heads down under to Australia for the Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise. The largest annual sporting event in Australia is expected to draw over 300,000 fans for the Champ Cars 13th annual visit to the Gold Coast.

Team Rahal has never won the Australian stop, but Bobby Rahal (1995), Max Papis (1999) and Kenny Brack (2000) all finished second. Jourdain finished tenth in the rain soaked 2002 event.

"The race in Surfers Paradise is one of the best events we have in the series," said Jourdain. "The Australian fans are enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about the sport, which makes for an atmosphere that is hard to beat."

MISTER CONSISTENT ROLLS ON

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.

Jourdain enters the Lexmark Indy 300 having scored points in five straight races and 16 of 17 events this season.

In 36 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 33 times (91.1%). He has collected two wins, six podium, 15 top-five results and 28 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 Surfers Paradise once again as the series leader in laps completed (1,843) and miles logged (3,279). Since joining Team Rahal in 2002 Jourdain has completed 99% of the laps run in the series.

JOURDAIN CREDITS QUALIFYING SUCCESS

One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through the first 16 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 ten of the 16 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 Mexico City Jourdain started eighth and finished fourth. It was his tenth top-four finish of the season.

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 12th at Surfers Paradise in 2002 and brought the Gigante car home in tenth in the downpour.

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 mathematically remains alive in the championship as he enters Surfers Paradise trailing points leader Paul Tracy by 43 points. Jourdain must capture 44 of the 45 possible points while Tracy cannot score another point. If Tracy scores another point he will eliminate Jourdain from the 2003 championship as Tracy holds the edge in the tiebreaker (wins) should the two drivers finish in a tie.

JOURDAIN 2003 vs. 2002 vs. Career

Michel Jourdain Jr. enters this weeks Lexmark Indy 300 with a career high 183 points this season. 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 10.7 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. Jourdain surpassed his combined point total for his first seven seasons in 2003 with a sixth place finish at Denver. Since the start of the 2002 season when he joined Team Rahal, Jourdian has amassed 288 points in the Champ Car World Series.

Jourdain is on pace to post 204 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 all on pace to post 200 points.

TEAM RAHAL MILESTONES WITHIN JOURDAIN'S REACH

Jourdain is enjoying one of the finest driver seasons in Team Rahal history. With two races remaining Jourdain has several Team Rahal records within his reach including points in a season and wins.

The 27-year-old native of Mexico City is also attempting to maintain the highest career points per race average in Team Rahal's Champ Car program. Jourdain is fifth all-time in Team Rahal's Champ Car career points, and he will most likely become just the fourth driver in team history to surpass the 300 point plateau and only the second to do so in two seasons (Rahal 1992-1993).

Jourdain is vying to win Team Rahal's second championship and the first since Bobby Rahal won the championship in 1992. He enters Round 18 at Australia 43 points behind championship leader Paul Tracy.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack , Michel Jourdain