CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Team Rahal race report

Jourdian takes fourth in Australia. SURFERS PARADISE - Michel Jourdain Jr. piloted Team Rahal's Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola to a fourth place finish in a caution filled Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia. Nine cautions caused 20...

Jourdian takes fourth in Australia.

SURFERS PARADISE - Michel Jourdain Jr. piloted Team Rahal's Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola to a fourth place finish in a caution filled Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia. Nine cautions caused 20 of the 47 laps to be run under yellow falg conditions. Starting ninth Jourdian avoided the on track carnage which plagued points leader Paul Tracy and championship contender Bruno Junqueira. Jourdain entered the weekend third in the championship, but was mathematically eliminated on Saturday.

Jourdain, one of the top wet track drivers in the loop took advantage of a torrential downpour which brought out a red flag on lap 13. Having already claimed two spots through attrition and two spots in the pits Jourdain was running fifth when the race was halted for 45-minutes. When race was restarted Jourdain showed his prowess in wet conditions and took the lead on lap 29.

Jourdain set a blistering pace and built a three second lead on second place Fernandez in just two laps.

With the pit window closing Jourdain was set to pit on lap 31 when the race was placed under a full course yellow (FCY) for a pair of stalled cars (# 33 Tagliani & #34 Haberfeld). The FCY packed up the field and cost Jourdain, Adrian Fernandez, Junqueira amongst others hard earned track position and left them at a disadvantage because of other cars that had pitted earlier in the pit window. As a result Jourdain exited the pits on lap 32 fifth with an out of sequence car between him and third place.

"Chris Kneifel (Race Director) specifically told us in the drivers meeting that CART would do everything possible to keep the pits open during the pit windows if there was any yellow on track," said Jourdain. "When they closed the pits I thought I would arrive in Turn 1 and see the biggest crash on earth, but when I got there all I found were two cars who had just stalled. Closing the pits cost me a chance to win this race. It was the same story at Miami. They were handing out penalties all day and then they decide to penalize me in an entirely different manner. I raced hard today and I passed everyone clean and earned the lead on track and then they go and close the pits on me and cost us another chance to win."

Rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay was the benefactor of the controversial yellow flag and he claimed the lead for good claiming his first Champ Car win. Fellow rookie Darren Manning of Walker Racing was second and Jimmy Vasser was third. Jourdain claimed fourth by passing Rodolfo Lavin.

The fourth place finish pulled Jourdain to within a mere four points of second place in the 2003 championship. Junqueira, whose championship bid was essentially ended by the controversial FCY on lap 31, which relegated him from a championship saving podium to a championship losing seventh place position, crashed on lap 37 which clinched the championship for Paul Tracy. Although Tracy would finish 13th and fail to score a point, he clinched his first Champ Car title.

Jourdain and Team Rahal head to the California Speedway next week for the season finale the King Taco 500. Jourdain is just four points behind Junqueira and trails Tracy by 31. Last season then Team Rahal driver Jimmy Vasser posted the fastest 500-mile win in history with a dominating performance at Fontana. Team Rahal has led more laps at Fontana the last five years than any other team. Team Rahal should be strong once again as Jourdain is the only driver in the series to finish both oval races on the podium this season.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Chris Kneifel , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Rodolfo Lavin , Michel Jourdain