CHAMPCAR/CART: Surfers Paradise: Team Rahal Track Talk

Resurgent Vasser carrying momentum into Surfers Paradise. HILLIARD, OH . . . Seemingly the long nightmare is over for Jimmy Vasser and the Shell team. After posting five DNF's in the first ten races Vasser has posted six straight top-ten results...

Resurgent Vasser carrying momentum into Surfers Paradise.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Seemingly the long nightmare is over for Jimmy Vasser and the Shell team. After posting five DNF's in the first ten races Vasser has posted six straight top-ten results highlighted by his second podium finish of the 2002 season, a third place result two weeks ago at Miami. The six race streak has been showcased Vasser's trademark consistency, a consistency that had many considering him a championship contender at the start of the 2002 CART season.

In 183 career Champ Car starts, Vasser has posted nine career wins, 28 podium results, 53 top-five finishes and 104 top-ten results, wile crafting a reputation as a driver who will consistently finish races. During a 30 races stretch which included the 2001 season and the first ten races of 2002, Vasser had just one podium result ('02 Long Beach) and uncharacteristically Vasser had 12 DNF's in that stretch.

"We haven't been doing anything different except we are now finishing races," said Vasser. "It was certainly a frustrating stretch for the team and myself. We have been able to build a bit of momentum over the last few races and there is no reason that we can't be on the podium each week from here on out. I have said it a number of times this year, every thing I need to win races is at my disposal at Team Rahal. There are three races left and while I want to finish as well as possible in the points, my focus is all about getting a win and a couple of podiums."

Australia was the site of a Vasser victory in 1996. Vasser won three of the season's first four races (Miami, Australia, Long Beach) and scored points in 15 of 16 events and captured the CART championship.

"Who doesn't have great memories of Surfers Paradise? The fact that I have won and that I have had some success there over the years has endeared the place to me, but take away the on track aspect and just look at the atmosphere and you know this race is something special," said Vasser.

In ten races at Surfers Paradise, Vasser has collected two podiums, a 1996 win and a third place finish in 1999, to go along with four top-five results and seven points paying results in the last eight years.


Michel Jourdain Jr.'s breakout season has taken him to a select level within Team Rahal. With his sixth place finish at Miami, Jourdain surpassed the 100 point mark in a season (102) becoming just the fourth driver in Team Rahal's history to post a 100 point season. Jourdain moved into a tie with Bobby Rahal for eighth on the all-time single season list. Rahal, who topped the 100 point mark four times for his team, holds the team's single season mark of 196 which came during his championship season of 1992.

Next up for Jourdain is Max Papis' 2001 season, a 107 point effort that enabled the personable Italian to finish sixth in the CART championship.

Jourdain has scored points in every race this season and carries an 18 race consecutive finishing streak into Australia. Jourdain is vying to become the first driver since Al Unser Jr. in 1992 to score points in every race in a single season. He has already established the Team Rahal mark for consecutive points paying results surpassing the mark of 11 straight set by Rahal in 1998.

The 26-year-old native of Mexico City has posted 16 points paying results in 16 races and has established career highs in points (102), top-five results (5) and top-ten results (13). As the only driver to have finished every race this season he leads the series in laps completed and miles logged.

This week the CART FedEx Championship Series heads down under for the Gold Coast Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise. The race marks CART's 12th annual trip to the Gold Coast. The event is among the highlights on the CART schedule and is expected to top 300,000 spectators this season.

"Surfers Paradise is in my opinion the best street course that we run on in CART," said Jourdain. "It is a fun course and one that rewards a driver for being aggressive. I have done well at Australia in the past and I hope we can continue with the success that we have had this season in the Office Depot/Gigante car. The race in Surfers is one that traditionally features a lot of attrition and the track tends to be hard on equipment but hopefully we can go there and get a good result. The fans are fantastic in Australia. They are very knowledgeable and they always have a great turn out for the race weekend. It is a long trip to Australia for the race, but every year it is one of the highlights of the season, so it is well worth the long flight."


The Shell pit crew of Jimmy Vasser has captured the top-seed in the fourth annual Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. The preliminary rounds concluded at Miami and the Shell team topped the standings with 151 points, 23 more than the second place crew of Alex Tagliani.

Points were awarded in the same manner of CART championship with 20 points being awarded to the crew which wins the round. The four crews with the highest point totals from the first 16 races and the pit crew of Cristiano da Matta, which won a wild card spot at Chicago, will compete in the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge Shootout at Fontana for the $50,000 first prize.

The Shell team won three of the 16 preliminary rounds and finished in the top-three on eight occasions.

The CPPC Shootout will take place Friday, November 1, 2002 at the California Speedway in Fontana. Each of the five finalists will have the opportunity to post two-time pit stops. The fastest time from the ten timed pit stops will win the competition and the $50,000 first prize.

Team Rahal's Shell pit crew captured the 2001 Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge. In 1999 Max Papis' Miller Lite crew captured the regular season points title and finished second in the "Pit Crew Challenge Shootout."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Cristiano da Matta , Michel Jourdain