HILLIARD, OH . . . It has been three races since Michel Jourdain Jr. stood atop the podium at Milwaukee as the Champ Car World Series points leader and the series newest first-time winner. As Jourdain and Team Rahal's Gigante crew head to Toronto...
HILLIARD, OH . . . It has been three races since Michel Jourdain Jr. stood atop the podium at Milwaukee as the Champ Car World Series points leader and the series newest first-time winner. As Jourdain and Team Rahal's Gigante crew head to Toronto this weekend, the Champ Car World Series championship is in full swing in the midst of a stretch of five races in six weeks. "This is a killer part of the schedule for drivers and teams," said Jourdain. "Every race pays 20 points so while no race is more important than any other this stretch could go a long way towards determining who the champion will be."
Since Jourdain claimed his first win at Milwaukee, the Gigante car has experienced a roller coaster of a ride at Laguna Seca, Portland and Cleveland. Fast at each track, small misfortune has derailed what could have been big points paying results.
At Laguna Seca, Jourdain appeared to have claimed his second career pole position only to have his time disallowed when the Gigante car was ruled underweight. Jourdain was forced to start 13th and he was brilliant on race day, driving through the field on the 'impossible to pass' circuit to finish fourth.
A week later at Portland Jourdian netted his second front row start, losing the pole position to Paul Tracy by 46-thousandths of a second. Jourdain took the lead on the start and dominated the race leading 43 laps into the second pit stop. An illegal pit stop maneuver by Tracy took the lead from Jourdain on lap 44. Jourdain attempted to retake the lead on lap 45, unaware that Champ Car was about the penalize Tracy. As Jourdain edged ahead of Tracy the two leaders came into contact, spinning Jourdain who stalled and lost a lap. Gamely Jourdian proceed on posting a 12th place points paying finish.
The difference in the probable podium result and the single point dropped Jourdain from the points lead. At Cleveland Jourdain and Tracy clashed again during provisional qualifying with Jourdain leveling charges of blocking at Tracy. Jourdain started sixth, and a spin in Turn 4 left the Gigante car 18th after the first lap. Taking a page from his Laguna Seca playbook, Jourdian drove through the field. By lap 45 he was sixth chasing down Patrick Carpentier. At that point a wicked understeer slowed Jourdain's charge and the Gigante car finished seventh.
All told the Gigante car has posted 20 points over the last three races. However, no podiums results has dropped Jourdain to third in the title chase, twenty-points behind the front running Tracy. "The races we dominated but didn't score big points may come back and haunt us later in the season, but we can't focus on what might have been. I believe things happen for a reason and right now we aren't scoring points like we did early in the season. Still we are scoring points and if this is our slump then we will be alright. The key is to consistently finish races and maximize out points. That is what Paul is doing so well right now. You may not have a car that can win every week, but you need to take the maximum points home with you. We know we have been fast and competitive on the street courses and it is important that we get ourselves back on the podium sometime during this wing through Canada."
CLEVELAND ANOTHER POINTS PAYING RESULT FOR JOURDAIN
Since he joined Team Rahal at the start of the 2002 Champ Car season, Michel Jourdain Jr. has been the model of consistency. Jourdain posted points paying results in his first 17 events with Team Rahal last season, establishing a team record for consecutive points paying finishes. At Cleveland, Jourdain posted a seventh place finish to earn six points, after his opening lap spin at Burke Lakefront Airport. In 28 races with Team Rahal, Jourdain has posted points 26 times. He has collected ten top-five results and 21 top-ten finishes.
Only twice in the previous 27 events with Team Rahal has Jourdain failed to finish a race. With victory in sight, a gearbox failure at Long Beach left Jourdain with his second Team Rahal DNF and his first since Fontana in November of 2002. A year ago Jourdain led the series in laps completed (2,368) and miles logged (4,238). Jourdain enters the race at Cleveland once again as the series leader in laps completed (1,143) and miles logged (1,929).
JOURDAIN HAS MADE QUALIFYING A FOCUS N 2003
One of the keys for Jourdain in '03 has been his qualifying success. Through the first nine races of 2003 Jourdain's average starting position is fifth, as opposed to an average starting slot of 14th in 2002. Having started in the top-five in six of the first nine 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 #9 cars success. At Cleveland Jourdain was second in provisional qualifying and started the race sixth overall. It marked only the third time this season that Jourdain has failed to start the race in the top-five.
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 2003 vs. 2002
It took Jourdain until the 16th race of the 2002 season to amass his 97th point. Jourdain had just 61 points in his first six Champ Car seasons. Since the start of the 2002 season when he joined Team Rahal Jourdian has amassed 212 points in the Champ Car World Series. Last season Jourdain averaged 5.5 points per race. In 2003 Jourdain and the Gigante team are currently averaging 10.8 points per race. If Jourdain posts a top-six result at Toronto he will equal or surpass his career high in points (105) set last season.
TEAM RAHAL STILL LOOKING FOR FIRST TORONTO WIN
Team Rahal was founded in 1992 as Rahal/Hogan Racing and in the team's eleven previous trips to Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto, the team has never won the Molson Indy Toronto. Bobby Rahal did win the inaugural Molson Indy Toronto in 1986, edging Danny Sullivan and Mario Andretti. Team Rahal's best finish at Toronto belongs to Rahal himself who three-times brought the Miller car home in second ('92,'94, '95). In 13 races at Exhibition Place Rahal had a win, three second place results and seven podium finishes. Since Rahal's retirement following the 1998 season the best result for a Team Rahal driver was Max Papis fifth place finish in 1999.