CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy makes it look easy in Monterrey

CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy makes it look easy in Monterrey

Paul Tracy won his second race of the season today, taking the lead when polesitter Sebastien Bourdais stopped for fuel and tires on lap 17. Bourdais missed the signal from his Newman Haas team to pit under the second yellow flag of the day a few...

Paul Tracy won his second race of the season today, taking the lead when polesitter Sebastien Bourdais stopped for fuel and tires on lap 17. Bourdais missed the signal from his Newman Haas team to pit under the second yellow flag of the day a few laps earlier, putting him at the back of the field. After a strong charge back up through the field, Bourdais' race would end on lap 40 (of 85) with suspension damage to his Lola.

Paul Tracy.
Photo by Michael Kim.

After getting the lead, Tracy pulled out a large advantage on the field, enough that a stall during his second pit stop didn't cost him the lead. He explained the problem after the race: "There was some type of software problem with the pit speed limiter and the engine rev limiter. When I racked it up to leave, it stalled the engine. They told me to shut off the pit speed limiter and go out without it and just not get over 50. We kind of knew what was wrong. On the last stop, we just had to be conservative and do a nice, clean stop."

Although Michel Jourdain, Jr. got close to Tracy's rear wing just before the last round of pit stops, he was able to deflect that challenge and cross the line with a 2-second edge on Jourdain. The win gives the Team Forsythe driver a good early lead for the 2003 Champ Car World Series, an eleven-point edge over Jourdain.

Michel Jourdain Jr..
Photo by Michael Kim.
Just like race one of the 2003 Champ Car World Series season in St. Petersburg one month ago, Jourdain finished second behind Tracy. Jourdain, as the highest-finishing Mexican driver, earned loud cheers from the huge crowds filling Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico. "The crowd is just so great. They support us so nicely. It's a great feeling," he said, smiling widely. His podium finish was the second of the weekend for Team Rahal, as their Toyota Atlantic series driver, Danica Patrick, finished 3rd in the day's opening race.

The podium: race winner Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani.
Photo by Paul Strak.

Third was Alex Tagliani, an impressive result from the new (to Champ Cars) Rocketsports team. He was quite pleased after the race, saying: "It's a very good day for this new team. It's a very small team at the moment. There's a lot of good things to come in the future."

Adrian Fernandez, always a huge crowd favorite at the Mexican Champ Car events, drove a clean and smooth race to finish fourth today. He was relieved to get a finish, his first since he crossed the line 7th in Miami last September, commenting: "I am very happy with our finish. We hadn't had this result in a long time."

Bruno Junqueira finished fifth after a race full of adventures. From sixth on the grid, he worked his way to third place by mid-race, until a spin on lap 46 cost him a number of positions. On lap 55, he tried to pass fellow Brazilian, Mario Haberfeld, for 8th place in the turn 4/5 chicane, but couldn't hold the position. One lap later, he tried the move from the other side in the same place and made the pass stick. After getting by Haberfeld, Junqueira put the hammer down and went after the leaders, turning the race's fastest lap (1:15.700 seconds - faster than he qualified!) on lap 59.

Finishing sixth with a steady drive, despite giving away speed to most of the field, was Team Herdez driver Roberto Moreno. Starting 15th, Moreno used a conservative pit strategy to keep himself on the lead lap for the entire race, and even ran as high as 2nd place for more than a dozen laps before he made his first pit stop.

Last on the lead lap in seventh place was Walker Racing's Darren Manning. Manning, the highest finishing rookie, ran well, holding sixth place for a long stretch in the middle of the race. Amazingly, his car suffered no major damage after he had two hard collisions in later laps.

First, Mario Dominguez tried an ill-advised pass just after the last round of pit stops. The two cars touched rear wheels and Dominguez' Lola was launched over Manning's Reynard. The contact cost Manning two positions, left a skid mark on the top of his car's side pod and removed one of the car's mirrors, but no other damage was apparent. Dominguez continued after a push from the CART safety team and finished 13th, two laps down.

Then, with two laps remaining, it was Manning who made a mistake, clouting Jimmy Vasser's Reynard as they were contesting sixth position. Vasser's race was done, but Manning continued, losing only one position, to Moreno. After the race, Vasser let Manning off the hook, blaming slow-running Rodolfo Lavin for causing the incident.

Patrick Carpentier was one lap down in 8th position, despite fighting a virus that kept him out of the car for qualifying on Saturday. The race didn't go smoothly for him either. He pressed on, despite feeling quite poorly from his illness, and survived a wild spin caused when he tried to pass both Junqueira and Fernandez late in the race. The safety crew restarted Carpentier's Forsythe Lola while the field lined up behind the pace car and he was able to stay in the mix.

Impressive in his first Champ Car start, former F1 driver from Malaysia, Alex Yoong, finished 9th in Dale Coyne's Lola. Yoong started last in the 19-car field and ran on the lead lap most of the day, losing a lap to the leaders only after the third and final round of pit stops on lap 70.

Patrick Lemarie was 10th in his second Champ Car start after losing a lap early in the going when his car mysteriously quit and coasted to a stop under the starter's stand. After he was towed to the pits and restarted, the car ran well for the rest of the race.

Joel Camathias, in the second Dale Coyne Racing car, struggled all day with a car that was several seconds off the lead pace, but earned two points for a slow but steady drive.

Ryan Hunter-Reay got the final point for his 12th place finish. He lost a lap on his second pit stop when the clutch wouldn't engage, but his crew got him going again. Ironically, he got into the points at the end when Vasser, his American Spirit Team Johansson teammate, spun out of the race.

Lavin's Team Corona car was the final car running, but he was four laps off of the leaders and finished 15th, behind the stalled car of Vasser.

This was another exciting race for round two of the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The series will race again in three weeks on the streets of Long Beach, California. Expect another fun event.

Atlantic race: Valiante takes the season opener at Monterrey

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Joel Camathias , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Patrick Lemarié , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Yoong , Mario Dominguez , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Dale Coyne , Danica Patrick , Michel Jourdain , Michael Kim
Teams Dale Coyne Racing