VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 24, 2003) --- As the CART Champ Car World Series begins the second half of the season, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira and Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais hope to build upon their combined total of nine...
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada (July 24, 2003) --- As the CART Champ Car World Series begins the second half of the season, PacifiCare driver Bruno Junqueira and Lilly driver Sebastien Bourdais hope to build upon their combined total of nine podium finishes in the first 10 of 19 races. Junqueira and Bourdais are currently ranked second and fifth place respectively in the point standings as they attempt to help Newman/Haas Racing (NHR), CART's winningest active team, earn their fifth CART Championship as well as Rookie of the Year honors.
Junqueira and Bourdais finished third and fourth, respectively, in front of 73,255 fans on race day at the previous event in Toronto and hope to better those results in this weekend's 100-lap Molson Indy Vancouver, the second of three highly successful events in Canada which will be held around the city's Concord Pacific Place.
After earning nine top five finishes and six podiums in 10 events, Brazilian Junqueira is just 15 points back from leader Paul Tracy with 23 available this weekend and 11 ahead of third place ranked Michel Jourdain Jr. of Team Rahal. At one point this season, he was tied for the lead with Tracy but four wins and other points paying finishes by his competitor have topped Junqueira's nine top-five finishes in nine of 10 events to date. Because of the tight points race, he knows that he will not only need to maintain his consistency in order to stay in the hunt for the Championship he will also have to consistently finish in front of Tracy.
"For sure every race is really important now for the Championship," said Junqueira. "Especially the street races because it is very easy to make a mistake and very easy not to score points. You have to be consistent and Vancouver is a difficult track. It takes a long time to get the tires up to temperature and the weather can play havoc but I hope we can get a great result for the No. 1 PacifiCare car."
Since the first event was held in Vancouver in 1990, NHR has won three races (Mi. Andretti 1991, 1992, 1996), four poles (Da Matta 2002, Mi. Andretti 1990-1992) and six podiums here (2nd - Mi. Andretti 1998; 3rd - Fittipaldi 1996, Ma. Andretti 1990). NHR's Cristiano da Matta won the Vancouver pole last season and led the first 36 laps until both he and teammate Christian Fittipaldi retired with drive shaft failure on the same lap.
Junqueira hopes to turn his luck around in Vancouver as he has yet to have a trouble free race in his two previous events here with Ganassi Racing. He had to fight back from last place after an early race incident in his rookie race here in 2001 and was involved in the multi-car accident in the closing laps of last season's race but knows that the NHR should be competitive this weekend.
"I ran very competitively the last two years in Vancouver but haven't had the results to show for it so hopefully I can finish strong in the PacifiCare car this year," said Junqueira. "The first year I started sixth but Paul Tracy hit me in Turn 1 and I went to last place but got back up to twelfth and scored one point. The second year I was running third then after the last pit stop my wheel was loose so I had to make an extra stop and was fifth or sixth. With a few laps to go there was a big crash in front of me and I hit Adrian Fernandez and didn't finish the race but still scored some points. The accident with Adrian was pretty scary. We were on a restart and everybody had very cold tires and there is a kink there that you take in fifth gear at about 160 mph. There were a bunch of cars in front of me and I think Carpentier spun and Tagliani braked to avoid it and then Adrian hit Tagliani and spun and I hit Adrian. He got hurt but thank God he's good now."
Now that he has one-half of a Champ Car season behind him rookie Sebastien Bourdais is hoping to build on the experience he has acquired in the first half of the season. Despite earning three victories and four pole positions his season could be characterized as "feast or famine" until recently. Other than points collected from his wins, his only other points paying finishes include an 11th place in St. Petersburg and a ninth place finish in Milwaukee prior to following up his third win in Cleveland with a fourth place finish at the previous race in Toronto, Round 10 of 19. Three non driver-related failures cost him two probable third place finishes (Laguna Seca/pop-off valve, Portland/rear wing failure) and a possible top-five finish (Long Beach/engine). He is ranked fifth overall with 86 points to Tracy's 139 and is third in most laps led behind the more experienced Tracy and Michel Jourdain and only failed to lead three of the 10 Champ Car races to date.
"I think I am pretty confident approaching every event," said Bourdais. "It looks like we have a strong baseline car and everywhere we have gone the car is fairly strong. I'm not worried about the potential of the car before a race -- it's more about how I can fit and how the car fits to me and how quick I can get up to speed on this new race track. It was definitely good to win after having some DNF's (did not finish) and then follow the win up with a fourth place finish in Toronto. It was a difficult weekend for us and we were able to finish fourth so we are looking forward to a challenging weekend in Vancouver but want to improve on the results. It's a shame we are not really fighting for the Championship at the moment because of all of the DNF's so far but that is motor racing. There are nine more races to go we have plenty of time to get back to the top."
Bourdais has a library of Champ Car races on VHS tapes and refers to them prior to each event in order to learn as much as possible before traveling to the venue. He has quickly adapted to each new track he has encountered although weather made the task even more difficult in Toronto as wet conditions limited the usefulness of the practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday. Despite that possibility this weekend he is looking forward to the race.
"The main thing I have learned about the Vancouver race from watching the past events and going through the historical data the team has is that it looks like it rains pretty often there," explained Bourdais. "The rain put us a little behind in learning about the car or the track in Toronto so I am hoping for good weather all weekend this time. It will be another street course for me to discover and I am also looking forward to being in Vancouver because it seems to be the favorite race city of many drivers.
In 2002, the combined attendance at the three Canadian events in Toronto, Vancouver and the inaugural event in Montreal accounted for 502,149 spectators or 19 percent of CART Champ Car's all-time record attendance total of 2,686,640 last season. Canadians Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani helped attract an impressive 167,000 to the 2003 Toronto event despite two of three days begin run under wet conditions and the unwanted attention SARS had recently brought to the area. The Vancouver and Montreal numbers should prove impressive as well.
A host of activities will be held in conjunction with the Molson Indy Vancouver's three days of on-track activities, which began with multiple parties that were open to the public on Monday. Parties continued through each of the nights until race day, most notable of which are the Drivers VIP party on Friday that will be hosted by Paul Tracy and the Miss Indy Grand Finale on Saturday at the track.
"I love Vancouver," said Junqueira, who has offered his services as judge of the Miss Indy finale. "It's my favorite city of the North American races. I think it's a pretty nice city and there are a lot of mountains and a good nightlife with great restaurants. I enjoy so much to go to Vancouver. It's a challenging street course and I hope the Newman/Haas team will be good there again and start from pole like last year."
The Molson Indy Vancouver will take place on Sunday, July 27, and will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel at 9:30 p.m. Eastern beginning with the 30 minute pre-race show at 9 PM. Final qualifying will air on SPEED Channel starting at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday. Live audio of the CART Champ Car World Series is available for qualifying on Saturday, July 26 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET, and the Molson Indy Vancouver on Sunday, July 27 - 4:00 p.m. ET, on the official web site of the CART Champ Car World Series, www.champcarworldseries.com.