INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2003) - Two exciting races with packed grandstands, the emergence of new championship contenders and the emotional return of former champion Alex Zanardi to the driver's seat were all highlights of Champ Car's European swing - a swing that saw a number of changes in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The biggest change came at the top of the ladder as Paul Tracy's (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) 26-point lead in the series was swallowed up by the rest of the field.
The series comes back to its stateside home for this weekend's Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite, but returns to a home that will look unlike anything it has seen before, despite the fact that the CART Champ Car World Series has been to The Milwaukee Mile more often than any other racetrack in existence.
The venerable 1.032-mile oval at Wisconsin State Fair Park will gleam under the brilliance of Musco Lighting for the first time ever as the Champ Cars will light up the night for a Saturday-night shootout. The refurbished Mile will feature many new amenities, including the construction of brand-new grandstands, and will give the event an entirely new look and feel.
But the improvements outside the track will have little bearing on what goes on inside the walls as a new generation of Champ Car drivers will look to put their names alongside legends such as Andretti, Mears, Jones and Unser as drivers that have won at Milwaukee.
The contingent of first-timers that will test their skills on the quick Milwaukee oval is led by Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing. Enlightening critics that had not followed the exploits of the FIA International F3000 champion, Bourdais showed that he had the race speed to match his early-season polewinning performances by snaring the first two race wins of his career on the European sojourn. He won Brands Hatch in a flawless effort, and then used every inch of race track to deny a pair of rivals that filled his mirrors on the way to the EuroSpeedway finish line.
Bourdais vaulted from 16th to fourth in the points chase with his two wins and took a commanding lead in the rookie standings over Walker Racing's Darren Manning (#15 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Reynard Bridgestone), who earned a career-high seventh-place finish at Brands Hatch, and then bettered that with a sixth-place run in Germany. But the rookies will have not only to overcome an unfamiliar track, but also a slew of veterans that have tasted the sweet suds of Milwaukee success if they are to climb the victory podium.
Series co-points leader Tracy will enter the weekend as the man to watch as the Canadian looks to reprise his successful run on the Wisconsin oval a year ago. Already a three-time race winner this year, Tracy returns to the track that saw him lead 184 of 250 laps last year en route to his third Milwaukee victory. The winner of the prestigious Driver of the Quarter award after his scorching season start, Tracy will look to rebound from a trip to Europe that saw him earn just two points in the two races.
Tracy's woes allowed Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to claim a share of the points lead as the 2002 series runner-up erased what had been a 26-point deficit in the title hunt with a pair of top-five finishes. The Brazilian has enjoyed success on short ovals such as Milwaukee, having won his first Champ Car pole on the tight Nazareth track and earning his first top-five finish in his initial Milwaukee visit in 2001.
Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) sits directly behind the two co-leaders and returns to the track that propelled him into the series points lead for the first time in his eight-year CART career last season. Jourdain completed a run of four straight top-five finishes with a fifth-place effort at Milwaukee last season, moving him into the points lead. Last year was the first time in seven starts that Jourdain has even scored points on The Mile, but he comes off a podium finish on the EuroSpeedway oval and is just 10 points shy of leaving Wisconsin with the points lead again.
Losing the lead at the drop of the green flag last year despite having earned the pole is a fact that will stoke the competitive fire of 2002 Milwaukee runner-up Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who will look to better last season's run by one spot. Fernandez has earned five consecutive top-10 finishes at Milwaukee including last year's second-place run from pole, and has led laps in two of the last three trips to Wisconsin State Fair Park.
The only other driver to hold a Milwaukee Champ Car win will be the least-rested of the 19 men in the field as Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will come to Milwaukee on the heels of his Indianapolis 500 run for Team Rahal. Vasser, who won the 1998 Milwaukee race from the fifth starting position and was the only Champ Car driver to compete in this year's Indy 500, scored points in each of his first seven trips to the West Allis oval and will be looking for a strong finish to keep himself in the points race.
The same can be said for sophomore surprise Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who finds himself in the thick of the title trip for the first time in his two seasons. The Mexican earned back-to-back podium finishes for the first time in his career in finishing third at Brands Hatch and second at EuroSpeedway and gave Herdez Competition consecutive podium placings for the first time in its long history. Dominguez does have a strong history at Milwaukee from his years in CART's Ladder System, having earned podium finishes in 2000 and '01 while in Indy Lights.
The driver directly behind Dominguez has already etched himself into the lore of The Mile as Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes into the weekend as the track-record holder, having set the single-lap mark with a blistering orbit of 185.500mph (20.028 seconds) in 1998. Carpentier won the 1998 pole with that record-setting lap and has a third-place run in 2000 to his credit, although he has not scored championship points in either of his last two visits.
A pair of fourth-year drivers will be looking for their first Milwaukee successes as well as a foothold in the championship chase as Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will try to capture their first top-10 finishes on the mile oval. Servia suffered one of his biggest disappointments last year when his PacWest squad came to Milwaukee but elected to fold their tents, leaving the Spaniard temporarily out of a ride. He comes to Milwaukee on a high note this year, having collected a pair of top-five finishes on the European swing and vaulting into the top 10 in the season standings. Tagliani scored just one point in his first three Milwaukee trips while with Player's/Forsythe, but will look to give his new Rocketsports Racing team another podium to match the effort from Monterrey.
Two more drivers can call up their experiences from the Champ Car Ladder System to aid their causes this week as Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Rodolfo Lavin (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) will try and mount an assault on the rookie title. Hunter-Reay rolled to the pole in last year's Toyota Atlantic race but suffered a mechanical failure that ended his day. Lavin, who scored his first Champ Car points two weeks ago in Germany, scored a career-best second-place finish in last year's Atlantic race at Milwaukee and had a second-row starting spot in 2001 before ending up 14th.
Many of the future stars of the series will be on display for the Milwaukee fans as the Champ Car Ladder System will take to the track as well in the form of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and the Barber Dodge Pro Series. All three races will take place on Saturday, with the BDPS race starting at 2:30 and the Atlantics leaving the grid at 5 p.m.
The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite will take place on the night of May 31, and will be broadcast live by SPEED Channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by live qualifying coverage on Friday night, with SPEED Channel's broadcast team taking the air beginning at 9:30 p.m.
- Rookie Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing stole the show with two breakthrough performances, winning Rounds 4 and 5 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford in England and Germany, respectively. The Frenchman powered his way around the tight, technical Brands Hatch circuit and nipped a three-car drag to the stripe at EuroSpeedway, continuing his assault on the point race and leading Rookie of the Year standings. With 49 markers, Bourdais leads the rookie class of 2003 and holds the fourth spot overall in points. He has already shown his skill on three of CART's four disciplines with two wins and thee poles, but has yet to do battle on a short oval configuration such as The Milwaukee Mile.
- With back-to-back podium finishes of third and second in Europe, sophomore driver Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Herdez Competition moved up to fifth in Champ Car points with 40. The Mexican's performances also catapulted his countrymen into the Nation's Cup points lead, with Mexico now holding an 80-79 advantage over the Canadians.
- Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) turned in another strong run at EuroSpeedway Lausitz with a podium result of third, just 0.245 seconds behind racewinner Bourdais. The Mexican heads into The Milwaukee Mile a solid third in points with 56 behind leaders Canada's Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing and Brazilian Bruno Junqueira (Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing, who are knotted up at 66 each.
- Walker Racing's English rookie Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) improved his career best starting and finishing position in Germany, posting a sixth-place result after starting fifth. Manning could be one to watch this weekend on Milwaukee's 1.032-mile bullring. The Brit impressed in his Champ Car (and oval) debut last year in Rockingham, England leading 14 laps en route to a ninth-place finish after starting 17th.
- Spaniard Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) comes to The Mile with momentum gained from two top-five finishes in Europe after claiming fourth in England and fifth in Germany. The two-race span marks the first time that Servia has had back-to-back top fives since Vancouver and Germany in 2001. The Patrick Racing pilot currently stands 10th in points with 24.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
- Defending Milwaukee champion Paul Tracy has recorded a total of three wins and two poles at The Mile in his Champ Car career. The Canadian pilot's other wins came in 1995 and '99, with poles in '96 and '97.
- Other Champ Car drivers who have displayed speed at Milwaukee in the past include '98 race winner Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) of American Spirit Team Johansson and '98 pole winner Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Player's Forsythe Racing, who currently sits sixth in points with 34.
- Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), the only owner/driver in the Champ Car World Series, will try to duplicate his polewinning performance of a year ago this weekend when qualifying starts Friday, May 30th for CART's 29th visit to Milwaukee. The wildly popular Mexican would go on to finish second in 2002, just 0.638 seconds behind racewinner Paul Tracy.
DID YOU KNOW?
- William Jones of Chicago set the very first track record at The Milwaukee Mile with a 72-second, 50 mph lap in September of 1903. A century later, current Champ Car pilot Patrick Carpentier holds the track record at a blistering 20.028 seconds at 185.500 mph set in 1998.
- The Milwaukee Mile begins to write a new chapter in its history book in 2003. The latest installment features a new era of renovation and an eye cast firmly on the future. Shortly before the 2002 season, The Mile replaced 20,000 bleacher seats along Turn One and Turn Four. For 2003, The Mile will boast a completely new center grandstand area, with seating for 25,000, improved sightlines, brand-new restrooms, state-of-the-art concession areas and other fan-friendly amenities. The action on the track in 2003 is set to make history as well. This weekend the Milwaukee Mile will host the first Champ Car race ever contested at night, The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite, along with the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and Barber Dodge Pro Series. Racing fans will witness motorsports history in the making three nights in a row when America's Legendary Oval becomes infused with 1.3 million watts of Musco Lighting for the Champ Car classic.
- On Friday, May 30, The Milwaukee Mile will host the "Husar's House of Fine Diamonds Pole Night," where the first 10,000 fans (ages 18 and older) entering the gates will each receive a cubic zirconium. One specially marked cubic zirconium will entitle the bearer to a one-carat, oval-shaped diamond, which West Bend-based Husar's House of Fine Diamonds will mount into a pendant. The diamond and setting are valued at approximately $14,000. The 10,000 fans receiving a cubic zirconium at The Milwaukee Mile will need to bring their stone into Husar's House of Fine Diamonds by Monday, June 30, 2003 to find out if they're holding that one, special gemstone that will "transform" into The Milwaukee Mile Oval Diamond.
- Barber Dodge Pro Series officials are excited about the opportunity to participate at Milwaukee, which is the only oval-course round of the 2003 season, hailing a return to ovals for the "Official Entry Level Professional Race Series of Champ Car" after having competed on only road courses in 2002. Historically, Barber Dodge races on ovals are ultra competitive affairs with the entire field normally qualifying within one second of the pole as they did at Chicago in 2001...The Barber Dodge Pro Series will make use of Michelin Pilot SX tires which have been engineered specifically for use on one-mile tracks. The tire design is based on the original mold from the SX, but will adapt a new compound, which reflects the knowledge gained in testing on oval tracks to provide the drivers with a stable and adhesive tire for use during the weekend. The oval tire application is the only one if its kind produced worldwide by Michelin, underscoring the effort that Michelin provides as a partner with the Barber Dodge Pro Series and all of the Skip Barber Racing School properties.
THE MILWAUKEE MILE CENTENNIAL 250 PRESENTED BY MILLER LITE PRE-RACE QUOTEBOARD
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I'm looking forward to defending my Milwaukee championship this year. One of my incentives is to get win number 4 there, and that would be the most wins that I have at any track in the series. I know that they have made quite a few renovations at The Milwaukee Mile, but to me it will always have that certain quaintness and uniqueness. Milwaukee has a racing atmosphere that you can practically taste and smell, and it certainly ranks as one of my favorite places. We don't race on too many ovals, but I'm glad that we're still racing on what I consider to be one of the best I've run laps on. Celebrating The Milwaukee Mile 100th anniversary should make this year's race even more of an event than usual. The lead that Team Player's built in the standings after the first three races is a thing of the past, and now we just have to regroup and try to start another winning streak. I've been in the sport long enough to know that you're going to have highs and lows during the course of a long season. The important thing is to go into every race with the feeling that you can win it, and going to a track where I've had quite a bit of success simply adds to the feeling of confidence."
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "I think it (The Milwaukee Mile 250) will be a difficult race. I have never run high downforce on a short oval. In Milwaukee we are used to downshifting but maybe we won't need to brake now because of the aero package. It will be the first time I have raced at night so that will be exciting. I like racing on the one-mile ovals a lot and I think the PacifiCare team can have a good race in Milwaukee. I think that it's never too early to think about the championship. Every race gives you the same number of points so every one is just as important as the next. Being tied with Paul [Tracy] and having our next race take place at The Milwaukee Mile where he is very good would make taking over the points lead after the race even better. In order to finish in front of Paul Tracy in Milwaukee, I think I am going to have to win the race. He's going to be very strong."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "It's going to be a new experience for me, because I can't recall ever racing under the lights before unless it was under some street lamps when I was karting a long time ago! I think it's great for everyone in the series, the fans and the drivers that we have night races in Milwaukee and Cleveland. And what better to have the first one in Milwaukee, where the track has so much history. I don't expect it to be difficult to get adjusted to night-time racing. Once you've run a few practice laps, you usually get adjusted to any conditions. I look at Milwaukee as a great opportunity to score some major points in the standings. I'm not exactly pleased with the way things have gone through the first five races, but we've been able to get more points every time out. Actually, with 34 points in the first five races, it's the best start I've had in any season, including last year, when I was in the race for the drivers' title almost to the end. I feel that a good chemistry has developed between the Team Player's crew and I with every race, and we're ready for a good one on the short oval."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "Even though we won (on the oval) in Germany, to me Milwaukee will be my first race on an oval. With the aerodynamic setup that everyone ran on the cars in Germany, it was not as much of an oval feel as the Milwaukee race will be. Milwaukee, to my point of view, is going to be my first proper oval experience because you have to lift and sometimes brake in Milwaukee. It will be more like driving at Phoenix (International Raceway) because there is no banking and you will need to brake instead of being flat on the pedal like in Germany. It will take a while for us to get up to speed there because we will need to make sure we don't have any big moments with the wall. It will be hard not to make a mistake. I think the experienced drivers are going to be very strong there, and I still need to learn a lot about ovals. You need really to take your time on an oval. It's definitely the safest way to do it. And in another hand, confidence can be your biggest enemy, so you need always to be cautious with that. Experience will be a big factor at this race so Bruno [Junqueira], Paul [Tracy], Michel [Jourdain] and all of the guys that have experience on this type of track will be strong. It will be the most challenging weekend we have had so far but the Lilly team will steadily prepare for the new experience as they have for the other races."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "Racing under the lights at Milwaukee is obviously going to be something different for everyone, and I think it will be very exciting and a good show for the fans. We came in second at Milwaukee last year and should have won that race. We dominated the whole weekend and I hope that the setup we had then can transfer to what we have this year. After our bad results the last two races, we have to come back strong. I like racing at Milwaukee and it is going to be interesting to see how close we can run with the [high downforce] wing package we are using here. The whole purpose of bringing these bigger wings is to be able to pass and run closer together. If it is similar to Germany, it will be a great race."
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "There are three things that are making me really look forward to returning to The Milwaukee Mile. First we are going to be racing with a lot more downforce than in previous years. For a long time we've wanted to bring back the great side by side racing that Champ Cars are known for on ovals. With the configuration we will have this year it will give the cars a lot more downforce and grip so the racing should be great. Second, The Milwaukee Mile may be an old circuit with 100 years of history but there is nothing like it in the rest of the world. We have heard that a lot of improvements have been done to the track area so I'm really looking forward to seeing all of that. Last, but not least, I'm very excited about the new challenge presented by racing at night under the lights. It should be very exciting for the fans... and for the drivers too!"
JIMMY VASSER (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "Milwaukee will be my third oval race of the month, it is always a very special event. Racing under the lights there should be pretty cool, should be a great show for the fans and obviously a different experience for us. One thing that I am especially looking forward to, sleeping in, I think I can get used to this night racing thing!"
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): "This is a short oval where the lap times always used to be quick, but it's been a long time since the series has run road course wings on the oval in Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see how fast we will actually go there. I think the cars will be full throttle all the way around. We used to down shift one gear, but with the new wing package, I don't think we will and this is going to make for very fast racing."
DARREN MANNING (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "I think it's great that we're celebrating Milwaukee's 100th Anniversary with the series' first night race. It's going to be a great experience to see the Champ Cars run under the lights. The #15 Walker Racing team has steadily been improving over the last several races with qualifying and with finishes. I made my first top-five start in Germany and finished eighth, our fourth top-ten this season. If we keep this up, we're bound to make it on the podium soon."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "Milwaukee brings back bittersweet memories for me. I led nearly the whole race there last year [in Toyota Atlantic] and my engine blew, it would have been my first win of the season, so I feel like I have some unfinished business at the historic Milwaukee Mile. Hopefully I can make up for it this year. I am really excited about racing at night. I think that it should be awesome and create a great show for the fans. It makes sense to do something special at Milwaukee because it is a very unique place. We really worked on our oval set-up at Germany, the car was still not where we needed it to be by the end of the weekend, but we learned a lot and we look forward to improving at The Mile."
PATRICK LEMARIE (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) "I don't know the track, but it seems interesting and tricky. Racing at night is going to be fun if the lights are strong enough to have good visibility. I'm really confident, because we're getting better each race, and we're going to get what we deserve soon!"
JOEL CAMATHIAS (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/ Bridgestone): "After a few days at home in Lugano [Switzerland], I'm now ready to meet the event of Milwaukee. I think I have learned a lot at the two races in Europe, and the fact I could reduce my round time in comparison of the best ones, let me be confident for the next race. The circuit and the night will be two new elements for me, but I really look forward to race at night. It must be a fantastic experience, and my wish is to compete with the other drivers for a place in the top 12."
RODOLFO LAVIN (#5 Corona Competition Team Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "The Walker Racing Corona team has some momentum coming into this race. We're coming off the best weekend of our season on the German oval. And, I finished second here last year in Toyota Atlantic. All those things give me confidence for the weekend. I'm also excited for the first night race of my career. I think it's going to be a great experience for everyone - the drivers, the team and especially the fans."
THE MILWAUKEE MILE CENTENNIAL 250 PRESENTED BY MILLER LITE
- WHAT: The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite
- WHERE: The Milwaukee Mile, West Allis, Wisconsin USA.
- WHEN: Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31.
- SUPPORT EVENTS: CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series
- 2002 CHAMPION: Paul Tracy
- 2002 POLESITTER: Adrian Fernandez
- TRACK LAYOUT: 1.032-mile oval.
- RACE LENGTH: 250 laps, 258.000 miles.
- TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap) - 1998, Patrick Carpentier, 185.500 mph (20.028 seconds). Race - 2002, Paul Tracy, 129.583 mph (1:59:27.602), based on 250 laps (258.000 miles).
- RACE ROUND: 6 of 19 in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
- NEXT EVENT: June 15, Grand Prix of Monterey, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.