MILWAUKEE (May 29, 2003) – The Milwaukee Mile glowed under the glare of Musco Lighting for the first time in its long history Thursday night as the 700hp machines of the Champ Car World Series turned their first-ever nighttime practice laps on the 1.032-mile oval.
The 90-minute session started as the sun slipped behind the newly-erected grandstands and ended under a star-lit sky as Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) paced a 19-car field as the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford prepared for its historic Saturday night event – The Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite and Argent Mortgage.
Jourdain’s best lap of 21.040 seconds (176.578 mph) put him atop the speed charts, as the Team Rahal driver looks for his first-ever Milwaukee podium finish. The eight-year veteran scored his first-ever Milwaukee points with a top-five run last season and established himself as one of the pre-race favorites with a blistering lap Thursday – a lap that was a full second quicker than last year’s polewinning time.
“The Gigante Team Rahal guys really gave me a good car this weekend,” Jourdain said. “I was a little surprised with how much speed I was able to get through the corners. I really liked the new aero package and what we were able to do out there. Of course this is only practice, but I’m really excited about what we can do here this weekend.”
Jourdain came through with his quick time on the 89th of his 90 laps turned on a cool Thursday evening, vaulting him ahead of series co-leader Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who sat atop the charts for the majority of the 90-minute session. Tracy led the afternoon practice and immediately took the point in the evening with a quick lap of 21.075 seconds (176.285 mph), but would run only 38 laps after brushing the outside wall.
“We’re pretty happy. I mean, I brushed the wall, which wasn’t good, but we saved some tires for tomorrow, so I’m pretty happy with the car on fresh tires,” Tracy said. “I mean, we only ran under half the session, so the car is pretty good. It took guys a long time to beat my time, so I think if we can improve the car tomorrow, we’ll be pretty strong.”
Tracy was joined on the practice podium by teammate Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who made a trip around the Milwaukee Mile in 21.146 seconds (175.693 mph). Carpentier, whose 1998 polewinning time of 20.028 seconds (185.500 mph) is still the Milwaukee track record, will be looking to break a two-year scoreless streak at the Mile and feels that he has a car to contend with on Saturday.
“The car was a lot better tonight than this afternoon,” Carpentier said. “At the end there, we put on a new set of tires for qualifying just in case we can’t run tomorrow in afternoon’s practice session because of rain. As far as the lights go, it’s pretty good. It’s quite different than what I’m used to. You definitely don’t see as clearly, but I still really like it. It was a good first time.”
Many drivers took Carpentier’s lead and strapped on new tires at the end of the session just in case tomorrow’s qualifying runs are washed out by the rain that is predicted for the area. Five of the top nine finishers on Thursday all posted their fastest lap times within five minutes of the checkered flag – a flag that was brought out about three minutes early due to a crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone).
Last year’s polesitter Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was on the pace again in 2003 as the Mexican veteran claimed the fourth position on the practice charts with a time of 21.155 seconds (175.618 mph). Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), the 1998 Milwaukee race winner, was the fastest Reynard on the day and rounded out the top five in the evening with a time 21.212 seconds (175.146 mph).
Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) slipped into the sixth spot as he looks to extend his run of top-five finishes to three consecutive races, while Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani (#33 Rocketsports Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will fill out the top eight.
Top rookie honors went to Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) who celebrated his team’s new associate sponsorship with Carrera glasses by making an orbit of the Mile in 21.282 seconds (174.570 mph), which was good for ninth on the day, ahead of Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who completed the top 10 with a lap of 21.408 seconds (173.543 mph).
Friday will see another one-hour-and-45-minute practice session beginning at 3 p.m., with single-car qualifying slated to begin at 8:30. The qualifying will be carried live by SPEED Channel.
CART CHAMP CAR THURSDAY QUOTEBOARD
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The car was great from the moment we rolled it off the truck this morning. The Gigante Team Rahal guys really gave me a good car this weekend. I was a little surprised with how much speed I was able to get through the corners. I really liked the new aero package and what we’re able to do out there. Of course this is only practice, but I’m really excited about what we can do here this weekend.” (On racing at night) “Everybody from CART and the lighting guys did a great job. It wasn’t like racing at night. It was like racing at noon our there. I think everybody’s going to be excited to see what we can do out there Saturday.”
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We’re pretty happy. I mean, I brushed the wall, which wasn’t good, but we saved some tires for tomorrow, so I’m pretty happy with the car on fresh tires. I mean, we only ran under half the session, so the car is pretty good. It took guys a long time to beat my time, so I think if we can improve the car tomorrow, we’ll be pretty strong. It feels good (to run under the lights). There’s no problem with the lights at all, and I’m pretty happy with the job that they’ve done here. We could probably use a couple more lights here and there, but overall I think they’ve done a good job.”
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The car was a lot better tonight than this afternoon. I’m pretty happy with the setup we had tonight. At the end there, we put on a new set of tires for qualifying just in case we can’t run tomorrow in afternoon’s practice session because of rain. As far as the lights go, it’s pretty good. It’s quite different than what I’m used to. You definitely don’t see as clearly, but I still really like it. It was a good first time.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We improved the car this evening. The car felt better, a little tighter, and we managed to balance the push I was having this afternoon. It was definitely an improvement. Like a lot of people, we were trying to put in a good time in case it rains tomorrow. At the end, I had some traffic and needed another lap. The car is definitely better. I don’t know how it is compared to everyone else on full tanks because you don’t know what everyone is running. We’ll see tomorrow. The car is at least more drivable and we are in a better position. We are just a tenth from the pole and that’s not bad. We were a lot further this morning. I’m happy.”
JIMMY VASSER (#12 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We have a good car. I have a great car for qualifying, it is really good on fresh tires. We might make a change or two for the race, but I am really happy with it for qualifying. It is awesome running here at night, the lighting is fantastic, it’s a bit chilly though.”
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The Visteon/Patrick Racing car is always good on the ovals. We are just trying to get it to be more neutral without going loose (understeer). It is just of matter of working through the procedures detail by detail. The car was better this evening. We were two tenths off the pace during the night session, but this afternoon we were a half a second slower, so we are definitely improving. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Team is making steady progress and we just have to keep improving tomorrow.”
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We started off the day not as happy as we could have been after the first session but made the car better and better in the night session. Our last run I think we would have had a 21.0 second lap time which would have been closer to Michel’s [Jourdain] time but the yellow came out for Ryan’s [Hunter-Reay] accident.”
TIAGO MONTEIRO (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “It was a good day. At least we found that we had a good base. We tried a lot of things. A t the beginning I had a lot of traffic, but near the end of the session I got some clear laps and some better times. We needed to be far away from the traffic to make sure we got the right setup for qualifying, but we also needed to run in close traffic to get the setup we need for the race.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We've come a long way since this morning's practice but we're still struggling a bit. We've got a pretty big understeer on the car. We'll talk it over with the engineers and see if we can find some changes to improve the car for tomorrow. Right now we haven't actually corrected anything, we're just kind of patching over the problems. We still have a long way to go but I'm confident that we'll get there.”
MARIO HABERFELD (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “In the morning session I was quickest in my group which was very good. We made some changes for tonight and improved our time. We ran in traffic to see what will work for the race and later we had to see what would work for qualifying. I think we should be further up tomorrow even without changing the car.”
DARREN MANNING (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “The lights are so good it’s very difficult to tell any difference (from running during the day) apart from it looks like its going to rain. You’re going into Turn 1 looking up into the sky and you see these dark clouds. The lights are great though. There aren’t any dark spots anywhere around the track. This morning we had a massive push. It was so bad I was bruising my arm on the side of my car, it had that much lock on.”
RODOLFO LAVIN (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I’m happy to be here in Milwaukee making my first race at night. The lighting is very well done; you can see very good. We’ve been making adjustments on the chassis all day and the Corona car is getting better. Now, we’ll try to be better for tomorrow and hope it doesn’t rain.”
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I've never been to this track when I've had a car that was this good for the race. We did a simulated qualifying run toward the end of the night session where I set my fastest lap - on new tires at the end of the warm up lap. There was a yellow flag there before I got to complete the run or I think I would have gotten down into the low 21-second range. Right now the car is very good in traffic in race trim. Tomorrow we'll focus on trimming out the car for qualifying.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#31 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We made several changes to the car throughout the session, I was pretty uncomfortable with the back-end of it. We put a fresh set of tires on toward the end and it just snapped. I am really sorry for the guys, I just gave them a late night. We’re close, they are happy with the #12 car so we’ll get it figured out. There is more to come for sure.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Our goal was to slowly get up to speed and we were working toward that but we wanted to accomplish more than we did. On our first set of new tires in the nigh practice, I didn’t get the most out of them when they were at their best. We put the second set on at the end of the session to check our progress but Ryan [Hunter-Reay] brought out the yellow and we didn’t get any indication.”
PATRICK LEMARIE (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Something was not working properly on the car, and we don’t know what it was. When we put new tires on at the end, the car was completely different, so we are trying to figure out what was going on I had a huge understeer in Turn 4, and I kissed the wall.”
- Michel Jourdain’s practice-leading time of 21.040 seconds was 1.136 seconds quicker than the 2002 polewinning time posted by Adrian Fernandez. In all, 17 cars posted quicker times than last year’s polewinning time.
- Gualter Salles made his return to the Champ Car World Series on Thursday, taking over for Alex Yoong in the #11 Dale Coyne Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, finishing 17th in the evening practice session.