MONTEREY, Calif. (June 15, 2003) – Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended Saturday’s CART Champ Car qualifying session in the third spot but was awarded the pole for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey a few hours later when erstwhile polesitter Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) had his car fail technical inspection.
Carpentier was elevated to the pole position due to the violation, and used that to great advantage, parlaying that top qualifying spot into his fourth career win in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, leading all 87 laps in claiming his first victory of the 2003 season.
“I knew starting position would be important and here we are, finishing up the way that we started,” Carpentier said. “My car was really fast today but I felt like I had a stolen car with policemen chasing me because guys were in my mirrors all day long.”
Carpentier led wire-to-wire but the race was anything but easy for the French-Canadian driver as he was shadowed most of the way, first by teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and then by front-row starter Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) for the final 10 laps. But despite the fact that he had a competitor breathing down his HANS device all day, Carpentier was equal to the task both on the track and on Pit Lane as he took his fourth career CART Champ Car victory.
The race started in dramatic fashion for Carpentier, who saw outside polesitter Junqueira preparing to jump the start, so he slowed down to make the gap a bit obvious to Official Starter J.D. Wilbur. But when he slowed, his teammate Tracy didn’t, and popped him in the rear end. Neither car was damaged and Wilbur did in fact wave off the start, allowing the field to reform for a Lap 2 restart after what would be the only lap run under caution all day long.
Very fast on his first laps on cold tires, Carpentier was able to build healthy leads early in each stint, building a three-second lead after just nine laps before Tracy began to reel him back in. Tracy closed to within a half-second before the first round of pit stops but the Player’s/Forsythe duo were making quick work of the rest of the field as the third-placed Junqueira was 11 seconds in arrears as the field headed for Pit Lane.
Carpentier beat Tracy back to the track after the first stops and again pulled out to a three-second lead over his teammate, but behind them, the Newman/Haas duo of Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) were closing as Junqueira whittled an 11-second deficit down to less than one second by time the second round of pit stops came around.
The leader survived a brief moment on the tight entrance to Pit Lane and again beat the field back to the track, but Tracy would suffer a problem as he hit the loose tire of Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), who was setting up for his stop.
“The guy from Fernandez was looking right at me and he set the tire down way out in the corner of the pit box, just to make things hard for me,” Tracy said. “I’m just glad that CART looked at the tape and made the right call and didn’t penalize us for it, because we always try to be courteous to each other and I think that in this case, we didn’t do anything wrong.”
There was plenty of good racing behind the leaders as well as Jourdain, who would start 13th after failing the technical inspection on Saturday, powered his way through the back of the field. He would do battle with Fernandez, Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) on his way to the top five, and would end up saving his series points lead after a late-race pass of Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) put him in the fourth position.
Ahead of that scrum, Tracy would make a last-ditch effort to pass his teammate as they came out of the pits, but he would flat-spot his tires on a braking maneuver in Turn Two, causing a vibration that would cost him the shot at the victory. Junqueira would take advantage and move into second place while Bourdais moved into third briefly before a loss of boost pressure caused by a faulty pop-off valve ended his day.
The two leaders made their last stop on Lap 72 with Carpentier again coming off Pit Lane ahead of Junqueira. Good on cold tires again, Carpentier ran the fastest lap of the race on Lap 81, and while Junqueira did put together several fast laps including his best of the day on Lap 86, he would come up 0.844 seconds short. The win vaulted Carpentier ahead of Bourdais and into fourth place in the points, Jourdain holding the lead at 89, with Junqueira second with 83, Tracy third with 81 and Carpentier fourth with 70.
Tracy would round out the podium with a third-place finish while Jourdain and Haberfeld completed the top five. Servia would place sixth, marking the fourth consecutive event that he has finished in the top six. Fernandez fought through Pit Lane troubles to finish seventh with Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finishing the top 10.
- Today’s fourth-place finish allows Michel Jourdain Jr. to maintain his series points lead, marking the first time in his eight-year CART Champ Car career that he has had the points lead over two consecutive events.
- Today’s victory for Patrick Carpentier was the first ever for Player’s/Forsythe Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, was the first wire-to-wire win at the Monterey track since 1999 and was the first ever wire-to-wire win for Carpentier.
- Mario Haberfeld was the top-finishing rookie and the highest finisher among the Reynard contingent. The Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing driver moved into second in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings, just 17 points behind leader Sebastien Bourdais.
- Patrick Carpentier is the only driver to finish in the points in every race this season and leads the series in laps completed with 932 of a possible 936.
CART CHAMP CAR SUNDAY QUOTEBOARD
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It feels great, and one thing to note is we finished that close and there was no yellow flags, so it was a pretty good race. I hope the fans enjoyed it. For me, it was felt like I stole a car and I had a bunch of policemen running after me and I was looking in the mirrors and these guys were really, really close. When I got out of the pits, seems like for the first part of the stint my car was better; then Paul was trying to get away every time and when I got to the halfway then these guys, Paul and Bruno were faster than me. So I was just trying to stay ahead of them, and there was a few back markers which made it more interesting, and it was a fun race. I really liked it. My guys did a really, really good job in the pits. The series is so competitive now with these cars and I think there are so many good drivers and these guys are really aggressive and everybody is, and to win, it takes everything to happen right and we had it today.”
BRUNO JUNQUEIRA (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “Patrick was driving very well. He made no mistakes. Coming to the pits for the next pitstop and he almost crashed into the pits. It was close and I almost crashed behind him because there is no space. The only time he made a mistake there was no room for me to pass him. Then came out of the pits and Newman/Haas team did a great pitstop, Patrick's team, was close, maybe I was a little bit faster, but not enough to get a run on him. Well, important to finish second in the Championship -- to get points for the Championship.”
PAUL TRACY (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We came in on the second stop and I think we had a better stop than Pat but the guy from Fernandez came out, he was looking right at me and he put his tire way out in the corner of the box to make it difficult for me to get out, so I swung out and I hit the tire and then got going and went down into Turn 1 and I tried to go on the outside of Pat on cold tires and I locked both front tires up really badly and made a huge flat spot on the tires, on the front and that was it. I was struggling from there on. I had very bad braking and very bad handling and a bad vibration. I tried to hang on as long as I could and I ended up understeering right off the track in Turn 6 going up the hill and almost hit the wall. Bruno got by me there. Then I was -- I backed up to his teammate, Sebastien, I was able to keep him at bay, but I think ultimately he had a problem. And then from there, just struggled around and came in on the last stop.”
MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “The car was fantastic today and the Team Rahal crew did a great job on the pit stops.. It was a tough race. I am so tired. But we were able to pass some people both on the track and in the pits. And considering what happened yesterday, fourth place isn’t too bad.”
MARIO HABERFELD (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We had a great car all weekend, right off the truck. The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team gave me a good setup which made my job easier. Every time we made a change it worked so we didn’t lose any time going back. In qualifying we had the best Reynard and it was competitive all race. We could have used some more down force and we struggled with cold tires, but I think we did the best we could. The crew did a great job. I’m very happy with the result.”
ORIOL SERVIA (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I am really happy the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team finished sixth today. Normally, a sixth place finish would not excite me, but we struggled all weekend with the setup. Also, I didn’t make any easier for the team when I crashed in qualifying. In this morning’s warm-up we tried something different and it didn’t work, so we were guessing a little with the setup for the race. We had a completely different setup for the race, and I have to say the Visteon/Patrick Racing car was decent. There was only a couple of corners were I was losing time to the leaders, but the rest of the turns I was able to attack and make some gains on the field. I had a good start and passed a couple of cars, but the key factor of the race for the Visteon/Patrick Racing Team was our pit stops. The crew did a fantastic job on the stops. They were very smooth and very quick, just an awesome job by the whole team.”
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It was just a frustrating day. We had a great start. We were up to fourth and holding there with Bruno [Junqueira]. We had a bad [first] pit stop and we dropped two positions. Our second stop was also slow. Something happened there and again we were slow. Going into the first corner after the stop, I braked a little too late, locked up the front wheels and lost another two positions. I passed [Oriol] Servia on the track but we lost it again [to him] in the pits. It was just not a good day. It's frustrating because we should have finished in the top four for sure. The car was good. We just didn't capitalize on the opportunity we had in hand and seventh place is not where we should have finished today.”
JIMMY VASSER (#12 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We didn’t catch the breaks today, and we had a tough day in the pits, but the car was good and it ran strong all weekend. We lost some tire pressure in the first stint but they got that fixed. My race pace was dictated by the guys in front of me today, obviously eighth is not the result I was hoping for, but we’ll take the points.”
TIAGO MONTEIRO (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I’m very happy, everything worked great. We lacked a little luck this weekend or I think we could have been in the top six. I’ve got to thank the crew for some amazing stops. It was a difficult drive, but I pushed really hard and gained six spots from our starting position. All race I was pushing hard, just like the qualifying runs. I’m very happy with another top 10 finish. The crew was super and I can’t thank them enough for their great effort.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It was a tough day out there! Basically, you can't pass here so my race was pretty much spoiled on the first lap. Somebody got inside me and (Brian) Herta at the outside of turn four and I just got pushed into the dirt. By the time I got it gathered up and back on track, I had lost four positions. From there I was just trying to fight to keep pace. The team did a great job for me on pit road - we definitely gained positions on our pit stops. I wish we could have been up in the fight for the lead but we finished the race, came away with some points, and held our place in the championship so that's not a bad day's work.”
BRYAN HERTA (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “It was a tough day for us out there. We struggled all weekend to find grip and balance, but the Bridgestone tires were awesome through it all. I think it was good for the PK Racing team to get a finish, and I think we all learned some things this weekend.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (#31 American Spirit Team Johansson Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “I had a lot of understeer in the beginning of the race. On each stop we kept adding clicks of front wing, by the last quarter of the race it was feeling pretty good. Our qualifying position really hurt us here. We had a long weekend, we made a lot of changes to the car all weekend, some worked, some didn’t but we learned a lot and we will apply what we learned in Portland. By the end of the day today we ended up two tenths off of Jimmy that is pretty good considering the weekend we had.”
ALEX TAGLIANI (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We’ve had a great car everywhere we’ve been but the car is not doing what we needed it to do this weekend. Our strategy is to use pit windows and take chances to pass to move up the grid. It’s hard to accept being so low down the grid. We have enough knowledge of the Lola and our past performances prove that we are able to find the right setup, so it’s not that we’re not capable of finding the right configuration. Without the proper dampers, nothing works. 1change the car all we want but without good dampers nothing will improve it. And this has made a difference for us here on the track. We have to work with what we have and we’ll just move on to Portland where we did well earlier this year at the test.”
ROBERTO MORENO (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “We struggled out there today. We had a problem with the front end so we had to do an extra pit stop. The crew was able to get it fixed and the car was very fast at the end of the race. It's too bad because we really wanted to put both cars in the points today.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone): “I think we had a good car for the race. For sure we were not the quickest on the track but we could have finished third. I was going to pit one lap after Paul [Tracy] and we probably could have gotten a position after the stop. It’s disappointing to end the race the way we did in the pits. It was the second time this weekend that we had a boost problem.”
DARREN MANNING (#15 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “The oil pressure started fluctuating so we knew we had a problem and brought it in. It started to sound really loud in the cockpit and I felt a vibration in the rear. I thought the exhaust was going. The start of the race was a bit of disappointment for us as well. Bourdais and I had a good run going, but he slowed up and I ended up getting pushed back to ninth. It’s really disappointing to have such an early end to the race. We’d worked so hard all weekend to get the #15 RAC Walker Racing car up to seventh on the grid.”
RODOLFO LAVIN (#5 Corona Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): “We’re not sure what happened with the gearbox. Telemetry showed that we lost pressure and then the temperature went up in the gearbox, so the guys are going to take a look at it. The Corona car was handling well. The changes we’d made for the race from warm up had improved the car and we were looking for a good race. Now, we’ll just have to get focused on Portland where we had a good test there in April.”