INDIANAPOLIS (June 17, 2003) – Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed the form that wins championships in last week’s Grand Prix of Monterey, overcoming a penalty that put him 13th on the starting grid to finish fourth and maintain his lead in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car Powered by Ford.
The timing of his climb was well-placed for Jourdain as his three closest competitors in the points chase all occupied the podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but Jourdain’s fourth-place run kept him ahead of the baying pack nipping at his heels. Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) used his Monterey win to vault directly into the heart of the title hunt while podium sitters Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) each closed the gap to Jourdain’s series lead.
That hunt heads to the Pacific Northwest this weekend in the second of back-to-back road-course CART Champ Car races as Portland International Raceway will host the G.I. Joe’s 200 on the winding 1.969-mile layout. The track, which features a tricky first turn and the fabled Festival Curves, will be celebrating its 20th year of hosting the CART Champ Cars this season and will have a full dance card this weekend as the up-and-coming drivers of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship as well as the Barber Dodge Pro Series join their Champ Car brethren.
Of the drivers that can leave Portland with their names atop the point standings, Carpentier comes in with the most momentum as well as the best recent track record at PIR. Carpentier has earned consecutive podium finishes, capped by last week’s win at Laguna Seca, and has earned top-10 finishes in each of his last five visits to the Rose City including fifth-place runs in each of the last two seasons. The most consistent driver through the first seven events this year, Carpentier is the only driver to finish in the points in every race this year, leads the loop in laps completed and has set a new team record for most consecutive top-10 finishes (7) to start a season.
Junqueira will be looking to do his 2002 finish one better as the Brazilian spirals in on his first 2003 victory. Junqueira followed his Belo Horizonte, Brazil neighbor Cristiano da Matta to the stripe in last year’s G.I. Joe’s 200 and is stepping in to the Newman/Haas car that da Matta won from pole with at Portland last year. Junqueira led his first qualifying session of the year last weekend at Laguna Seca and has a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit already this season.
Jourdain is coming off of a year that saw him post his best-ever Portland finish as the points leader climbed from 17th on the starting grid to place sixth in 2002. Portland is the site of the first-ever permanent road-course race of Jourdain’s Champ Car career, but he had not scored championship points on the Oregon layout since 1997 before last season.
Tracy comes into the weekend only eight points behind Jourdain for the championship lead, but will have to break a personal Portland drought in order to ensure that he does not fall further behind. Tracy, who has 22 Champ Car wins to his credit, has never won at Portland, making it just one of two tracks (Mid-Ohio) on the current schedule – among those that have hosted at least 10 events - where Tracy has not won. The winner of the National Driver of the Quarter Award for the first quarter of the season scored podium finishes in both of his first two trips to Portland, but has only scored points in two of his last eight visits.
Interestingly, the only driver on the grid this coming weekend that does have a Portland win on his resume, will be making his first CART Champ Car start of the season. Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will be taking over the driving duties of the PK Racing entry for the remainder of the 2003 campaign, making his first start since he subbed for an injured Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/ Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) last year at Fontana. Papis brings a wealth of Portland knowledge with him, having won from the pole in 2001 as well as earning a runner-up finish in 2000.
The Portland track has long been a test for many of the series veterans, and is one that both Fernandez and Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) hope to pass in 2003. Neither driver has scored points in their last three Portland events and Vasser’s second-place run in 1995 is the only podium for the two vets in their 19 combined starts.
Fernandez has kept himself in the points hunt with good performances in the last two events, finishing sixth in Milwaukee and seventh at Laguna Seca after qualifying fifth at both stops. Vasser has scored top-10 placings in each of the last three races, but is looking for his first top five since he placed fourth at Long Beach. Vasser does however have a chance, as does 11 of his competitors, to leave Portland with a spot in the top five in the standings.
Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) propelled himself into the thick of the Rookie-of-the-Year chase with his second top-five finish of the year, closing to within 17 points of frontrunning Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Bourdais has suffered problems after earning the first two wins in his CART Champ Car career, finishing ninth in Milwaukee and then fading to 17th after a bad pop-off valve robbed him of boost during last week’s Grand Prix of Monterey. Bourdais had made his way around Tracy and into third at Laguna before his power started to wane, and would fall back to fifth place in the season standings after seven races.
A pair of drivers that are starting to find their places among the series’ top tier find themselves locked in battle directly behind Bourdais in the standings. Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Mario Dominguez (#55 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are locked in sixth place, just five points out of fifth, and are both on career-high five-race scoring streaks. Servia will need to score his first-ever Portland points in order to keep his streak going, while Dominguez returns to the track that gave him his first-ever CART Champ Car top-10 finish after placing 10th last year.
Tiago Monteiro (#7 Fittipaldi-Dingman Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) showed his road-course background last weekend at Laguna Seca, moving up six spots over the course of the day to earn his third top-10 finish of the year. Monteiro moved up from 15th to place ninth, taking four of those spots in the first 22 laps.
Many of the future stars of the series will be on display for the Portland 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. The Atlantic Championship will race on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time with the BDPS event running Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.
The G.I. Joe’s 200 will take place on June 22, and will be broadcast live by CBS Sports at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The race broadcast will be preceded by qualifying coverage on SPEED Channel starting at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
- Canadian favorite Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Player's/Forsythe Racing fended off two serious threats that came in the form of teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Player’s/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Newman/Haas Racing’s Bruno Junqueira (#1 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) to win the Grand Prix of Monterey last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Career win number four came for Carpentier from pole, having led all 87 laps around the 11-turn permanent road course. 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. The win vaults him into fourth in points with 70 behind Tracy’s 81, Junqueira’s 83 and Team Rahal’s Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who leads the pack with 89 heading into Portland International Raceway.
- Junqueira impressed once again this season, this time at Laguna Seca, scoring a top five finish for the sixth time in seven races. The Brazilian continues his charge for his first CART championship this weekend on PIR’s 1.969-mile permanent road course, where he finished second to 2002 titlewinner turned F1 pilot Cristiano da Matta a year ago.
- Championship contender Tracy got back on track after derailing in the series’ two European stops a month ago, scoring a solid third place podium finish in Monterey. The Canadian looks to charge back to the top spot in points, a place he is very familiar with this season after winning the year’s first three races.
- Brazilian rookie Mario Haberfeld (#34 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) turned in a strong top five result in California, leading all rookies and the Reynard contingent. Haberfeld stands ninth in overall points with 36, second to Rookie of the Year leader Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) of Newman/Haas Racing who has 53 markers.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
- Max Papis (#27 PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is the only active CART Champ Car driver to have won at Portland, driving to victory in the 2001 G.I. Joe’s 200 from pole.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Portland International Raceway has hosted two of CART Champ Car’s closest races ever run in the series’ 25-year history. Mark Blundell nipped Gil de Ferran at the stripe by 0.027 seconds in 1997, making it the closest margin of victory in CART Champ Car history. The sixth-closest race in series’ history also came at PIR in 1986 when Mario Andretti beat son Michael to the flagstand by 0.070 seconds on Father’s Day.
- Northwest Ford Stores to Present Inaugural Ford Racing Fan Appreciation Night at The Rose Garden Arena…The Rose City has long been known as a hotbed of Champ Car racing, hosting the 750hp race cars on Portland International Raceway’s winding 1.969-mile ribbon of pavement since 1984. On Wednesday, June 18th Northwest Ford dealers are acknowledging the Portland fan support that has made the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford so popular over the years with its inaugural Ford Racing Fan Appreciation Night sponsored by The WB, KWJJ and KOTK. The famous Rose Garden Arena in downtown Portland will play host to the event from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., with Champ Car drivers on hand for autograph sessions, including proven drivers such as Jimmy Vasser, Adrian Fernandez, Roberto Moreno, Oriol Servia and Alex Tagliani, along with veterans Bruno Junqueira, Gualter Salles and Mario Dominguez and rookies Sebastien Bourdais, Joel Camathias and Mario Haberfeld. Fans will get a chance to interact with Champ Car pilots in a question and answer session, in addition to being available for autographs from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. and again from 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. Ford’s inaugural Fan Appreciation Night will also serve as the last time to catch the stars before they strap in the cockpit for the 20th annual G.I. Joe’s 200 at PIR, June 22nd. Ford production vehicles, official Ford pace vehicles and Champ Car show cars will all be on display in the Rose Garden Arena as part of the show. Attendees can enter to win pace car rides in CART FastLaps– the unique program that enables fans to experience first hand the thrill of taking a high speed ride around a Champ Car World Series race circuit– in addition to tickets to the G.I. Joe’s 200 and various other Ford Racing prizes. One lucky person will win a VIP Honorary Pit Crew Weekend Package courtesy of Ford Racing. This person and a guest will serve as honorary crew members during the June 21st Champ Car qualifying session at PIR and will receive tickets to Ford’s pre-race hospitality on race day. The two will receive lunch, participate in a raffle for prizes, go on a guided paddock tour and have the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with a Champ Car driver before heading to the race. Free admission tickets to the Ford Racing Fan Appreciation Night are available by stopping in at your local Northwest Ford dealer. For more information call T.J. Ansley at Campbell & Co at (313) 203-7144 or call the Rose Garden at (503) 234-9291.
- Downtown Pit Stop Demonstration…CART Champ Car rookie sensation Mario Haberfeld and his Mi-Jack Conquest Racing crew will light up Downtown Portland on Wednesday, June 18th from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a unique Pit Stop demonstration. The fan-friendly event will take place on SW Broadway between SW Yamhill & SW Salmon and is open to the public. Contact Ronda Courtney at Global Events Group at (503) 821-4342 for more details.
- G.I. Joe's Store Autograph Session…Tualatin G.I. Joe's located at 17799 SW Boones Ferry Road in Tualatin, OR will host an autograph session Thursday, June 19th from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with Champ Car Drivers Jimmy Vasser, Ryan Hunter-Reay; Alex Tagliani, Oriol Servia and Gualter Salles. The event is open to the public. Contact Ronda Courtney at Global Events Group at (503) 821-4342 for more details.
- Celebrate the Ultimate Birthday Party with Adrian Fernandez… Fernando’s Hideaway at 824 SW 1st Street in Downtown Portland is set to host a celebration for the 20th anniversary of the G.I. Joe's 200. The event, which includes food, beverages, music, salsa lessons and a live Mariachi band takes place Friday, June 20th from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. The wildly popular Champ Car driver Adrian Fernandez will be on hand for autographs The event is open to the public. Contact Ronda Courtney at Global Events Group at (503) 821-4342 for more details.
- Party in the Pearl…Piazza Italia at 1129 NW Johnson in Downtown Portland will host an Italian-style street party Saturday, June 21st from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. that will feature food and beverage, live music and a spectacular display of cars by Ferrari, Mazaratti, Vespa, Alfa Romero, and Ducate Car Clubs. Champ Car Driver Alex Tagliani of Rocketsports Racing will stop by the event which is open to the public. Contact Ronda Courtney at Global Events Group at (503) 821-4342 for more details.
- WHAT: G. I. Joe’s 200
- WHERE: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon
- WHEN: Friday - Sunday, June 20-22.
- SUPPORT EVENTS: CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Barber Dodge Pro Series
- 2002 CHAMPION: Cristiano da Matta
- 2002 POLESITTER: Cristiano da Matta
- TRACK LAYOUT: 1.969-mile permanent road course
- RACE LENGTH: 100 laps, 196.900 miles.
- TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap) – 2000, Helio Castroneves, 122.786 mph (57.738 seconds). Race – 2002, Cristiano da Matta, 105.381 mph (2:03:19.113), based on 110 laps (216.590 miles).
- RACE ROUND: 8 of 19 in the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
- NEXT EVENT: July 5, U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix, Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, Ohio.