Long Beach: Tracy takes third straight win

Paul Tracy became the first driver to win the first three Champ Car races of the season during the CART era by taking a somewhat fortunate win in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The moral victor was Michel Jourdain Jnr, who was on course to take his maiden series victory until he was felled by a transmission failure with just seven laps remaining.

Long Beach: Tracy takes third straight win

Tracy took the lead at the start from pole man Jourdain, but the Mexican was able to regain the advantage during the first round of pit stops.

"We had to pit one lap early because we weren't getting the fuel mileage," Tracy said. "Michel was able to draft us and save fuel and that's how he took the lead. Being one lap off hurt us all race long."

Almost immediately after the first round of stops, a full course yellow flew when Patrick Lemarie stalled in Turn 1 on Lap 30 and required a push start. Several drivers, led by Adrian Fernandez, pitted under yellow on Lap 34, allowing them to run to the finish of the 90-lap event on only one more stop.

Jourdain, Tracy and Bruno Junqueira ran a standard pit sequence, and Tracy was able to emerge from his final stop on Lap 82 ahead of Fernandez. Jourdain stopped a lap later, and with 41 seconds in hand, it looked as though he would be able to retain the lead and record his first career Champ Car victory. However, Jourdain was unable to get his Lola-Ford back in gear during the final stop, allowing Tracy to claim the win by 4.544 seconds over Fernandez and Junqueira.

"It's just terrible," Jourdain said after claiming the bonus championship point for leading the most laps. "We had the best car and the best crew. It was so easy, I don't know what to say. I don't know if it was the clutch or the gearbox. I pulled it into first gear and it just wouldn't go."

Once Jourdain was eliminated, Tracy was able to hold off Fernandez, extending his lead slightly to the checkered flag. Behind Junqueira, Jimmy Vasser drove a reliable race to take fourth ahead of Mario Dominguez and Patrick Carpentier.

"Michel was definitely driving the pace hard," Tracy said after his 21st career Champ Car race win. "I gave to give him credit. I was doing everything I could to keep up with him and it wasn't enough. He definitely had the measure of me.

"That was the most physical race I've ever driven," Tracy added. "It was so fast and so long - a very tiring race."

"Finally," commented second place finisher Fernandez. "We had a great car and good strategy. I needed to be a little bit quicker to stay ahead of Tracy, but my rear tyres were gone. That's still the best car I've had in a long time."

Junqueira didn't have the outright pace of Jourdain and Tracy, but he was pleased to take 14 more championship points to move up to second in the title chase. His Newman/Haas teammate Sebastien Bourdais looked on course for a top-five finish before being knocked out by an engine failure with 20 laps to go.

"I'm quite happy," Bruno said. "The pace was incredible today. It was very difficult to keep up, but I'm very happy with third place."

Tracy now leads the championship by a 64-38 margin over Junqueira, with Jourdain third on 34 points. The next Champ Car World Series race takes place at Brands Hatch, England on May 5.

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