Milwaukee: Jourdain finally claims first win

Michel Jourdain was near unstoppable under the lights at the Milwaukee Mile on Saturday night. He won the first Champ Car race to be staged at night in dominant fashion, leading 234 of 250 laps before edging Oriol Servia and Patrick Carpentier. Briton Darren Manning finished a CART career-best fourth

Milwaukee: Jourdain finally claims first win

It was the most dominant Champ Car performance on an oval since Nigel Mansell led 222 of 250 laps on the way to winning the Michigan 500 in 1993. Jourdain's boss Bobby Rahal led all 200 laps en route to victory in the 1992 Phoenix 200.

Jourdain was fastest in Thursday night's practice and started the race from the outside front row. But he immediately took the lead as pole man Alex Tagliani faltered before eventually rebounding for a fifth place finish.

Jourdain's closest competition for most of the evening came from Paul Tracy, who waged an intense battle with Servia for some 190 laps. The Canadian often seized the advantage on restarts, only for the tenacious Servia to find a way back past 20 or 30 laps later after some heated wheel-to-wheel battles.

Disaster struck for Tracy shortly after his final pit stop. Entering turn three on lap 214, his left-rear wheel parted company with his car. The Canadian managed to wrestle the machine back to the pits, but the extra pit stop dropped him to 12th at the finish.

"You can't win championships with things like that happening," lamented Tracy, who now trails Jourdain in the championship by 10 points. "To get 64 points in the first three races and only three points in the next three, it's bitterly disappointing."

That was of little concern to Jourdain, who bounced back nicely from the disappointment of losing out on his maiden victory at Long Beach when a gearbox failure eliminated him in the closing laps. This is Jourdain's eighth season of racing Champ Cars, despite the fact that he is just 26 years old. With the Champ Car World Series growing exponentially in his native Mexico, the second-generation driver is on the cusp of becoming a genuine star.

"This is just perfect," he said. "Last year, the best we could hope for was a shot at the podium and we've done that four times in six races this year. We've also qualified for every race except for England in the top five, so we're obviously a lot more competitive. Sure, I was also leading the points after Milwaukee last year, but this year is completely different. I definitely have a lot more points than last year."

Servia's race with Tracy was a joy to watch. "Paul never gave me one millimetre more than he had to," the Spaniard said with a smile. "I think I did the same for him, and it was very close and very fair."

Carpentier used a different pit strategy to the leaders on his way to third. Like Servia, he also enjoyed a close moment with team-mate Tracy. "Man it was close," he said. "If I had taken him out, I would have walked right out of here. I couldn't have faced the team."

Manning was pleased with his fourth place, although he could have made the podium but for a near spin exiting the pits on cold tyres. Pole sitter Alex Tagliani dropped to fifth after struggling with poor handling, ahead of Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld.

The race was staged in bitterly cold conditions, with temperatures hovering around 5C. There were four accidents, only one of which was probably attributable to cold tyres. That occurred on the very first green flag lap, when Bruno Junqueira backed into the Turn 2 wall and was collected by both Herdez Competition entries, sidelining Roberto Moreno on the spot. Junqueira complained of neck pain, but he was released from hospital by the end of the evening and will undergo additional evaluation in Miami early next week.

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