Montreal: Jourdain pips Servia

Sunday's Champ Car round at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was somewhat anti-climactic for around 60,000 Canadian enthusiasts on hand who were hoping for a debut victory at home for pole winner Alex Tagliani. But it was a cause for celebration for Michel Jourdain, who claimed his second victory of the season in Team Rahal's Lola-Ford over Oriol Servia.

Montreal: Jourdain pips Servia

Jourdain's win kept him in the CART championship hunt on a day when series leader Paul Tracy finished a subdued sixth, having dropped from fourth place within sight of the flag when he ran out of fuel. But it was of little matter to Tracy because his nearest challenger Bruno Junqueira made a mess of his race with two spins at the hairpin, finishing a lap down in 13th place and out of the points. Tracy now holds a 28-point lead over Junqueira (192-164) with Jourdain third on 157 points.

Tagliani led consummately from the start and was able to build a 7-second lead at one point. But the French-Canadian paid the price through higher fuel consumption, which put him on a pit stop schedule two laps earlier than the rest of the frontrunners. Try as they might, the first year Rocketsports team was no match for the established Rahal and Patrick teams in the pits, and Tagliani emerged from the final exchange of stops mired in fifth place.

The biggest factor that led to Tagliani's demotion was Junqueira's second spin, which brought out the Pace Car on Lap 51 of 75. When the green flew again on Lap 53, Tagliani had lost a 3.5-second lead and most of his hopes for victory. He pulled out a 1.8-second gap over Jourdain before he made his final stop on Lap 58, but the train left him behind when they made their final stops on Lap 60.

That left Jourdain and Oriol Servia to fight for the honours over the last 15 laps, and Michel was able to pull away in the closing laps to win by 1.277 seconds. Patrick Carpentier made the locals happy by claiming the final podium position, while Tracy was pleased to pad his points advantage despite dropping to sixth place behind Tagliani and Mario Dominguez at the end.

"We needed to save fuel from the start," Jourdain said. "Tag was running so fast that I knew we couldn't keep pace. So we ran our own strategy.

"Oriol and Patrick were very fast at the end, so I had no room to make any mistakes," Jourdain added. "My car was especially good at the end of a tank of fuel, and that was one of a lot of things that contributed to my winning today. They all put me in position to take advantage of that last yellow."

Servia was hopeful of following in the footsteps of his countryman Fernando Alonso, who earned his first Formula 1 win earlier in the day. But the Catalonian was passed by Jourdain on Lap 21 and he could never claw back past. Second place matched Servia's CART career-best, and both times he finished second to Jourdain.

"I'm happy for the team and the crew and second is good, but I still feel like the first loser," he said. "I was able to run consistent laps when Michel was behind me, but the new rules don't allow you to block at all so I couldn't stop him from passing. He was better today, but we'll get him next time around."

Carpentier battled minor issues with gearbox and brakes but thrilled the home crowd with his third place finish.

"The gearbox acted up on a few downshifts and I had to be careful with the brakes after pit stops and yellow flags for four or five laps," Patrick reported. "I pushed Oriol hard at the end and I hoped he would make a mistake, but it never happened. At that point, I didn't care whether I finished or not."

Tagliani received a big hug from team owner Paul Gentilozzi at the end of a contest he looked destined to win. "I was saving fuel from the start," he remarked. "When the team said go, I went and I was able to pull away and everything was looking really good. But the last two yellows destroyed our day."

Tracy was upset after running out of fuel several hundred metres short of the finish line. He coasted over the line at about 20 mph, having lost two places on the run to the stripe. The miscalculation was traced to the final pit stop, when the Player's/Forsythe team short-fueled the Canadian in an effort to get him out of the pits in front of team-mate Carpentier.

"It would have been nice for the team to tell me we had a fuel problem," Tracy said. "On the last lap, they told me to conserve, but I was already out."

Tracy's disappointment was minor compared to Junqueira's. "That was dreadful and I'm frustrated more than I can explain," Junqueira stated. "A good finish was important today and it gets even more important as we get to the end of the championship."

The Champ Car World Series is back in action next weekend on the Denver street course.

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