Practice: Jourdain lights it up

The first official Champ Car practice session to be staged under lights went off without a hitch on Thursday evening at the Milwaukee Mile. Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain paced the 90-minute session, edging Player's/Forsythe teammates Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier for the fastest time of the night.

Practice: Jourdain lights it up

Jourdain ran his 21.040s lap with just ten minutes remaining in the session to best Tracy by 0.035s. By then, the Canadian was on the sidelines, victim of a brush with the Turn Four wall that inflicted just enough damage to the Player's Lola to keep Paul from finishing out the evening.

"The car felt good right away and I'm enjoying running under the lights," remarked Jourdain. "This has always been one of my worst tracks so this is a very good start to the weekend."

Tracy was fastest in the afternoon practice session but got into the grey during a run on old tyres. Damage was contained to the right rear corner.

"It's a shame we couldn't run any more, but I bent the right rear wishbone," he reported. "The cars are a lot more stable this year with the high-downforce wings. It's a lot closer to 1998, but with harder tyres and 150 less horsepower."

Carpentier, who set the Milwaukee track record in 1998 at 20.028s, likes the feel of the 2003-spec Champ Cars. "I just hope nobody beats my track record," he joked. "I think in qualifying we'll get down to the mid-to-low 20s. One thing is for sure - these cars are fast!"

The return to road course wings is expected to restore some of the side-by-side racing that was a hallmark of Milwaukee prior to CART's decision to reduce downforce in 1999. That failed experiment was roundly slammed by the drivers, who are happy to revert to a higher-downforce configuration this year.

"With the small wings, the cars just didn't have the grip level you need around here to run close to another car or run a second groove," Tracy remarked. "I think the racing is going to be a lot better this year and the additional element of running under the lights should be entertaining for the fans."

2002 Milwaukee pole winner Adrian Fernandez was fourth, while former event winner Jimmy Vasser was fifth. PK Racing's Patrick Lemarie was the only other driver to damage his car; like Tracy, he lightly brushed the Turn Four wall, but the Frenchman was able to return to action a few minutes later.

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