Junqueira admits to losing it after penalty
1 January 1901
Sunday's Molson Indy Vancouver was unique in that for the first time in recent memory, CART officials ordered the leader to move over and let the second place man into top spot, a decision that the penalized Bruno Junqueira admitted caused him to lose concentration, and possibly the chance to mount a challenge to eventual winner Paul Tracy.
Junqueira pulled ahead of polesitter Tracy when the green flag flew and held the position for the first 21 laps of the 100-lap race around the 1.781-mile Concord Pacific Place street circuit but CART stewards forced him to relinquish the lead on Lap 24 and take over second place.
Remaining in a distant second place for much of the remainder of the race, Junqueira earned his eighth podium finish in 11 races this season as well as a total of 17 points for the weekend (16 in the race, 1 for prov. pole) but ultimately lost ground to Tracy in the Championship after he entered the weekend 15 points in arrears but now is 20 back.
The race ran under clear blue skies in front of 66,077 fans that brought the three-day total to 162,271. Before the green flag even flew, the race shaped up to be one of attrition as the cars of Geoff Boss and Gualter Salles slide off course into the tire barriers during the pace laps.
The race started with the caution flag displayed and once the green flag finally flew to signal the official start of the race on Lap 4, Junqueira got a jump on Tracy and led a Champ Car race for the first time this season. The field was immediately slowed again to due to contact between Sebastien Bourdais and Roberto Moreno that left Moreno stopped on course. On the same lap, Tiago Monteiro and Oriol Servia made contact.
Once the race was restarted on Lap 8 Junqueira settled into a pace but flat spotted his tires. He initially proceeded with caution to protect his tires but soon after was able to extend his lead from .5-seconds to .750 by Lap 19.
Unfortunately 20 laps into the race CART decided that in spite of Starter J.D. Wilber's decision to throw the green flag to start the race with Junqueira ahead of Tracy, they would penalize him for "jumping the start." Ideally if the lineup of the cars had not been to his liking, he would have thrown the yellow flag and another attempt would have been made, as has been the case in many other events.
On Lap 24 Junqueira slowed and allowed Tracy to pass. By the time the majority of the field made their first pit stop on Lap 30, Tracy had held a 5.4-second lead on Junqueira. At the conclusion of his pit stop, the car stalled and he lost one position to Patrick Carpentier once he rejoined the race.
Junqueira held third place until Lap 37 when the race resumed from a yellow flag for contact between the cars of Alex Tagliani and Tiago Monteiro and Michel Jourdain got a jump on him in Turns 6 & 7. He held the position until his next stop on Lap 60 and returned to the race in third place behind temporary race leader Bourdais and Tracy but ahead of Jourdain due to quick pit work. Previous second place runner Carpentier had made contact with a backmarker when he returned to the track and retired due to the contact. Once Bourdais made his out-of-sequence stop on Lap 62, Junqueira returned to second place but was 17 seconds behind Tracy by Lap 65.
The margin was almost 20 seconds by Lap 76 as he negotiated with lapped cars but he was able to reduce it to 16.5 by Lap 83. More importantly Junqueira needed to continue to build a gap on third place runner Bourdais because he would be making his final pit stop one lap later than Junqueira and could possibly use the track position to his advantage and take over second place. Junqueira was again held up by backmarkers and his margin over Bourdais shrunk to 3.6-seconds by Lap 88 before his Lap 90 pit stop.
Bourdais ultimately got stuck behind traffic as well as Junqueira was able to make his final stop on Lap 90 with ease and return to the track in second place with a safe margin and hold his position when Bourdais made his final stop on Lap 91. He held second place and took the chequered flag 17-seconds behind Paul Tracy who earned his fifth victory this season.
Although he is 20 points back from leader Paul Tracy who has 161, he is 16 ahead of third place Jourdain who finished fourth on the day.
"It is not bad to finish second," said Junqueira. "Unfortunately, second again to Paul Tracy. In 11 races, we have been always very fast, but didn't win yet. On the start, just after the last corner, you have a cone that's supposed to be the start cone. At that point you have to start to accelerate. Ninety-nine percent of the time the drivers that are leading on the pole, everybody just accelerates a little bit before the cone because if you accelerate on the cone, the guy that's in second knows you're going to accelerate there, just accelerate a little bit earlier.
“I felt that in Toronto Paul accelerated earlier than I was expecting him to. Then he got a big jump on me on the start. Today I thought that he's going to do pretty much the same and accelerate a little bit before the cone, and he didn't. Then pretty much I passed him. But I don't know, I have to see on the replay because is difficult anywhere in the car. But when the green flag flew, you pretty much side-by-side. But for sure when I was on the start/finish line, I was in front. I don't know, like in Portland, I wasn't on the front row, and they try to do a lot of starts with Paul Tracy and Michel. It's difficult.
“I mean, it's difficult for me to say anything because I didn't see the replay. But for sure it's much, much worse than losing the pole on Friday. To lose the lead in the middle of the race is a little bit worse.
"But I think all the PacifiCare, Newman/Haas team are doing very good job. We are being very consistent. That's the most important thing. I think now there is going to be this stretch till the end of the year, a lot of back-to-back races. I think the best way to win the championship is to be consistent, and that's what we're going to try to do. Eventually, I hope we can win a race before the end of the year.
"Anyway, today was quite difficult for me. I passed Paul Tracy on the start, and on the third lap after the start, I flat-spotted my right front tire. I did five or six laps not pushing very hard, just make sure that the right front got back in shape. But I saw even if I wasn't pushing, we were able to open a big gap on the third place, that was Patrick Carpentier. And after like 10 laps, whatever, 12 laps, I said, "Now it's time to push a little bit." I start to run 62's. I felt I was lapping 2/10ths faster than Tracy for four or five laps in a row. I was already two and a half seconds in front of him and I was feeling pretty good. I think I had a small flat spot on the tire, I had a little bit understeer on the corner, but the car still handled well, and I was feeling really confident.
“When the team told me that I had to let Tracy by, I couldn't believe it. That has never happened in my racing career. I felt a mix of emotions. And I think when something like this happen, you have two things that can happen. Most often, you get very angry. And this time I didn't get angry, I just got really disappointed. I tried to control myself not to get angry. After turn five, when I let Tracy by, I couldn't believe it. It was a strange feeling. I lost completely the concentration. I was lapping half a second slower. Tracy pulled away from me - not because he was faster, just because I was slower. I couldn't get back to a rhythm.
"Then we came to the pit stop and the guys told me, "We'll have to see what will happen." I stalled in the pits and then I lost some positions again and went down to fourth. Then we did a good pit stop, and I passed Sebastien on cold tires and moved up to second again. Then I just keep a good distance from Sebastien because I knew that he would pit two laps later. I kept like five seconds ahead of him after doing a good out-lap. I beat him out of the pits easy on the last pit stop. It was just a matter to finish the race in second place.
“You know, I think you always want to win, but today Tracy was strong. I think I was strong as well. But in the end, I think track position makes a difference -- who is in the front is going to win. After I have to let him by, I just fell off a little bit. I think halfway through the race, I got my focus back. I mean, when I let Tracy pass, it was like five or six laps before the pit stop. I just felt down. I lost the concentration, let him go by, take off from me. It was a strange feeling, I tell you. It was really strange. I hope that doesn't happen anymore."