Paul Tracy wrapped up the 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford despite finishing 13th in Sunday's chaotic Lexmark Indy 300 while series rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay claimed an emotional, if unexpected victory for Stefan Johansson's fledgling American Spirit team.
Both Hunter-Reay and Tracy came away ultimately victorious from a day where the pressures of the 2003 title chase were all too apparent from the start.
Both Tracy and his lone remaining Championship rival Bruno Junqueira saw fortunes swing for and against them as some blatant Newman-Haas Racing team orders twice saw polesitter Sebastien Bourdais allow second place starter Junqueira to get the jump at the start of what was originally intended to be a 65-lap race around the 2.795-mile Surfers Paradise street circuit.
Due to Junqueira's outrageous break at the head of the field, CART officials waved off the first start but things hadn't improved much one lap later as the Frenchman again held off the accelerator until Junqueira had edged ahead. To make matters worse, as the field pounded down to turn one under racing speed for the first time, Bourdais nerfed third place starter Tracy into a spin that caused uproar in the PF Racing garage and put the red mist well and truly over the Canadian driver's eyes.
Thankfully Tracy was able to get restarted without losing a lap although the race was already over for Patrick Racing's Oriol Servia, who found himself squeezed into the wall by Adrian Fernandez as the field took evasive action.
When the race resumed again on lap five Junqueira once again got a great jump over Bourdais while Tracy, who took the green flag in 18th position, passed the soon-to-retire Tiago Monteiro and Geoff Boss almost immediately and then deposed of Rodolfo Lavin, Gualter Salles, Jimmy Vasser and Mario Haberfeld before sweeping past Darren Manning for eleventh place going down the back straight on lap seven!
After ten laps Junqueira held a comfortable three-second lead over his obedient teammate with Alex Tagliani, Adrian Fernandez and Mario Dominguez squabbling for third place when the overcast Australian skies began to deposit their first drops of rain.
At first the precipitation was just enough for Junqueira to back off his pace slightly, but as he exited the second chicane on lap 12 the water levels were suddenly greater and he almost snapped into the outside wall. Bourdais, travelling slightly faster in second place, wasn't so lucky and he lost control and smacked the inside wall before spinning across the track, wheels spinning furiously, creating a smokescreen for everyone else.
Luckily Tagliani, Fernandez, Dominguez et al managed to work their way successfully around the stranded Frenchman but while the field ran under safety car conditions the rain quickly worsened into a downpour and within two laps, coin sized hailstones were thrashing pit road.