Sunday was a sweltering, stifling day in Miami and the heat got to all three of the 2003 Champ Car World Series title contenders, leaving Mario Dominguez to take his second career victory in a banner day for the well-liked Herdez Competition team.

The young Mexican pilot, who started the 135-lap blast around Miami's 1.15-mile Bayfront Park circuit from eighth position, passed an out-of-sequence Darren Manning for the lead with a perfectly executed manoeuvre into turn two 28 laps from home and never looked back.

However Dominguez' rise to the front had more to do with the mistakes of others rather than his own electrifying pace as virtually every one of the pre-race favourites were eliminated in accidents.

The fun started early with outside front row man Bruno Junqueira getting a clear jump on p[polesitter Adrian Fernandez at the start, only to have Fernandez fight back with an assertive move into turn one on lap two.

Junqueira then sat behind Fernandez through a rather uneventful opening 40 laps before most of the lead lap runners made their first pit stop under the first caution of the day for Geoff Boss' spin on lap 40.

Fernandez beat Junqueira out of the pits but on the lap 44 restart all eyes were on third place runner Oriol Servia, who lost control of his Patrick Racing Lola-Ford coming through the final turn 13/14 flick and slammed the outside wall, almost collecting a closely following Paul Tracy and the rest of the lead pack.

No sooner had the race got underway again on lap 53 when Tracy, now in third place, began coming under increasing pressure from Sebastien Bourdais. Despite apparent suspension damage from an earlier brush with the wall, Bourdais seemed to have the legs of the Team Player's Lola-Ford and hustled his way past Tracy in turn one on lap 69.

However just one turn later disaster struck when Tracy misjudged his braking and rode over the rear end of Bourdais' Newman-Haas Lola, breaking the rear wing on the Frenchman's car and the front wing on his own. Exit two potential winners and the points leader.

The demise of Tracy and Bourdais elevated Michel Jourdain Jr into third spot and Dominguez, who picked up places over teammate Roberto Moreno and Alex Tagliani thanks to an excellent first stop, into fourth.

The top four positions remained unchanged between the lap 75 green flag and the second and final round of stops on lap 89 with Fernandez never more than a full second clear of Junqueira and the two Mexican born drivers also within touch.

The next piece of drama unfolded during the final round of stops when Jourdain Jr's Team Rahal pit crew let him back out after his stop directly in front of Tiago Monteiro, who was just entering his pit. Dominguez, just behind the two narrowly avoided sustaining any serious damage and Monteiro's Fittipaldi-Dingman crew were left fuming at Team Rahal's decision to let their driver out at what was seen to be an inappropriate moment.

Up at the front, Fernandez continued to hold off Junqueira although the Brazilian was beginning to look a little more forceful in his attempts to get by and on lap 94 as the pair were lapping a recovering Monteiro, Junqueira made a critical error. Misjudging his breaking, as Tracy had done to his teammate, Junqueira rammed the back of Fernandez in turn two, collecting Monteiro in the process and bringing all three to a halt.

While the CART safety team took just one lap to push start an irate Fernandez back into the race, Junqueira resumed a full four laps adrift, gutted at ruining a potentially championship saving opportunity with Tracy already out of the race.

With the caution flag out for a fourth time, Jourdain Jr found himself promoted into the lead with Darren Manning, yet to make his final pit stop now a rather surprised second on the road ahead of Dominguez, Tagliani, Jimmy Vasser and Moreno.

When the green flag dropped again on lap 100 it was all action again as Vasser almost lost control of his American Spirit Team Johansson Reynard-Ford and almost got collected by Mario Haberfeld while Tagliani collided with the lapped car of Alex Sperafico, eliminating both and bringing the caution flag out again. In the midst of all this, Mika Salo slipped passed Haberfeld and Vasser to assume fourth spot behind new leader...Darren Manning!

CART had decided that Jourdain Jr's pit miscue was worthy of a penalty and demoted the Team Rahal driver to the tail of the lead lap, eighth position at this stage of the race.

Manning now led Dominguez, Moreno and Salo but, without third gear and still with a pitstop to make, he was easy prey for Dominguez once the race restarted on lap 106 and quickly dropped down the order before eventually retiring with no gears at all on lap 124.

Once passed Manning, Dominguez had a relatively easy run to the flag for what was an incredibly emotional triumph for both driver and team, who earned their respective maiden CART victory in unfortunate farcical circumstances in Surfers Paradise last year. Once again a combination of unlikely happenings had led to the victory, but this time both parties had thoroughly earned their win.

The race was slowed one more time with Dominguez in the lead, on lap 118 when Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay stuffed his car into the tyre barriers but new second place man Moreno was in no position to challenge his teammate, who romped home with more than five seconds to spare.

An exhausted Salo completed the podium, two seconds behind a typically emotional Moreno with Vasser recovering to fourth spot, just two tenths of a second clear of Haberfeld with Patrick Carpentier completing the top six. Jourdain Jr briefly challenged Carpentier but, realising that the Canadian was in no mood to give his position away, dropped back and settled for a disheartening seventh.

Fernandez was classified one lap down in eighth spot with Junqueira four laps down in ninth and Geoff Boss in the surviving Dale Coyne Racing Lola the only other car running a mammoth six laps adrift.

With three races remaining Junqueira managed to reduce his points deficit to Tracy to 13 points despite his uncharacteristic mistake while Jourdain Jr also gained ground on Tracy, although he is still 33 points adrift in third place overall.

 

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