Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain Jr. finished a glum seventh in the Grand Prix Americas, watching a potential third win and a big points gain in the championship disappear when he was penalized for a pit lane violation.

The incident in question came on the final round of pit stops on lap 90 when Jourdain, running third at the time, went to exit his pit. At the same time Tiago Monteiro of Fittipaldi/Dingman Racing was entering the pits and the two came together on the very narrow Miami pit lane. Jourdain continued unscathed while Monteiro spun sideways in the pit lane.

While the race officials debated what if any penalty should be invoked, Jourdain took the lead when Adrian Fernandez and Bruno Junqueira came into contact on the restart. Jourdain would lead eight laps while his fate was discussed. Finally on lap 104, some 14 laps after the incident in question occurred, Jourdain was ordered by CART to move to the back of the field which dropped him from the lead to eighth place.

Not only was Jourdain's race win lost, but the chance to cut 20 points from Paul Tracy's championship lead was gone.

"It was a very long and difficult weekend for us here in Miami," said Jourdain who battled a stomach flu all weekend. "I finally felt better today and fortunately in the early going I was able to avoid the problems that caught Paul and Bruno. I am very disappointed in the decision made by the officials. If CART is going to have us race on pit lanes this small then they must understand that when everyone pits at the same time there will be issues.

"From my point we did everything we could to avoid contact. Today we were victims of circumstance. For this kind of decision to affect our race, a race that we had put ourselves into a position to win, and to affect our championship hopes hurts deeply."

Team Rahal owner Bobby Rahal didn't hide his feelings regarding the officials call.

"I find it difficult to comprehend why the officials would want to interject themselves into and affect the championship," seethed the former triple CART Champion. "A championship should be decided on the track and not in some room. What I find particularly galling is the fact that these pits are at best inappropriate for an event of this stature. To allow such marginal confines to have a potentially devastating affect on a championship is quite frankly beyond me."

With three races remaining on the 2003 Champ Car World Series calendar Jourdain is still a sizeable 33 points adrift of series leader Paul Tracy, although he can count on the rabid support of more than 150,000 Mexican fans when the series visits Mexico City for the next round of the championship in two weeks time.

 

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