Keeping it Off The Wall

Vancouver Pre-race Report
Round 15 of 20

 by Ed Donath 
August 30, 2000

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Round 15 of the FedEx Championship Series will bring the Champ Cars back to Canada for the Molson Indy of Vancouver. As with CART's earlier Canadian street course event - Vancouver's sister race, the Molson Indy of Toronto - the grandstands here at Concord Pacific Place are very likely to be jam-packed with knowledgeable Canadian fans.

Last year's raceday attendance was 60,900 (Editors Note - but is that enough to stop Molstar from moving this race to Montreal?). The closest multi-driver points race in years combined with scheduled memorial tribute activities for the late Greg Moore - at what was his "home event" - should provide ample impetus for the creation of record-breaking attendance.

Vancouver's tricky 1.781-mile street circuit features tight corners, narrow roadways, surface changes and plenty of concrete barriers. Such a combination always seems to take a toll on drivers and equipment. Yellow and even red flags have flown often at previous Vancouver events. Intermittent rainstorms precipitated a slow-down in the 1999 event.

Developing a pitstop strategy around the assumption that this race will run to its two-hour TV time limit rather than to the scheduled 95 laps (169+ miles) is likely to be a component of the plan that takes the day. A plethora of gearbox failures seen recently at the previous two road course events at Mid-Ohio and Road America provide additional cause for concern to every team at this 14-turn venue. Continuous gear changing on a relatively short circuit is always tough on what seems, suddenly, to be more-fragile-than-ever equipment.

Defending Series Champion and 1999 Vancouver Champion Juan Pablo Montoya desperately needs to repeat here this Sunday. In the absence of an immediate victory the Colombian sophomore's chance at back-to-back Cups is doomed.

Last year's second-place finisher, Patrick Carpentier (that result tied Pat's best-ever finish in the series) used all of his considerable rain and ice-driving skills to put on a wonderful show in the wet at Concord Pacific Place. Carpentier himself needs a victory NOW. Doing it in front of a Canadian crowd would be just what the doctor ordered to help salvage his Champ Car career. Jimmy Vasser, occupier of the third step of the 1999 Vancouver podium, is in similar need of a shot of career-boosting elixir.

But the really big ongoing story, of course, is that points-leader Michael Andretti now has five drivers within 25 points of his front-running 125-point tally. Roberto "Pupo" (call me Bob!) Moreno is now up to 112. The mercurial Gil de Ferran remains at 106. Adrian Fernandez is up to 103 points after his podium finish at Road America, as is Kenny Brack with 102. Brack is also running away with Rookie of the Year honors. He carries a 57-point advantage over Alex Tagliani into Vancouver.

With as many as 22 points available to the winner of any CART event - well, you draw your own conclusions. It's six races to go and six drivers in the hunt. The six-pack is back and it's anyone's title!

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