Editorial

View from the Topside
Champ Car hits a home run in Toronto

   by Rick Benjamin
July 11, 2005

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Bourdais gets the jump on Tracy at the start
Champ Car/LAT

Home run. The only two words fit to describe the just-concluded Champ Car World Series event in Toronto around the streets of Exhibition Place. Huge crowds, network television, and a stirring battle through the hard concrete canyons by Lake Ontario. It was a most fitting display to mark the 20th anniversary of a signature Champ Car event, and a true barometer of this series that’s solidly on the rebound.

Justin Wilson paid his British investors off handsomely, at least in an artistic sense, with his much-anticipated first career Champ Car win. Just a few weeks ago Wilson had the field wired at Portland, only to be done in by a faulty oil pump. Sunday the fates had something else in mind for the tall Brit, clearing a path to the front and then getting out of the way to allow Wilson to make a strong pass on Oriol Servia at the end of the long Toronto backstretch to take over the lead.

Unfortunately that great action was overshadowed by the on-track carnage of the last 30 laps. We saw four significant incidents and long caution periods. The last wreck, involving Wilson’s teammate AJ Allmendinger and the luckless Mario Dominguez, caused the event to fall victim to the TV-necessitated time limit. Despite strong cleanup efforts, CCWS officials weren’t able to restart the race so Servia could have a final shot at his first career win.

Chatted at length with Servia Saturday night, and he continues to be grateful for getting a shot at stardom in one of the very best cars in the series. Oriol says he’s trying to adapt his driving style to the Newman/Haas setups used previously by the mending Bruno Junqueira. My broadcast colleague Derek Daly suggests it’s time the team works to give Servia a car set up the way he’d like it…and that making such an adjustment would put Servia in Victory Lane.


Bourdais led until the first pitstop
Bridgestone

But no matter how you slice it, Servia has outrun the reigning Champ Car champion, Sebastien Bourdais, in three of his four starts with Newman/Haas.  He’s still a long shot for the title, a chase led again by Bourdais, but as we move to the halfway point of the season this coming week Servia is surely in the running.

I’m in awe of the tremendous skills being displayed by Paul Tracy as he bids for his second championship in three years. PT, obviously fueled by racing in front of the home folks, was dominant. And his move to battle Bourdais off pit road was bold to say the least.

Champ Car officials determined the race-changing contact that sheared off Tracy’s left front wing to be a racing incident and levied no penalties. But the bigger story was Paul’s incredible ability, keeping the 3 car out front with an aero configuration that most would suspect would have made the car undriveable.

A major error in fuel calculation coupled with incredibly bad luck on caution flags took Tracy out of the race; it’s unfortunate that fans were denied the chance to see if PT could wrestle the Forsythe 3 home for his third win on his home track.

’02 champ Cristiano da Matta looked to have a good shot as well before being taken out by Ricardo Sperafico in Turns 1 & 2.   Da Matta and Jim McGee will find more wins this season, but it could be a bit too late now for the Bell Micro team to get up into championship contention.

This week we move to Edmonton for the first time, on an airport course that’s new to everyone in the series. We’ll begin our run to the Champ Car title on SPEED with a live broadcast, preceded by a half-hour qualifying summary…and coverage of the Trans Am Tour from Edmonton as well. Hope you can join us this weekend from western Canada…where the Champ Car stars will have to go a long way to top the show we enjoyed in Ontario.

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