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
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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