Drivers love airport circuit

If Champ Car could lift up this site and take it with them to every place they race, they would. The City Centre Airport has been sitting in the middle of Edmonton for decades.

It was only in the '90s that someone recognized that the downgraded airport – no longer featuring international flights – was the perfect-storm scenario for a car race.

Tom Hinderks, an employee at the airport, loved race cars as much as aviation. He organized a little stock car race on a triangular track tucked up in the north end of the airfield.

To the surprise – and ignorance – of many, the town Wayne Gretzky made famous is an isolated motorhead mecca up here on the fringes of the Arctic.

Starved of any major racing event since the old International Speedway was run over by suburbia, three times the expected number showed up.

After Hinderks left, the airport event lasted three more years before fading away.

Flash forward a few years, and the unlikely determination of Greg MacDonald and Tom Doerksen convinced Champ Car – driven out of Vancouver by condo developers and Olympic gratuities – that they could maintain their Canadian hat-trick with Toronto and Montreal by coming to the Great White North.

That, and the potential on-track excitement the airport race in Cleveland had always been known for.

Not only was the reconstructing series blown away by the 200,000 that showed up for the inaugural Grand Prix in 2005, they – and the drivers – left impressed.

The series that became Champ Car was admired for its variety – from one race to the next they could be on a road course, a street race, then an oval.

Edmonton's airport offers aspects of all three. It's a street race in that it's a great place to hold a big party in the middle of a city. Its two-mile, 14-turn layout is classic road course. Like an oval, the sightlines from every grandstand give fans the entire picture.

"I prefer road courses. I like the street courses. I love the airport circuits," said Justin Wilson, the tall Englishman who won the 2006 Edmonton Grand Prix.

"Trying to adapt to different circumstances is what I think this championship is all about. I like the fact that if you can master this, you can pretty much master anything."

Added Aussie Will Power, last season's rookie of the year: "You are doing so many driving styles and disciplines, I have to say that last year I learned more than I ever learned in my whole career about driving. And I'm a better driver for it." More at Edmonton Sun

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