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Toronto Diary:
Day Three
Major Party

Toronto, Ontario, July 13, 2003 What SARS? Reports all over Toronto were of how badly the tourist industry has been hit because of the SARS scare. Apparently, it is much worse than originally feared to the point of being an economic disaster for the city. Obviously, race fans are not like normal people (well, we all sort of knew that all along), because they came out in droves over the weekend even with relatively poor weather on the first two days -- but a picture perfect day for the race. The total attendance actually turned out to be higher than last year at 167,352 with the three day breakdown at 43,628, 50,469, and 73,255. Not only were the stands jam packed, but people were lined up five, six, even seven, eight deep all the way around the fences in the general admission areas.

Happy Hometown Hero. The fans that did show up, especially the Canadians, were one happy bunch when the West Hill native, Paul Tracy, took the checkered flag, as they stood and roared during his last few laps. "This is the most important race in the world for me," Tracy said. "This win is the defining moment of my career."

Cookie Monster. Speaking of Paul Tracy, this reporter saw him do a no-no. Well, okay, Tracy doing a no-no is like saying race cars are fast, but this was a little different. After the post-qualifying press conference on Saturday, Tracy saw the cookie tray in the media center. He paused, started to keep going, but then was told by someone who was with him, go ahead you have time. So, Tracy dove in grabbing one of the delicious large cookies. Isn't Tracy on a disciplined health kick these days...?

Open Wheel Heaven. Toronto always has a good selection of support races. However, this year, it seemed every open wheel racing series in North America was running. Not that we're complaining. Overdosing on open wheel racing is never a bad thing. Besides the Champ Cars, there was the Toyota Atlantics, Barber Dodge, Fran-Am, and the Canadian Formula Ford Championship, F1600 series. Oh, yeah, there was also that CASCAR race.

The Atlantics was won by rookie sensation, A.J. Allmendinger, after a wild start completely shuffled the front runners around from their qualifying slots. This is Allmendinger's fourth win, the most for a rookie since Alex Barron won five in 1997, and there are still five(!) races left this year. It was also the first non-Canadian to win the Toronto round since 1998.

The Fran-Am race was won by Andrew Ranger in dicey conditions with the on again, off again rain on Saturday. This led the leader to almost lose it on the last lap. "The corner was wet," Ranger explains. "I went too fast, and I said, 'no, no, no, not the wall!'"

Memo Rojas took the Barber Dodge honors in a race chock full of passes. As the third place driver, David Martinez, explains it, "These races are short. If you have a hole or a place to pass, you have to go for it."

The F1600 race was your typical event when you stick a bunch of young, hungry drivers in Formula Fords, wave some money in front of them, and make them all think they are the next coming of Gilles Villeneuve. In an action packed crash filled event, David Clubine came out the winner while second through fifth were spread out across the line in a photo finish. The driver who took third already had a damaged car and his right front suspension failed as he crossed the line, nearly weaved into one car on his right, and shot the other way into the wall. Like we said, a wild and crazy race. Ashley Taws, whose remarkable story we told you about yesterday, finished in a solid fourth place.

Empty Paddock. Many people at Cleveland remarked how sparse the paddock looked. The same was the case at Toronto. For the first time ever we believe, the Atlantics were housed in the CART paddock instead of in the Motorfest area with all the other support series. This is due to both series being short with entries, the usual 19 for CART that we've seen all year and only 15 cars for the Atlantics. There just aren't as many trucks and support vehicles. On top of that, the team merchandise vendors were greatly lacking, no longer the need for large sales trucks from Penske, Target, KOOL, Motorola like in the past. As one fan put it, "There is no longer the urge to spend money."

More Info, Please. The big screen televisions that are nicely placed throughout the venue are wonderful. However, they cannot stand alone. Since it is virtually impossible to hear the PA system all the time, there needs to be information constantly displayed on the screen. Cars should constantly be identified every time they appear. Times for qualifying and positions during the race must be always viewable in some form or another. If knowledgeable racing fans have trouble following the action, how in the world is everyone else going to maintain interest when they have no clue what is going on in the race, especially the support events. It's a simple remedy -- a little bit of care in providing more information on the big screens will go a long way in helping the fan enjoy their time even more, and it will help the new fan want to come back the following year.

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Copyright © 2003 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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