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Toronto Diary:
Day Two
Just A Footnote

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 10, 2004 — The action returns both on the track and the runway, and the Rocketsports driver saga takes a spoiled turn.

Guaranteed To Fail. Years ago, I coached my sister’s soccer team. She was around 10-years-old at the time on a co-ed team. The best player on the team, a boy, had quite a bit of natural talent for that age. One game, I gave him instructions about his positioning.

His father came up to me—admittedly in a polite manner—and told me not to worry about his boy. He knew what he was doing and didn’t need any help. I was aghast. I also immediately knew at that moment that this kid was going to go nowhere in terms of his athletic ability. He was doomed to fail. A few years later, I never heard about him again.

This flashback ran through my head as I read the quotes from Nelson Philippe concerning his departure from the Rocketsports Team. The gall of this 17-year-old kid is nothing short of astonishing.

“I adjusted pretty well to Champ Car,” he said. Really? Running back of the pack being constantly outdone by his teammate is adjustment? Oh, but wait, it isn’t his fault.

“But the problem is that the engineering side is struggling.” Ah, so it’s the engineers’ fault. Never mind the fact that you never drove a car that needed anything more than camber, wing, and ride height adjustments, you are such an expert in setting up your car and communicating to the engineers, it must be their fault.

Philippe didn’t stop there. Obviously, in his own warped vision of the racing world he should be the number one driver on a team equivalent to Newman-Haas or Forsythe Racing. This despite the facts: a 17-year-old with virtually no racing experience whatsoever who was never competitive in his one year in the Barber Dodge series who is only in Champ Cars because his daddy paid for the ride (the rumor mill says the lack of this payment is the true crux of the dispute).

“My car is fairly old,” he said. “I don’t have all the right pieces for it yet because it all came together late, and I’m handicapped by that.”

Handicapped? More like handicapped by having no racing experience, never paying your dues, and not acquiring one iota of respect from anyone in the racing community.

It’s the classic spoiled rich kid with Little League parents who have no clue what needs to be done to create a great athlete and accomplish success in this harsh sport. All they need to do is take a look at the driver who replaced him—Memo Gidley. He is the living lesson of what it takes to pay your dues.

It may appear that I am being overly tough on Philippe, but the fact of the matter is, he needs a good slap upside the head. Otherwise, he will be nothing more than a footnote—or worse yet, a trivia question—in the annals of auto racing.

Trans-Am Returns. The name may stand for Trans-American, but the Trans-Am series has always had a Canadian flavor. With the Victoria Day holiday weekend events at Mosport and the feature races at Trois-Rivieres, the Great White North has enjoyed the oldest active North American road racing series.

However, Toronto fans have not seen the big block sedans since 1994. And what better way to welcome them back than having their hometown hero, Ron Fellows, make a special appearance, his first in the series since 1997. Fellows did take the lead briefly, much to the delight of the crowd, but lost second gear dropping back down the field. He wound up on the last podium spot thanks to attrition.

Interestingly, the crowd cheered louder when Paul Gentilozzi took the lead. Then, they groaned louder when he lost the lead. The reaction both times was more emotional for Gentilozzi than Fellows.

Is it due to Gentilozzi’s long Trans-Am career? Because of his march through the rear of the field since he had to start from pitlane? His driving style? Or is it because Gentilozzi helped save the Champ Car series and thus the Molson Indy Toronto event? It may be a little of all the above, but we bet it’s mostly due to his savior role.

In the end, it was Jorge Diaz, Jr. who stole everyone’s thunder, taking his first career Trans-Am victory.

And The Winner Is… The finals of the Miss Molson Indy Toronto competition took place at the end of Saturday. Naturally, we wouldn’t be doing our job here at Deep Throttle if we didn’t cover the event. For this round, a number of drivers were some of the judges. This included Paul Tracy (and his fiancée), Jimmy Vasser, Bruno Junqueira, Oriol Servia, Mario Dominguez, Rodolfo Lavin, and Toyota Atlantics driver Josh Hunt. Two wives judged as well—Bronte Tagliani and Debbie Gentilozzi. Bruno was visibly upset, throwing his arms in the air, when the first runner-up was announced, feeling she should have been the winner. In the end, the new Miss Molson Indy Toronto is 19-year-old Oakville native, Jessica Sulidis. She travels to Vancouver to compete for the national Miss Molson title where the winner represents Canada at Surfers Paradise. We have a complete photo gallery of the contest.


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Copyright © 2004 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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