Toronto, Ontario, Canada, July 10, 2005 — It's all about energy at a race weekend, especially in Toronto. Whether it's the energy of the cars, the energy of the owners, the energy of first time winners, or the energy of sex appeal, it all drives a successful event.
An Infectious Energy. I first experienced -- and experience is what you do -- Carl Russo two years ago at the Molson Indy Toronto in the Toyota Atlantic race. I had heard about Carl Russo and his new RuSport team, but that did not at all prepare me the actual witnessing of this man.
It is immediately evident that Carl Russo loves racing, and gets a great deal of personal satisfaction and love out of success. Not from an egotistical or self worth perspective. He just simply loves to compete and win. He is as genuine as they come.
At that event two years ago when his cars came in one-two, with A.J. Allmendinger leading the way, I saw him leaning out of a hole in the pit fence to pump his fist and cheer his drivers as they took the checkered flags. He did so with gusto and sheer joy showing on his face.
Then, at the press conference, he sat -- if you can call it that -- in his chair listening to his drivers answer questions. He constantly moved in his seat with an energy of a little kid who first experienced a thrilling moment. Russo is like this all the time. He smiled, laughed, and seemed to want to jump out of his chair to hug his drivers.
Which is essentially what he did today during the post race press conference after Justin Wilson won his and the team's first Champ Car event. When asked to go up and give his comments on the historic victory, Russo didn't take the extra microphone. Instead, he sat on Wilson's lap, gave him a hug, and laughed all the time. Then, he proceeded to crack one joke after another while talking about this moment and what it means. All the time sitting on Wilson's lap.
Russo may at times be a clown, having as much boundless energy and enthusiasm as a child, but make no mistake about it, he is deadly serious when it comes to building up a team and running the operation. The proof is in the results. His Toyota Atlantic team was immediately successful -- more like dominating -- and they didn't even have a sponsor. His Champ Car operation very quickly became competitive last year, and this year it was obvious it was just a matter of time. Able to afford the bills himself, he refuses to take on sponsors unless they are serious, long team commitments. Half-ass is not his way. Interestingly, he had signed up CDW before this race, and it immediately paid dividends on both sides of the ledger.
I knew when I experienced Russo for the first time two years ago that this man and team were going places. It was evident from the beginning that the combination of serious, strong, smart businessman with an energetic love of the sport was going to be a recipe for success. And I have the feeling that he is going to have many, many fans rooting him on.
Lucky Charm? It looked like it was going to be another Charles Zwolsman win in the Toyota Atlantic race, though not by a runaway again. However, engine woes sidelined the Dutchman, and suddenly the race was thrown open for anyone else who could take advantage of it. It appeared that would be David Martinez, but we should have known that Antoine Bessette was destined to win.
That's because every time the Toyota Atlantic Championship has run in Toronto, either an American or Canadian has won. Thus, Bessette continued the streak, passing Martinez near the end of the race, and holding on to give the drivers from Maple Leaf land an 8-7 lead over the Stars and Stripes.
It was either that destiny or my good luck charm. Earlier in the weekend, I interviewed Bessette's car owner, Jim Griffith, co-owner of Polestar Racing, for an upcoming feature. And sure enough, Bessette goes on to take his first career Atlantic victory. You may all line up over there...
The Weekend Scene. As always, Toronto lived up to the Long Beach of the East designation or the second best street party in the Champ Car World Series. It may not have quite the celebrity sightings of Southern California nor the beaches nor the hoopla. But, it comes pretty darn close. And, it does have Canadians, who are a heck of a lot nicer -- and less stuck up -- than Californians.
This year's event attracted it's usual gaggle of crowds (40,870 on Friday, 48,012 for Saturday, and 71,433 on Sunday for a total weekend attendance of 160,315). It also brought in more sponsors and booths than in years past. My only complaint is that many of the booths were less car and racing oriented and more of the general merchandise variety.
The parties, fan get togethers, and excitement in the city was as usual tough to beat. We already talked about the Miss Molson Indy Toronto event which is not beat by any other city. One new show they added this year was the Grand Tuner Show, most likely attaching themselves on the back of the Drifting exhibition and the fans and subculture it attracts. Though small, it had it's share of crazy done up cars, after market products, and girls. And, wow, did it have girls. The stereotype shown in the movie The Fast and The Furious is not a stereotype. It's true, based on what I saw in the Grand Tuner Show.
In fact, it almost became too much, even for us here at Deep Throttle. Besides the eye popping show floor models and a Miss Grand Tuner autograph session of exquisite beauty, they also had Miss Grand Tuner lingerie and bikini contests that made the Miss Molson Indy Toronto look downright staid. Yes, we took pictures, but we won't be putting them up here at Deep Throttle. After all, even we have our limits.
Okay, maybe not.
First three photos by , last photo by
Copyright © 2005 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.