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Portland Diary:
Day Two
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Portland, Oregon, June 9 — The forecast for today was: wet, followed by continued rain, moving on to even more precipitation.

The tent roof was blown off the patio of the Media Center by a helicopter trying to land. The Atlantic series continues to be more exciting by far than Champ Car and Saturday’s race one in the wet was a “doozie.” Champ Car was a big fat yawn. Oh, and it rained. A lot.

I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely have to endure anything worse than annoyance in this world, and I am rarely uncomfortable. And, I like it that way. But today, Portland did what it can do very well, which is to rain, and even though I got soaked to the skin through several layers of clothing, I didn’t complain or even realize I was soaked. Such is my passion for auto racing that I barely noticed. Plus, we are having a drought in Socal, so it was actually refreshing to be out walking in the rain. But, the rain did create some novel situations, including the roof coming off the Media Center.

Portland’s Media Center is actually three office trailers arranged in a U-shape with a center patio area used for meals and casual relaxing that is normally covered by a tent-style roof. I was in the nearby “convenience center” when the incident happened and when I came back, I found the roof at a 90 degree angle with plants hanging off what had been the underside of the roof.

It seems that the medical helicopter was trying to land in the middle of a rain storm and so had to approach the helipad at the track from a different direction, i.e., from the other side where the Media Center is located. This unexpected approach pulled the temporary roof right off and startled the volunteers and Media. It took most of the morning to complete repairs, with everyone doing their best to keep everyone safe. As a result, there was no press conference after Atlantic qualifying for Sunday’s race two. And, this is a shame because any press conference with James Hinchcliffe is more entertaining than just about anything on the telly.

Because of the rain, the Champ Car “qualifying” session was really more about race set up than starting position. Not surprisingly, Robert Doornbos was the fastest of the day, and it was interesting to witness this first DP01 test in the wet. As qualifying sessions go, it lacked drama or suspense of any kind. The only real surprise was Graham Rahal’s second place finish, which may be indicative of how he will do in the race. It has been increasingly obvious that the younger drivers are outperforming the veterans so far this weekend, so there is as chance that Graham will outperform Sebastien. Yeah, right.

As the rain poured down, many of us expected that the first Atlantic race would begin with a rolling start. Not so, and we can only hope that the “big leaguers” do as well as these guys do with their first standing start. Bourdais in particular seems to be apprehensive about it, while Doornbos and Wilson appear to be intrigued with it.

It’s yet another day where the boys of Atlantic provide the greatest interest as Matos takes the lead early in race one with a very aggressive start. How aggressive is shown by his spin in which Hinchcliffe takes over the race. Indeed, Saturday appears to be Hinch's day and in a way it is as Matos’ winning streak comes to an end. Ultimately, though, today belongs to Robert Wickens, the 18-year-old rookie sensation from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who scores an impressive maiden victory by passing drivers right and left on a track where most drivers say passing is impossible.

Obviously, Wicki did not get that particular memo, because not only does he pass like crazy, he does so in the rain, which he says he likes. We believe him, and can only hope that his team owner, Gerry Forsythe either has or will sign him to a long term contract, because this kid is going places, with or without Champ Car or Atlantic.

As our day comes to a close, it is impossible not to note the continued thinning of the Champ Car press corps as our brethren’s attendance here is minimal. Money to sustain a continued presence in this series is no longer optional. Hopefully, the powers that be will recognize this and take action. For us, our evening consists of drying ourselves out and going for a lovely dinner with friends at the Chart House overlooking the city. Until then, I am off to the races!

Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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