By Alan Perry - Motorsport.com
Roberto Moreno won the Molson Indy Vancouver after trading places with Gil de Ferran several times. It looked like Alex Tagliani was going to run away with the event, much to the delight of the local crowd, but it was not to be. He started on pole position and led most of the race. But, a drivetrain failure on lap 68 (of 100) left his car idled on the road and crushed Tagliani's hope of a win.
The race started with some action of the wrong kind. First, Bruno Junquiera pulled to the left at the first turn and made contact with Paul Tracy's car. From Junquiera's point of view, it was Tracy's fault. "He hit me a couple of times. The first hit spun me around and then he hit my right front tire." Then, Kenny Brack, runner-up in the championship going into this race, made contact with Helio Castroneves, who was leading the championship. Both cars would continue on, but Castroneves would finish the race last (of those cars running at the end). Brack would later run someone else out of the race.
After the initial excitement, the race settled down to a steady pace with little change in position. Some drivers went out with mechanical failures or errors in judgment. Paul Tracy was the first of these drivers.
The area around turn six and seven was not good to many drivers, including Tracy. In qualifying, he drove the car into the tires on the exit of turn seven. In warm-up, he hit the tires on the exit to turn six. Then, in the race, he made contact with da Matta's car and deflated the right rear tire on an endplate. Soon afterward, Max Wilson pulled off with a mechanical failure in the same spot where Tracy retired. On lap 40, Alex Zanardi did his own interpretation of Tracy's accident in qualifying. "I was trying to downshift from fourth to second for turn six and just couldn't get it into gear. I tried third and when it finally got into gear, the rear wheels locked up and I lost the car."
Zanardi's accident caused lots of the impact-cushioning water from the tire barrier to spill out onto the track. This resulted in an extended yellow flag period as the workers tried to dry out the track.
Before Tagliani went out of the race, one of the most interesting battles was between him and Tora Takagi, who had been lapped and put in some fast times trying to get his lap back. Shortly after Tagliani went out, Papis hit the wall and took the left side of his car off and stopped in turn five. This brought out another extended yellow flag.
The race restarted at lap 79, but the green flag didn't stay out long. Adrian Fernandez immediately got his car sideways into the tire wall at turn one, possibly because of contact with Michel Jourdain. Jourdain felt differently. "For sure we didn't come together. It was close but I braked before he did and locked the brakes to keep from hitting him." This was soon followed by Cristiano da Matta hitting the tire wall in turn 6. He got restarted, pulled into the pits and called it a day. These two incidents brought out the yellow flag once more.
On the next restart at lap 85, Brack plowed into the back end of Carpentier going into the first turn, punting Carpentier off and deflating a rear tire on his car. The last hope of a Canadian victory for the local crowd was dashed. Brack later apologized, "I am sorry for the contact with Pat. I went over and apologized to him. It was a misjudgment on my part." At the next turn, Vasser made contact with another car and his day was done.
After that, it was a sprint to the finish. First, de Ferran passed Moreno and Gugelmin for the lead, but a couple laps later, Moreno passed de Ferran and ran away with the race. For a while it looked like Andretti might be challenging de Ferran as well, but he eventually settled for third. Later, Andretti said, "we tried to play it as calm and cool as we could and eventually it paid off." Because so many laps were run under a yellow flag, the race exceeded the maximum allowed time and finished as a timed event.
So, as mentioned previously, Moreno won, followed by de Ferran, then Michael Andretti. Tony Kanaan, who struggled all through the weekend, got fourth and he was followed by Oriol Servia and Michel Jourdain, two drivers that one does not normally see this high in the results.
Moreno was very elated and emotional with his victory and thanked his team. "I am full of joy because it has been so hard to get here. We had a slow start to the season. The team is growing [better] with each race. The engineers are working great now and they gave me a great car. They did the right job today."
There was a time when the future of the Molson Indy Vancouver was in doubt, but that is not the case now. A new multi-year deal has been signed and the race will continue for some time. The locals seem to like this; attendance was significantly higher this year.