Reflections of the Molson Indy Toronto Beyond all the tough talk preceding the race and the carbon-carnage on the Toronto street course, Alex Tagliani, Memo Gidley and the Rocketsports Racing crew had an exceptional weekend, one that ...
Reflections of the Molson Indy Toronto
Beyond all the tough talk preceding the race and the carbon-carnage on the Toronto street course, Alex Tagliani, Memo Gidley and the Rocketsports Racing crew had an exceptional weekend, one that highlighted the grit and determination of the second year outfit.
The intensity started to build prior to the weekend when Tagliani came under fire from fellow-Canadian driver, Paul Tracy, who blamed Tag for prematurely ending his Cleveland race. Despite the decision of race officials, critics and just about everyone who had seen the now famous re-play declaring Tagliani's innocence, Tracy continued to point the finger at his fellow Canadian.
The pair battled in the press for days on their native Canadian turf until Tagliani rose above the chatter to focus on the race and work closely with Rocketsports engineers to develop the right dampers/tires combination for the bumpy Toronto street course in constantly changing conditions.
Hard work paid off on race day when Tagliani moved the No. 8 Johnson Controls Lola to second position, from ninth on the grid. Then, a controversial drive-through penalty for "making avoidable contact" with Oriol Servia combined with an ill-timed yellow flag just as he prepared to enter the pits forced him back to 11th.
The feisty French-Canadian climbed his way back up to sixth, until a mad scramble for final positions late in the race saw Tagliani make contact with Roberto Gonzalez. A second penalty for making avoidable contact was assessed, which dropped Tagliani to seventh at the checkered flag in the time-shortened race, which ran only 84 of the scheduled 95 laps.
Despite the difficult day, Tagliani maintained his top-five ranking in the Champ Car World Series with 103 points, only five points out of fourth place and 61 behind leader Sebastien Bourdais.
A sudden driver change for to the second Rocketsports entry on Day One of qualifying for Round Six in the Champ Car World Series made it a late night for the Rocketsports crew, who took the time to prepare the No. 17 car for up-and-coming driver, Memo Gidley.
A last-minute flight from California brought Gidley in around 9 p.m. Friday and directly to the Toronto street course, where the dedicated crew was ready to custom-fit the car to his size and body shape. Gidley also met with Rocketsports engineers to sort the finer details of the No. 17 car, before making his only practice and qualifying effort prior to Sunday's race.
No stranger to Champ Car, Gidley was well-received by the paddock and drivers who each slowed by the No. 17 pit box to salute the veteran's return. His fans also expressed their pleasure by flooding the Rocketsports Web site with email in support of the call to bring him back into the Champ Car competition.
Gildley last drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2001. Despite developments with the Ford-Cosworth engine and Bridgestone Potenza tires, in Champ Cars in the last two and a half years, Gidley's ability to jump into the car at the last moment and be competitive impressed the paddock and fans alike.
"Coming into a weekend like this, the ideal situation would be to settle in, get comfortable with the team and set up a competitive car," explained Gidley. "The Rocketsports team exceeded my expectations this past weekend in Toronto. Going from 18th to 11th in just 25 laps showed how competitive the No. 17 car was. I was pleased with the handling and performance of the car. We kept making slight changes and the car just got better, and we could have gone even further.
"I've crossed paths with a number of guys on the team like Phil Howard, Robin Hill, Randy Gibson and Jason Robb. That was a bonus to getting settled into the team quickly. The Rocketsports guys are passionate about racing and love to compete. They gave me a great car and were a pleasure to work with," said Gidley.
Rocketsports crew chief, Robin Hill welcomed the opportunity to work with Gidley again and felt the experience was a boost to the No. 17 crew. "I've worked with Memo in the past, when he drove for Ganassi, and know he's a technical driver that gives effective feedback. He knows what he needs and what he wants the car to do. This weekend in Toronto he excelled in meeting our expectations.
"Memo communicated consistently out on the track, in the pits and the engineering office," added Hill. "His professionalism was appreciated and he brought the results the team deserved."
Alain Clarinval, engineer on the No. 17 car, echoed Hill's sentiments saying, "It was good to work with Memo. He's a low-key, likeable personality, and possesses a certain quality of a professional driver, which is essentially to express passion, but not emotion. He relates to what the car is doing without taking or making it personal.
"He focused on the car and was able to provide specific feedback, which in turn, allowed us to define what was needed to improve the performance of the car. His description of the car's handling was precise and drawn from his experience," pointed-out Clarinval.
Lead engineer for Rocketsports, Brian Ma noted Gidley's contributions to the team. "Memo quickly adapted to the team and did an excellent job in such a short time. He provided valuable input that benefited the whole team effort and contributed to Rocketsports' continuous development.
"The No. 17 crew was rejuvenated by the positive feedback and quick results, despite the lack of seat time and qualifying position. Memo's a competitive driver and he may have been a little aggressive during the race, but we were happy to have given him a car he felt he could push," stated Ma.
Gidley and crew captured the spirit of Rocketsports Racing and demonstrated their true capabilities this past weekend in Toronto. Hard work and commitment fueled by a passion for racing, the No. 17 Rocketsports crew got a boost that will send them into Vancouver and the balance of the season stronger and more eager to compete.