CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing July 8, 2003 CART Champ Car World Series With the close of the 2003 season, the Champ Car World Series will see a major sponsor leave the sport. Player's Ltd. is being forced out of its sponsorship as part of a...

This Week in Ford Racing
July 8, 2003

CART Champ Car World Series

With the close of the 2003 season, the Champ Car World Series will see a major sponsor leave the sport. Player's Ltd. is being forced out of its sponsorship as part of a Canadian legislation that prohibits Tobacco companies from sponsoring sports teams or events. The loss will be a major blow to the two-car Forsythe Racing operation and to the Champ Car World Series. Player's Ltd. has prided itself on bringing up young Canadian talent and grooming them for success at the highest levels of open-wheel competition. Two current drivers from that system, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani. share their thoughts on the loss of a major supporter of open-wheel racing.

PATRICK CARPENTIER - driver No. 32 Player's/Indeck Ford - WHAT HAS THE PLAYER'S RACING PROGRAM MEANT TO YOUR CAREER?

"Player's has really helped me quite a bit. Actually, from when I started in Champ Cars, they have been sponsoring me and supporting me quite a long time. I can say that it was the best thing that ever happened for me as a race-car driver."

WHO WERE SOME OF THE PLAYER'S DRIVERS YOU WATCHED GROWING UP IN CANADA?

"Jacques Villeneuve was one that I watched quite a bit, along with Claude Bourbonnais. I watched those guys come up, hoping I could one day be a part of it, and as it ended up I did."

HOW DID YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH PLAYER'S START?

"I was sponsored by Lynx Racing and they actually brought me in to Champ Cars. From there I was introduced to Player's and they picked me up as a partial sponsor on our car. That is how I built the relationship and eventually they gave me a full sponsorship."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BEING PLAYER'S LAST YEAR IN RACING?

"Player's has been racing in Canada for many years and it's just sad to see them go. I think it's, I wouldn't say ridiculous, but that's a little bit my feeling. What makes me mad is that they are talking about legalizing marijuana in Canada and they are going to ban cigarettes on a race car. I don't quite understand that. For me, when I was younger, I remember watching Aryton Senna race Formula 1 in the Marlboro car. I always watched him race, he was my biggest hero and I never wanted to start smoking, I just wanted to start racing, so I don't quite understand it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL THIS WILL AFFECT THE SPORT?

"It is definitely going to hurt the sport, not just in Canada, but it's going to hurt everybody, CART and all the series and drivers that Player's were involved in. It is a sad thing to see them go and I don't think there is any company that can replace a sponsorship like Player's. The way that they promote the sport is unbelievable, they have amazing PR and marketing that promotes the sport, it is truly unbelievable. I'm thankful for what they've done for me because without them I definitely would not be where I am today."

WILL IT BE MORE DIFFICULT FOR YOUNG CANADIAN DRIVERS TO BREAK INTO THE SPORT WITH PLAYER'S GONE?

"It was already difficult the last few years since they had to stop their development program in Canada and other racing initiatives so they could remain in CART. It has always been difficult and it won't get any easier as it moves forward because the economy is getting more competitive and tighter which makes it a bit more difficult to get sponsorship, so it will be more difficult for sure."

ALEX TAGLIANI - driver No. 33 Johnson Controls Ford - HOW WILL PLAYER'S LEAVING CHAMP CAR EFFECT THE SPORT IN CANADA?

"There was only one big team in Canada sponsoring in a big series, and in the same aspect helping Canadian drivers. When you were racing from Quebec or you were Canadian the only team that you wanted to race for was Player's, and I can proudly say that I raced for Player's. It's a little bit sad. If you had three or four big sponsors in Canada that were involved in motor racing, not involved in motor racing just by sponsoring events or things like that but a little bit more deeply involved the way Player's is. Players sponsors a team and helps Canadian drivers. If a sponsor follows Players lead then I don't think it would be that bad. However, being the only one in the past that has been pushing for getting a team in Formula Atlantic, Indy Lights, Champ Car, then it's kind of sad. I don't see where there is going to be a company in the future of motor racing, either for the fans or for the young drivers that are racing in Canada, that will lend that sort of support. It's going to be very, very difficult, and I expect it to be a big hit for everyone in motor racing. I guess we have to see and cross our fingers and hope that somebody is going to come in and take over the way that Player's did."

WHAT MADE THE PLAYER'S SPONSORSHIP DIFFERENT THAN OTHER COMPANIES THAT ARE INVOLVED IN SPORTS?

"The reason that the tobacco sponsorship is there is because tobacco companies have so much difficulty advertising. They have so much money, and all their money for advertising goes into racing or it goes into tennis or into golf. They have money to put into sports because of their difficulty to advertise. If you look at other companies, any company, like beer companies or potato chip companies or any other product, they have an easier time advertising anywhere they want to, on TV on radio on billboards whatever, so their publicity program is diversified. If they have a $50 million advertising program a year then they can put $10 million there, $10 million there, and $10 million there, and so forth. so, to them, motorsports will never be their biggest program. That's why it will be very difficult in Canada to pick up another company that would take over completely the way that Player's did. I don't think that can happen unless another company feels that motorsports, or the place that Player's was occupying in racing, can give them very good coverage and that it is worth doing. Maybe it will happen, but I think its going to be quite difficult."

HOW DID YOU FIRST GET STARTED WITH PLAYER'S?

"I was in Formula Ford and I did a couple of races just to get my license. I was trying to get sponsorship done for Formula Atlantic and my good friend, Dr. Clairmont, who is in charge of the medical facility at the Player's headquarters in Montreal, told me that Player's was going to try and put together a driver development program. So I tried, with other people, to put that program into Formula Atlantic and get involved in the program. I raced my first year in Formula Atlantic with a $350,000 budget for P-One Racing, and I got a $50,000 Canadian sponsorship to race in that category as well. It was very little sponsorship considering what I needed to race for the season, but at least I had the Player's driver suit and I had my foot into the program. After that year I got a deal to race with them in Formula Atlantic, but I had to still find some money to put that deal together. I started racing in the full Player's team in Formula Atlantic after that first year. So, for the two years after that I was a full Player's driver in their Atlantic program, I've been in their program ever since, that's it and I stayed for three more years in Champ Car and they still help sponsor me today."

WHAT WILL THE LOSS OF PLAYER'S MEAN TO UPCOMING CANADIAN DRIVERS?

"It will be difficult for them coming up because its not like Player's is just developing young drivers, they are giving kids someone to look up to. If you're a kid and you're driving in Formula Ford and you're trying to get a Formula 2000 ride and then trying to jump into Champ Car, then you had Player's to look at. I guess there are other drivers right now that are racing in Atlantic and Barber Dodge that are Canadians, and for Player's to be going away while they are trying to climb up the ladder into the motorsports program, it's going to be more difficult. Without having Player's, it's always possible, it's not impossible, but it's a little bit harder and you don't have a Canadian company to pick up the Canadian talent like you did before. For a young Canadian driver, you had the possibility of a Canadian sponsor picking you up and you had a chance to drive in Atlantic and Champ Car or any other series. Now nobody is going to be there so now you have to work harder and you try to get in. If you want to try to go to Champ Car you just have to go and meet team owners and do it on your own."

FORD-COSWORTH RESULTS AT EXHIBITION PLACE - Since 1986 Ford-Cosworth engines have powered five winners at the temporary Toronto street circuit. Bobby Rahal took home the inaugural checkered flag in 1986 along with one of Ford-Cosworth's four poles in '87. The other Ford-Cosworth victories came with Michael Andretti at the wheel. Andretti took home four wins for the Blue Oval and seven total in Toronto during Champ Car competition, including back-to-back Ford victories in 1994 and 1995. His other two Ford powered wins came in 1992 and 2000. Emerson Fittipaldi ('86), Robby Gordon ('94), and Jacques Villeneuve ('95) join Rahal on the Ford-Cosworth poles list.

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP RACE

Sebastien Bourdais made the biggest move on Saturday night in Cleveland by taking the checkered flag and picking up 21 points, moving back into the top-five in the points race. The up and down season continued for the rookie who picked up his third win and third podium of the year. The Frenchman has posted three top-fives, four top-tens and has failed to finish four races. Paul Tracy started on the outside pole and finished second behind Bourdais, holding off his Newman/Haas teammate, Bruno Junqueira after a late caution provided a one-lap sprint to the finish. Tracy's efforts extended his points lead over Junqueira by eight points. Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Patrick Carpentier remain in third and fourth place, respectively, in the points race. Carpentier, the defending champion at Cleveland, finished fourth despite a damaged front end, while Jourdain finished seventh in his Gigante Ford.

TRACKING THE ROOKIES

Sebastien Bourdais third win of 2003 extended his rookie-of-the-year lead over the consistent Darren Manning. Manning finished 10th, marking his seventh top-ten in nine efforts this season, the most of any rookie, and continues to sit in 10th place in the championship hunt. Ryan Hunter-Reay put together a strong race with a ninth place finish on the track that he won on in Atlantic competition one year ago. The ninth place effort was the young American's second best finish of the year and his second top-ten. Tiago Monteiro did not start the race on Saturday night due to mild concussion suffered during a crash in the afternoon warm-up. Bourdais continues to lead all rookies with 74 championship points, Manning is second with 45, while Mario Haberfeld, 41, Monteiro, 15, and Hunter-Reay, 14, round out the top five.

FORD-COSWORTH DRIVERS TO WATCH -

Sebastien Bourdais - The last time the Champ Car World Series crossed international borders for two races the first year driver won both events (Brands Hatch and Germany) - Toronto marks the first of two back-to-back Canadian races. Bourdais' win in Cleveland came after two consecutive DNF's for the Newman/Haas team, the second time they have followed consecutive DNF's with a win this season. Newman/Haas has won six times in Toronto including a victory last year.

Adrian Fernandez - Fernandez is coming off of his first win as a driver/owner two races ago in Portland. The Champ Car veteran has had success in Toronto posting his first Champ Car win there in 1996 and landing on the podium in 2000 and 2001 with second and third place finishes, respectively. The Mexican driver has finished in the top-ten in seven of his eight trips to the temporary street circuit.

Michel Jourdain, Jr. - Since losing the points lead in Portland Jourdain has posted 12th and a seventh place finishes, his lowest combined back-to-back finishes this season. Jourdain has never finished higher than 12th in Toronto. Rahal team owner, Bobby Rahal, has had past success at the track posting a win and two poles during his days as a driver in the Champ Car series.

SPARK PLUGS

Jimmy Vasser's sixth place finish at last year's Molson Indy Toronto makes him the highest returning finisher ... Paul Tracy leads all current Champ Car drivers with six podiums this season ... Tracy and Adrian Fernandez will be the only drivers on the grid with wins at the Toronto circuit ... No current Champ Car drivers have ever won the pole in Toronto ... Sebastien Bourdais and Tracy have made up the front row in four of this year's nine races.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Mario Haberfeld , Darren Manning , Robby Gordon , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Emerson Fittipaldi , Michel Jourdain