Watkins Glen International, the ancestral home to top world-class open-wheel racing events, paid a special visit today in Toronto in order to get the word out to the Canadian racing fans that history will be made on Friday, September 23 when the...
Watkins Glen International, the ancestral home to top world-class open-wheel racing events, paid a special visit today in Toronto in order to get the word out to the Canadian racing fans that history will be made on Friday, September 23 when the Indy Racing League debuts on the 3.37-mile Grand Prix course.
"We are absolutely thrilled," said Eiron M. Jones, Senior Manager of Public Relations. "When we heard that the IRL was going to add road courses to their schedule this year, we knew we wanted the race here so we have been waiting for this. We are very ready for the inaugural race and our racing fans are excited too."
The IndyCar Series and the Menards Infiniti Pro Series will practice for the first time on the historic 11 turn road course on Friday, qualify on Saturday and race on Sunday.
Champ Car (CART) holds the honor of being the last professional open-wheel race at The Glen in 1981, one year after the end of an era: The United States Grand Prix. Alan Jones won the final Formula 1 race in the New York Fingers Lake Region, the home of Watkins Glen. Rick Mears, now with the IRL as a coach to the MIPS drivers, won the CART race in October, 1981.
"Our history in open-wheel racing includes names like Scheckter and Andretti," commented Jones. "To us, this is even more exciting. We will have a jam-packed weekend -- a real true car lover's dream. The Rolex Series will return for their third event this year with a race on Saturday while the IndyCar and the Infiniti Pro Series will race on Sunday. To add to that, we will give our fans a taste of history with the Historic Grand Prix cars."
In September, two renowned names return to the famous circuit: Scheckter and Andretti. Tomas Scheckter, one of the second-generation drivers will compete on the same track that his father Jody did. Marco Andretti will be the first third-generation Andretti to run on the famous circuit.
Drivers and teams are just as excited about the step the IRL took to race at The Glen. "I have never been to The Glen," said Pro Series driver Marty Roth, "but I have always wanted to go there. I am really happy; especially since it is the closest track we will run on to my home here."
Roth is the only driver/owner in the MIPS and he has missed racing near his Toronto home. "I enjoyed racing in Toronto with the Indy Lights, I miss it a lot!
"I got turned onto racing during the early 70s. Canada's background is open-wheel racing from the old F1 days," added Roth. "I would imagine the fans are as excited as we are."
Margaret Disher, President of Roth Racing, echoed Roth's comments. It is clear that even a team who has a low budget in an expensive arena is pleased with the addition of road/street course on the IRL schedule.
"This is my first year to compete in a full season, explained Roth, who until this year ran a limited schedule since 2002. "It has been difficult at times. My focus is getting the car up to speed. Margaret coordinates the team and runs the organization. That leaves me to work on the car. I love the series; it is fantastic and very competitive. Great racing."
IndyCar racer for Cheever Racing, Patrick Carpentier, was on hand to promote the event along with his fellow countryman Roth. The French-Canadian remarked that the event "should be fun, one thing I miss is not running in Canada -- The Glen is the closest race to here. It is a really fast track."
Carpentier is one of the drivers who tested at the road course in June. "It is a fun track -- one of the fastest tracks I have been to -- these cars (IndyCars) are fun. Like Laguna Seca, this track has fast corners/sweepers. And the cars are more agile than Champ Cars -- they are lighter and stick to the ground more."
One of the favored sons of Canada, Carpentier switched series because "I wanted to be with a series that is mostly ovals, I love oval racing. The IRL is mostly ovals and the mix is good with the road/street course. A lot of fun to be back on the road courses."
Carpentier mentioned that the League is looking at doing a race in Canada. Montreal and Toronto venues were both brought up along with the new oval that will be built in Calgary. "Racing in Canada would be so much fun."
Which leads to Carpentier's possible future in NASCAR. "Yes, I have had talks with NASCAR on the possibility of driving a Truck (Craftsman Truck Series)," admitted Carpentier. "I think everyone (driver) would consider it because it is a fun series. For now my goal is the IRL."
Canadians may have a chance to see Carpentier in the X-Games. One of his favorite winter sports is Snocross. "It is like Motocross but on special snowmobiles. It is great training," added Carpentier. "If I can get enough speed, maybe Skidoo or perhaps Red Bull will put me on their teams."
And for those fans traveling from Toronto to Watkins Glen, Carpentier passed on a tip: "The ferry is the best way to go, less time than driving." Jones informed Motorsport.com that the ferry was two hours, the drive to The Glen from Rochester, NY would be about 90 minutes versus the five hour plus drive from the Toronto area.