During the 2003 Molson Indy Toronto weekend, a Canadian journalist sidled up and told me, "If you're looking for the next great Canadian driver, check out Andrew Ranger." Sure enough, the 16-year-old went out and won the Fran-Am race in ...
During the 2003 Molson Indy Toronto weekend, a Canadian journalist sidled up and told me, "If you're looking for the next great Canadian driver, check out Andrew Ranger."
Sure enough, the 16-year-old went out and won the Fran-Am race in light rain. In all, Ranger won six races en route to the North America Fran-Am Pro championship last year.
The 2003 season was the kid's first year driving cars following a Canadian kart career that saw him piling up the trophies from the time he entered the competitive karting arena in 1998.
So now, at the ripe age of 17 Andrew Ranger is competing in Champ Car's Toyota Atlantic ladder series, wearing the #27 on his Tide/Charmin/MrClean/Snugabye-sponsored Swift. It's a pretty famous number, with plenty of winning connotations for a young Canadian to wear.
Paired with Long Beach winner Ryan Dalziel at Sierra Sierra Enterprises, Ranger managed second step on the podium to teammate Dalziel from fifth on the grid.
Pass the word: this kid is good. He even listens to his mechanic, who told Ranger the mantra: "You want to pass on the start." He wasted three of 'em on the first lap. "The car was great during the whole race," he later crowed.
Ranger likes the feel of his new car compared with the Fran-Am open-wheeler he drove last year. "I have a lot of grip in the back," he said. "You turn the car and you can put it on full throttle. With Toyota, it's a great car to drive. It's very, very fun."
Andrew Ranger's progress reminds me of a guy now cutting his teeth in Champ cars, one A.J. Allmendinger. That one came from karts to Barber Dodge Pro, to Atlantics and then the Big League Champ Car World Series in successive years.
Ranger isn't looking that far ahead. "For this year, it's Toyota Atlantic. I don't know for the next year but I want to push hard for a win, do something good. For me," he pondered, "I go one step after one step.
"But I think I need to learn the car, I need to learn the tracks," Ranger recognized. "I want to win the championship, but you know I have a good partner in Ryan. He helped me big time at the track" in their first race together.
Andrew Ranger has more on the table than massive talent. His arsenal includes driving coach David Empringham, the two-time Atlantic champ with Team Player's who has made a second career of shepherding other talented souls.
"David is a great guy," Ranger stated. "We work pretty hard on the computer and he helps me on the car; he helps me on the track. For me it's a very, very good thing." Empringham also guides Dalziel' in his third year of Toyota Atlantic competition.
Another advantage is the long-time sponsorship Ranger has garnered from several Procter & Gamble products. The funding is Canada-based, good to see in a country where other large firms have reduced their support.
But Long Beach is just the first of a 12-race Toyota Atlantic schedule for Andrew Ranger and his Sierra Sierra Enterprises team to contest and the next is in Monterrey, Mexico, yet another new venue for the youngster to learn.
Mexico is a long way from his Roxton-Pond, Quebec home, but just another stop on Andrew Ranger's fast track to racing stardom.