CHAMPCAR/CART: Drivers wowed by size of Montreal crowds

INDIANAPOLIS (August 27, 2002) - The cockpit of a CART FedEx Championship Series race car is a noisy place and one where not many ambient sounds can cut through the turbocharged roar of more than 800 horses pushing a car through a race...

INDIANAPOLIS (August 27, 2002) - The cockpit of a CART FedEx Championship Series race car is a noisy place and one where not many ambient sounds can cut through the turbocharged roar of more than 800 horses pushing a car through a race course.

So it was only fitting that on his victory lap after winning Sunday's Molson Indy Montreal, Dario Franchitti pulled his Team KOOL Green Honda/Lola/Bridgestone to a halt in one of the mostly-heavily populated sections of the course and shut down his car to soak in the roar of some of the 64,000 fans that showed up on race day to see the Champ Cars.

"What a wonderful crowd we had all three days," said Franchitti after edging Cristiano da Matta for the victory. "They truly understand what we're all about. It doesn't matter if it's Toronto, Vancouver or now Montreal. They've all got such passion and enthusiasm for open-wheel racing. It makes it so enjoyable to drive in that atmosphere."

CART made its way to Montreal's Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for the first time in its history during the past weekend and attracted enough fans over the three-day weekend to make the event the second-largest sporting event in the entire country during 2002. The drivers and teams were surprised by a crowd of over 47,000 for the first day of practice and qualifying on Friday, and were further delighted as the throng of aficionados swelled to 61,000 on Saturday and 64,000 for race day. The attendance pushed CART's season total to over 1.6 million for the 2002 season.

But the festivities were not contained to the race course alone as the French-Canadian city came alive with parties, displays and gatherings once the day's engines had silenced. Molson, Ford Motor Company and Player's all claimed parts of the Montreal streets for parties, Ford's on Thursday coming complete with Jacques Villeneuve's CART car from 1995 and his father Gilles' Formula Ford machine.

"This weekend showed all of us connected to CART how much passion there is for racing in Montreal and in Canada as a whole," said CART CEO and President Christopher R. Pook. "Everyone from the fans to the race organizers and everyone in between made us feel welcome at every turn and we look forward with great anticipation toward coming back next season."

The 2003 CART FedEx Championship Series will make three stops in Canada as it did this year when it drew more than 501,000 fans for the three dates in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Toronto will open Exhibition Place to CART on July 13 with Vancouver's Concord Pacific Place serving as the next race on the calendar on July 27. Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve will see the return of the Champ Cars next season on September 7.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Dario Franchitti , Cristiano da Matta