CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto preview

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE ========================================================= PREVIEW OF THE MOLSON INDY TORONTO RACE FACTS: THE MOLSON INDY TORONTO is race number nine of the 16-race 1994 PPG Indy...

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE =========================================================



THE MOLSON INDY TORONTO is race number nine of the 16-race 1994 PPG Indy Car World Series. The 98-lap event (versus 103 laps in 1993) covers 174.44 miles of this 1.78-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit.

THE TRACK is located on the grounds of the Canadian National Exposition Center in downtown Toronto, Canada, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap/1.78 miles) -- Emerson Fittipaldi; July 17, 1993; 58.256 sec.; 109.998 mph. Race (103 laps/183.34 miles) -- Michael Andretti; July 21, 1991; 1 hr., 50 min., 57.274 sec.; 99.143 mph. The new race distance will create a new race record for 1994.

LAST YEAR'S WINNER was Paul Tracy who took the checkered flag before a hometown crowd. Al Unser Jr. is a two-time (1988 and 1990) winner in Toronto. Michael Andretti won in 1989, 1991 and 1992. Emerson Fittipaldi is the defending pole winner and only three-time pole winner at Toronto (1986, 1989 and 1993).

RACE TIME is 2 p.m. EDT, Sunday, July 17. Broadcast airs live 2-4 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports and live on the Kmart IndyCar Radio Network. CBC will be the host broadcaster.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (July 5, 1994) -- Paul Tracy will always remember the 1993 Molson Indy Toronto as his first PPG Cup victory on home turf.

Looking back, Toronto native Tracy and his Marlboro Team Penske teammate Emerson Fittipaldi battled hard for victory in last year's race through Toronto's Exhibition Place. The results were a convincing one-two for Roger Penske's team.

"That was a great day, and my family and I will always remember it," recalled Tracy. "There was a lot of pressure on me from my friends and all my hometown fans, just like there will be this year. But there's nothing like having all that support behind you. It really helps get you going. I believe that Marlboro Team Penske is even stronger this year. Al (Unser Jr.) has brought an additional element to the team and all three of us will be strong in Toronto this year. It'll be a very tough race."

The driver with the most successful record in Toronto is Michael Andretti, winner of the Molson Indy Toronto in 1989, 1991 and 1992. Andretti won the PPG Cup season-opener at the Surfers Paradise, Australia street circuit for Chip Ganassi's Target-Scotch team, and is currently ranked fourth in points.

"We had a great start to the season in Australia," said Andretti. "Since then, we've had a tough time being as competitive. Some races we've been strong. In others we've struggled with the car. But the team is working really hard, and we're hoping for good things in Toronto. I've had some good luck there in the past and we always get a great welcome from the Canadian fans, so maybe some of that luck will rub off on us this year."

Unser, Fittipaldi and Tracy have each won before at Toronto, and the team has built early-season momentum with six wins to date. Unser scored Toronto wins in 1988 and 1990, while Fittipaldi won in 1987 and Tracy is the defending race champion.

PPG Cup championship leader Unser has earned respect for his street circuit skills, with an impressive record of success on street circuits like Toronto, Vancouver and Long Beach. That proficiency and early success in the 1994 PPG Indy Car World Series season proves Unser a strong contender at this year's Molson Indy Toronto.

"It's true that I've got a good record on street tracks," said this year's Long Beach winner. "I don't really know why I've done so well on those types of tracks, but I do know I enjoy them. I definitely enjoy the track in Toronto. I also enjoy the city and the people. The fans up there are really enthusiastic, and Toronto is just a great place to visit.

"The track is very tough, with some very fast corners and some tight ones as well," added Unser. "It's the type of place where there's no room for even a small mistake because there are walls everywhere. There aren't many curbs to run over either. If you make a mistake, you'll smack the wall."

Fittipaldi also has a strong record on street circuits in general, and Toronto in particular. He is the current track record holder in Toronto, and has been on the pole three times. He's also been on the front row for the last three Toronto IndyCar races.

"I really like racing in Toronto," said Fittipaldi. "It's a fantastic city, and the track is very tough. I think it's one of the toughest tracks we race on. This year, Marlboro Team Penske is very strong. We have a beautiful car and the team is working together really well. I think any one of us can win."

Another driver to watch at Toronto will be Robby Gordon, currently ranked a strong third in PPG Cup points behind Unser and Fittipaldi. The 25-year old Gordon, who drives the Valvoline-Cummins Lola Ford, is one of the hottest young talents in IndyCar. He beat Nigel Mansell to fourth place with a thrilling last-lap move in Portland a few weeks ago, and is trying hard to break into the winner's circle for the first time.

"We're having a good year," said Gordon. "Derrick Walker has a tremendous amount of experience, and he's helped me in many ways this year. We're creeping up on everyone. We're keeping them honest. The Penske team is really strong this year and they're going to be tough to beat at every race, but if anybody's got a shot at beating them, it's the Valvoline-Cummins team. We never give up. Everybody knows that. Don't ever count us out."

A lot of interest will also be focused in Toronto on defending PPG Cup champion Nigel Mansell. He and Kmart-Texaco teammate Mario Andretti had a tough time in last year's Molson Indy Toronto, and both Newman/Haas drivers are hoping for better things this year. Mansell is currently fifth in PPG Cup points, but has yet to win a race this year.

"I don't have many good memories of last year's race in Toronto," said Mansell. "We didn't qualify very well and had our only mechanical DNF of 1993 in that race. Obviously, we'll be trying our best to run up front this year."

Also among those who'll be watched very closely will be leading Rookie of the Year candidate Jacques Villeneuve of Forsythe-Green Racing. The 23-year old Canadian finished second in this year's Indianapolis 500, and is currently ranked eighth in PPG Cup points. Villeneuve is one of the most talented rookies to come along in many years, and will be trying hard to steal some of the spotlight from fellow countryman Tracy.

Other rookies to watch include Americans Bryan Herta and Scott Sharp and Italian Alessandro Zampedri. All three have recorded top 10 finishes this year. Also capable of running up front are experienced drivers Jimmy Vasser, currently ranked seventh in PPG Cup points, and Stefan Johansson who was in the second row at last year's Molson Indy Toronto.

-- This report is provided by "Marlboro Racing News", an on-line service which provides news, statistics and photographs on IndyCar racing at no charge to qualified media. Interested members of the media are invited to participate. Call Jim Thompson at 213/256-3625 or via Internet:

The information contained in this report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise redistributed without the prior permission from Marlboro Racing News. -- David S. Reininger * Herndon, Virginia USA * "I never take chances." * -Wilbur Shaw chasin' races *

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Nigel Mansell , Mario Andretti , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske