CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Round six preview

CANADA'S OWN PAUL TRACY LEADS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES BY THE SLIMMEST OF MARGINS AS MOLSON INDY TORONTO LOOMS INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2005) -- One of Canada's favorite racing sons picked up the mantle of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car ...

CANADA'S OWN PAUL TRACY LEADS THE CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES BY THE SLIMMEST OF MARGINS AS MOLSON INDY TORONTO LOOMS

INDIANAPOLIS (July 1, 2005) -- One of Canada's favorite racing sons picked up the mantle of Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader after his Round Five win in Cleveland, and now Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will hope to use his hometown track to fend off the baying pack in this weekend's Molson Indy Toronto.

The Ontario, Canada native claimed a narrow one-point lead in the Champ Car standings with his Cleveland win, and leads the series to the historic 20th running of the Molson Indy Toronto. The Toronto event is the longest-running non-U.S. event on the Champ Car calendar and has been a bastion of support for the series since the inaugural race in 1986. Tracy has earned a pair of wins on the 1.755-mile street course that winds through picturesque Exhibition Place, but will need another strong showing if he is to maintain his place in the title hunt.

Qualifying could well be the key to victory in Sunday's 88-lap affair as the driver that has won the pole in each of the last three years has gone on to win the race. If starting up front is a harbinger of big things to come, Tracy appears to be in good stead as the series points leader has taken the green flag from the front row in each of the last three trips to Toronto -- including the 2003 event where he went wire-to-wire to score the victory. In fact qualifying success has been a sign of even bigger things than a race win as the last four Toronto polesitters have gone on to claim the series championship in that same season.

Tracy has been the man to beat on qualifying day this season, leading the series in qualifying average (2.6) and scoring a pair of poles to take the lead for the year-end Bridgestone Pole Award. The strength has carried over into race day as well as the 2003 champion has earned four podium finishes in the year's five starts.

He wrested the series lead from defending Molson Indy Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with his Cleveland win, dropping the defending series champion to the second spot for the first time since Milwaukee. Bourdais has yet to finish lower than sixth this year and leads the series in laps and miles completed, heading into a track where he led 75 of 84 laps a year ago in scoring the victory.

The achievements of Tracy's Forsythe Championship Racing and Bourdais' Newman/Haas Racing squads have been well-documented, but it is a pair of relatively new Champ Car teams that are putting the most heat on the frontrunners. Second-year team RuSPORT and the third-year PKV Racing outfit occupy the third through sixth spots in the championship chase, with an intriguing mix of young lions and former champions carrying the fight to the leaders.

The RuSPORT duo of A.J. Allmendinger (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Justin Wilson (#9 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are third and fourth respectively after five races and are looking to continue their climb. Allmendinger is fulfilling his tremendous potential in the 2005 season and has scored career-best second-place finishes in tow of the last three races. The young Californian led his first laps of the season two weeks ago in Cleveland and showed that he can pick his way through a crowd, coming from ninth on the grid to snare that runner-up spot.

Wilson showed perseverance in Cleveland as well, overcoming qualifying troubles that left him 16th on the starting grid to score a seventh-place finish. His climb through the field earned him an addition championship point for gaining the most positions in the race, and kept him solidly in the fourth spot in the points. Wilson qualified a strong fifth in his rookie trip to Toronto a year ago, but ended his day in 12th after contact dropped him off the pace.

The PKV duo of Jimmy Vasser (#12 Gulfstream Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) have spent their fair share at the top this year as well, and head to Toronto looking to continue their march to the front. Vasser has used a three-race run of top-six finishes, including a pole in Portland, to climb into the fifth spot as he heads to Toronto for the 14th time in his illustrious career. The Californian had the best run of his Toronto career just one year ago, jumping nine spots from his grid position to end the day in second place.

Molson Indy Toronto Event Guide 13

Da Matta's last visit to Toronto was even more enjoyable as the diminutive Brazilian led wire-to-wire in scoring the 2002 race win, a victory that would help him score the series championship that year. He has not taken long to get reacquainted with his Champ Car after two years away, claiming a victory in Portland in just his fourth race back in the series. He was strong again in Cleveland as well, leading 21 laps before contact with a lapped car ended his run. He has four Champ Car starts in Toronto to his credit and had led a total of 185 laps in those starts.

Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is beginning to look more and more comfortable in the second Newman/Haas Racing machine, just three races after replacing the injured Bruno Junqueira in the PacifiCare car. Servia has earned a pair of podium finishes in his three starts in Junqueira's car and finds himself just three points out of the top five in the standings. Servia has run well in Toronto in the past, scoring a top-five run in 2003 and finishing as the runner-up in the 1999 Indy Lights event.

Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) is giving his first-year Team Australia mates reason for optimism, and heads to a Toronto track where he has had plenty of success in the past. Tagliani led late in the Cleveland race before settling for fourth, moving into ninth in the point standings. His Toronto results have been even better, with four finishes of seventh or better to his credit including a second-place run in 2001. He also qualified in the front row in the 1997 and 1998 Toyota Atlantic events, scoring the win from the outside pole in 1998.

He is tied for ninth with the youngster that may just be the next Canadian phenom, as Andrew Ranger (#27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) storms into Toronto on the heels of the best qualifying effort of his young career. The 18-year-old Ranger started fourth and finished eighth in Cleveland and has three top-eight finishes in his five starts. Despite his young age, he has had Toronto success as well, finishing second in last year's Toyota Atlantic race and winning the 2003 Fran-Am race at the age of 16.

Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) sits ahead of both Ranger and Tagliani in the standings and comes to Toronto looking to erase memories both recent and distant. He started seventh two weeks ago in Cleveland but ended up 17th after contact, a fate that befell him in Toronto last year as a first-lap charge from his fourth-place grid position left him with a 17th-place finish after contact took place right under the historic Princes' Gates.

Ranger leads the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings after five races, but that too is a tight pack with German Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) sitting just four points behind. Glock has used consistent effort to earn his standing, with four top-10 placings in the year's five starts. HVM Racing's Ronnie Bremer (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Bjorn Wirdheim (#4 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) are third and fourth respectively in the rookie standings, with only Bremer having previous Toronto experience -- that coming a year ago when he finished third in the Toyota Atlantic event.

Ricardo Sperafico (#11 Sonny's Real Pit BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) showed that he is coming to grips with his mount as well just five races into his career, steering his Dale Coyne Racing machine to a ninth-place finish in Cleveland. The run was the first top-10 finish for the Brazilian and puts him just five points out of the top 15 in the points.

The 20th running of the Molson Indy Toronto gets underway Friday, July 8 with Champ Car qualifying on both Friday and Saturday. The 88-lap race will see the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, with live coverage being broadcast in the United States on CBS Sports.

-ccws-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Ricardo Sperafico , Justin Wilson , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Bjorn Wirdheim , Andrew Ranger , Timo Glock , Cristiano da Matta
Teams HVM Racing