CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy takes flag-to-flag hometown win in Toronto

CHAMPCAR/CART: Tracy takes flag-to-flag hometown win in Toronto

Paul Tracy did not disappoint his hometown crowd of 73,255 faithful, leading from start to finish to win the 18th running of the Molson Indy in Toronto, in the 8th round of Champ Car World Series on Sunday. "It is a great day for Canada and a ...

Paul Tracy did not disappoint his hometown crowd of 73,255 faithful, leading from start to finish to win the 18th running of the Molson Indy in Toronto, in the 8th round of Champ Car World Series on Sunday.

"It is a great day for Canada and a great day for the Player's Racing team," said an elated Tracy immediately after jumping out of his car to raise his hands to the crowd.

Podium: race winner Paul Tracy with Michel Jourdain Jr. and Bruno Junqueira.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Later, after the podium presentations, Tracy added, "It was unbelievable. The car was just perfect today and I can't thank my sponsors enough for the job that they've done for me."

"The race in Toronto has always been the biggest win of my career," Tracy continued. "This is the most important race for me in the world and to come back ten years later and win it again with a Canadian sponsor and a Canadian team, it is the defining moment of my career."

Tracy, the first Team Player's driver to win on Canadian soil, finished 4.533 seconds ahead of Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr. and 9.626 seconds ahead of Brazilian Bruno Junqueira. The Canadian completed the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit with an average speed of 96.189 miles per hour.

Michel Jourdain Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"I am very, very happy with my result," said Jourdain, who captured his fifth podium finish of 2003 in his 130th career start. "I am proud for Paul and the Player's Racing Team. I hope I have this same feeling some day in Mexico City."

Junqueira notched his sixth podium finish of the year and 13th of his career.

"I didn't have the speed to follow Tracy and I made a mistake in the pit stop and Michel passed me, recalls Junqueira. "I tried to pass him, but I couldn't."

The win for Tracy comes on the tenth anniversary of his first Molson Indy victory back in 1993 and extends his lead in the driver's championship to 15 points. Tracy now has 139 points while Junqueira and Jourdain remain in second and third with 124 and 113 points respectively. It was Tracy's seventh podium and fourth victory of the year.

"Our goal is to win Vancouver next," commented Tracy regarding his title hopes for 2003. "It is really sad that we are losing Player's as a sponsor, so we really have to thank them for their tremendous support over the years."

Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais was the first rookie across the finish line in fourth 10.653 seconds off the pace. Oriol Servia (11.324), Roberto Moreno (14.301), Patrick Carpentier (15.355), Darren Manning (15.736) and Adrian Fernandez (1:00.977) all finished on the lead lap.

The rest of the final classification order in the 19-car field was Tiago Monteiro, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mario Dominguez, Jimmy Vasser, Geoff Boss, Rodolfo Lavin, Max Papis, Alex Tagliani, Alex Sperafico and Mario Haberfeld.

The start: Paul Tracy takes the lead.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
When the green flag came out to start the race, pole sitter Tracy was the first around Turn 1. Tagliani screamed down the back straightaway, passing both Junquiera and Jourdain at the third bend.

Still on the opening lap, American Jimmy Vasser bumped into the back of Fernandez's car when the Mexican hit the brakes approaching the always- troublesome Turn 3. The collision turned Fernandez completely around and the two took three other cars with them including Hunter-Reay. Subsequently, Vasser and Hunter-Reay went a lap down as the two were untangled.

The race was restarted after lap 4 and two laps later Sperafico rear-ended fellow freshman Haberfeld at the same corner, ending their day. The caution came out for just one lap as the two cars were removed from the circuit.

Tracy began pulling away from the field over the next few laps, averaging a second faster than fellow countryman Tagliani, who remained in second. By lap 13, he had a stonking seven-second advantage. Only nine cars remained on the lead lap. Tracy who was the only driver lapping under 61 seconds per lap began to slow his pace on lap 23 due to tire wear.

On lap 28, Tagliani braked late approaching Turn 3 and went wide. When he returned to the race line, Tagliani was clipped in his right rear tire by the much faster third place driver Bruno Junqueira and was forced to pit. After a change of tires, Tagliani pulled over at the end of pit lane, quitting due to suspension damage.

The majority of the field made their first pit stops on lap 31 including the top three drivers.

Papis of PK Racing suffered a broken rear rocker arm on lap 36 ending the hopes of one of the series favourites.

Carpentier, continuing to run in third, began to catch Junquiera, who was having understeer problems and more trouble negotiating his way past the backmarkers than Tracy was on lap 44. At this point, Tracy had more than a 20-second lead.

On lap 59, Carpentier's car began to handle loosely and, two laps later, fell back to seventh on the grid.

The leaders began their second pit stops on lap 62, as everyone got in and out without incident.

By lap 67, Jourdain had closed the gap on second place Junqueira to under two seconds, while Tracy had built a half-lap lead. Servia, Bourdais, Moreno, Carpentier, Manning, Fernandez, and Vasser completed the top ten at this point in the race.

A full-course yellow was brought out on lap 75 when Vasser locked his wheels and came to a stalling stop at the notorious third turn. Subsequently, Tracy's advantage was erased as the field grouped behind the pace car.

The top eight cars took advantage of the caution laps, making their third and final pit stop on lap 81. Jourdain, with a quicker pit stop than Junqueira, took over second place, while Bourdais' pit crew also performed well, putting him back out on the track in fourth ahead of Servia.

Paul Tracy.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The event went back to green on lap 86. Tracy began pulling away once again, but the field caught up to him on lap 91 when he went wide, underbraking at Turn 3. With only a dozen laps remaining Tracy stretched his lead to seven seconds and maintained that gap on his final run to the finish.

Meanwhile the battle for second place began heating up as Junqueira put pressure on Jourdain and remained less than two seconds behind, but could not mount a challenge to the end.

The next race on the Champ Car World Series is the Molson Indy Vancouver on Sunday, July 27 at Concord Pacific Place, a 1.781-mile temporary street circuit.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Mario Dominguez , Tiago Monteiro , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Alex Sperafico , Eric Gilbert , Michel Jourdain