15th July 2001 This weekend really seemed to sum up how our season has gone so far. We have been very, very fast, but something keeps stopping us from getting that elusive first victory. Toronto was a busy weekend for me with sponsorship ...
15th July 2001
This weekend really seemed to sum up how our season has gone so far. We have been very, very fast, but something keeps stopping us from getting that elusive first victory. Toronto was a busy weekend for me with sponsorship commitments. My primary sponsor, Gemstar Communications, is based 20 minutes from downtown Toronto, in Oakville. Paul, the owner of Gemstar, is not only an avid motor sport fan, but is also a driver. He teams up with adriver I raced against when I won the USF2000 Championship in 1999, and they race together in different endurance events. I also had the pleasure of going to a barbecue that was hosted by Lincoln Electric. It was on Toronto Island, a short boat trip from the harbour front in Toronto. The view on the way back from the barbecue was absolutely breathtaking; since it was dark, all the lights of the city - and especially the CN Tower - were unbelievable!
Back to racing; the firstpractice on Friday went very well. We were quickest by over half a second. The track actually felt quite different in an Indy Lights car compared to an Atlantic car. There were bumps in places I had never even felt the year before! We knew that the track was certainly going to be very different for the afternoon qualifying session so, being that much ahead of the field, we were not sure whether to change the car or not. In the afternoon, we knew that the track that was going to have a lot more rubber down thanthe first practice session. So, whatever we decided to do, the important thing was to remember that - typically on a street circuit - the second qualifying session (on Saturday afternoon) is normally faster, unless it is raining! With this in mind, we finished the session third quickest. During the first qualifying session, what would normally happen, is that I would start the session on the tyres with which I began the first practice session, and then go to new tyres towards the end of the session.Unfortunately, a car hit the wall during qualifying, so the session was not resumed after 21 of the 30 minutes, and we were not able to try our new set of tyres . . .
Saturday and the morning practice again went very well. We finished the session fastest. However, second qualifying did not go so well for me from a driving standpoint. I was quickest in the session, initially, but when I went out on my new set of tyres (we are allowed to use three new sets of slicks per race weekend), Idid not extract the most from them and that resulted in me qualifying third - one tenth of a second away from pole position. This was a shame, especially when I knew the car was easily capable of being on the pole. But I knew I had a great race car, so there was time to make amends for my mistake.
Knowing how good my car was on race day, there was no real need to do any banzai moves at the start. If I could move up to second quickly, then so be it, but if not I just hadto bide my time and not let the leader get too far away. This was pretty much how the race was unfolding, until I started to feel my engine lose power down the straight because of a misfire. From then on, the problem just intensified and I dropped back to a very disappointing seventh. It turned out to be a problem with the crank trigger. It is situations like this that could really get you down in motor racing, especially when I think the Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights team and I are doing such agood job. However, we have to look on the positive side instead, which is that we proved to be very quick once again. At this time of the season, some drivers are starting to worry about their Championship status, but I am not, so I can just focus on winning races and using the victories to propel me into the CART FedEx Champ Car series for next year.
We now have a lot of time off before the next race at Mid-Ohio (12th August). This is a track that has typically been kind to me in the past, so I am expecting a very competitive weekend. Could this be the one? It is a track that I enjoy a lot and I am looking forward very much to racing there. After a bad weekend in Toronto, I especially can^Òt wait to get back in the car to put what has happened right, but I guess for now I will just have to make do with my road-racing bicycle!