Toronto, Ont. (July 13,2003) - Toronto native Dan McMullen went into round six of the Fran Am 2000 North American Pro Championship this past weekend with high hopes of getting the monkey off of his back. He was confident that he would end his...
Toronto, Ont. (July 13,2003) - Toronto native Dan McMullen went into round six of the Fran Am 2000 North American Pro Championship this past weekend with high hopes of getting the monkey off of his back. He was confident that he would end his streak of bad luck that has been plaguing him all season and earn himself, and his GTI Formula Motorsports team a good result and some much needed points. With many family members, friends and representatives from his sponsor, Toronto based ATI Technologies Inc. on hand to watch him in action and cheer him on, Dan was prepared to give his all and take his #15 Fran Am 2000 car to the front of the pack. As it turned out, problems in qualifying would see him starting in twenty-sixth place on the grid, but a great and determined drive in the race would see him pass sixteen cars in the 22-lap race and finish in tenth place when the checkered flag fell.
Unfortunately for Dan the weekend did not start out well on Friday afternoon. The monkey was still hanging around his neck as problems once again cropped up in the one and only practice session. In very wet conditions, on the first lap out on the track it was evident that there was something seriously wrong with Dan's car as he went by the pits. The car's engine was heard to be missing badly as he went by the concerned team members into corner one at the Prince's Gate, the engine firing on only three cylinders. With the practice session being only twenty minutes long, it was impossible to bring him in and correct the problem so he soldered on trying his best, in the end finishing up in twenty-seventh position of the thirty cars on the track, some ten seconds off of the pace. After the session was over, the mechanics went to work to diagnose the problem where they found that the fuel injector on number two cylinder had failed. The team went to work and replaced all four injectors and prepped the car for the thirty minute qualifying session that was only several hours away.
Going into qualifying Dan was still confident that he could post a fast time to get him near the front of the grid, but once again bad luck would get in his way. As the cars were rolled out into the pit lane rain started to fall and the GTI Formula Motorsports team made the decision to put rain tires on his car in anticipation of the session being wet. As soon as the tires were installed, the green flag went out to start the thirty-minute session, but the rain had eased and the track was still mostly dry. All of the other competitors took to the track on slicks but Dan was still in pit lane while the decision was debated as to whether they should put to the slicks back on his car or send him out on the rain tires and at least get in one timed lap on a dry track. By the time the mechanics reinstalled the dry weather tires and Dan got out onto the track, the rain began to fall in earnest before he could complete even one lap. All of the teams called in their drivers to make the switch to wet tires as the rain continued to pelt down, Dan included. With all of the other drivers having put in times on a dry track, Dan was left to try to qualify on a soaking wet track, ending up a lowly twenty-sixth, just over nine seconds off the pole time set by Marc- Antoine Camirand.
Up to this time Dan had yet to drive the very challenging Toronto street circuit in dry conditions, but Saturday mornings fifteen-minute warm-up session would finally give him the opportunity to see what kind of a car he would have under him for the anticipated dry race later in the day. He managed to get in twelve laps in the session, learning more about the track each time around and finished with a very respectable twelfth fastest time, just 0.828 seconds off of the fastest time of the session and only 0.317 seconds behind pole sitter Camirand. With some decent track time finally under his belt and some much-needed data to work with, the team went to work to give Dan a car that would be competitive for the race.
Come race time the weather was still not cooperating with a light rain beginning to fall as the field formed up for the pace laps. It wasn't enough though to wet the track and all cars started on slick tires. As the cars came down to receive the start signal, several cars ahead of Dan pulled out of line prior to the green flag being displayed and then braked suddenly in front of him, causing Dan to get on the brakes hard himself to avoid contact with the car in front of him. This did not upset him though and by the end of the first lap, and with a bit of help from a three-car incident in corner five, he had made up eleven positions, coming across the line in fifteenth place. Dan's charge to the front was on. The car was handling very well, although he said afterwards that he still had some over- steer in the fast corners, especially in the last corner before the pit straight, corner eleven. He methodically worked on the traffic ahead of him, putting in times as fast as the leaders and over the course of the next twenty-one laps passed a further five cars, finishing the race in tenth place, only 23.527 seconds behind the winner, Andrew Ranger. The only problem he encountered during the race was that he felt the grip of his car start to go away after the eighth lap, but his times did not drop off too much as he continued to push hard to the end. The race had been scheduled for twenty-four laps but due to the first lap incident in corner five and the subsequent full course caution, the race was shortened to twenty-two laps because of the one-half hour time limit being reached.
After the race Dan and his team were very pleased with his performance with Dan passing more cars during the race than any other driver in the field. His fans were happy too, cheering him on wildly with each lap. A tenth place finish usually is not a result to get excited about, but from where he started and the conditions in which it was accomplished, it was a great race. Next up is the Molson Indy Vancouver in two weeks on July 26th. Maybe this will be the race where the monkey will finally be put to rest.