Race No. 11
1996 Pole Winner: Andre Ribeiro
1996 Race Winner: Adrian Fernandez
1996 SpeedCenter Report
Toronto Weather Forecast
Battle in Full Swing Going to Canadian Streets
Top Five Drivers Within 16 Point Difference
©1997 SpeedCenter Internet Publishing, Inc.
In 1986, Emerson Fittipaldi captured the pole at the inaugural MolsonIndy Toronto, eventually to be beaten by Bobby Rahal.
Ten years later, in 1996, Andre Ribeiro clinched the pole, and AdrianFernandez scored his first win at the track, but the celebration wasovershadowed by the tragic loss of driver Jeff Krosnoff in a freakaccident after touching wheels with Stephan Johanson. Track worker GaryAvrin was also lost in the accident as Krosnoff's car was launched overthe three-foot barrier that separated the corner workers from thecompetitors.
This year, fundamental changes have been made. A fence now stands eightfeet tall around the area where flagmen and corner-workers will be. Thechances for a repeat of last years incident are next to impossible. [See"Tragic Deaths Spark Changes"]
The drivers now return to a temporary street course the likes of whichthey haven't seen since Long Beach and Surfer's Paradise, with concretebarriers taking the place of wide open run-off areas and more forgivingpoints of reference. Parker Johnstone had this to say of racing at thetrack:
"Toronto always poses a challenge, because we're returning to a veryclosed-in street course after running out in the great wide open ofPortland and Cleveland. It requires a very quick shift in perspective,which can sometimes be a bit of an adjustment. At Toronto, you reallyfeel as if you're racing within the confines of concrete - along thestraights, through the turns, everywhere. Because of that, it is verydifficult to pass on the Toronto circuit which makes qualifying position extremely important."
Barry Green's attitude about the race is from a little differentperspective. "Toronto is an unusual street circuit, he said, "It putsthe drivers to the test, but a few drivers seem to have all the answersyear in and year out. I think Bobby Rahal, for one, has discovered ashortcut around that place that he hasn't shared with the rest of us."
Fellow Canadians Paul Tracy and Greg Moore come to the race positionedfirst and second in the PPG Cup chase with 106 and 95 pointsrespectively. The atmosphere in the City of Toronto is ripe withexpectations as the two continue what has been a brilliant showing ofdriving skill and machinery to date. First, Tracy experienced a threewin streak at Rio, Gateway, and Milwaukee (all short ovals,) but hasn'tfared as well on the road-course portion of the season. Moore, on theother hand has excelled with back-to-back wins at Detroit and Portland,and was moving to overtake for third place in last weeks' BurkeLakefront Grand Prix of Cleveland until his Mercedes-Benz powerplantexpired due to a faulty oil pick-up.
Third place in the points is Gil de Ferran with 94 points. De Ferran hasedged his way into third with podium finishes in St. Louis (third,)Detroit (third,) Portland (second,) and Cleveland (second.) The Portlandrace is where history was made with the closest finish in Indy-carhistory when Mark Blundell took advantage of faster slicks while deFerran had tried to weather out his lead on rain tires.
Fourth place Michael Andretti comes to Toronto with 91 points, but alsocomes with a great deal of confidence. Last Sunday's Cleveland raceissued Andretti his second DNF of the season when he retired early dueto electrical problems, but Michael has won half of the ten races everrun at the Molson Indy Toronto track. Andretti's wins came in '89, '91,'92, '94, and '95.
Fifth in the chase for the PPG Cup is Alex Zanardi with 90 points.Zanardi drove a commanding race overcoming two penalties that relegatedhim to 22nd position. Alex claimed to have just put his head down andconcentrated on driving as hard as he could in the comeback win onSunday.
Though these five drivers make up the most likely candidates for the PPGCup Championship, they are not the absolute victors in the chase. ScottPruett with 71 points, Jimmy Vasser with 69, Raul Boesel with 61,Mauricio Gugelmin with 56, Al Unser Jr. with 49, and Bryan Herta with 45all still have a shot with a winning streak the likes of what we've seenof Tracy this year.
Barry Green best summed up the experience of racing in Toronto. "Allweek long, the race is in the air throughout the city of Toronto. Theatmosphere is so exciting, so happening, that it becomes part of theevent itself. The fans are real race fans, too, and they make us allfeel very welcome."
Gentlemen...the stretch is on!!