Dario Franchitti loves everything about the Toronto race weekend - the challenging temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable spectators, the city celebrating summer. Oh, yeah, and his results.
"The fun part for me was when I showed up with the Hogan team, a single-car team when I was a rookie [in 1997] and we managed to qualify on pole, which immediately endeared the place to me," the Scot, who drives the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car this season, said, "It's a really challenging track that had concrete patches at the apexes of every corner that made it quite bumpy and a lot different types of corners."
The pole start was a bit surprising, considering what Franchitti considered a 'fairly stout field'.
"We had been quick in some of the races leading up to that, and we started to qualify close to the front on the road courses, but we were up against guys like [Alex] Zanardi, [Jimmy] Vasser, [Mark] Blundell, [Mauricio] Gugelmin, Max Papis, Greg Moore, Paul Tracy, Al [Unser] Jr, [Patrick] Carpentier and Bobby Rahal - who actually took me out in the first corner, which I still haven't forgiven him for.
"It was a surprise - a little single-car team with a rookie driver. That was one of the main reasons that convinced Barry Green to sign me for the following year with Team Kool Green, so it was great to go through that with Carl [Hogan] and the whole team. The car was fabulous that weekend, so it's a shame we didn't get to go past the first corner."
Rahal, diving to the inside of turn one, made left-front contact with Franchitti's right-rear tyre. All but Christian Fittipaldi, who stalled when he was forced to come to a complete stop to prevent further contact, avoided the incident. Franchitti and Fittipaldi were both able to re-start and resume the race, although far back in the pack.
Blundell, driving for PacWest, won the race by 0.659secs over Zanardi's Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, with Andre Ribeiro (Tasman Motorsports) completing the podium. Two years later, Franchitti qualified on the outside of the front row for Team Kool Green, and led all 95 laps to beat team-mate Tracy to the chequers.