8 July 2007
Toronto 2007: Power-boat P1.
Will Power ultimately cruised to victory in the seventh round of the Champ Car World Series, but not before everyone had endured a rough crossing in the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto.
With the morning's Champ Car Atlantic race having been interrupted by a red flag due to the amount of water on track after a torrential downpour, things did not bode well for the main event of the weekend - or the forecast mid-30s temperatures - when leaden skies lay dormant over the Champ Car grid.
For the second round in a row, the field faced the likelihood of mixed conditions, so it was ironic that the greatest damage was done on the opening lap, when the track was largely dry and visibility the best it would be all race. It was also symptomatic of the event's fortune that its central character, local hero Paul Tracy, should be among those taken out of contention early on, the Toronto native the victim of some more bad luck.
While Forsythe team-mate Oriol Servia made the best getaway to vault past front row men Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson, Tracy remained embedded in the midfield - and was therefore ideally placed to collect an bodywork going astray as the field negotiated the tight confines of the temporary Exhibition Place circuit. True to form, at least one car ran into trouble, with Simon Pagenaud losing his nosewing after minor contact with Alex Tagliani. Tracy, however, was oblivious to the fact that the offending item had lodged itself under his own wing and, after understeering wildly in a couple of subsequent turns, were eventually powerless to prevent the ~3 car from ploughing into the wall at turn seven.
Unfortunately for those behind the Canadian, the corner is blind and, with the pack so tightly bunched, it was inevitable that the backmarkers would reach the incident before the yellow flags could be unfurled.Jan Heylen was among the first on the scene, the Belgian checking up hurriedly and catching Tristan Gommendy unawares. The Frenchman had nowhere to go but over the rear of Heylen's Conquest car - which has had to be rebuilt after each of its last two race outings - and went almost vertical before crashing back down to earth.
Gommendy's 'moment' saw the chasing Katherine Legge, Graham Rahal and Alex Figge all take avoiding action, with the British girl collecting the wall and then Tracy's car before her accident was compounded by a secondary impact from Figge. Rahal, meanwhile, spun without too much damage and was able to join Heylen in limping back to the pits. It was day done for the Belgian, but Rahal was able to continue after a cautionary check.
Aside from the eleven cars running ahead of the incident, one other escaped unscathed as Robert Doornbos only happened on the melee after being restarted by the safety crew on the grid. Had the Mont-Tremblant winner been running in position, he too would likely have been caught up in the wreck, which took fully seven laps to clear.
Pagenaud and Tagliani both pitted under the safety car but, while the Frenchman was able to wait for the pits to open before calling in for a new nose, his Canadian rival was forced to enter a closed pit in order to have his punctured rear replaced. The ensuing penalty dropped the RSports driver to tail of the field and really kick-started a frustrating afternoon for him.
The order approaching the restart had Servia heading Bourdais, Wilson, Bruno Junqueira, Power, Neel Jani, Dan Clarke, Pagenaud, Doornbos, Ryan Dalziel, Tagliani and Rahal, with a smattering of the alter runners having opted to top off their tanks in the realisation that further cautions would be likely.
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