July 12, 2005

That was the race weekend that was

This week's Google Maps feature is racetracks again, the last weekend being a major one for open-wheel racing.

On Sunday, the British Grand Prix ran at Silverstone Raceway, one of the great old race tracks. Built on the site of an old RAF airbase, it is still a functioning airfield and is, in fact, the busiest airport in Great Britain on race weekend!

Despite being a great, fast track, however, this year's GP was rather dull, apart from a good fight for the lead between F1 championship points leader Fernando Alonso and Juan Montoya, who won.

On the other hand, the 20th running of Molson Indy Toronto was a real race. The Molson Indy track is a temporary street course run on and near the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, featuring a long front straight along Lakeshore Drive. The dark V shape in the parking lot is the footprint of the former Exhibition Stadium, where the Toronto Blue Jays played before the SkyDome Rogers Centre was constructed. It was rumbled in 1999. The island with all the diamond-shaped thingies is Ontario Place, an entertainment attraction that includes a major concert venue, a water park, and the Cinesphere, the world's first permanent IMAX theatre.

Local boy Paul Tracy and last year's winner Sebastian Bourdais duked it out for the first half of the race, until a fight for position out of pit row resulted in contact between them: Bourdais clipped Tracy's front wing off, cutting a tire and losing several positions. Tracy continued, incredibly, to hold the lead for several more laps until a yellow flag at a strategically poor moment closed the pits and caused him to run out of fuel. (Whoops.)

[Mario Dominguez slams into A. J. Allmendinger at the 2005 Molson Indy Toronto]Molson Indy Toronto is known as a race of attrition, hard on cars - and worse; racer Jeff Krosnoff died in the 1996 race after his car was launched off the track into a fence. The first 50 laps of this year's race were uncharacteristically tame. In the second half of the race, though, the carbon fibre was flying as collision followed collision, culminating in a spectacular smash involving A. J. Allmendinger and Mario Dominguez that all but shredded both cars. In the end, Justin Wilson took the chequered flag, with Oriol Servia and Canadian Alex Tagliani joining him on the podium.