Polluting race cars and other nonsense

Super-efficient engines put lie to claim about machines, which put on great show at GPT

Norris McDonald
Toronto Star

Jul 14, 2007

Every June, when I drive past the CNE grounds on my way to work, I get myself all excited when I see them building the track for the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto.

And then, every July just after the race, I see them taking down that track and I feel a little blue because I know it's going to be an entire year before it happens again.

So return with me now to those thrilling days of last weekend. Here's some stuff you won't have seen or heard elsewhere.

There was a letter to the editor of the Star that talked about all the pollution being created by the racing cars at the Grand Prix. I get heartburn when I see nonsense like that. We should be so lucky as to have all the cars in all the world tuned and maintained as finely as thoroughbred racing cars.

I asked Eric Jensen, owner of a team in the Champ Car Formula Atlantic Series, for his reaction.

"The point of car racing is more of a green message. Sure, we're sports entertainment but the auto manufacturers use racing to develop technology that will allow them to build more efficient engines for street cars.

"More efficient engines burn less fuel and use up fewer natural resources.

"Your average street car probably has 50,000 miles (80,000 km) on it and is far less efficient than when it was new. In the Atlantic series, we use our engines for a maximum of 2,000 miles (3,200 km) and then we send them back to the manufacturer to be rebuilt."

The Champ Cars, of course, burn methanol fuel instead of gasoline. The benefits of methanol include lower emissions.

Last year's Grand Prix was not a good show. We won't go there, but it was lacking in a lot of areas.

This year, CEO Charlie Johnstone and his crew really pulled up their socks and the whole weekend was snap, crackle and pop. Even the food for sale along Thunder Alley was a big improvement. Pusateri's and the Pickle Barrel both had booths. And the giant Johnsonville barbecue pit was churning out charbroiled brats. It was not a good place for anyone on a a diet.

Who cares if the organizers gave away some tickets? With the sole exception of the Maple Leafs, find me a sport or a sports team in this city that doesn't either give away tickets or offer cut rate tickets through newspapers or grocery stores.

Everybody talks about attendance at the Grand Prix. The Jays and the Argos play at the Rogers Centre and the place is always half empty. You don't hear a lot about that. The Marlies play at the Ricoh Centre and it's three-quarters empty. The soccer stadium is usually pretty full but it only holds 20,000 and they did that on purpose. Buy a round of golf at Wooden Sticks and you get a free ticket to the Canadian Open.

Let's just say this about the GP: there were a lot of people there last Sunday – more than at any other sports event in this city in any given year. That's cause for celebration.

The guy who performed the U.S. and Canadian national anthems did a fabulous job, considering that an F-18 screamed overhead at about 500 feet just as he started "O Canada."

But Scott Newlands, a private in the Queen's Own Rifles, Reserves, didn't miss a beat. If the CFL is looking for an anthem singer for the Grey Cup game, Newlands (and the Canadian Forces Pipe Band that accompanied him) would be a great bet.

Talking of that one F-18, what happened to the two others that were promised? They even announced the names of the three pilots who would be flying them but only one showed up.

Did they take a wrong turn? Get stuck in a lineup at a Tim Hortons drive-through?

(Pilot 1: We're due at the Ex. Pilot 2: Damn, I asked for sugar and got sweetener. I'm going back.)

Anyway, enquiring minds want to know.

Toronto's Robert Wickens had third place in the Atlantics race sewn up but finished seventh after spinning out by trying to make a pass for second on the last lap. He's kicking himself over this.

I say good for him for going for it. He's got a year, two at most, to prove to his sponsor, Red Bull, that he has the Right Stuff to go to Champ Car or F1. To reach the top, you have to win. And winners have to take chances.

You can bet he won't spin the next time.

This says a lot about the state of Champ Car these days. Three marshals arrived at the circuit last Friday to be flaggers. They wound up working on Catherine Legge's pit crew because Dale Coyne Racing doesn't have enough people.