Sunday, December 31, 2006

Champ Car sends Devoted Fan Fuming

While this years Champ Car World Series saw improved racing along with several bouts of “wrasslin” there were also moments of despair. How to NOT influence loyal fans reared its ugly head inside the Portland paddock…

Portland; Friday, June 16th:
It sprinkles on the way to track… This year I’ve finally decided to “Go for It!” by purchasing a paddock pass to ensure early entrance into the infield. I’ve brought my Molson Indy poster along for the autograph session at the end of the day. (Having made a custom carrying tube for my poster & encasing in plastic to protect from the elements…)

Crossing the pedestrian bridge approx. halfway through the Atlantic’s practice session, I noticed a Champ Car driver appear in a blue driving suit to sign a kid’s program. Not knowing who it was, I later decided it,

Must have been Paul “krackman” Tracy since he had bright blonde hair…?
Meandering my way towards the very end of the pit lane exit, I noticed what appeared to be a huge silent blob approaching me… “What the Hell?” It turned out to be the Forsythe pit crew pushing one of the blue & white Indeck Lola’s to the grid…

Next I scooted out of the way as the Dale Coyne pit crew pirouetted the #19 on a jack to back it into its paddock stall. A third car passed by as the teams moved to grid their cars along pit lane…

When I’d first entered the paddock I noticed that the 27 Atlantic’s sounded like an angry pack ‘O bee’s buzzing the circuit. It was such a surreal moment when Portland International Raceway went absolutely silent during the brief break between warm-up sessions. The silence was only broken by the sound of the air guns bbrrap- bbrrap- bbrrap as they bolted on fresh rubber just prior to going green…

With military precision the engines came to life exactly as the Champ Car practice session began, the car on the very end of pit lane nearest the exit selected first gear, squealed his tire’s and rocketed onto track… Six more cars joined the fracas as they made deliberate downshifts into the chicane during their exploratory laps on the still slightly damp circuit…

As the circulating cars are now at full song along the front straight. I watch and listen to the various pitches of these cruise missiles stumbling down pit lane on their restrictive pit lane speed limiters. “Wog-Wog-Wog-Wog-Wog” as it takes what seems an eternity before lurching to full throttle after crossing the exit stripe…

Others nearer pit lane exit simply mash the “go-pedal” on the floor, screaming “RRRRRRRRRRRbbbbbrrrrrrrrr” at maximum RPM’s utilizing the speed limiter as a form of traction control to quickly heat the cold “Flinstones.” (Bridgestone Potenza tires) It’s amazing to hear these beasts upshift 3 gears before entering the Festival curves which are only a few hundred yards away!

During a lull in the on-track action I walked along the pit lane checking for better vantage points. Hey that dude looked just like Robin Miller climbing over the pit lane barrier…

After all the cars had made preliminary runs they circulated back into the pits and began bolting on new tires…

While attempting to quickly rejoin the action the lead car stalls at the pit lane exit! The track goes silent as this causes a red flag period. In the silence the mechanic’s begrudgingly go out and push the stricken car back to its pit box. Then as the session goes green, the embarrassed driver uses maximum engine revolutions ensuring a massive burn out to launch him onto the track…

“I love the smell of Methanol in the Morning!” Actually it was the fragrances of burnt rubber during several heat cycles being applied to the tortured “Flinstones…” along with some funky smelling petrol that wafted past me from the end of pit lane…

Following practice I walked around the entire paddock again, listening to various people muse about the “Salad days ‘O CART.” I did have to agree that the paddock was definitely more crowded during the 1990’s era of factory engine wars. (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota)

Walking towards the pedestrian bridge I heard the sound of a snarling auto approaching. I followed the car, watching its driver reverse into his parking stall. It turned out to be a silver Factory Five Type 65 Daytona coupe replica. I was amazed to notice how small this chassis seemed to me, since the real Daytona coupes I’d seen at Sonoma 11yr’s earlier had seemed much larger…

Following my unfruitful efforts of trying to view the various Champ Cars being worked on underneath their team awnings (which car is that?) I went over to my grandstand seat to watch Atlantic qualifying. A brief rain squall passed through basically wiping out any chance of the Atlantic drivers posting any fast laps.

Then I watched champ car qualifying from the far southwest end of the track, just past the motor home parking after the Festival curves. The session was briefly red flagged when Oriel Servia crashed into the barrier exiting the back straight. Servia would destroy 2 cars in the same spot during Friday & Saturday qualifying…

During the days proceedings I found it intriguing to notice the differences of engine tones between the various race classes. The Formula Ford’s sounded like aggravating mosquitoes, the Atlantic’s like bee’s and then the siren song of REAL racing engines as the turbocharged V-8 champ cars go blazing by!

Just prior to the end of qualifying I went back across the pedestrian bridge to the infield to stand in line for the upcoming champ car driver’s autograph session. Arriving at 3:05PM a long line was already forming. Standing with my white cane the people in line were very friendly, telling me which line was each foursome of drivers. Stating I’d never done this before and was hoping to get all the driver’s to sign my poster, the couple in front of me explained how to accomplish this, telling me how to work from longest line to shortest…

I had a great time “kibitzing” with the other fans in line. We chatted ‘bout F1, the Michelin tire debacle, CHUMP CARZS, etc. When Marco Andretti’s name came up-a diehard CART fan retorted: “Sounds like you need an intervention!” (Interesting to know there's still a loyal champ car base, eh?)
“That race is OK,” (Indy 500) grumbled the man who’d wanted to give us an intervention. I’m sure I didn’t score any points by saying that I just want the two series to merge since they both have a PATHETIC lack of entrants…

Then we “jeered” the drivers as they arrived on their scooter’s… I made a wisecrack ‘bout “Sand Dune” Tracy using the “chrome horn” to get to the front of the line…

It pains me to admit that “Sugar Ray” Tracy was by far the most popular driver of the fans as we stood in the longest line waiting for him…

Katherine Legge is definitely doing a good “Danica,” since the women want to meet her. At least that was all the woman in front of me could talk about…

The first group (Tracy, Legge, Justin Wilson & Graham Rahal) all signed my poster and I quickly walked to the end of the next line. (Sebastian Bourdais, Bruno Junqueira, Alex Tagliani & Nelson Philippe) While the couple I’d been standing in line chatted-up the drivers I stood there waiting to move forward to the table, since they were blocking my way…

Whoever the driver was? (Unfortunately all the drivers were wearing identical green champ car polo’s with the STUPID Champ Car logo…) He just stared at me. I asked him to please sign my poster, (twice!) but he just kept staring at me as the couple in front of me continued “kibitzing” with the other drivers…

Then he stood up, holding a card in his hand without ever saying anything… Still trying to move forward to have my poster signed a lady came over and told me to keep moving, you’re holding the line up! SHEISA! (Should have whacked her with my WHITE CANE!!!)

Dumbfounded I simply took the card the nameless driver was brandishing in front of me. (Since I was UNABLE to recognize their faces…) This in turn led to the other three drivers doing the same thing. (BUTT I DID NOT WANT THE F##KING “MicDoogle’s” CARD!)

(Since the WHOLE purpose of going to the Autograph session was to have ALL of the drivers SIGN my Molson Indy Vancouver, BC poster! Which several of this year’s drivers NEVER competed in…)

I blew through the third & fourth lines, which were much friendlier! The entire driver’s signed my poster and two of the driver’s in the shortest line actually spoke to me! Amazingly I managed to get all 16 drivers autographs in just less than 1 hour…

I spent the rest of the weekend cursing Bourdais for being an ASSHOLE! Since I’d originally thought he was the culprit who wouldn’t sign my poster, I was thrilled when he didn’t win his 5th consecutive race… (He did whine during the podium interview)

Upon returning home I wrote a letter to champ car describing this experience, since they haven’t replied to my previous emails… Unfortunately Champ Cars has also been too LAME to answer my letter…

As I think back the jerk who wouldn’t sign my poster wasn’t wearing glasses and was either Bruno or TAG? I suspect it was most likely Alex Tagliani… (GOOD RIDDENCE if the rumours are true ‘bout TAG going to the CRAP-Man trucks next year!) And if it was “Junky” (Bruno Junqueira) then GOOD RIDDENCE to him also… As I will hope that Graham Rahal is soon announced as his REPLACEMENT!!! (And let “Sea Bass” go off to Formula 1 and get his ASS KICKED in a Scuderia Toro Rosso…)

Regardless of whom it was I think they should have had a little more savvy, eh?

UPDATE
The following year, Champ Cars Swan song, and unfortunately the final ‘BigCarz event at Portland; Can you hear me now Mr. Bernard? I went back again with my trusty Molson Indy poster that Mary Ellen had secured for me upon ‘Juan of our visits to
Exhibition Place
; think she secured it for Mwah when retrieving our tickets from Will Call? But I digress...

This time I wasn’t to be denied, turned away, scolded, ridiculed or whatever... As I’m On a Mission, a mission from; Oh Never Mind! As I was totally determined to acquire le ‘Hamburgular’s “John Hancock” upon my poster; along with the other missing culprits, albeit I’d be most happy to not get ‘WINEY BAGS! (Bruno Junqueira) As fate would have it, ‘TAG happened to be part of Sebastian Bourdais’s quartet ‘O ChumpCarz drivers - who actually signed IT this time, whilst I can still recall (‘TAG) Alex Tagliani excitedly pointing at ‘Juan of the previous year’s signatures... Although I couldn’t make out whose he was gushing over? Perhaps ‘PT? or ‘Shorty’s?

And having blown thru this line so quickly I moved over to the quintet ‘O Red Bull Boyz, as ‘Bad Bobby D, aka Robert Doornbos had made a B-I-G impression upon me, whilst I recall there also being Neil Jani and Robin Miller’s favourite comedian “Christian Comedy,” nee Tristan Gommendy, with the latter two being PKV Boyz... Thus Mission Accomplished, as  I now sported 25 autographs which only cost me $30 in Paddock fees and two-years to accomplish; CRIKEYS!

And later on I asked ‘Juan of my Up North Eh! Blogger Brethren, known as ‘CAM-WOW! As it appears that Matt Chamois of The Other Side has given up blogging? Who he thought the culprit to this indignity could be? To which he wrote a very gratifying response that it could NOT have been Alex Tagliani, as ‘TAG is too much the Gentleman... Not to mention I seem to recall the offending driver’s ‘Schnoz (nose) to be quite crooked. (NO! NOT Tony Kanaan’s; Hya! As ‘TK’s too SAAVY to do this to an adoring fan...)

 And thus, although I’ll never know who it was, I’m 86% certain that it was Bruno Junqueira who accidently snubbed me that day at PIR...  

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