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Annual Championship Auto Racing Team Circuit Under Way in Vancouver - 2002-07-26

The Championship Auto Racing Team or CART circuit is in Vancouver for its annual event. The CART drivers look forward to the race for the aesthetic beauty, fan support, and challenging race course.

The Vancouver race is the only stop in Western Canada for the CART drivers. After practice sessions and then qualifying on a temporary circuit that's just under three kilometers, the race will be held Sunday. It's the tenth of 19 races this season.

Going into the event, series leader Christiano Da Matta has 120 points, 50 ahead of fellow-Brazilian Bruno Junqueira.

Da Matta said that he likes coming to Vancouver because the city reminds him of being home. And from a strategic point-of-view, Da Matta likes the Vancouver road course, as opposed to oval tracks, because it demands better driving.

"Track is very technical. (It's a) Street course, (it's) narrow, (and) doesn't allow too many mistakes. You are very close to the wall most of the time. A couple of millimeters more is just enough to screw (ruin) your day. I like the fact that you have to be precise. You have to be there on the edge every time. It doesn't allow mistakes. It makes it more challenging. And I think the more challenging it is, the more fun and more interesting it is for the driver," Mr. Da Matta said.

After last year's event, Vancouver was temporarily replaced on the racing circuit by Denver. In the end, both cities got on the schedule, with this event moved from September first to this weekend.

Da Matta joins a long list of drivers who prominently endorse the race and supported attempts to keep this Canadian city on the schedule.

Paul Williams, one of the Vancouver race organizers, says the record attendance over the last 12 years goes a long way to making it a favorite among the drivers. "They're athletes, but they also like the fact they're performing. They're coming out to entertain the masses. If they're racing on an oval strip somewhere, in front of 20,000 people looking at 80 percent empty seats, that's not entertaining for them. But, the fact they can come out to Vancouver and race in front of our grandstands that are generally at full capacity on race weekend, that's entertaining for them," he said.

Last year over 65,000 spectators turned out on race day here, with a total of 165,000 coming out for the three-day event.

The leading American driver, Michael Andretti, might be leaving the CART series for the rival Indy Racing League.

Earlier this week the veteran racer, who is currently in eighth place with 52 points, bought out Team Green, which owns his racecar. In making the announcement, Andretti did not confirm if he would switch.