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Drivers Excited by Edmonton Track

The Finning International Speedway track that plays host to the inaugural Edmonton Champ Car race this weekend has drawn positive reviews from the drivers - albeit with reservations

Most were positively effusive in their praise for the layout of the 1.973-mile circuit, which incorporates the runways and taxiways of the city centre airport.

There is a greater variety of corner types than is common in either airfield courses or temporary street circuits, and many of the 14 corners are impressively quick. The final chicane, a right-left blink of the eye taken at 135mph in fifth gear with a bump on the turn-in, is worthy of Monaco's Swimming Pool complex.

"It's really fast," said Paul Tracy when asked for his impressions of the track. "It's all about momentum and high speed. I mean, it's way different to any other place I've ever had to learn.

"A lot of the tracks that we go to are temporary street courses that are really slow. This track kind of feels like Cleveland because the corners are so fast, but if you make a small mistake you've got a wall there at the edge like on a street course. The consequences are high.

"To get a quick lap time you have to be so committed here and commit so much on the entry and through the middle of the corner. You're going 120-130mph in some of these corners so you have to have a lot of faith in your car."

However, while the drivers all found the track challenging and rewarding, they were less enamoured of the safety provisions, especially the questionable positioning of walls and tyre barriers at certain key points where the cars are travelling at high speed. Moreover, at the dauntingly quick final chicane the barrier on the outside is fronted by a single-layer tyre barrier.

Oriol Servia spoke for many of his colleagues when he said, "This is one of the most fun tracks I have ever raced on, and also probably the most dangerous."

The hazardous pit lane exit, which feeds cars back onto the track at an awkward angle and with an extremely limited view of oncoming traffic, is another cause for concern and contributed to a nasty practice crash involving Mario Dominguez and Andrew Ranger.

"The pit lane exit is kind of like Cleveland except that here, the way you come out onto the track, you can't really see another car coming," noted Tracy. "At Cleveland, you can look across and see all the way down the straightaway, so you can see if somebody is coming. Here, they're kind of behind you so it's almost impossible to see them."

"The pit exit is tricky," added Cristiano da Matta. "First there's a wall that blocks your view as you exit the pits, then as you join the track the cars are coming from behind you.

"You can see them if you pay very, very close attention, but it's difficult because of you're wearing the HANS device [which restricts head movement] and the high sides of the cockpit. It's easy to make a mistake."

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