Edmonton a Resounding Success

Champ Car's first visit to Edmonton, Alberta, was universally hailed a resounding success thanks to a capacity crowd, a fast and challenging track and a thrilling race

The meeting set a new attendance record for a Champ Car race in Canada, surpassing even the ever-popular Molson Indy events in Toronto, Vancouver (now in abeyance due to construction work for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games) and Montreal.

The announced crowd for the three days was 200,052 - 55,722 on Friday, some 66,250 in inhospitable weather on Saturday, and a full house of 78,080 for Sunday's race. The previous high-water mark for a Canadian event was the inaugural Molson Indy Montreal in 2002, which drew 172,000 spectators over the three days.

All the drivers offered glowing praise for the job done by the organisers and the infectious enthusiasm of the Canadian fans.

"People were saying over the winter that this wasn't the place to have a race, that it should have been another venue or in Vancouver," commented third-place finisher Paul Tracy.

"Well, this is the best attended [Champ Car] race that I think Canada has ever had. It's an unbelievable event. The promoter Greg [MacDonald] has done a great job - the guy's a hard worker and he's done a great job up here. I have to applaud the whole city of Edmonton for everything they've done for our sport, for Champ Car."

"For a first-time event I've never seen anything like it," added fellow veteran Jimmy Vasser. "This is one of the most impressive events I have ever seen in my racing career. The promoters here in Edmonton did a fantastic job. The fans packed the stands and the fence line every day and they were so enthusiastic. It was just a great event for the fans in Edmonton and for Champ Car."

The drivers were no less in awe of the race track itself, a 1.973-mile temporary affair laid out on the grounds of a municipal airport. Oriol Servia described it as "I think the most challenging place I've ever been", while Newman/Haas teammate Sebastien Bourdais attested to the physical toll exacted by the combination of bumps and high-speed, inter-linked corners.

"The real thing, I think what people don't see, [is that] it's really bumpy," said the Frenchman. "I mean, when you look at the damper velocity, it's the highest velocity we've ever seen. It's not extremely big bumps, but it's just [a sequence of] small undulations and it just kills you.

"I mean, it grabs the steering wheel out of your hands. As you know, we don't have power steering or anything like that. It just makes your life terribly difficult at the end of the race."

Champ Car's contract with Edmonton extends until 2009, and the series' vice-president of promoter relations Joe Chrnelich held up the event as a template not only for prospective venues but also for many of the existing city events on the calendar.

"This event was electric, which is the highest praise I can find," said Chrnelich. "There was a tremendous outpouring of support and it shows that there is a demand for Champ Car's product. Edmonton showed cities that have our races or want our races just how strong they can be."

Champ Car principal Kevin Kalkhoven saw the event as a more general vindication of his much-trumpeted concept of 'taking racing to the people'.

"Our plan of downtown motor racing festivals works," said the Australian. "These folks have done a remarkable job and [the next event in] San Jose has sold out all its grandstands.

"If you really want to promote a race, Toronto and Edmonton are pretty good examples. It works, simple as that. People want to come to downtown events."

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