Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Edmonton's race - Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson, winner of last years (2005) Toronto Grand Prix has won the 2006 Edmonton Grand Prix race and has moved into second place in the CHAMP standings. Sebastien remains at number one in the point standings and finished in second behind Justin at Edmonton. A.J. Allmendinger who finished at three is also now in third spot in the points standings.

Paul Tracy who's qualifying time had him in the first row along with Sebastien for the start of the race failed to hold his position and finished outside of the top three spots at number 5.

It would appear that the top points holders seem to have a lock on the CHAMP car series races and the apparent lack of competition may keep the excitement down and the crowds away. Attendance figures for 2006 are not being released - which can only be seen as a negative. For race fans they need to increase the events held during the weekend race - bring CASCAR back and continue with items like drifting. Fill out the Thunder Alley with more promotion and more presence. I loved the fight network attractions so I hope they are back next year.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

test of flickr pictures - wind farm Bruce Peninsula

clean power outside a nuke
A small wind farm outside of Bruce Power on the Bruce Peninsula - Lake Huron side.

Summer in Ontario

The extreme heat of July and August in Southern Ontario has been tempered by cool nights and plenty of rain in recent weeks. With the temperatures cooling at night I have not even put up the inflatable pool. It does make it easier to sleep at night since we have no air conditioning.

During the weekends we love to get away on day trips to explore some of Ontario's beautiful sights and last weekend we visited our friends who live in Montreal. The have a family cottage on Pikes Bay in the Bruce Peninsula. We stopped in Wiarton on the way up and hugged Wiarton Willies statue (white groundhog who predicts spring) down at the beach, then hung at the cottage and swam in the bay on the first day. The next day we head over to Bruce National Park - Cyprus Lake to play in the cold green waters of Georgian Bay and hike down the cliffs of the grotto. Later we stop at the flat rocks on a point just north of Pikes Bay on Lake Huron. The wind rolls in and the waves pound against the massive boulders and ledges of the flat rock and of course my kids are out swimming in the waters. I can only take so much and I get the girl (she is younger than the boy) out and a few minutes later I make the boy come out. He is swept under by the currents, almost crushed against a boulder, climbs on the boulder and gets swept off it, then manages to get onto land with a bruised wrist and he wonders why he had to get out.

This week we intend to go to Lake Erie and explore the area near the wind farm along the shores of Lake Erie near Tillsonburg. Ann was up there recently on a girls night out camping trip and really liked the area and loved the landscape full of wind turbines. I had also just been up to the Bruce Power site where a small windfarm is located outside the power plant property.

Friday, July 14, 2006

2006 Toronto Grand Prix - the end

Bummer, dude. We shall see what happens at next year's race!

Some final Grand Prix thoughts

I have heard that the attendance was down from previous years and it could have been the FIFA soccer championship which drew people away. Or it could have been the reduced advertising and excitement that didn't attract people to the event. My brother definitely noticed a difference between the Molson run event and the CHAMP run event.

He is not to sore about the lack of track access but why go if you can't take pictures of the race? The lack of additional track events - like CASCAR, makes off track stuff even more important. However they did not have a lot of great exhibits along Thunder Alley - except for the fight network sponsored area.

At least one of the long standing attendees to the race has voiced his displeasure and first time complaints to me and questions whether he will attend the race next year (with his son).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A. J. Allmendinger wins 21st Toronto Grand Prix

A. J. Allmendinger, beat out of the pole position by Justin Wilson in Saturday's qualifying session, has captured the victory flag at Toronto's 21st Grand Prix race on Sunday July 9, 2006. This victory continues A. J.'s victory streak to three (Portland, Cleveland and now Toronto).

Canada's Paul Tracy built on his excellent showing in the qualifying laps and finished in second place. Paul will advance his Champ car point standings with the 27 points awarded to the second place finish and move upward from his current 11th place position.

Champ car points leader Sebastien Bourdais completed the race in third position with Justin Wilson coming in just after Sebastien.

Start of the race - Sunday

The 7th race of the Champ 2006 season - the Toronto Grand Prix, begins at 12:30 PM today (Sunday July 9, 2006).

Saturday's events

Joe and I are back at the media centre at 9:10 AM to pickup the latest information, some Tim Horton's donuts and some water and we head over to get ready for the drivers coming into the pit area for the first practice round.

We get some great personal shots of the drivers and are position near the johnny on the spot quickly becomes a gathering point of the drivers who need the facilities before they strap themselves into their cars.

At lunch we fuel up with prepackaged sandwiches at the media centre (Champ goes all out), watch some "drifter" racing and then we head to the National Trade Centre building for the GPT Auto Expo. Billed as the "largest Automotive Lifestyle event ever held in North America" the building is full of Champ support vehicles and trailers and the "tuners." Tuners take some average cars (although there are a few BMWs and the like) and create an impressive looking vehicle with features like gull wing doors, LCD televisions, stereo systems that take up have the car - they look both fast and furious.

Back in Thunder Alley we catch the Bikini Wrestling match and use our press passes to get through the crowds and photograph ringside. The fight models are also out in full force so cameras at the ready - fire.

We return to the pits for the afternoon's Champ qualifying session. After the session I download my 512 MB flash card onto a Nikon downloader so that I can format the card and shoot again if required and lose my 1 Gig card (not downloaded) which I don't notice until we return to the media centre. In a panic I search all my personal stuff and can't find it. I go back to where I downloaded and the card was not there! I grab my brother and I begin the search thinking that I would have to go to Thunder Alley but knowing that the card and all it's contents would be gone.

I ask a security guard who had been sitting near where I had been sitting during the download process and he told me someone had found it and brought it to the medical trailers. A quick visit and I was reunited with my memory card - what a great feeling.

Thinking of the lost pictures and replacement costs of the memory cards is enough to put you into a heavy sweat. To reduce the possibilities of losing your precious cards you may consider going with the largest cards you can buy instead of using a bunch of the earlier smaller memory cards you may have lying around. The downloader is another great invention. Back up the cards to the downloader and don't format the card unless you need it for shooting more pictures. Also use a special pocket or holder only for your cards. You can always do a quick check and now if your cards are safe.

I calmly leave the race grounds and await the afternoon's shuttle to the media hotel. I was going to take a picture of the traffic people near the shuttle area - there was one guy who was horrible. He was mean and abusive to people and in one case he almost jumped though the window to pound one driver that wasn't respectful enough to him. This guy should definitely not been given the job - thank god they didn't pass out weapons to them!

All in all the race day was adventure packed and the weather remained perfect. The cooling Lake Ontario breeze kept temperatures very reasonable and attendance is pretty high at all the events.

Pole position after Saturday qualification session

England's Justin Wilson, winner of last years Toronto Grand Prix, captured pole position with a lap speed of 58.182 seconds. This puts him and A. J. Allmendinger in the front row with Sebastian Bourdais and Paul Tracy behind them in the second row.

Three of the four (not including Paul) are currently at the top standings within the Champ car points standings so it is good to see Paul put up a great fight to try to win this Canadian race.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fridays events

After the Champ practice round we head through "Thunder Alley" which is along the straight away opposite Lakeshore Boulevard. The cars scream at top speed in this section and provides the nickname for the area.

Booths are setup for amusement, sales and autographs and it is a little early on this first race day so the crowds are small.

The heat of the day is tempered by the breeze from Lake Ontario - but we are still very thirsty and retire to the media centre to top up on drinks and await lunch (packaged sandwiches). Joe meets several of his fellow professional shooters and we have a great time out of the sun.

The afternoon qualifying race is won by A. J. Allmendinger - who has the tentative pole position (which will be decided after tomorrows qualifying session. A. J. has his sights set on that third win in a row.

Off the track we look for some photogenic events and watch some trick motorcycle racing, some "rumble at the race" demonstrations and fights (Muay Thai Match). Luckily we also see plenty of girls, girls, girls - including the fight ladies, the party poker models and of course the Miss Grand Prix girls. Brandi Latimer is the winninng face of Grand Prix. Our media pass proved very fruitfull in obtaining right there coverage of the ladies. Jamie from PRN magazine along with Atto insurance helped gather the Miss Grand Prix contestants in front of the CASCAR vehicle.

After a long day we return to the media room to rest and take the media shuttle bus back to the race hotel. Then we begin the long journey to Brampton through rush hour traffic. A good first day.

First day - Friday July 7, 2006

Early Friday we are back at the race hotel in downtown Toronto to take the media shuttle to the exhibition grounds - site of the race and at 8:35 AM we pass through the entrance and are immediately hit up to get a free shirt and hat if only we would sign up for a new credit card. Somehow we get by and head to the automotive building where the media centre holds court

We pick up some media guides, some free liquid refreshments and proceed to the pits. A Champ car Atlantic Championship practice is underway. We walk the pits taking pictures of the Champ setup and some of the Atlantic racers.

At about 9:45 AM the Champ drivers start to show up for their scheduled 1 hour practice run at 10:15 AM. They walk, are driven, or drive bikes and scooters into the pits. The drivers that walk are busy signing autographs and getting their photos taken. Riding into the pit frees them from having to sign anything. For some famous drivers it is quite a production, for some of the less well know drivers it is like a stroll in the park - a very nondescript entrance devoid of drama.

The tight pits are bursting with equipment, hoses, tires, crews and mini command posts. The drivers pull up their coveralls and place their colourfull helments and hans (head and neck safety) on and squeeze into the cockpits. The tight fit requires the steering wheel to be removed for the drivers access.

Media Pass

Thursday July 6 - Joe and I head into Toronto to pick up the Toronto Grand Prix media and pit pass at the race hotel. It took an hour to get into Toronto and only 20 minutes to get the pass. The conference room is full of activity as workers and marshalls all pass through this area.

We present photo ID to get the pass and cycle through the photos and lamination of the pass and we are set to go. However we do not receive the coveted trackside access lock and our photo opportunities are severely restricted (still the passes are cool and do show us as media). Joe is upset because he covers so many races, concentrating on CASCAR, and has many published photos - including a two page spread in Inside Track for last years Molson Grand Prix.

Joe argues with the pass people and we head to the exhibition to discuss the issue with the race representatives - no go.

We decide we will go Friday and Saturday but not attend the actual race day (Sunday July 9, 2006).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Who will win

In a packed field with an average of 18 cars competing to win each grand prix race - just who will win?

The top points leaders Sebastian Bourdais (166 pts), Justin Wilson (140 pts) and A. J. Allmendinger (135 pts) will certainly look to carry on their winning ways. Sebastian has won 4 of the last 6 races although he will have to forget about having been run over by Paul Tracy in the last race in Cleveland (which proves that anything can happen). A. J. has won the last two races and will see if he can hit the trifecta. Justin claimed victory in last years Toronto Grand Prix race and this fact should motivate him to once again claim Toronto's checkered flag.

Also contending are Bruno Junqueira who's finishes have been improving since the Time Warner race in Wisconsin and Oriol Servia who, while inconsistent, is certainly capable.

The racing positions will be set by the two CHAMP qualifying laps on the Friday and Saturday leading up to Sundays race scheduled for 12:30 PM. The leader of each qualifying session will lead the track in the first row. Don't forget that the top qualifiers have better odds for winning the race.

Local Torontonians and tourists will also win as they enjoy the main event and all the other fantastic entertainment scheduled for the Grand Prix weekend. Autographs and GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS will be a highlight for many fans. I also look forward to the drift mania event.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Less than a week to go

I took a tour of the exhibition grounds to see the course and the race preparations that have already been completed. Much of the barriers, fencing, pits and tire barriers have been put in place and they are finishing work on the grandstand seating. The start line is ready to go.

The race starts in front of the National Trade Centre Building and will head east towards the Princes' Gates where they will continue clockwise onto Lakeshore Boulevard.

Happy Canada Day

We had a great celebration of Canada's birthday in Acton, Ontario, Canada - including some great fireworks, on Saturday July 1, 2006.

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square