Power stays clean to win rainy, crash-filled Toronto race

TORONTO -- Will Power lived up to his distinctive name Sunday afternoon at the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto.

And because the 26-year-old Australian was propelled by determination, he won for the second time on the Champ Car World Series circuit this season in a rain-soaked event that claimed nine of the 17 drivers in crashes.

"It was a very interesting race, a lot of mayhem," said Power, who started in the seventh spot and took the lead on the 57th lap of the 73-lap race when he passed Ryan Dalziel. "When it was wet, I just drove like hell. Once I got to the front, on every restart I just tried to pull a bigger gap and drive mistake-free."

While Power celebrated his first win since taking the checkered flag in Las Vegas on April 8 -- Neel Jani was second, 2.972 seconds back, and Justin Wilson, who won here on the Exhibition grounds in 2005, was third with a lag time of 3.480 seconds -- other drivers wandered off pit row, muttering to themselves about an ugly day at work.

Paul Tracy, a native of nearby Scarborough, was looking for his third win at home in 15 races. But Tracy, along with Tristan Gommendy, Katherine Legge and Alex Figge, did not complete one lap.

And although an incident near the end of the race could have added plenty of fuel to the feud between Sebastien Bourdais and Robert Doornbos, which went into high gear last week in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, when Bourdais openly accused Doornbos of blocking, both drivers took the high road.

In Turn 3 on Lap 67, Doornbos slid into the back of Bourdais' car, forcing Bourdais, who started from the pole, out of the race. Doornbos was able to pit and get a new front wing, and wound up finishing sixth, which enabled him to scoot past Bourdais in the drivers' standings.

"All I know is I got hit in the back, but I could see it in his eyes that he was sorry," Bourdais said. "He made a mistake, and that is all. It happens to everybody.

"It has nothing to do with what happened last week. Then, he was making moves that every driver criticized down in the paddock. Blocking is a different concern; this was a racing mistake. But it was tough to lose points."

Bourdais was favoring his right wrist as he walked away from his car but said it was not a problem.

After seven races, Doornbos leads the standings with 164 points, followed by Power with 162 and Bourdais with 161. Bourdais had held a two-point lead over Doornbos before the race.

Last week, Bourdais refused to shake Doornbos' hand. As further proof to all that there were no hard feelings between the drivers this week, Doornbos -- who minutes earlier had told reporters that Bourdais "had the better car and the better driver" -- broke through a scrum of media and put his hand on Bourdais' shoulder.

"I saw it in your eyes [that it was an accident]," Bourdais said to Doornbos.

Answered Doornbos: "I promise, man … . You were the faster one out there."

Sure, I am disappointed, and for us as a team. A lot of Toronto came out to see us, and I go out on the first lap. … It is frustrating.

Paul Tracy

The race won't make it onto any highlight reels at the end-of-season party for the Forsythe Championship Racing team.

Tracy's teammate, Oriol Servia, started third but popped past Bourdais and Wilson on Turn 1 of Lap 1. Servia then held the lead for 34 laps -- the longest lead of the afternoon -- but spun out on Lap 57 and could not continue.

As for Tracy, his prognostication a day before that he would have a large challenge starting from the 10th spot rang true. But even Tracy could not see what was coming. After contact between Simon Pagenaud and Alex Tagliani on Lap 1, Pagenaud's entire wing fell off. The wing was caught under the front of Tracy's car, leaving the 38-year-old with little control. Not long after he picked up the wing, Tracy crashed into the wall at Turn 8.

"I've never had anything like that happen before," a bewildered Tracy said. "The old cars we used to run, one wing would fly off, but you would not get the main plate, assembly, everything. These cars with the raised nose, you get the whole thing. I came down the straightaway and I did not even see it. I ran over it, and that was it.

"Sure, I am disappointed, and for us as a team. A lot of Toronto came out to see us, and I go out on the first lap. … It is frustrating."

But not for Power, who is in his second year on the Champ Car circuit. He had struggled in qualifying, but that did not matter much Sunday afternoon.

"It has been such a tough weekend, and to come away with the win is awesome," Power said. "The rain tires were really good for this track, but for me, tires were not an issue. It was just doing a good job in the car."

Terry Koshan is a sports reporter at the Toronto Sun.