Welcome back to the year of our lord MCMXCV! In this imagined but once-experienced parallel universe, the 1995 CART season continues to play out, more or less expectedly if you followed it the first time, but presumably unexpectedly if you didn’t. This weekend we imagine ourselves to be in BC Place, Vancouver, at a street circuit that looks sort of like a pancreas or deflated Imola. The track, being built around the Expo ‘86 site (itself built on, according to Wikipedia, “a former rail yard and industrial wasteland”) contains numerous chicanes and hairpins, a stadium, near-tunnel and what looks very much like a monorail. The layout is tight, unsubtle and favours whoever can get their car stopped, pointed and squirted in the least time. Interesting Vancouver Fact: False Creek, the body of water that BC Place sits at the eastern edge of, is in fact an inlet. You can thank me later!
The championship situation? The championship is 15 races old, and at that delicate stage where we can start thinking about declaring a champion so long as the fates cooperate and scatter the required good fortune in the correct places. Chief scatter beneficiary so far has been fresh-faced Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, who is yet to discover hair dye and saying rude things about his elders and is instead focused on making his relatively standard Reynard-Ford go faster than you’d think possible. After a succession of twists and unexpected winners, Penske’s Al Unser, Jr is the only driver close enough to pilfer the championship from Villeneuve’s pocket. With Jacques’ 35 point lead, with a maximum 44 remaining, it would have to be the pilfering of the century. But the Indy 500 was won from two laps down. And six of Unser’s last seven finishes have been on the podium. It could happen!
One thing that did happen was qualifying, and you will be delighted to hear that Indycar’s three Canadians all made the top half of the starting grid, with Jacques Villeneuve most impressively starting from pole, and Scott Goodyear second-most-impressively starting on the outside of row 2. A fourth Canadian, Ross Bentley, took part in qualifying but was 29th quickest of 29, and the Vancouver circuit only holds 28. That is in fact one better than 1994, where he qualified 30th and still didn’t start because the Vancouver circuit wasn’t any bigger back then. Anyway, here’s how they line up.
1. Jacques Villeneuve 55.226, Team Green R/F/G
2. Jimmy Vasser +0.277, Ganassi R/F/G
3. Bobby Rahal +0.297, Rahal/Hogan L/M/G
4. Scott Goodyear +0.411, Tasman R/H/F
5. Michael Andretti +0.436, Newman-Haas L/F/G
6. Teo Fabi +0.440, Forsythe R/F/G
7. Robby Gordon +0.644, Walker R/F/G
8. Gil de Ferran +0.706, Hall VDS R/M/G
9. Al Unser, Jr +0.814, Penske P/M/G
10. Scott Pruett +0.821, Patrick L/F/F
11. Mo Gugelmin +1.032, PacWest R/F/G
12. Paul Tracy +1.118, Newman-Haas L/F/G
Christian and Emerson Fittipaldi line up together 13th and 14th. Vasser’s teammate Bryan Herta starts in P15, with winner last time out Andre Ribeiro starting alongside him. Parker P22, Fangio a disappointing P24. Here’s your spotter’s guide:
Vancouver had 29 entries, which means that this spotter’s guide is one car short. Changes from the top: Juan Fangio II continues to drive the PacWest formerly pedalled by Danny Sullivan, thePayton/Coyne car normally driven by Eric Bachelart was DNQed by Ross Bentley, Eddie Cheever has been replaced at Foyt with Brian Till, and the rotating Project Indy #64 seat goes this time to Domenico Schiattarella, who is back in CART after his Simtek team withdrew from Grand Prix racing. The extra entry is a second Tasman Motorsports car for notorious pace car truant Scott Goodyear.
We’ll get this started at the usual 6pm GMT on Sunday, 22 November. Video below. Enjoy!