Paddock Postcard from Montreal 15 Jun 2003
The Montreal paddock has seen its fair share of celebrities in the past couple of days, even with Le Mans, IRL and CART races all also being held this weekend.
On Sunday the paddock swell was dramatically increased with the arrival of pop legend Ozzy Osbourne. 'Crash' movie director David Cronenberg also stopped by, together with former drivers such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, John Watson, Jacques Laffite, sometime Osella driver and Formula Atlantic / Formula 3 racer Allen Berg from Calgary, Ferrari testers Luca Badoer and Luciano Burti, and CART president Chris Pook.
And in the downtown streets Montreal was hustling and bustling with celebratory parties and, in the days leading up to the race, pit stop competitions and displays as racing fever got hold of everyone.
On track there was a lot to celebrate for two British drivers, Robert Bell and Charles Hall, in the Formula Renault Fran-Am race. Running for the First-Air team, Bell drove a superb first race on a greasy track on Saturday afternoon, to fend off the attacking Hall to the flag. They were separated by just over a second, as Bell took his first win of the 2003 season to extend his championship lead.
Then in Sunday morning's race it was the turn of a local hero to taste victory as Quebecois Andrew Ranger held on for a popular win over Bell and Hall, with Bell only inches behind.
"It's been a fabulous weekend," reported Bell. "Yesterday's win was very satisfying, as I had to get through two safety car periods and we were all running wet tyres but dry set-ups after the rain suddenly reappeared. It feels brilliant to win in front of the Formula One crowd."
Bell, a British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) upcoming driver, works for ex-Formula One star Jonathan Palmer as an instructor at his Bedford Autodrome facility, but on this weekend's showing it may not be long before he joins fellow instructor Justin Wilson in the big league.