Byline: MICHAEL COSGROVE
Toronto ONT -- BY MICHAEL COSGROVE Special to The Globe and Mail TORONTO After two seasons of being the new kid in the Firestone Indy Lights auto racing series, Greg Moore believes he is now the one to beat.
Moore, 19, of Maple Ridge, B.C., is ready to start the new season tomorrow at Miami with added confidence and, for the first time, a decent budget. His family run team has been dissolved now that he's moved to a new two-car effort, Forsythe Racing of Indianapolis, under the guidance of Illinois industrialist Gerald Forsythe.
The team, formed late last year when Forsythe split with former IndyCar partner Barry Green, will have a single entry in the Indy series for Italian driver Teo Fabi, as well as the Indy Lights team with an all- Canadian driver lineup of Moore and Claude Bourbonnais of Ile Perrot, Que. Players Ltd. will provide the sponsorship and Moore believes the whole package is a recipe for success.
"When my dad ran the team, I always knew we would never have the budget for extensive testing or to make it all the way to Indy cars," Moore said recently.
Still, he made steady progress in the series, which features as the main support event at 12 IndyCar races. In his rookie year, 1993, he had eight top-10 finishes, including an impressive third at Portland, Ore., and finished ninth in the points standings. Last year, despite being the youngest driver in the series, he managed three wins and started from the pole position twice. The 154 points he garnered placed him third in the drivers' standing.
With the added sponsorship and a 10-man crew to look after both his and Bourbonnais' car, Moore believes he should be the one the rest of the field is chasing this year. "I'm a more experienced driver now, I have solid sponsorship, a good crew behind me and I'm going to the Miami race aiming for the pole and for a win," Moore said.
The crew of engineers, mechanics, data-acquisition personnel and truck drivers includes three from his old family team. However, father Ric won't be involved in the operation of the team. "My dad really didn't do anything mechanical with the old team, he was always busy chasing sponsorship and paying bills while I was doing the racing. Now, I'll still race the car, but he can put his feet up, relax and enjoy the racing."
For Bourbonnais, the new team offers his a chance to rejuvenate his career. It also reunites him with Forsythe. Two years ago he was teamed with fellow Quebecker Jacques Villeneuve on a Forsythe-Green team that contested the Players Ltd. Formula Atlantic series. However, when the team hopped past Indy Lights racing and directly to Indy cars, it was Villeneuve who was chosen to drive, not Bourbonnais.
Last year he managed to drive in five IndyCar races with two U.S.-based teams, but the results were disappointing.
Although it's a step down of sorts, Bourbonnais sees it as a good opportunity. "We had year-old equipment and I was driving mainly for experience," Bourbonnais said. "I was at the back of the pack, and that's not the way to go racing.
"This will be my first year in an Indy Lights car and it's a new challenge for me. Gerald Forsythe's goal is winning races and I will be happy to do that."
Although the Indy Lights schedule doesn't include races at the high- speed Indianapolis and Michigan International Speedway oval tracks, the cars will race at both the Toronto and Vancouver Molson Indy events.