Byline: MICHAEL COSGROVE
Toronto ONT -- BY MICHAEL COSGROVE Special to The Globe and Mail Toronto GREG Moore doesn't mind joking about failing his first driving test. However, when it comes to racing his Indy Lights car, the 18-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C., is all business.
Moore will be featured in the main support race at the Molson Indy on the weekend and, although he is a rookie and the youngest driver in the series, he is aiming for a high finishing position.
Like thousands of other teen-agers across Canada, he tried for his driver's licence when he turned 16, only to fail the test. "I guess I wasn't paying enough attention at the time," Moore said. "I came up to an intersection and made a left turn where only right turns were permitted. The woman who was testing me put a mark in the fail box on her exam sheet and told me to come back and try my test another time.
"I was a bit tempted to tell her that I was already racing cars and karts, but I didn't, although I might have said it under my breath."
Like many top racers, including last weekend's Cleveland IndyCar winner, Paul Tracy, Moore started out racing karts as a 10-year-old. He earned a racing licence at 15 after taking a three-day course at the Spenard-David Racing School at Shannonville, Ont. He impressed instructor Richard Spenard enough to be invited back for a Top Gun series later in the year where he was judged best of the almost 800 drivers who attended the school that year.
After doing so well at the racing school, Moore decided to enter the Formula 1600 series at tracks in Ontario and Quebec. He finished fourth in the championship and was voted rookie of the year.
Last year Moore stepped up to the United States Auto Club Formula 2000 West series. He started from the pole position four times, won four races and was crowned series champion. To cap off a successful season he was again voted rookie of the year.
Moore's efforts to move to the Formula Atlantic series this year were thwarted when the series' governing body, the Sports Car Club of America, wouldn't grant him a licence because he was still under 18 at the beginning of the season. Instead, Moore and his father, Rick, moved a step higher and formed Viper Racing and joined the Indy Light circuit.
Surprisingly, the adjustment to the more powerful 425-horsepower, Buick-powered cars hasn't been a major adjustment for the precocious Moore and, even more surprising, there hasn't been any resentment from the older and more experienced drivers.
"I've surprised myself and I think I've surprised a lot of racing people, but the other drivers have been very supportive. When I'm on the track, I'm just another driver and they know they can race wheel-to-wheel with me; they know I won't do anything stupid," Moore said.
So far his performance has been anything but stupid. After six of the 12 races on the schedule, he is fifth in the points standings and boasts a third-place finish at Portland, Ore., last month.
After struggling all weekend at Cleveland for an ideal chassis setup, he qualified 15th and finished a creditable 10th among the 23 cars in the race. At the Molson Indy he will be hoping for better things, and he will be keeping a close eye on Tracy's performance. "Paul paved the way for me; he raced karts, he raced Formula Fords, Formula 2000 and he won the Indy Lights championship. He's someone I'd like to emulate."