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Photographs by Felipe Buitrago

Running Room: Cristiano da Matto at the wheel of his Champ Car.

Prix Qualified


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IF I RECALL correctly, about 15 years ago I got a ticket for doing 60 on Almaden Boulevard. While watching folks from all over the world drive three times that speed on the same street last Sunday, I just thought, "Hey man, this ain't fair."

The inaugural Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose brought an announced crowd of 153,767 to watch the events over three days, and even Paul Newman showed up. His team, Newman/Haas Racing, had much to celebrate, as their drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia came in first and third, respectively. The second-place driver, Paul Tracy, joined the other two on the podium in front of the Sobrato Building and sprayed champagne all over the three Miss San Jose Grand Prix women (including Amanda Scott, 24, a marketing coordinator from San Jose who won the coveted title), who shared the stage. Confetti shot into the air and showered the scene. The glaring sun bore down on everyone. Behind the stage, Carl Haas smoked a cigar as big as a baseball bat, and Bourdais answered questions in front of numerous cameras. You just thought, "Hey, they finally found a use for the Sobrato Building."

The old-school racers showed their moves after the main event.

By far the biggest sporting event ever to hit San Jose, the Grand Prix did not evolve without major fiascoes, of course. The pedestrian bridges were a complete disaster, as they were far too narrow to accommodate the crowds. There should have been 10 of these things, not two, and nearly all of the race fans who had to deal with the long lines at the bridge came away frustrated as all bloody hell. It took nearly an hour, at certain times, to get across. "Let's go back to the room. I need a drink," one guy said. "Fuck this."

And then there's the track. The drivers complained that the surface was far too bumpy and that having to drive 150 mph across the light rail tracks was a mess waiting to happen. The track was also too narrow to allow any exhilarating passing scenarios to occur.

But the positives far outweighed the negatives, and for a first-time event of this nature in San Jose, it's surprising they actually pulled it off. If you were a fan, there were a zillion different locales at which to watch the event, from both outside and inside the ticketed areas. Folks hung from trees in one spot. Let's just hope the event organizers can iron out the kinks for next time.

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From the August 3-9, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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