Tuesday, November 3, 2009

10 years on...

While today doesn't mark it to the date, it does mark it to the day for me; the first Tuesday morning in November holds a fair bit of memories for me. It's the day of the Melbourne cup (arguably the most famous horse race in the Southern Hemisphere) and it's also the day that I saw the crash that claimed the life of Greg Moore, my racing idol.

Greg drove for the Forsythe team in, back then, the CART series. He was but 20 when he made his debut at Homestead in 1996, took his first podium a few weeks later at the Gold Coast (the first openwheel race I'd seen live...well, I went for qualifying, not the race but you know what I mean). He lost out on RotY honours to some bloke called Alex Zanardi...who went on to win the next two championships before a failed move to F1 in 1999.

Moore didn't capture his first win until 1997 at the famed Milwaukee Mile, holding off a fast finishing Michael Andretti and becoming the, then, youngest race winner in a major racing series. He backed it up a week later around the streets of Detroit when the guys running 1-2 ran out of fuel on the final lap. He wound up seventh at years end, an improvement from ninth in his rookie year. He bettered that in 1998 when he finished fifth...but 1999 wasn't going to continue that trend.

Greg Moore in his 'office'.

He started off that season with a bang, winning the season opener at Homestead but that was as good as it got. The Mercedes-Benz engine that powered his #99 Players Reynard was past its prime and Greg struggled with trying to compensate for it. He ended up finishing the year in tenth and was set to join Penske Racing for 2000, partnering Gil deFerren.

But it never happened.

Going into lap 10 of the final race at Fontana, Greg lost control of his car and as it hit the access road, rolled upsidedown and smashed into the concrete wall without scrubbing off much speed. The commentators knew the accident was a bad one and didn't show any replays of it. Upon impact he suffered massive head, brain, neck, and other internal injuries. He was extricated by the medical team, and airlifted to a hospital nearby. All efforts to resuscitate him failed and, at the age of just 24, Greg Moore was pronounced dead while the race was still on. The Forsythe team retired their second car, driven by Patrick Carpentier, mid-race on finding out while all other drivers were unaware of Greg's death until the end of the race. The track put all flags at half mast, and CART ordered that there would be no victory celebrations for either the race, or the newly-decided championship.

CART retired his car number (although since the merger, the number is not retired by the Indy Racing League. The Atlantic Championship, which is still owned and operated by the former Champ Car organisation, has kept the number retired), and presented a trophy annually called the Greg Moore Legacy Award. It is given every year to a driver who best typifies Moore's legacy of outstanding talent on track, as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, media, and within the CART community. Since Greg was a product of the CART ladder system, having competed in the Indy Lights Championship from 1993-95 and won the series title in 1995 (winning 10 of the 12 races), drivers from the Atlantic Championship series were also eligible for the award. Moore was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2000.

To this day, I have only ever watched the crash twice; the first being when I saw the race on that Tuesday morning. I live, not even half an hour from where Greg grew up...but I'm not sure I could go there without breaking down. Moore was a well liked guy, who all of his competitors agreed that he'd probably go on to win multiple titles. He was also one hell of a race car driver and I will remember him for the move he made on Zanardi to win at Rio in 1998.

Thank you for reading.

Greg Moore (April 22, 1975 - October 31, 1999)
Nationality - Canadian
Team(s) - Player's Forsythe Racing
Race starts - 72
Championships - 0
Wins - 5
Podium finishes - 17
Pole positions - 5
First race - 1996 Grand Prix of Miami
First win - 1997 Milwaukee 200
Last win - 1999 Grand Prix of Miami


  1. I do remember him vaugely but at my age last year is hard to remember. Isn't that the same area that the Cup drives have had some bad wrecks too?

  2. Tez - just going back to read a few blogs from earlier this month. This blog on Greg Moore was well written with your heart. Thanks for sharing some memories of a driver who died way too young.

  3. thanks guys. I actually did go to Maple Ridge about a week after I wrote this...one of those 'lump in throat' days when looking at the little tribute they have for him in the Youth Centre :(