The son of ex-Indy car star and F1 racer Derek Daly will join Takuma Sato in the team.
As is the case with most successful racing drivers these days, Daly, of Noblesville, Ind., just outside Indianapolis, started out in karts as a child and progressed to driving in occasional formula-car races in 2007, the year he turned 16.
In 2008, his first full season of car racing, he drove in the Skip Barber National Championship Series as well as the Ontario Formula Ford Challenge series.
And why come to Canada to race? His father had a ready answer when I talked to him about it once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He credited the Ontario FF series for much of his son’s development as a racing driver.
"We made the decision to come to Canada to run with Brian Graham Racing so that Conor could better understand the engineering of a racing car, something he couldn’t get in the United States at that time.
"He was running the Skip Barber (national) Series in the U.S. at the same time (as his time in Ontario) but he wasn’t allowed to change the car (to suit his style). His season up here gave him a much better understanding of the way a racing car works and how to change or adjust it to his advantage and he won races and was successful."
He’s been pretty successful since, too. He won the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 and has won races since in Indy Lights and the European GP3 Series. He’s raced twice this season in GP2 and tested for Foyt at Sebring earlier this year.
"This is big news!" L’Estage said in a release this week. "To take part in rallies at the wheel of a car that has been in the World Rally Championship is fantastic and I’m really looking forward to more great battles with (opponents) Ken Block and David Higgins," he said.
"Our hard work has come to fruition in the form of an agreement with MML Sports of the U.K., with whom we already tested the car last November in the Czech Republic. All of our sponsors play a big role in this as well and we are thrilled to have our partners on board."
L'Estage is unbeatable on this side of the Atlantic. Is the WRC team bringing that car over here to test the Canadian ace's ability for a possible ride in future? Stay tuned.
I have no personal knowledge of Baltes, other than what I’ve read, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have watched, met, interviewed and, in some cases, hung around with all of the others.
For instance, I spent an afternoon with Banks at Indy in 1969. The USAC competition director and his pal, chief steward Harlan Fengler, were giants at Indianapolis back then, when the "500" attracted the best from all the many and varied disciplines of racing – sprints, midgets, stock cars, sports cars, formula cars. They were glory days.
Banks scared me when he talked about his midget-racing days. Never mind roll cages; they didn’t even have roll bars when he raced and, as he put it, fatalties were common. He said it was a happy day when he left the cockpit to concentrate on race administration.
I loved watching Pancho Carter race sprint cars and dirt champ cars. One time at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 22 champ cars took the green and all went into Turn One sideways, throwing huge rooster tails of dirt over the outside wall. There were plumes of dust and dirt everywhere and as they powered out of Two, one car straightened out before all the others and just shot itself down the backstretch, heading for Three. I can still hear my pal Al Listiak leaping to his feet and yelling at the top of his lungs: PANCHO!!!!
And that’s who it was, all right.
I had a long chat with him at the 1990 Molson Indy Toronto. He was driving for the Wilke family’s Leader Card Racing team and it had poured during the race. Because of his talent controlling race cars on dirt, he was passing cars left and right in the rain and I was going nuts thinking he was going to win. Dan Proudfoot of the Toronto Sun was standing beside me and was likewise impressed and excited. But water got into the electrics and the car stalled out and that was that but he told me afterward that if the car "had behaved," he was going to win.
I knew about Watson because of my fascination with the Indy cars of the 1950s (many of which were transformed into my beloved supermodifieds of the late 1960s and early '70s). At one time, most of the cars in the "500" came out of his California shop. His hair went white prematurely and you can still spot his flat-top brushcut a mile away.
The first Vancouver Molson Indy was in 1990 and I was driving along Robson St. one afternoon and I looked over at some people standing at a bus stop and there was A.J. Watson. So I offered him a lift and asked him what he was doing.
It turned out he’d started walking away from the B.C. Place stadium area (where the temporary race circuit had been built) to take a look at downtown Vancouver and he’d just kept walking and walking. By the time he figured it was time to go back, he was too tired to walk the return trip so he decided to hop on a bus.
I bumped into Abe Vigoda ("Fish" on Barney Miller) later that day, but that wasn’t nearly as exciting as being able to offer a ride to A.J. Watson.
In the summer of 1966, the USAC stock cars raced at Mosport and Canada’s own Billy Foster brought his Indy car for a demonstration run between the stock car heats. (Contrary to what you might have been told, Foster did not drive the track backwards. But I digress.)
Foster and Don White, a champion, put on an incredible show that afternoon, with White leading one time around and Foster the next. Foster eventually suffered a mechanical malfunction and dropped out; White finished but was beaten to the checkers by the little-known Sal Tovela (making for a wonderful bit of racing trivia).
Another bit of racing trivia that day was the professional debut of Tony Bettenhausen Jr., who went from the stock-car circuit to drive Indy cars and to own a team in the CART series.
I could go on about the Unsers, and Tom Bigelow (what a welcoming guy he was in 1977 at the Molson Diamond Indy at Mosport, once he found out that the reporter who barged into his garage after the race wanted to talk sprint cars instead of the Indy cars – he still has the most wins in USAC sprint car history) but I’ll close off this entry with a few paragraphs about the greatest character of them all, Jack Hewitt of Troy, Ohio.
Hewitt won 34 dirt champ car races in his career, seven midget wins and 46 in the sprint cars. He made it to Indy in 1998, where he finished 12th, and told me once in an interview that it was the greatest day of his life.
"I was gonna go race that night up in Ohio in the sprints," he said, "but you know, I was at Indy and I just didn’t want to leave. It got dark and they put the lights on and I just stayed and stayed and it was just the greatest feeling. They finally had to tell me to go home, they were gonna close up."
In 1998 at Eldora Speedway, he swept the USAC 4-Crown Nationals, an accomplishment I think should have been on front pages all over the continent. He won four races in one day, driving for four different teams in midgets, sprints, dirt champ cars and modifieds. Absolutely incredible.
Now, Jack has been known to get lippy, and if you want to see him in full meltdown mode, click here.
But what I value, more than anything else, is his sense of humour.
One night at the old Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Jack was being interviewed by track announcer Windy McDonald (no relation, although you sometimes wonder . . .) and they were talking about the Indy 500 Jack had been in.
"Jack," said McDonald, "what was really memorable about that race?"
And Jack said, "Well, with me in it, Lynn St. James wasn’t the only driver with a moustache."
People heard that, and their mouths dropped open in surprise and astonishment, and then they started to giggle and before long the entire grandstand was full of folks just killing themselves laughing.
Nobody else could say that and get away with it.