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Norris McDonald on Jean Alesi, a fork, and rioting at the Canadian GP

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The first time I got into a racing car to run a feature at “the home of the supermodifieds,” Oswego Speedway in northern New York, they told me to take the green and to get off the track.

“You’re not fast enough yet,” said pit stewart Jerry Rich back in 1982. “They’ll be up your ass in half-a-dozen laps. You’ll save everybody the trouble of black-flagging you if you just get out of the way early. So take the start and pit.”

Which is what I hope IndyCar tells Jean Alesi before the start of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

When Lotus driver Alesi came to Toronto on Monday, with Alex Tagliani and Simon Pagenaud, to beat the drum for the world’s most famous race (Sunday, TSN, 11 a.m.), he told me he had his fingers crossed that a request by his team for extra boost to help him stay competitive in the race against drivers being powered by either Chevrolet or Honda engines would be approved.

IndyCar announced Tuesday – a day later — that no, there would be no favours done for Lotus and all engines would run in the 500 with the same amount of turbocharged power.

The writing is on the wall for Alesi. Competition director Beaux Barfield said all entries would have to maintain a minimum speed once the first green flag is thrown and that the sanctioning body’s policy is that all cars must be running within 105 per cent of the leader’s speed.

Ryan Briscoe won the pole with a speed of 226.484 miles an hour; Alesi lumbered around at 210.094 mph.

To save the F1 legend – and 1995 Canadian Grand Prix winner – Alesi (and the other Lotus entrant, Simona de Silvestro, as well) the embarrassment of being black-flagged out of the Indianapolis 500, I hope Barfield borrows a page from Jerry Rich’s playbook and suggests an early and unobtrusive exit.

It’ll be better for everybody all ‘round.

Speaking of Alesi, I got a laugh out of him Monday by telling him the following story.

In 1997, the Globe and Mail sent me to Montreal to cover the Grand Prix and I was invited to have lunch with him in the Benetton hospitality area at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve

It was a highlight of my motorsport writing career. Over the years, I’ve been able to interview most of the top F1 drivers of the day but I’ve only been invited to share a meal with two – Alesi and Juan Pablo Montoya, when he drove for Williams.

In any event – and this is something quite out of character for me, but I did it anyway – as I got up to leave the Alesi lunch, I slipped the fork I’d used into my pocket and I brought it home with me to Toronto.

I have used that fork to eat every meal I’ve consumed in my house ever since. Every breakfast, every lunch and every dinner I have eaten at home since June, 1997, has been with that fork – and if you don’t believe me, you can ask my wife.

One time, my sister came from Nova Scotia to visit for Christmas. When she left, she took food to eat on the train. She asked if she could take a fork. I said sure.

That night I was setting the table and I couldn’t find my fork. I was a wreck for a week until she FedExed it back to me.

So I told Alesi on Monday about my fork fetish and when he finished laughing he thought for a moment and then asked if I used it to cut my food too.

I told him no, but that he was going to have to invite me to lunch again sometime so that I could steal a knife.

CVC Capital Partners, which owns 40 per cent of Formula One (Bernie or one of his many trusts still owns much of the rest of the total, estimated to be about $9 billion) has sold a stake in the sport for a little more than $1 billion.

My friend Pete asked if, as a result, Bernie would cut and run.

I replied that he would die with his boots on.

I mean, there is only one way Bernie will ever leave F1 and that’s in a pine box.

Look at that item above again. Look at the figures: $1 billion, $9 billion.

The Grand Prix of Monaco is this weekend and the Grand Prix of Canada is two weeks after that and the marshals and corner workers and other support staff members who will ensure the success of those races, and without whom those races could not be held, will still pay their own way to get to Monte Carlo and/or Montreal, as well as the outrageous hotel room charges and so-on, and they will do all that for a free ham sandwich at lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If you ask me, there is something seriously wrong there.

Jacques Villeneuve will drive in two NASCAR races again this year for Team Penske – the Nationwide Series events at Road America in Wisconsin and at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal.

Talking about Montreal, I am now officially worried that the ongoing student demonstrations there will interfere with the Grand Prix.

Hmmmm. F1 was villified for racing in Bahrain in the face of civil unrest there. What will be the world reaction when F1 goes to Montreal and there are hundreds arrested and the plume of black smoke hangs just as heavily over that city?

Yes, the situation is different. . .

Or is it?

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