Zanardi beat the odds to make it four in a row at Toronto in '98. (LAT archive)
As Ryan Hunter-Reay attempts this weekend in Edmonton to achieve the rare feat of winning four straight Indy car races, he might draw inspiration from Alex Zanardi, who did so 14 years ago today on the streets of Toronto with his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard-Honda. And, as a fitting addition to Zanardi's growing legend, he did it with a spectacular late pass...
Unusually that year, Zanardi didn't look a likely winner for most of the day in Toronto, dropping to fourth early in the race and recovering from a quick spin – without losing a place! – later on. However, after race dominator Dario Franchitti – then driving for Team KOOL Green, in a similar Reynard-Honda – spun with 16 laps to go as his brakes began to fade, Zanardi moved to second, then overhauled Michael Andretti's Newman/Haas Swift-Ford Cosworth for the lead with a brilliant outbraking move into the hairpin at the end of the back straight, and motored away to win.
Franchitti – then still searching for his first win in Indy cars (or Champ Cars, as that year's FedEx Championship Series cars were known) described his missed chance as "a real heartbreaker," writing in his driver's column for AUTOSPORT that "I want to go out and beat Alex Zanardi before he leaves for F1."
That he did, three races later at Road America, beating the Italian in a straight fight for the first of his 31 victories to date. Zanardi would add a seventh win later in the year at Surfers to wrap up back-to-back driver's titles and head off for the following year to F1 with Williams on a high.