There will be much written about Greg Moore this week, the young Canadian IndyCar star who lost his life aged just 24 but made waves that still ripple 20 years on.
Having been one of the lucky ones that knew Greg, and have memories that still make me laugh, writing about him has been both great and hard. As Indycar champion Dario Franchitti says, “he was magnetic.”
Al Robbie was Greg’s best friend throughout his career. They met while still at school, not the same one, just playing ice hockey when Al refereed a game Greg’s brother played in. “He came up and said, ‘nice game ref’, and it grew from there”.
There were certainly no stars in their eyes though. “The first time I ever saw his race car, he and his dad Ric were firing it up in their driveway,” recalls Al. “That was January ’93. It was the first time I saw an Indy Lights car – or any race car.”
Basic as it sounds, it showed Greg’s talent that only four years later he was being touted for F1, by both Ferrari and Stewart GP.
“At Montreal 1997, Greg and I were walking down the back of the garages and we see Jackie Stewart,” explains three-time Indy 500 winner Franchitti. “He asks how we’re doing and gives us the usual hilarious Jackie banter… I saw somebody from the team I knew, so I went over to talk to them while Greg and Jackie were chatting. Then Greg went off with someone he knew. Jackie comes back to me and says, ‘Come and see me later, but don’t bring Greg.’ I thought that’s a bit weird, then I thought, ‘OH!’, he wants to talk business about me with Stewart GP, maybe replacing Jan Magnussen! But in typical Jackie fashion I guarantee that when I was over talking to the guy from the team, he’d said to Greg, ‘Come and see me later… and don’t bring Dario!’
There was no doubt that JYS wasn’t the only one aware of Greg’s talent. Franchitti elaborates. “He was able to keep stuff like that quiet. My impression was that Jean Todt, at Ferrari then, was a huge fan of Greg’s. So there were all kinds of ‘chats’ going on in the background. There was clearly an F1 opportunity for him.”
Those options were there but, according to Robbie, lofty dreams weren’t important to Moore. “Racers are racers, they just like to race things, even a tractor on a frozen lake! We went past one time and said ‘oh look someone is racing on the ice out there’. Next winter he was doing it!”
Franchitti adds, “As a driver, God this guy was absolutely on the limit, he could’ve really done anything, and it would have been fun to watch. The record books don’t do Greg anything close to justice. Him on the track was only one part. He was just an exceptional person. Sometimes, when people die, people say good things… This is not that. He really was a special guy.”
Photographs by Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes Benz