On a rainy, miserable Wednesday afternoon, family, friends and the international auto racing community came together to mourn the death of budding star Greg Moore.
"I knew Greg as a son and as a race-car driver. I had simply no idea of his popularity around the world and the number of people that shared our loss," said Moore's father, Ric Moore, speaking before a crowd of 1,200 that packed St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church.
"What happened Sunday was beyond everybody but God's control," Moore said. "He loved life and life loved him. And most people in two lifetimes would not have the memories that he took with him."
"I don't know if there is a heaven. But if there is one, he is there, probably on the pole."
Moore was killed Sunday on the 10th lap of the season-ending CART Marlboro 500 when he lost control of his Reynard-Mercedes coming out of the second turn at 220 mph and crashed into a wall, spinning wildly and slamming into the ground several times.
The 24-year-old Canadian was airlifted to a hospital and declared dead of massive head injuries about an hour after the wreck at the California Speedway in Fontana.
Moore's body was cremated in a private service in his hometown of Maple Ridge, British Columbia on Tuesday. Wednesday's service was a chance for his closest friends, members of his families and his colleagues to reflect.
"These days are full of sorrow and sadness," said Gerald Forsythe, whose Player's Forsythe Racing gave Moore his entry into the CART series. "But all of the the tomorrow's yet to come will be full of great pride and memories for all of Greg's accomplishments.
Holding back tears, and his voice shaking, Forsythe noted that Sunday was to be Moore's last race for his team after signing a lucarative deal to race for Roger Penske.
"On Sunday, I said to Greg, `This is not our last race. We will race again together.' And we will," Forsythe said.
Said racing colleague Jimmy Vasser: "It has been a flood of memories and stories and tears and questions, and I haven't gotten any farther than that. I've been a bowl of spaghetti inside."
Noting their close friendship, Vasser hailed Moore as a good friend and a competitive and able driver.
"The thing I keep going back to is his passion. He had a passion for his friends, and he had a passion for life," Vasser said. "He was always smiling. The lesson to be learned is that he taught us to be passionate, to love, and not to waste a single day of your life."
"Every time I get done crying, it makes me feel beautiful. Greg, I'm going to miss you. Everybody knows he was one hell of a race-car driver, and 10 times a human being."
Also on hand were drivers Adrian Fernandez, Christian Fittipaldi, Dario Franchitti and fellow Canadians Paul Tracy and Jcques Villeneuve, who has since made the jump to Formula I. A private reception was planned later at a nearby hotel.
The mourning process began in Vancouver and across Canada almost immediately after the news of his death.
A large shrine of flowers and notes in honor of Moore was erected outside of the Maple Ridge car dealership owned by his father. The municipal council is already making plans to erect a permanent memorial.
A memorial, open to the public, is scheduled Thursday in Maple Ridge. The Greg Moore Fund has been established as a legacy of the many charitable works Moore carried out in his community.
Considered a prodigy, Moore began his racing career building and driving go-karts at age 10. He won two North American karting championships before he turned 16.
In 1991, Moore was rookie of the year in the Formula 1600 Series and the following year won the USAC Formula 2000 West title.
In 1994, his second year in the Indy Lights series, Moore became the youngest driver (20) to win the championship, and defended his title the next year by winning a record 10 of 12 races.
In 1996, he became the youngest driver to compete in the Indy-car circuit, a year later became the youngest (22 years, 1 month, 10 days) to win a race.
In 72 CART races, Moore had five victories, including the season-opening race in Homestead, Fla., this season, and was the runner-up in last year's Marlboro 500.
Moore was the second driver in the CART series to die this year. Rookie Gonzalo Rodriguez of Uruguay, preparing for only his second race, was killed instantly in a crash Sept. 11 during practice at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.
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