Toronto: Paul’s Saturday thoughts

IndyCar commentary — By on July 17, 2010 4:52 pm
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(Originally posted by Paul to Planet-IRL.com.)

Guess who drew the short straw this afternoon? While I enjoy comfort of the media center and type some thoughts for the day, Steph is out wandering the paddock to find some good quotes from drivers and other IndyCar dignitaries.  So answering my own rhetorical question — I’m not sure which one would get considered the short straw!

Steph tells me that Saturdays are the hardest days to document on the street courses.  I’d buy that.  My main goal at the track today was simply to see the entire course.  In that respect, I failed.  However, I did make it out to the turn 3/4/5 complex at the far end of the course.  Short of turn 1 at Indianapolis, turn 3 at Toronto might be one of the coolest places to watch race cars on track of anywhere I’ve ever been.

First of all, the view of the harbor/bay/lake/whatever-the-locals-call-it is nothing short of beautiful.  More importantly, it’s a great place to watch drivers slam on their brakes at the end of the back straight and set up for the prime passing zone on the circuit. Watching the different drivers (or at least different caliber drivers, if you will) is simply amazing.  You really think it’s awesome to see a driver like Danica Patrick go from full speed to turning speed in about 200 feet.  You’re completely blown away when Will Power or Justin Wilson does it in under 100.

With today being practice and qualifying only, there wasn’t much passing into turn 3, but rest assured, plenty of action will take place there tomorrow.  Look for several occassions where two (or three) cars enter the turn next to each other and only one comes out.

The other place I got to watch practice from was the turn 4 and 5 section of the track.  I was amazed at the incline between turns 3 and 4 as it does not show up at all on the TV coverage.  However, knowing that the crest of the hill (if you want to call it that — it’s only about 100 feet of track) comes just before the kink called turn 4 explain a good deal about why the cars are so delicate through that area and why drivers have such difficulty getting back into the power there.  One of the scariest moments of my life was watching cars exit turn 3 and head full throttle to turn 5, barely missing the wall right at the photographer’s opening between the two turns.  The cars are often fishtailing through the area after unloading at the top of the hill, and it seemed that the wall would be in the near future of a good number of drivers.  For a quick snippet of the view from there, check out this video.

I won’t go over the details of the practice session, as you can find those on any number of other sites.  However, I will say that during the qualifying session, it was interesting to watch the Canadian fans react to Paul Tracy.  The first time he entered turn 3, every one of them cheered.  Likewise, they cheered loudly again when he entered turn 3 on the second lap.  Unfortunately, the cheers were replaced with jeers and shaking fists just a few moments later when PT spun on track and had to be restarted.  It is clearly obvious that the Canadian fans have a great love affair with Paul and are desperate to see him perform well here.  There are many people who believe the series needs more American drivers, and seeing the Canadians’ reaction to Tracy lends credence to that belief.  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen American fans react to Graham Rahal or Marco Andretti so passionately, so whether that theory holds State-side is a question mark in my mind.

On a different topic, the crowd here today seems like it is really good.  I still don’t have anything to compare to, but if I saw a crowd of this size at an oval track on Saturday, I would call it substantial.  I honestly didn’t see what the grandstands looked like today, but in the paddock, the Thunder Alley expo area, and the  beer garden/food courts, crowds were pretty abundant and lively.  There don’t seem to be quite as many families here as there were yesterday, but we can hope that some of the fans who saw free action yesterday were impressed enough to come back today (and pay).

The weather was almost what I would consider hot this morning (though the Canadian bureau of Planet-IRL had no problem at all labeling it as “hot”), but it cooled off considerably for the qualifying session this afternoon.  Tomorrow’s forecast sounds like it may be more of the same with afternoon clouds rolling in and the possibly of rain during the race.  It will definitely be interesting to watch the action if the concrete canyon suddenly becomes wet.  A little rain is always welcome on a street course, but I have no desire for a repeat of St. Pete, where it rained cats and dogs and forced a delay of the race until Monday.

That’s going to wrap it up for today as Steph and I are about to hit the TweetUp that is planned in the beer garden by turn 10.  We’ll be back on site tomorrow very early to get prepped for a full day of action here.  The Firestone Indy Lights and IZOD IndyCar Series warm-up sessions are planned from 8:00 to 9:05, with the Lights race scheduled for 10:10.  The IndyCar race will roll off at 12:45 with the ABC Broadcast scheduled for 12:30.

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