Welcome to More Front Wing’s live blog from the 2014 Honda Indy Toronto! MFW Co-editors Paul Dalbey and Steph Wallcraft are both at the track tapping out updates all weekend long. Updates are posted with the most recent at the top, so if this is your first visit to the live blog please go to the last page and work your way forward. For Verizon IndyCar Series time sheets and race info, visit the 2014 Honda Indy Toronto Event Summary.
9:07 PM ET (Steph) – Sorry, folks, but this is going to be a link-and-run. There was so much going on today that it was next to impossible to keep up. When it was all said and done, though, here’s what our coverage produced:
No First Impressions this week, sad to say — Paul had to hit the road very quickly after the race to get back to Illinois by tomorrow morning, and John and Bash are both indisposed. Please accept our sincerest apologies.
We’re expecting to be back in two weeks for full coverage of what promises to be a very busy weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with all four series back in action. Until then, if you need IndyCar news and views, get a grip with More Front Wing!
10:17 AM ET (Steph) – It’s been a busy hour or so as we get ready for race 1, set to go green this morning at 10:30.
We asked Firestone for comment on the performance of the rain tires yesterday and whether it met their expectations. (Recall that this new spec of rain tire was just introduced at Houston last month.) What we received in response was the boilerplate text they’ve been distributing about how the tire was developed in the first place. From that, we conclude that they’re either too busy to put together something thoughtful yet (fair enough given today’s compressed schedule) or that something didn’t meet their expectations and they’re not ready to talk about it yet. Here’s the statement that was given to us for those interested:
The new IndyCar rain tire design was a combined effort between Firestone’s engineers in Race Tire Development and its Advanced Tire Engineering scientists and engineers in Akron, OH. In addition to adding tread depth to improve full wet performance, the pattern was also optimized using Computational Fluid Dynamics modeling and Finite Element Analysis along with other proprietary tools.
Now, there’s been a fair amount of back-and-forth with IndyCar on what the procedures will be for today, so here’s where things seem to have landed:
- Race 1 is being considered a continuation of yesterday’s start attempts, so Power, Montoya, and Briscoe will start from the back as they were going to yesterday. (A full starting line-up has gone up on Twitter and will be posted in our Event Summary shortly.) This also means that race 1 will be a rolling start (though we’re assuming it will be double-file). For what it’s worth, it seems to me that the decision to keep the standing start in the better TV window is the better one. Paul was wondering whether the rolling start might be more prone to drawing carnage that could make race 2 difficult for some, but to my mind it’s not IndyCar’s problem if the drivers can’t keep their heads about them.
- Both races will be 65 laps or 80 minutes, not 75/90 as reported yesterday.
- The grid for race 2 is now going to be set by entrant points (Derrick Walker said driver points to the media last night, but we believe he misspoke as entrant points are standard per the rulebook). It’s also going to be done by the points as they stand following race 1, not coming into the weekend as we were told yesterday.
- There’s a rumor going around that IndyCar is going to mandate two pit stops in each of today’s races (which is what they would have needed yesterday). We asked IndyCar about this today, and they said not only was it news to them but it hadn’t come up in the driver’s meeting this morning. We’ll let you know if we hear differently, but we don’t expect to.
Quickly on the Indy Lights race results: rookie Alex Baron took his first win for Belardi. He was the one who parachuted into USF2000 last year and immediately won two of the last four races. He was joined on the podium by Gabby Chaves and Jack Harvey. As mentioned earlier, Luiz Razia and Toronto’s Zack Meyer ran into trouble early, and Ryan Phinny had a wall tag on his own, but Indy Lights are now done for the day, so they won’t be as deeply affected as the competitors in some of the other categories.
We’re going to head over to Twitter now to follow along live with this morning’s race action, set to get going in just under 15 minutes. If you’re tweet-inclined (or even if you’re not — you can still watch the page to follow along), please check us out at @MoreFrontWing!
9:34 AM ET (Paul) – Allow me to echo Steph’s greetings and welcome you to race day reloaded here on the Streets of Toronto! She covered most of the preliminary stuff, so I’ll just cut right to the chase and dive in with my opinion on what happened yesterday.
I wanted to see a race. I would have loved to see a race in the rain, but I really just wanted to watch the Verizon IndyCar Series in competition one way or the other. That said, the call not to race was absolutely the correct call. I understand those who argue that not racing yesterday might somehow undermine the credibility of the series and the talents and abilities of the drivers. In my opinion, that’s absolute [insert word Steph won't let me use here]!
I have an enormous amount of respect for every driver that straps into these cars and puts their life on the line for my own personal entertainment. Even in the best of conditions, these men are gladiators who calculate the enormous risk of their career and go forth nonetheless. So when I hear Tony Kanaan say it is unsafe to race, I accept him at his word, and I damn sure am not going to question his manhood for saying it!
And to say “we used to race in conditions like this” doesn’t cut it either. You know what, they used to race without seatbelts. They used to race without helmets. They used to race without proper fencing. They used to do a lot of things differently. And a lot of drivers paid the price for it. To say the race could have gone on yesterday because it happened before in those conditions simply isn’t good enough.
The drivers spoke nearly unanimously yesterday that it was not safe to drive (Jack Hawksworth, with almost zero experience racing these cars in the rain, being one of the few exceptions). Do you remember the last time so many drivers rose as one with a unified voice of concern? Las Vegas, 2011. And those drivers were ridiculed for intimating that perhaps racing under the conditions to which they were being exposed was beyond their comfort level. And then when the worst of tragedies struck, everyone asked why nobody listened to the drivers. Form your own conclusion.
I’ve never sat in the seat of one of these races cars nor have I sat through a race in the position of race director so my opinion ultimately means little to what should or should not have happened. However, having sat through a very long and quite irritating day yesterday, I am confident that everyone involved did all they could to get the race run yesterday, and that’s all I can ask.
From a technical point of view, I’ve heard a couple interesting theories as to why the rain and the current IndyCar package may not mix well. First, the current Dallara chassis, unlike the previous Dallara IR-03 and the previous generation CART/ChampCar chassis, does not move airflow over the driver and car as efficiently and the airflow tends to go more into driver. This phenomenon is a contributing factor to why we are seeing more drivers impacted by debris in the cockpit (think James Hinchcliffe at Indianapolis and Sebastian Saavedra at Long Beach). As more proof, think of the conditions of the cars and drivers’ helmets after both of the IndyCar races at Fontana. Sand and debris on the track sandblasted helmets and peeled vinyl wraps off the cars. And now it sends rain directly into the face of the drivers.
Secondly, reports indicate that the current generation Firestone rain tire does not send a vertical column of water in a rooster tail as the old tires did. Rather, these tires tend to disperse the water into a very fine mist, causing near white-out conditions for drivers even at the front of the field. These conditions would corroborate what Marco Andretti reported about not being able to see his front tires when running even at pace-lap speed.
With that out of the way, let’s go racing. In fact, let’s play two!
8:38 AM ET (Steph) – Good morning from a still wet but decidedly less wet Exhibition Place, where race day (honest!) Sunday is set to get under way at the Honda Indy Toronto.
The track is still somewhat wet, but there’s no rain actively falling this morning. The first race of the day for USF2000 just ended, and the event was more or less clean (that is to say, the incidents didn’t seem related to the track conditions). It was quite an action-packed race with Jake Eidson eventually taking the win, joined on the podium by Florian Latorre and RC Enerson. I really feel for the cars that have contact to repair — Jeroen Slaghekke, Nico Jamin, and Keyvan Andres Soori — because they have less than four hours to get things fixed up and ready for their second race at 12:20 PM today.
And the same situation exists for the Verizon IndyCar Series thanks to yesterday’s postponement. This is Toronto, so it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be contact in race 1 at 10:30 this morning that will necessitate repairs. It’s also a good bet that there will be cries that the situation is unfair and people will be extremely unhappy by the time all of this is done.
I’m of two minds about the situation, myself. On the one hand, I think IndyCar fans have very short memories and have forgotten about what happened when Race Control pushed the envelope too far in the rain at New Hampshire in 2011. Yes, it’s a slightly different situation — oval racing, no wet tires — but given what the drivers were telling us yesterday it’s fair to guess that the outcome wouldn’t have been much different if they had tried the same thing yesterday.
But on the other hand, in my unprofessional opinion, there was a window yesterday — a very brief window, but a window nonetheless — where things could have gotten under way, and I think not doing so was an oversight. At right about the time that Jack Hawksworth was on TV saying “let’s go,” the rain had lightened up just enough (and was forecast to stay light enough) that if they had gotten cars on track right then that they probably could have dried out a line that would work for the wet tires after a few laps and had just enough daylight left to fit a shortened race in. My suspicion is that there were already meetings under way to decide how to handle a postponement and that’s why that brief opportunity was lost, which is a shame.
With all of that said, we’re certainly left with an interesting situation on our hands today. I’ve spoken to a couple of fans I know personally who had no choice but to head for home last night, and I really feel for those people because they came a long way for not much of a show at all. However, by way of example, my husband and daughter had tickets for just today, and they were beside themselves with excitement when I left for the track this morning. The fans who are able to make it to Exhibition Place today are in for a unique day that may never be duplicated, and it’s kind of a cool thing to be able to be a part of. I think the Toronto fans will be forgiving and will turn out in droves today to take in the action, which will be non-stop. (And so will we!)
Speaking of leaving for the track, you’ll note I haven’t spent much time talking about my life outside the track this weekend. That’s because it’s consisted of packing up and going home, which is about a 10-minute walk from the track. The downside is that it feels like an inconvenience to go any further afield to socialize, but the major upsides are that I have seen my family plenty this weekend, and I woke up at 6:30 this morning and had time to shower and have a cup of coffee and still made it to the track by 7:30. (Yes, I know, I’m a jerk.) It’s a pretty great feeling to have an IndyCar race in what would essentially be my backyard if I actually had a backyard in my sixth-floor condo to begin with.
The Indy Lights cars are on track now, and there’s been some action early: Luiz Razia and Canadian hopeful Zack Meyer got together in turn 2. Both made their way around to the pits, and while it looked like Meyer’s damage was minimal as he was sent back out, Razia was there for longer and seems to have been sent back out with a still-broken front wing. Bryan Herta Autosport’s new driver, Ryan Phinny, also had a slide into the wall in turn 1. We’ll update you on the results as this one unfolds.
One more quick note before I turn things over to Paul: reports are Canadian fans will be able to catch this morning’s IndyCar race on Sportsnet 360 at 10:30 AM today. We’ve fully updated the Event Summary with all of the key times for IndyCar’s events today, including time zone conversions for those who need them.
NEXT PAGE: Coverage from Saturday at the 2014 Honda Indy Toronto