LIVE BLOG: 2014 Honda Indy Toronto

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on July 18, 2014 8:08 am

11:40 AM ET (Steph) — Practice 1 at the Honda Indy Toronto is complete, and Josef Newgarden was fastest after posting a very late quick lap. He was followed by Will Power in second and local favourite James Hinchcliffe in third.

That prompts me to explain a notable difference in the culture here in Toronto — our Canadian boys are rock stars around here. Unlike most races in the US where the performance of Americans tends to get a cursory mention, here in the Great White North the Canadians are very much front and centre and have the full focus of the crowd and the media. Hinchcliffe’s face is wallpapered all over this town right now promoting the event, so having him performing well early will be very good publicity and legitimately might pull in some extra crowd this weekend. And the team is fully milking it as well — he’s sporting a livery with a great big Canadian flag on it right in front of the cockpit. I’m not sure whose idea that was, but this Canuck would like to shake that person’s hand. For Toronto, the impact of that move will be enormous.

We’ve also had the USF2000 cars on track this morning. Points leader RC Enerson led that session followed, interestingly enough, by the driver currently second in points, Florian Latorre. Peter Portante rounded out the top 3. The full time sheet for that session isn’t live yet, but we’ll link to it once it’s available.

The Indy Lights are racing here as well, but they don’t have their first session of the weekend until relatively late at 3 PM local time. The Verizon IndyCar Series and USF2000 will both have already been on track twice by then.

It’s worth noting that Pro Mazda is not here this weekend. That’s a massive oversight, unfortunately, because it just so happens that that’s the one series in the Mazda Road to Indy where the vast majority of the Canadians are racing this year. (There’s that desire for local connections again.) Title contender Scott Hargrove is here this weekend, though, racing in the — wait for it — Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada presented by Michelin. (Phew, that’s a mouthful.) He’s currently leading the points in that series, but fellow Canadian Chris Green and Pro Mazda rival Spencer Pigot are giving him a run for it. Should you happen to be trackside this weekend, that’s another series worth keeping an eye on.


10:10 AM ET (Steph) – Being based locally has its advantages. Yesterday, I was invited to visit the track a little early and take a couple of hot laps. I was a guest of Pirelli World Challenge, who are also racing here this weekend, but it is definitely worth talking about here despite our open-wheel lean because I learned a great deal about the course layout.

The first two laps I took were in a Cadillac CTS-V passenger car driven by Johnny O’Connell. He was absolutely stomping on the throttle, squealing the tires and hanging the back end out in all of the corners, and yet the car was remarkably stable and easy to bring back when he needed it. However hard he was going, though, there were a couple of race cars on track ahead of us that he managed to keep up with (more or less) through the first two corners but once we hit the back straight were gone in an instant. I knew at that point that I was getting into one of them shortly, so after seeing that I was pretty excited and slightly terrified.

I then climbed one of the McLaren GT cars fielded by K-PAX Racing and driven by Robert Thorne. As I was being belted in, he was talking to his team about how the gearbox was being a bit temperamental. (Yes, that’s exactly as disconcerting as it sounds.) But once he took off, it was absolute automotive poetry in motion – so fast, so grippy, so stable and planted. While the Caddy had to start braking well before the marked zone going into turn 3, Thorne hit the brakes in the McLaren at about the 300 metre mark and the force imparted on me as a passenger was incredible. The fitness required to do these speeds on a closed course like this really can’t be understated – it’s a wonder they don’t all have necks like tree trunks.

Anyhow, people talk a lot about how bumpy street courses are, and although it felt smooth as glass in the McLaren that’s not exactly a good benchmark for open-wheel cars. But the repave that was done on Lakeshore Boulevard a couple of years ago seems to have held up to our crazy winter this past year because it’s still quite smooth down there. The rest of the course didn’t fare so well and is a fair bit rougher, particularly around the 6-7-8-9 complex. And as we discussed on the podcast last night, some repaving has been done around the edges of the back straight, so there are a fair number of pavement changes – they could go from very old asphalt to concrete to brand new asphalt to three year old asphalt just by going through turns 1 and 2. It might not make a difference, but it might. It’s worth keeping an eye on, anyway.


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