Exhibition Place, Toronto
Lap length: 1.755 miles
Previous Winner: Dario Franchitti/Loki, the god of tricks and chaos
Lap Record: Gil de Ferran, 57.143 (1999)
After a burst of exciting oval races showcasing a nicely shaken-up competitive order, we're back to the road courses again. First stop on the single-file follow-the-leader tour is Exhibition Place, Toronto. "Oh no!", you all cry, "it'll be the Power and Dixon show. And with the F1 and MotoGP on Sunday (not to mention some racquetball tourney) and Daytona on Saturday night I was sort of planning to take breaks from the TV/secret illegal race stream in order to eat meals and make necessary homeostatic adjustments". To which I answer: Yes, it may well be. And your bodily wellbeing does indeed come first. I have three reasons why you should watch anyway, or at least come on this thread occasionally to crack wise about Charlie Kimball and Danica Patrick.
Reason the First: Underdogs, mediumdogs and just plain under-performingdogs
As the saying goes, behind every great driver is an equally great driver in a Dale Coyne car. This principle has gotten a good workout this year -- Will Power's won three road course races this season, but the rest of the podium was different every time. We've seen stunning drives from some of the smaller entries this year: Bourdais at Barber, Pagenaud at Long Beach, Wilson at TMS. We've also been co-opted into the game of guessing which Franchitti will turn up this weekend, which you can also buy in Sato, Briscoe and Kanaan varieties. And finally, we've got some genuine championship contenders who, winning at Toronto, would still be met with a lot of surprise and approving glances. Hinch and Hunter-Reay, your seasons start now. Which brings me on to...
Reason the Second: Championship hi-jinx!
The points battle is close. I would say there are six drivers within a win of Power's 286 points, but this is Indycar and if you have a really bad day and are classified somewhere in the teens or below you still pick up 10-20 points. Even so, there's a clear top-five with well-resourced, consistent teams who will undoubtedly consider themselves inglorious failures if they're not within range of the championship come Fontana.
286 Power (Chevy/Penske)
-3 Hunter-Reay (Chevy/Andretti)
-15 Dixon (Honda/Ganassi)
-25 Castroneves (Chevy/Penske)
-30 Hinchcliffe (Chevy/Andretti)
Franchitti will point to trouble adapting the Dallara to his style as a reason for his being out of it, and will certainly enjoy messing up the pre-eminence of the above drivers in the remaining races.
Reason the Third: The track itself
2011 Race Highlights
As Marshall Pruett explains in his Speed.com preview, drivers have tended to take the "it's not you, it's me" approach to the usual Toronto carnage. Tracks don't cause collisions, racers do. Here's
"I think some things will speak for themselves," he said. "I think we all should be ashamed for what happened this weekend. I don't see a point to call a meeting, because what are you going to say? It was ridiculous, so I thought about it. I talked with Dario and Justin about sitting everyone down, but that’s just going to stir up more things. It’s going to become a 'you did this... No, I didn’t do that... You should have gave me more room... I gave you enough room' and I think that after the fact, it's not really up to us to make those decisions. We can bash each other all we want, but the decisions on driving and standards is up to Race Control."
Apologies. When I said the drivers all took responsibility and blamed themselves, what I actually meant was that they blamed Brian Barnhart. He's gone now, and his replacement, Beaux Barfield, has this annoying habit of listening to criticism and changing his race direction accordingly. When he's not grappling manfully with his DVR player, Barfield is known to take a rational and communicative approach to enforcing driving standards. So in the event of another Total Systems Failure on Sunday, the Blame Bottle may stop spinning elsewhere.
Enough! When's the race on?
Sunday. Qualifying's on Saturday. Full schedule's below.
Friday, 6th July
11.05-12.05: Indycar practice 1
13.55-14.55: Indycar practice 2
Saturday, 7th July
9.45-10.45: Indycar practice 3
12.10-12.50: Star Mazda race 1
13.05-14.25: Indycar qualifying
16.00-17.00: Indy Lights race (50 laps)
Sunday, 8th July
8.30-9.00: Indycar warm-up
9.50-10.30: Star Mazda race 2
13.00 (plus 30 seconds): Honda Indy Toronto GREEN FLAG
Manifold bits of (compressed) engine news
-- The engine penalties which have plagued the season now look set to move into another gear (enough powertrain puns?). As this article mentions, five entries (including Dixon and Pagenaud) are already on the last of their allotted powerplants. A further six Chevy drivers and five Hondas are already on Number Four. Grid penalties will be extremely punishing at places like Mid-Ohio, Sears Point and to a lesser extent Edmonton and Toronto, but relatively irrelevant in the 500-miler at Fontana. Indeed, having a fresh, one-use engine for the finale may be a positive advantage. Expect confusion.
-- Push-to-pass is back! Presumably this has something to do with better reliability at higher boost pressures, but the main thing is that Indycar is refusing to let F1 make all the running in the gimmickry stakes. We will fight them on the overtake buttons, we will fight them in the night races, we will fight them in the exaggerated tyre degradation...
-- After negotiations with Indycar's technics, Lotus have a new engine! To help them get up to speed with the others, HVM got themselves a private test at Mid-Ohio at the start of the week. Where they, erm, ran the old engine. As this wire article cheerfully notes, De Silvestro's had so little track time that they chose to "work on other areas of the car", because the new engine was "not a priority". Good lord.
That's enough from the OP
Discuss all things Toronto below. Atlas's resident Torontoans, say hello and tell us your best anecdotes about Exhibition Place, poutine and Tim Hortons.