The narrow, bumpy streets of Toronto saw some classic IndyCar street racing with a grandstand finish and win for Will Power.
2016 Indy Toronto heroes
Hero – Tony Kanaan
At first glance it looked like Kanaan was destined for another disappointing result playing second fiddle to his team mate, Scott Dixon. Put on what appeared to be a downright bizarre 3-stop strategy, Kanaan made it work with a run of qualifying pace laps late in the race. Finishing fourth was a decent reward but TK’s strategy could have resulted in a podium finish if it had not been for the final caution of the race. The late full course yellow for the Hawksworth/Montoya accident allowed James Hinchcliffe – nursing low fuel in third place – to go full rich to the podium, denying Kanaan the podium finish he deserved.
Hero – Will Power
Most had written Power off for the 2016 IndyCar season championship earlier this year. A slide in results for team-mate Pagenaud and Scott Dixon’s continued inability to catch a break have combined with Power getting his race day mojo back. Sneaking in to the pits just before the race-deciding full course caution brought the race to the Australian former champion.
The last-minute call from Tim Cindric put Power in the driving seat when the likes of Tony Kanaan were forced to pit under green. Nevertheless Power took the opportunity with both hands and put himself right back in contention for the 2016 IndyCar championship.
Hero – James Hinchcliffe
Hinch admitted post-race that his Schmidt-Peterson Honda did not have the pace to claim a podium finish. The Canadian dropped down the field throughout the race; a mixture of handling issues and being on the receiving end of some hard moves from rivals. Surprised to have the race come to him, the Mayor of Hinchtown got lucky with the final caution. Freed from the fuel saving that was likely to drop him off the podium, the Schmidt-Peterson driver went full rich to the end.
Despite not being reflective of Hinch’s ultimate pace, a podium finish was important for the IndyCar series and its sole Canadian race.
Hero – Scott Dixon
An eighth place finish typically does not get a driver in to my heroes selection but Scott Dixon deserves to be included. For two-thirds of the race in Toronto he dominated. Comfortably able to gap the Penske trio of Castroneves, Power and Pagenaud early in the race, he displayed his usual smoothness and finesse as he managed the short-living alternate red Firestone tires. The opportunity to make some headway in to Simon Pagenaud’s championship lead – and get back on terms with the rest of the Penske team – evaporated quickly as the timing of yellow flags conspired against him.
Toronto looked set to be start of Dixon’s trademark late-season title push. Sadly I am now wondering whether there are enough races left for the 2015 champion.
Hero – Josef Newgarden
He ended the race in the wall outside turn 5 but up until that point Newgarden was putting in another bionic-man performance. Newgarden’s race win in Iowa last weekend was astonishing but in many respects, his performance this weekend in Toronto was even more impressive.
Street races are hard on drivers and Toronto is one of the worst – the result of the city enduring blisteringly cold winters and sweltering summers. The bumpiness of the course needs to be viewed from on-board cameras to get even some sense of how much of a bone-shaker this circuit is. To run at the sharp end of the field as Newgarden did was mighty impressive. Though he was mad at himself for the mistake, fatigue in his damaged hand contributed to his DNF as much as riding the damaged inside kerb.
Read about where Newgarden will be driving in 2017 here.
Heroes – Conor Daly’s crew
I would imagine there is nothing worse on race day for pit crew than to watch your driver thump his car in to the wall in morning warm-up. Credit to the Dale Coyne Racing team for a cracking job to get Daly’s car ready for the green flag. Daly showed signs of his strong street circuit potential but ended up a disappointing 15th – scant consolation for his crew.
Heroes – Holmatro Safety Crew
Usually we are praising them for their work helping drivers after serious accidents. This time it is for their sterling efforts retrieving Jack Hawksworth’s car in the closing laps. Their quick worked allowed the race to finish under green and with the front right completely ripped off, moving a car listing heavily was no mean feat. Thanks guys!
Hero – Juan Pablo Montoya
More rumours were swirling in the Toronto paddock about Montoya’s future with Team Penske. Despite another disappointing qualifying performance, Montoya was looking like his usual self on race day. Fighting his way to the front his move around the outside of Bourdais through turns 3 and 4 was vintage JPM. It was such a disappointment that a late race accident that could have been avoided – part of pattern that is typifying the Indy 500 winner’s season – will be the lasting memory from what might be the Colombian’s last trip to the Honda Indy Toronto.
For more on the likely driver moves in IndyCar for the 2017 season, check out my earlier post.
2016 Indy Toronto zeroes
Zero – TV director
Whoever it was directing the race coverage from Toronto, they were having a nightmare. The coverage had us cutting to replays as drivers were shaping up to execute overtakes. We had partial fades in to replays that stopped abruptly before we went back to live coverage. This was messy coverage that stunted the flow of the entertaining commentary from Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell.
Zero – kerb repairs
The nightmare scenario for race organizers came to pass on Sunday afternoon. Kerbs around the Toronto street circuit – particularly at turns 1 and 5 broke up during the race. The repairs – which appeared to involve simply bashing the kerbs with hammers – looked rather ham-fisted. Despite Josef Newgarden being pitched in to the outside wall after riding the damaged turn 5 kerb, the organisers got away with the hasty repair job. But it felt like a total quick fix and the subsequent return to racing a touch risky.
And asking the drivers to avoid the kerb in turn 5? Come on! There is no point asking racing drivers to pass up an opportunity to gain an advantage.
3 out of 5. Not a Toronto race for the showreel but the various yellows and alternate strategies kept everyone guessing about who would take the win (and finish on the podium). Plus the frenetic overtaking in the closing laps was a joy to watch.