As the Verizon IndyCar Series landed north of the border in Canada this weekend for the Honda Indy Toronto, it was a pair of Frenchmen that were quickest around the newly configured street circuit. Sebastien Bourdais led the morning practice session, with a best lap of 1:02.9291 seconds. Current championship leader Simon Pagenaud had the fastest lap of the day in the afternoon practice session, at 1:01.7081 seconds. Simon believes his team is in a great position heading into tomorrow. “We’re on a good pace this weekend. Certainly I think we’re pretty set with the race car, now we need to make some adjustments for qualifying. But we’re pretty close. It’s great when you’re having one of these weekends and everything flows really well.”
The 11-turn course is slightly altered this year, with the final three turns undergoing some changes due to construction inside of the circuit. Pit lane is now on the drivers’ left for the first time in the history of the event. It took some getting used to for drivers, as well as the pit crews, as the entrance to pit lane is more condensed than in previous years.
Friday Combined Practice Results
All 22 drivers posted their fastest times of the day during the afternoon session, with a total of 839 laps completed on the day. Team Penske took the overall top three spots, with Helio Castroneves and Will Power right behind Pagenaud’s best time. The fourth Penske driver, Juan Montoya, didn’t have such a great day. He found the wall in Turn 11 during the afternoon session, destroying the car. Charlie Kimball had a similar incident shortly after, as both incidents caused a red flag during practice.
Toronto hasn’t been great to Montoya, as he has finished 22nd, 24th, 18th, 19th, and 7th in his five career open-wheel starts here. Another driver in a slump looking to turn his luck around at Toronto would be Ryan Hunter-Reay. While he did win here in 2012, his last five results at Toronto are 18th, 19th, 21st, 14th, and 19th respectively. He was 19th out of the 22 cars during Friday’s practice.
The driver to watch this weekend could be the guy that led the opening practice today. Bourdais has five Champ Car starts at Toronto, resulting in a win, four top-fives, three poles, and 110 laps led. In his seven IndyCar starts, he has a win, four top-fives, a pole, and 78 laps led.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 9:45 AM, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy Toronto, which begins at 1:30 PM on NBC Sports Network.
Practice Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “Nothing broke on the car. I went in a little out of shape and caught a piece of the wall and I ricocheted across the track. The DeVilbiss Chevrolet was really good before that, but I have complete faith in my crew and we’ll be fine. That’s the thing with street courses. Sometimes there just isn’t enough room to recover from a mistake. I’m anxious to get back out there.”
Helio Castroneves: “Very good to be back here in Toronto. With the new changes on the track, it’s just like a new track. You’ve got to learn. You’ve got to try new things. No question, we just start all over again. I guess tomorrow is going to continue going faster. Great for the Pennzoil Chevrolet. Seems to be very good in this session. We learned a lot from the first one. I’m glad that we’re able to share information with my teammates, which worked very well for me.”
James Hinchcliffe: “We had some issues with the car this morning but we were able to sort it out. It’s tough because the conditions out there are bumpy and there are so many surface changes. I bet even the fastest guy out there is saying how bad his car feels. It’s all relative. The guys did a great job over lunch and even during the session to slowly make the Arrow Electronics car better and better. We don’t know exactly what we need out of the car here just yet, we’re still learning. But so far, so good. It’s good to end the first day with a reasonable time and position, and hopefully we can just build on that for tomorrow.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “At the moment, everything looks pretty solid. The team is in good shape and the guys are working really hard to bring the SMP Racing car No. 7 up to the front. We didn’t use new tires at the end of the session compared to the other teams so I think we’re moving in the right direction for tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Max Chilton: “It was a very quick first day in Toronto with quite a few cautions with the track being so soft and bumpy. I feel like we made a good gain in that last new tire set. We’re still where we were in positions, but we’ve reduced the gap a big amount. I think those are the things you have to look for when you’re a rookie. Hopefully we can continue to close that gap with the faster cars tomorrow for qualifying.”
Scott Dixon: “It was a good start to the weekend for Team Target and the No. 9 car guys. We made some good adjustments to the car in the first practice session and were just really adapting to the changes in the track layout. P4 in the second session isn’t terrible but I think we can improve tomorrow and have a good run in qualifying. This is one of my favorite places we race at all year and the fans are great and really appreciate motor racing.”
Tony Kanaan: “We spent most of today’s practice sessions just running laps to mileage out the engine on the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet. I think we only made one change all day. The car is OK. I mean we need to do 19 more laps to mileage this engine out and get it changed for qualifying tomorrow. It was one of those days where you just have to get a lot of laps in without many tires, so you’re just kind of driving around to get there. We only got one fast lap and I hit traffic, but we ended up in the top seven so I think we’re going to be good for tomorrow.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “The Hydroxycut machine was quick today. We made good progress in the afternoon practice, we just didn’t show it at the end of the session. I think on old tires we are looking good, and when we put new tires on we just get more front grip. I think we will be all right. It is just a matter of keeping the car off the deck and getting the car under control under braking. That is the highest priority here so we can load the tire instead of loading the undertray. In the second practice, as we started to brake deeper, we just hit the ground harder. It was a big challenge to put a lap together, but overall I am pretty happy. We just need to sharpen the edges a little bit and clean things up.”
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy had a good day today and we definitely have to find some pace. The track can be difficult with all the bumps. We will evolve over the next practice and qualifying and see what we can do.”
Takuma Sato: “Encouraging day. It’s always great fun to come back to Toronto, one of the most challenging street courses in the series, so bumpy, so slippery and so unpredictable. It’s all about the challenge and particularly this year because they changed the track layout due to shifting the pit lane, so that made one of the fastest corners in the street courses become very slow and very tricky as well because it’s off-camber and has concrete patches, etc. The engineers and team worked really well; we brought the car with a new philosophy of the setup and we made very good progress, so we collected a lot of good data today. Hopefully we’ll be better tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “Overall it was an OK day. We put the Rousseau Metal car in the top 10 in both sessions but I feel like we have a long way to go to get the balance to be a bit better. We found a couple of things which is good but there is certainly more work to be done. It’s great to be back in Toronto. There was a great crowd here today. Thanks to the amazing Canadian fans for their support.”
Conor Daly: “We made some good changes between sessions today and got the Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality car closer to where we need to be. There’s still a big gap but it’s a crazy track, I think as long as we’re consistently improving that’s good and we obviously just want to be in the top 12 for qualifying. It’s a tough track, it’s really bumpy, it’s very, very, very easy to make a mistake so we just have to avoid doing that.”
Luca Filippi: “I’m happy to be back in Toronto. It’s always a great feeling driving around this course. So I’m very motivated. It’s one of those weekends where you feel like you want to and have to do something extra. It was a good day today. We made some changes going into the second practice and now the car feels more drivable and more consistent than in the first session. We had a strong run at the end of practice, so it looks good for the race. From a performance point of view, I think we’re there, we’re amongst the best Hondas. There’s still a small step to get in front with the other competitors but I think we’re going in the right direction. We’ll try and do something extra for tomorrow because we want to do really well.”
Spencer Pigot: “The track is definitely a bit more challenging this year with the changes so we’re trying to get used to that. We definitely made some improvements between the sessions. It’s a lot of fun driving around here, I enjoy this track and I think we’ll have a good car for tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden: “We have a little work to do tomorrow, but we are in a better spot than the time sheets show. We have a pretty good baseline car; I just didn’t get the most out of it today. As long as I raise my level tomorrow, I should have a car that can compete for the Firestone Fast 6. That will be job Number One, hopefully once we do that we will have a good position to try and race for the win.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It’s been a fun day. I love this place here. First of all, the city is so amazing. There’s so much activity. It’s great to see. And the track itself has changed. I like it better. So I’m happy. I do like it better. I know it’s not the case for everybody, but I do, so. I think it’s one of these years where you’re having luck all the time. The PPG Chevrolet was fast, good. We made some adjustments for Practice 2. It actually went better than we expected. We’re on a good pace this weekend. Certainly I think we’re pretty set with the race car, now we need to make some adjustments for qualifying. But we’re pretty close. It’s great when you’re having one of these weekends and everything flows really well.”
Carlos Munoz: “The second practice was way, for sure, better than the first. We still have work to do to be in the top six. For sure the track is much different than last year. It’s much harder for the drivers, especially in (Turn) 11 – we saw a lot of problems there. We’ll have to work overnight to see how we can improve. But it’s good to see a lot of fans here for Friday.”
Marco Andretti: “It was a pretty messy (afternoon) session as far as clean laps, there were a lot of red (flags). We need to find some friendlier front grip than what we’ve been finding for the Dr Pepper car. We were a little loose that session, so we need to calm down the behavior of how the front (of the car) works right now.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a pretty good morning session. I thought we were pretty competitive, then this afternoon we never really got our rhythm going – interrupted by the red (flags). So overall we didn’t really get anything out of Practice 2, and will have to see what we can do tomorrow with the DHL Honda.”
Jack Hawksworth: “We struggled a bit this morning and the car wasn’t too great but we made some changes during the break and the car was a bit better this afternoon. It’s still lacking some grip, not doing what I want it to do, especially the rear. Hopefully we can find a little bit more bite and get ourselves in a better position for tomorrow.”
Charlie Kimball: “It was disappointing to have our session end early. I was just out on fresh tires and trying get a little aggressive in Turn 11. I caught the apex wall and that put me into the outside wall. I know the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys will fix it – I have the utmost confidence in the No. 83 team. I think the car is pretty good – we’ll obviously learn a little bit from what the No. 9 and the No. 10 did and talk to the No. 8 car and see if we can all learn from each other. I think the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet should be good tomorrow morning and ready for qualifying tomorrow afternoon.”
Alexander Rossi: “This morning’s practice session was okay, I thought we made good progress. This afternoon (with the red flags) we got very limited running. I think we are okay, but at the moment we are not quite a top-10 car, so we need to work on that and hopefully tomorrow is a smoother day.”