Toronto, ON – In our race day 1 coverage of the 2011 Honda Indy Toronto, we quoted the owner of Carpages.ca-sponsored car #56 of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Jim Bray, likening racing to a “blood sport.”
It turned out to be a spot of somewhat dark foreshadowing for the following day, especially in the case of the weekend’s main event, the Toronto round of the IZOD IndyCar Road Racing Championship.
In a tightly-contested race that saw first place and last place separated by little more than a single second at times thanks to a rash of full-course yellow conditions, Scotland’s Dario Franchitti—with a name about as Scottish as maple syrup is Mexican—of Target Chip Ganassi Racing earned top sport on the podium. The win—his third in Toronto—reserved him a place atop the leaderboard in both the Road Race and Oval Race Championships. In addition, the win moved him into second all-time for most wins in Toronto by either a CART or IndyCar driver–he has a ways to go if he plans on catching all-time leader Michael Andretti, however, who has seven.
“I love racing in Toronto,” Franchitti said from the winner’s circle. “It’s always competitive here. Oh, and Target, welcome to Canada.” The retail giant is due to take over Zellers here by 2013, and it just happens to also be the main sponsor of Franchitti’s car #10.
Will Power, who started the race on pole for the 8th straight round, saw his chances at a win dashed when Franchitti hit him on lap 57, forcing Power into a spin. His race ended for good when he later collided with top Canadian qualifier Alex Tagliani.
After the race, Franchitti insisted that his and Powers’ shunt was an accident, and if it was, then it was just one of many that happened throughout the race—there was a total of seven full-course yellows, with six racers not finishing. Tagliani’s day ended when fan favourite Danica Patrick—who may very well have raced her last race in Toronto as widespread rumours have her switching full-time to NASCAR for next season– returned the favour that Tagliani had bestowed upon Power earlier.
Then there was the five-car pileup involving Marco Andretti, Oriol Servia, Charlie Kimball, Canadian (and rookie of the year candidate) James Hinchcliffe and Mike Conway on lap 79. Andretti escaped unscathed, eventually finishing fourth–earning a valuable 32 points in the process–but Conway’s day was finished.
It was a banner day for the Target team; Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon finished second, for 40 points. The two were joined on the podium by Andretti Racing/Team DHL driver Ryan Hunter-Reay who earned 35 points for his third-place finish.
In may have not been the best race if you were a driver or team owner, but for spectators, it was a golden. And it’s a good thing, too; TSN is reporting that this was the most watched Toronto Indy in 14 years, with 559,000 viewers tuned in to watch the action.
The tight confines of the Toronto course didn’t just make things rough on the IndyCar drivers; the Firestone Indy Lights contest saw the original starting number of 13 reduced to 9 by race’s end, after accidents ended the races of David Ostella, Daniel Herrington, Bruno Andrade and Duarte Ferreira.
What Target Chip Ganassi managed in the IndyCar race, Andretti Autosport did in the Light race; the top two finishers, Stefan Wilson and Peter Dempsey, both race under that banner.
While there was no NASCAR Canadian Tire race Sunday, there was plenty of closed-wheel action on hand, most notably from the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series. On Sunday, Richard Boake repeated his performance from Saturday’s race 1, as he lead for the whole race, eventually winning by a healthy margin.
In Touring Class, Tom Kwok managed to edge past the Mini Cooper S driven by Alain Lauzière as they raced down the track’s back straight on Lakeshore Blvd; the Octane Motorsport Minis are great in the twisties, but are overpowered by cars like Kwok’s Civic Si on the straights.
The Octane cars still finished a respectable second and third in class, which is nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering they finished 1-2 in Race 1 on Saturday.
“We’re happy with the results this weekend,” said crew member Eric Abe. “Now we’ll see what happens in two weeks at Mosport.” That test will be a challenging one for Abe and the rest of the team; the track is considered one of the fastest in the top-tier ALMS circuit, let alone the CTCC, and is defined by the long Mario Andretti straight between turns 7 and 8.
In other action, Harry Cheung repeated his performance from Saturday in the Ferrari Challenge; he finished first then, and did so again on Sunday for Race 2. Cooper McNeil finished second in both races; you had to look to third place to find a difference as John Farano switched places with Mark McKenzie on the podium’s third spot.