The Bay Street Grand Prix.
Toronto, ON – This year’s Honda Indy Toronto was an especially significant one, as it comes hot on the heels of a decision to extend the lease on the streets of Toronto through 2015. It also marks the first time in the ’12 Izod IndyCar season where the push-to-pass feature will be implemented; with the press of a button, the cars get an additional 35-45 hp for a short bursts, which can be used for passing manoeuvres.
But it was a much smaller form of racing that kicked off the weekend-long event, as personalities from all over the Toronto area jumped into a fleet of racing karts and took part in the Bay Street Grand Prix in an effort to raise money for the Women & Babies program at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital.
Personalities like NHL star Jason Arnott, champion figure skater Elvis Stojko and CBC anchor Amanda Lang raced to help raise $400,000 for the program, a goal which was achieved and surpassed by the time the races were over at 4 PM on July 5.
The karts make look small, but that doesn’t stop them from being a handful out on the circuit.
“I can’t believe how fast they were,” said Arnott. “You’ve really got to be careful when you’re coming down the straight and trying to pass.”
The race wasn’t’ without incident, either; the track marshals were busy throughout the races as they scrambled to replace the plastic barriers, sent astray by over-zealous celebs. According to the organizers, Stojko—who has raced before—can be as competitive on the track as he was on the way to his three world figure skating championships and two Olympic silver medals. The result was a few shunts here and there on the way to his third-place finish, after he started on pole in the first race of the day.
The event was the brain child Andrew and Cathy DeFrancesco, in partnership with Sunnybrook’s Drs. Paige Church, John S. Dallandrea–both of whom actually raced in the event–and Elizabeth Asztalos. The DeFrancesco’s son, Devlin, was born 15 weeks premature and ended up weighing in at just over a pound at birth. Thanks to the care and attention from Sunnybrook over his first four months, he’s living a healthy lief and is now a North American go-kart racing champon at the tender age of 12.
He was present throughout the event, sporting a blue racing suit and classic Ray-Ban shades, giving the impression of a young Ayrton Senna. The image was all the more real when he got doused in bubbly by the winners on the podium at the end of the day.
Thee has been no confirmation whether it will take place again next year, but judging by the response of those involved and the money raised, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the little karts tearing around the track at this time next year.
Free Indy Day
Today is Free Friday at the Indy, where for no charge, families get access to all sorts of facilities in an around the track. Everything from the paddock—where the cars, drivers and teams set up shop for the duration of the weekend—to the grandstands are open to the public.
In addition to activities like racing a virtual race car or trying your hand at changing a race-car tyre at the Honda pavilion on Thunder Alley, practice and qualifying sessions for the Ferrari Challenge, Firestone Indy Lights and Star Mazda Series will be going on throughout the day—might want to pack a set of ear protectors.