With the IndyCar races in Toronto only days away, excitement is growing throughout the city. The event that can make or break a season is finally upon us. And what’s better: we get not one but two days of great racing in Canada!
Did you know that in the 9 times out of the 26 races that have occurred on the streets of Toronto, the winner has gone on to claim the championship? Dario Frachitti’s done it twice, in 2009 and 2011, while Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser jr, Michael Andretti, Alex Zanardi, Cristiano da Matta, Paul Tracy, and Sebastien Bourdais have each achieved this once. What’s more, 3 of the aforementioned people are competing in these races, 2 of them are team owners now, and 1 will be commentating for his native audience! This race has proven in the past to be a pivotal point in deciding championships.
Yet it has a mind of its own. Take Canada’s favorite James Hinchcliffe for example. Hinch has never done well on this circuit. Last year he finished 22nd, and the year before 14th. Looking back to his Indy Lights days, he was 10th in 2010. He did have a podium in 2009, but his two races on the circuit in 2007 and 2006 resulted in a retirement and 6th respectively. Out of 6 times on the circuit, his best finish of 3rd came when he was 22 years old.
While some drivers may have had bad luck at this track, it’s been very rewarding to others. Dario Franchitti, a driver who most Canadians would dub to be an honorary Canuck, has found tremendous success on these streets. Dario has 4 poles to his name on top of 3 race wins. Since 2009, he’s either won pole or finished on the podium. Coming off of a very strong performance at Pocono, these races could be the turning point in what has been a lackluster season so far. Given his history, Franchitti should do well this weekend.
Someone else hoping to do well in Toronto has far more pressure on his shoulders. Marco Andretti’s father, Michael, won on the streets of Toronto a record 7 times. 7! Marco’s best finish is 4th. Right now, he sits 3rd in points and is the only one of the top-7 without a win. 2 of his teammates have multiple wins. Marco must be feeling the pressure to perform well at a track where his family has traditionally thrived. It’s hard to imagine him staying up in the points battle without a win as the season winds to a close.
What I find most exciting about this weekend is the chameleon aspect. These drivers haven’t driven the road course set up on an IndyCar since Detroit. That means, by the time first practice begins on Friday, it will have been 38 days since their last adventures with different aero packages. Sure, the drivers have been busy every weekend in between, but they’ve been at Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa, and Pocano driving cars with little downforce, different brake cooling systems, and very different physical demands. How quickly the drivers can adapt back to these other cars will directly affect how much time they have towards getting the right set up for the race. If the driver has mental blocks or takes one session to re-acclimate, that’s a session lost.
It’s very physically demanding to drive a race. The pilots in the best shape should have a leg up for the Sunday race. It will be interesting to watch and see which drivers can recover more quickly from the stresses on Saturday and which ones have lingering fatigue when taking the green flag on Sunday. Given the way this season has fallen into place, expect to see at least one new face on the podium for each of the races. So far, 16 drivers have been on the podium over 11 races, with Ryan Hunter-Reay standing on 6. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see someone else new for the season hoisting the 1st place trophy for at least one of the races, and am expecting to see one or two new faces make it up into the top-3.
Toronto has historically provided one championship changing race a year; in 2013, we get two.