|Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski|
For the 30th occasion, the City of Toronto has welcomed a majestic show of competitive technology alongside the waterfront within the Exhibition Place grounds. Since 1986, open wheel Indy-style cars have been the highlight to major auto racing held on a temporary street course. With exception to 2008, the racing activities has been an yearly occasion that attracted some of the largest crowds for an annual sporting event in Ontario and ranks high within the country of Canada. As the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series arrived in Toronto for the longstanding engagement of thrilling Canadian fans, this year's race demonstrated a revamped flavour compared to the 29 races that preceded this year's race.
Not immune to the hotel/condo construction fever that Toronto has been weathering for the past decade, the 30th anniversary of the Honda Indy Toronto was marked by some key changes. The movement of the pit road to the left side of the track was noted for the 11-turn, 1.786-mile (2.874-kilometer) temporary street course. For the Verizon IndyCar Series, their paddock location was moved to inside the Enercare Centre differing from the outside setups utilized in previous years.
The new pit road positioning provided a challenge for contenders in the 2016 race emphasized by a constant struggle for grip during practice and qualifying. The Team Penske cars proved to be better at connecting power to the ground on Friday and Saturday but the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car piloted by Scott Dixon masterfully stole the pole position away from Helio Castroneves in the dying seconds of qualifying.
|Photo Credit: Chris Jones|
As Scott Dixon led the 22-car through the newly-configured turn 11, the green flag flew to start the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto. The field made it through the traditionally treacherous turn 1 and turn 3 portions of the race course but the would not complete the first lap under full race pace. Through turn 8, Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball made contact. Ryan Hunter-Reay also slowed approaching the Rahal's stalled #15 car. Losing position on-track, all three drivers resumed racing once the race was restarted. The restart would also provide a short-lived green flag period lasting just two laps. A full course yellow once-again was displayed for debris when Juan-Pablo Montoya's #2 DeVilbiss car made contact with the rear end of the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing car driven by Josef Newgarden. Newgarden's vehicle was the only one to sustain visible damage requiring an extended pit stop for a new rear end assembly.
On lap 8, the Verizon IndyCar Series field was sent back to green where it remained for an extended period of time. Early in the race, the pole-winning #9 Chevrolet-powered Chip Ganassi Racing entrant piloted by Scott Dixon rolled out a considerable gap over Team Penske drivers (first #3 vehicle of Helio Castroneves and second being Simon Pagenaud's #22 machine following a pit stop cycle).
Starting sixth in the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto, hometown favourite James Hinchcliffe driving his #5 Arrow Electronics Honda-powered Dallara for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports found it challenging to maintain the pace of the Chevrolets as well as teammate Mikhail Aleshin. Hinchcliffe's best career starting position appeared to be met by the Canadian's typical bad luck on race day during the first half distance of the competition.
Crossing the halfway point, the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto practically transformed into a separate race. Following a lap 45 to lap 49 yellow flag to address a failing piece of curbing on turn 5, a caution period again surfaced when Josef Newgarden launched over the compromised turn 5 curb into a tire barrier. As Scott Dixon relinquished lead by the pitting under caution at the end of lap 60, the complexion of the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto was greatly altered. Having pitted on earlier laps, Tony Kanaan, Will Power and James Hinchcliffe were able to catapult their way to the top three spots. In the case of Power, his previous stop was a result of fortunate timing as he pitted his #12 Verizon machine seconds before the field was slowed by the caution on lap 58.
|Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski|
After leading the race for 56 laps with an advantage of nearly 8 seconds over his closest rival at the midway point in the event, Dixon unfortunate pit timing resulted in the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car being dropped to 13th place. The New Zealand driver would be out of the running for the Toronto race win in the closing laps eventually settling for an 8th place finish.
When the race restarted on lap 63, Tony Kanaan was at the front of the front but was in a situation where the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing car would be short on fuel. Kanaan's only chance to salvage a worthy result was to sprint through from the moment the green was displayed. The Brazilian set some impressive pace in the top spot highlighted by the race's fastest lap by a leader on lap 71 clocked at 60.9365 seconds..Accomplishing as much as possible through his hot lapping at the front, Tony Kanaan turned onto pit road at the end of lap 75 so his crew could provide him with enough E85 fuel to finish the race. Receiving only a short refill, Kanaan returned would return to the track in fourth place as James Hinchcliffe just barely overtook the #10 machine as it exited pit lane. While Hinchcliffe was able to fend off Tony Kanaan, the Canadian was less successful in holding back the faster #3 Pennzoil-sponsored Team Penske car driven by Helio Castoneves.
As the two Penske entrants run one-two on track, a final caution flag was thrown on lap 82 when Juan Pablo Montoya and Jack Hawksworth had collided with the turn 5 wall. Safety crews were able to remove the damaged vehicles swiftly setting up a one-lap dash for the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto victory. Thanks to a large stockpile of push-to-pass boosts and an error-free run on the final lap, Will Power beat teammate Helio Castroneves to the checkered flag by a margin of 1.5275 seconds. Power's third win for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar season, the victory is also the Australian's third at the Honda Indy Toronto event.
Stretching fuel economy from his Honda engine in the late stage of the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto, hometown driver James Hinchcliffe became a Canadian hero after 85 laps. While attempting to cross the finish line with enough fuel, the #5 Arrow machine fended off Tony Kanaan for the final 10 laps to collect a third place result. In post-race, Hinchcliffe stated, "I’m not going to lie and sit here say we had third place pace. We really struggled on blacks in the middle stint. But as the cloud cover came out in that last stint the track really kind of came to us so we had to save fuel". A career-best result on the street course Hinchcliffe, the feat was the first time since 2006 that a Canadian driver was on the podium for the top race at the Honda Indy Toronto event.
|Photo Credit: Chris Jones|
Crossing the line in fourth place, Tony Kanaan and the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing team's gamble allowed the group to finish 8 positions up from their qualifying spot. Behind Kanaan, a roll of the dice by the #14 AJ Foyt Racing Honda piloted by Takuma Sato gave the team a top-5 result after a 20th place start 85 laps earlier. Sato finished ahead of Honda-powered comrade and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Mikhail Aleshin and the Chevrolet-propelled KVSH Racing vehicle of two-time Honda Indy Toronto winner Sebastian Bourdais. The final driver in the top-10 for the 2016 Honda Indy came from the last place on the grid after struggling to find speed through much of the weekend. Macro Andretti came from 22nd to 10th classified as the highest-finishing Andretti Autosport team entry for what was an overall difficult weekend.
While the 2016 edition of the popular Toronto is in the history books, five races remaining in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series tour, Will Power and Helio Castroneves gained ground on point leader as well as teammate Simon Pagenaud in the standings. Settling for a 9th place finish at the Honda Indy Toronto, Pagenaud holds a 47-point lead on Power.
2016 Verizon IndyCar Series
Honda Indy Toronto
Pos # / Driver / Car # / Engine
1 Will Power 12 Chevrolet
2 Helio Castroneves 3 Chevrolet
3 James Hinchcliffe 5 Honda
4 Tony Kanaan 10 Chevrolet
5 Takuma Sato 14 Honda
6 Mikhail Aleshin 7 Honda
7 Sebastien Bourdais 11 Chevrolet
8 Scott Dixon 9 Chevrolet
9 Simon Pagenaud 22 Chevrolet
10 Marco Andretti 27 Honda
11 Charlie Kimball 42 Chevrolet
12 Ryan Hunter-Reay 28 Honda
13 Graham Rahal 15 Honda
14 Luca Fillippi 19 Honda
15 Conor Daly 18 Honda
16 Alexander Rossi 98 Honda
17 Carlos Munoz 26 Honda
18 Max Chilton 8 Chevrolet
19 Spencer Pigot 20 Honda
20 Juan Pablo Montoya 2 Chevrolet
21 Jack Hawksworth 41 Honda
22 Josef Newgarden 21 Chevrolet