Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 Honda Indy Toronto Videos From Friday With Verizon IndyCar Series

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Due to various reasons, I have not had the time I needed to properly share my experience at the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto. It is really quite a shame on my part because the day I attended the event was perhaps the most lively events I have been to.

The reconfigured track resulting from moving pit to the outside portion of the front stretch, positioning the IndyCar paddock inside the Enercare Centre, the return of NASCAR stock cars belonging to the Canadian Pinty's Series as well as the overall ambiance of the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto provided a memorable time at the races.

The Verizon IndyCar Series paddock located inside for 2016 served as an interesting change. Providing a fresh change of scenery to watch the crews prepare race cars, it wasn't without a minor discomfort. Though the area was shaded from the hot July sun and any potential precipitation, I found it to be actually warmer inside than outside since a breeze was present through much of the afternoon on Friday.

Just like in every past year at the Honda Indy Toronto, the paddock delivers terrific photos and video footage. Attached to this post is two video compilations I posted on YouTube related to the Verizon IndyCar Series at the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto. One consists of an assortment of paddock and on-track action while the second is connected to the aftermath of an afternoon practice accident involving the #2 Penske Racing car driven by Juan Pablo Montoya.

Friday Practice Action for Verizon IndyCar Series at 2016 Honda Indy Toronto  

 Juan Pablo Montoya's Car in Paddock After 2016 Honda Indy Toronto Practice Crash


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Power Wins Electric 2016 Honda Indy Toronto

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
Race Results

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Scott Dixon Scores Honda Indy Toronto Pole; Hinchcliffe Starts Sixth

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

For three decades, Indy-style car racing has been an ingredient of summertime in Toronto (well, somewhat less last year since the race was positioned in June to accommodate the 2015 Pan-Am Games but the race was still held in reasonably warm temperatures). The 30th edition of the Toronto street race within Exhibition Place arrived with sensational momentum as current IndyCar stars including Canadian and 2016 Indy 500 pole sitter James Hinchcliffe prepared for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ only stop outside of the United States for 2016. Serving as the main event for the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto, the Verizon IndyCar Series 85-lap race on Sunday was set by the outcome of Saturday afternoon qualifying.

Contending on a refreshed street course design for 2016 created as a result of construction within the event grounds, the pit road was most notably shifted from the right side of the track to the left side. The pit road location movement has also prepared to be a turning curve for drivers evident by Juan-Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball who damaged their race cars in that reshaped sector of the track on Friday. Along with the re-configuration, the distance for a single lap has been revised. The track has grown from 1.755 miles to 1.786 miles for 2016. Current Verizon IndyCar Series point leader Simon Pagenaud set the fastest time from the two Friday practices at a 1-minute, 1.7081 seconds. Saturday’s qualifying demonstrated a heightened sense of understanding and bravery on the new Toronto street circuit as times dipped by almost two seconds.

In the two groups of round 1 qualifying, the Team Penske four-car effort proved fierce. With two team cars entered in each group, Simon Pagenaud led Helio Castroneves in group 1 while Will Power topped teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. Three of the four Roger Penske-owned entries advanced into the final Firestone Fast Six round used to decide the pole position for the Honda Indy Toronto. Montoya in the #2 DeVilbiss car was the only driver of the team not to advance settling for a ninth place starting spot for Sunday.

The Firestone Fast Six consisted of five Chevrolet powered vehicles and a lone Honda entry. To the delight of the Canadian crowd, the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car was driven by Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe. Cracking the top six in qualifying, Hinchcliffe posted a career-best effort in time trials at the Honda Indy Toronto in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Unable to meet the speed of the Chevrolet engines, Hinchcliffe was the slowest of the session taking the sixth spot for race day. "The Arrow Electronics guys did a great job. It's such a tough track out here with the conditions, the surface changes, the bumps obviously, but they did what they had to do and gave me a car that could get up there.” said Hinchcliffe in post-race.

Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski

As Helio Castroneves topped the time chart in the final seconds of qualifying for the Honda Indy Toronto, Scott Dixon driving his #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car crossed the line with just enough time for a final lap. The final lap by Dixon burst the bubble of the Team Penske organization as a Chip Ganassi-owned machine bettered their efforts. With a time just 0.0352 seconds faster, Scott Dixon beat Helio Castroneves on the Toronto street course. Clocked completing the front position-winning lap at 59.9073 seconds, Dixon’s pole time is almost half a second slower than Will Power’s time likely attributed to the slightly longer course length. While the crucial winner of the Firestone Fast Six, it’s worth noting the previous sessions were led by times faster than Scott Dixon’s effort.

Despite success and dominance through what is now a 50-year history for Team Penske, it may be a surprise to many that the organization has won just twice on the Toronto street course (first with Paul Tracy in 1993 and the second time with Will Power in 2010). A 1997 winner of an Indy Lights race at the Canadian motorsport event, Helio Castroneves starts second at the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto chasing his first IndyCar victory at the track. In the second row for the race will be the Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. 2004 and 2014 Toronto race winner Sebastien Bourdais starts in fifth place in the #11 Hydroxycut car. Along with James Hinchcliffe in sixth, the top-six starters of the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto were part of the top-six in Friday practice.

Rookie Conor Daly will start a strong seventh place alongside 2015 Honda Indy Toronto race winner Josef Newgarden. 2015 runner-up as a teammate to Newgarden, Luca Filippi now drives #19 Dale Coyne Racing for 2016 achieving a 11th place result in qualifying.

Starting in the back of the field for the 2016 Honda Indy Toronto is Marco Andretti in the 22nd spot. While driver Andretti cited a struggle of grip during Friday practice, the entire stable of cars for Andretti Autosport left disappointed after qualifying. The team’s highest-placed driver is Carlos Munoz who starts 15th.

Start time for the 30th edition of the race now known as the Honda Indy Toronto is set for 3:00 PM eastern time.

2016 Verizon IndyCar Series
Honda Indy Toronto
Qualifying Results 

Pos # / Driver/ Car #/ Engine

1 Scott Dixon 9 Chevrolet
2 Helio Castroneves 3 Chevrolet
3 Simon Pagenaud 22 Chevrolet
4 Will Power 12 Chevrolet
5 Sebastien Bourdais 11 Chevrolet
6 James Hinchcliffe 5 Honda
7 Conor Daly 18 Honda
8 Josef Newgarden 21 Chevrolet
9 Juan Pablo Montoya 2 Chevrolet
10 Mikhail Aleshin 7 Honda
11 Luca Fillippi 19 Honda
12 Tony Kanaan 10 Chevrolet
13 Jack Hawksworth 41 Honda
14 Max Chilton 8 Chevrolet
15 Carlos Munoz 26 Honda
16 Graham Rahal 15 Honda
17 Charlie Kimball 42 Chevrolet
18 Ryan Hunter-Reay 28 Honda
19 Alexander Rossi 98 Honda
20 Takuma Sato 14 Honda
21 Spencer Pigot 20 Honda
22 Marco Andretti 27 Honda

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fast Friends Aston Martin And Red Bull Racing Reveal AM-RB 001

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

Long regarded as the most prestigious form of auto racing, Formula 1 has been known for creating legends. Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, James Hunt, Mario Andretti and Michael Schumacher are among a few that transcend the borders of motorsport to be seen as sport stars based on their mastery inside the global open wheel series. As impressive as driver instinct and physical nature impacts auto racing, finely-tuned machines have provided the basis for legacies. Teams looking for the competitive edge have developed technologies and philosophies becoming the foundation for most supercars. Fuel injection, mid-engined configuration, carbon fiber construction and semi-automatic transmissions.

The technology transfer of Formula 1 cars to road cars has also been accompanied by the teams of the sport. While manufacturer involvement is a cornerstone to Formula 1, the reversal trend has always been popular. The story was that Enzo Ferrari began building production cars in order to fund his Formula 1 and other racing activities he enjoyed so much. McLaren has a long-stemming relationship to production cars that started with modified Ford Mustangs in the 1980s but has reached critical mass with their own supercar company. In 2011, Williams F1 was to be partnered with Jaguar’s aborted production of the C-X75 supercar. A recently-announced teaming between four-time world constructor champion Red Bull Racing and an over one century-old British sports car company Aston Martin has now resulted in a new hypercar fusion of motorsport/road car technology called the AM-RB 001.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

Collaboratively developed between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing personnel, the limited production AM-RB 001 high-performance vehicle’s development was presided by the three individuals. From Aston Martin, executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman as well as the Chief Special Operations Officer David King worked with legendary Formula 1 car designer and Red Bull Racing’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey. Newey has built world championship cars for Williams F1 team, McLaren as well as Red Bull Racing and was involved in the March IndyCar chassis in a career spanning more than 30 years. From the collective expertise, the AM-RB 001 came to form as a V-12 powered, mid-engined two-seat dream car touting incredible aerodynamics and a mind-boggling power-to-weight ratio.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

The AM-RB 001 lightweight carbon fiber construction is described as exhibiting a level of aerodynamic performance uncommon with production road cars. Downforce is optimized with the hypercar’s underfloor derived from Newey’s Formula 1 design experience. The aesthetics of the AM-RB 001's form and function shape is among the most extreme uses for the wings badge. The two-passenger cabin compartment is tightly wrapped into the center of the vehicle.

Mechanically, the AM-RB 001 hypercar’s momentum will be extracted from a naturally-aspirated V-12 engine. While performance specs have not been mentioned with the AM-RB 001 initial debut, the mid-mounted powerplant is said to preserve a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio (equating to 1 horsepower per single kilogram of vehicle weight). Little concrete news has also been announced in regards to the suspension and transmission of the car but the collective behind the AM-RB 001 teases both aspects will draw on Adrian Newey’s skill to create an innovative setup.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

Production of the AM-RB 001 is slated to start at Aston Martin’s Gaydon production facility for 2018 with between 99 and 150 road legal examples for a price not yet determined. For what is guaranteed to be an obscene amount of money, the sticker price is unlikely to be an obstacle for ultra-rich buyers of finely-crafted rolling engineering marvels. There is also 25-vehicle release of the AM-RB 001 earmarked specially as track-only models.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Self-Driving Technology Under the Microscope After Fatal Tesla Autopilot Accident

Red Telsa Model S
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Today, Tesla Motors officially declared an action transpired in regards to autonomous and self-driving that many have feared as well as expected to happen. In a company blog posting, Tesla Motors announced their company was contacted by the United States NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) as a preliminary investigation has been opened into the self-driving Autopilot program installed on a Tesla Model S involved in a crash resulting in a death.

A fatal accident where an activated Autopilot system is suspect for being a leading factor, a male occupant of a Tesla Model S sedan died when the vehicle collided with the trailer of a transport truck. The explanation of the crash seems to indicate the limitations of this certain self-driving aid technology in detecting white objects in high light conditions. According to the blog account, the tractor trailer was perpendicular to the Model S where the all-electric vehicle drove under the bottom of the trailer.

Tesla Motors expressed sadness and sympathies towards the person as well as his family, the auto company. However, while acknowledging the accident and the evaluation of their Autopilot system, Tesla Motors has also included clarity and defense of the self-driving assist technology. Citing the Autopilot's record of completing 130 million miles of collective operations among Tesla vehicles, the automaker draws attention to statistics that a fatality on average occurs on American roadways every 94 million miles. Tesla does mention their Autopilot technology is still in the beta phase. Suggesting the software is improving as its continues to operate in real-worth cases, Tesla clearly makes its clear their Autopilot function is an assist feature and requires full driver attention when in use.

The organization Consumer Watchdog quickly reacted to the news as it was posted on the Tesla blog. "We hope this is a wake-up call to federal regulators that we still don't know enough about the safety of self-driving cars to be rushing them to the road. The Administration should slow its rush to write guidelines until the causes in this crash are clear, and the manufacturers provide public evidence that self-driving cars are safe." said the group's executive director Carmen Balber in a press release. Consumer Watchdog has been a vocal critic to the quick-moving development of autonomous and self-driving technology. In April, Consumer Watchdog issued a release calling for the NHTSA to reject Google's approval process for self-driving vehicles. A previous press release implored the regulator to ask Google 10 questions related to the execution of their self-driving cars. While several of the questions look for answers to legitimate concerns about the function of the self-driving software as well as privacy, Consumer Watchdog has also conveyed displeasure in what the organization has defined as a fast-track approval process. Part of question 9 read as follows: "NHTSA's performance standards are actually designed to promote new life-saving technology. Why is Google trying to circumvent them?"

It's inevitable this fatality with self-driving technology will result in the proliferation of ongoing debates on the future of this autonomous control on the road. Expect those discussion to take place in the days and weeks to come. Share value of  Tesla Motors shares have dropped to as much as $6.03 in after hours trading in the wake of the evaluation by the NHTSA,