Points Leader Montoya Fastest in Practice 1; Hinchcliffe Named Grand Marshal for Honda Indy Toronto
TORONTO (June 12, 2015) – Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Juan Pablo Montoya recorded the quickest lap of 1 minute, 0.6343 of a second on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit on the opening day of practice for the Honda Indy Toronto.
Montoya’s lap was set in the first of two scheduled practice sessions on a drying circuit following early-morning rain. With a rain-soaked racing surface in the afternoon, no cars completed a full lap in the second practice that was checkered with 26 of the scheduled 45-minute session remaining. A 45-minute morning practice June 13 precedes the three rounds of knockout qualifications. The 85-lap race is June 14.
Simon Pagenaud was second on the practice time chart (1:00.7922) in the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, followed by CFH Racing teammates Josef Newgarden (1:00.8363) and Luca Filippi (1:00.8500). Sebastien Bourdais, who won the first of the doubleheader races last year, was fifth (1:00.8620) in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet.
The top 11 cars were separated by a half-second. The tight competition was further highlighted by the fact that the gap between Newgarden (third) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal (eighth) was less than a tenth of a second.
Montoya, who takes a 25-point advantage over reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and teammate Will Power into the 10th race of the season, isn’t looking beyond this weekend, which will mark the 31st Indy car race in Toronto.
“You can’t focus on points, you have to focus on executing every weekend and if things work out well, then we look good,” said Montoya, driving the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet. “It’s exciting to be in my second year back and leading the points, though it doesn’t guarantee anything. So far it’s been a good season and I think we have really good cars in Toronto.
“We went out, didn’t get in many laps because we had a problem with the brakes, but the speed was there,” added Montoya, who won his second Indianapolis 500 last month. “It’s encouraging, but with the rain it just makes it hard because it washes away any rubber we put down and tomorrow we have to start from zero.”
Gil de Ferran holds the Toronto track one-lap qualifying record of 57.143 seconds set when he drove for Team Penske in 1999 – the same season Montoya won the CART championship. Montoya started eighth and finished 22nd in the 95-lap race that year for Chip Ganassi Racing. De Ferran crashed and finished 19th.
Hinchcliffe Named Grand Marshal for Honda Indy Toronto
James Hinchcliffe, the injured Verizon IndyCar Series driver and native of nearby Oakville, Ont., has been cleared to travel from his Indianapolis home and will be grand marshal for the Honda Indy Toronto on June 14. Hinchcliffe is recovering from surgery for injuries sustained in a practice crash May 18 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Although he is unable to race, it is important to us, and to him, that he is involved in the race in some capacity, being as this is his hometown event,” said Charlie Johnstone, Honda Indy Toronto president.
Conor Daly, filling in for Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda this weekend, has a special helmet design for the race weekend to honor his Canadian friend. The helmet is dotted with red maple leaves and a large section is filled with the colors of the Canadian flag.
Hinchcliffe, Jakes Share More than Same First Name
Hinchcliffe may not be racing this weekend, but his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate James Jakes has more than just a name in common with his Canadian teammate.
Jakes’ father, John, was born and raised in the Yorkshire area of England – from the same area where Hinchcliffe’s father, Jeremy, hails. Both drivers’ fathers moved as adults to Canada and settled in nearby Oakville, Ontario.
Toronto Organizers Go with Flow of Changes
There are a few things encroaching on the Honda Indy Toronto’s space at Exhibition Place, but as they have since 1986, organizers are adjusting. Construction of a large-scale hotel complex since spring 2014 has impacted the temporary street circuit’s pit out and an expansion of the east side of BMO Field (home of the FC Toronto soccer team) has tightened display space.
A beach volleyball stadium, being constructed for the Pan American Games in July, is temporary but has displaced the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires paddock and altered the shape and location of the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock. Exhibition Place will host 15 Pan Am Games events at five venues.
Because of the Pan Am Games, the race is a month earlier on the schedule than its traditional date.
“We’re not without our challenges this year from an operations standpoint,” track president Johnstone said. “But we’ve known these things were happening for a long time and have planned for them. I always chuckle when people ask, ‘What is it you do the rest of the year?’ Well, we plan for these weeks and days leading into it. Here we are race week and we’re ready to go.”
The 1.755-mile, 11-turn street circuit that will host the Verizon IndyCar Series and all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy has changed little since the first race. And even with changes to infrastructure around the facility, fans can expect the typical bustling Toronto vibe.
“It’s really about the whole festival atmosphere,” said Johnstone, who also noted that Molson has returned as an event sponsor after seven years away. “It’s getting people down to the site that maybe haven’t been here before to really see and hear the sounds of Indy cars and see the drivers and get up close. That’s what creates that energy and excitement.”
Vautier Gets Call in Coyne Car Again, Teamed with Gonzalez
Tristan Vautier, who has driven for Dale Coyne Racing since the Indianapolis 500, will drive the No. 19 Coyne entry again this weekend. With Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2013, Vautier finished 16th and 19th in the doubleheader at Exhibition Place.
Rodolfo Gonzalez, who drove for the team at Barber Motorsports Park in April and Belle Isle last month, will drive the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda this weekend.
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I felt like we had a pretty good car, so we’re not too far out of the window. We’re not changing much. We’ll just go into tomorrow and see what we’ve got. I’m hoping it’s going to be dry. Otherwise we should have been running (in the second practice session).”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): “You can’t focus on points. You have to focus on executing every weekend and if things work out well then we look good. It’s exciting to be in my second year back and leading the points though it doesn’t guarantee anything. So far it’s been a good season and I think we have really good cars in Toronto. We went out, didn’t get in many laps because we had a problem with the brakes, but the speed was there. It’s encouraging, but with the rain it just makes it hard because it washes away any rubber we put down and tomorrow we have to start from zero.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s a shame for the fans, obviously, because they’re coming here for the big race. Toronto’s always a great town to be. It’s one of the spots I recommend to a lot of people not only because it’s a great race but also because it’s a great town. That’s the only downside is because of the fans. Planning without the weather, we’re planning around tires and things like that for the second session. The car seems to be off the back pretty good, and it’s a very tight field as you can see from third to eighth or ninth where I’m at. It’s like in the same tenth which is amazing. So it’s definitely going to be competitive.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a short but productive day for the No. 8 AFS Chevrolet. I feel very good with how those 19 laps we did this morning went. It was good for me to get back in the car and have some time to make sure the rust was gone after not being on a road course since Long Beach. The car was really consistent today and we really spent more time just making sure I was comfortable back in the car and that everything felt good to me. I can use all the time I can get in the car, so it’s unfortunate that the second practice got cancelled. I’m looking forward to a dry day tomorrow and to carry our momentum from practice into qualifying.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Jurassic World Chevrolet): “We had some electrical issues during today’s first session, but the team worked really hard to get it fixed. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get back on-track for a full session for the second practice, but we were able to get the car out for a quick in and out lap to make sure the issue we had in the morning was fixed. We’re looking forward to making sure we’re good before qualifying in tomorrow’s first practice, but the No. 9 Jurassic World Chevrolet should be pretty fast this weekend.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I think we’re all bummed that we didn’t get the chance to run in the second session. The first session was good for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet and the track just kept getting faster and faster. We didn’t make any changes heading into tomorrow’s practice and I’m feeling really good about where we are with the car.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I think it was a positive day despite the fact that the second session was rained out. The car had good balance, but I think we need to work on a little bit more grip. I was relatively happy with the balance and it worked well straight away. It was a shortened session but a positive one and I enjoyed it. Hopefully tomorrow we ‘ll have a consistent session before qualifying and then we’ll see what we can do.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rousseau Metal Honda): “We had a really good start to the day today. I thought the Rousseau Metal car was really good. I don’t think we got the ultimate time out of it but we were still the fastest Honda and right up there in the mix so I’m pretty pleased. I obviously wish we would have gotten the second session in but the weather didn’t cooperate. We have seen a lot of rain this year unfortunately but the weather looks good for the next couple of days so I’m excited to get back out there. The track was rough but really similar to previous years so hopefully we can get back out there and continue to improve, have a good qualifying session and good race.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I raced here before and that’s special to me because it’s the very first race for me (this season) that I get here and I know how the circuit is. I actually raced here before (in the 2014 doubleheader) so instead of having to learn everything from the very beginning, I know what to expect from the car, what to expect from the circuit, and go from there. It was very good from the very beginning. Me and Josef, we had the opportunity to push and be at the top; that was important. Also the fact that we now found a very good baseline, a very good setup for street courses. I think in Detroit we didn’t show our performances, but I think we were competitive. So far a very clean weekend. We came with a good car and I knew the circuit, so here we are. I just hope we can continue on this level. I think so.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “It was a short day because of the weather, but tomorrow is what’s important with qualifying. We have been working hard and hope the momentum we’ve had with the win (Detroit Race 1) and our good finish last weekend (at Texas Motor Speedway) continues this weekend here in Toronto.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Dr Pepper Honda): “We would have liked to have had more track time today, but there just wasn’t much sense in running the afternoon session. We’ll go back out in the morning and work to get some good data with the Dr Pepper car before qualifying.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We only did one real run this morning – which is less than most of the rest of the field. I guess the good news is that we saved a set of tires. I look forward to better weather tomorrow and getting the Toronto weekend properly started.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a good solid session this morning. We got through what we wanted to test. The track grip is really low so I don’t think anyone’s car feels particularly good right now. We have another 45-minute session tomorrow to try and improve where we were in practice today. I think we have to find at least two or three tenths to be right at the front, but we got some good ideas and direction for tomorrow so we’re quite optimistic about qualifying.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I think we had a good first session. Along with Luca (Filippi), the whole team rolled off the truck really well, which is important. In INDYCAR, now it’s critical that you roll off pretty good. If you don’t, it can be a tougher weekend to catch up because normally the people that were good in the first session just keep getting better and better. I think we have a good base to work off of. It would’ve been cooler if we were 1-2, but it’s just the first practice. It doesn’t really mean anything. Hopefully we can roll that into tomorrow and be solid. It would be nice to get a good event for us.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet): “Overall I was pretty happy with the first practice this morning. The No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet is definitely in the window and the track is changing almost lap-to-lap. As green as a street circuit like this is, it rubbers up every time you go through a corner. I think the car handled really well out there with the changing conditions, so I’m optimistic heading intotomorrow. We had some things we wanted to work on this afternoon, but we’ll just have to make sure we work it in to the morning practice and get the car where it needs to be for qualifying.”