Race Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO June 14, 2015—The rain in Toronto didn’t last long enough for Takuma Sato and it didn’t make a difference to Jack Hawksworth.

When the green flag fell along with the rain, Sato passed Helio Castroneves for seventh before the end of lap one on the 1.75-mile temporary circuit at Exhibition Place. When Juan Pablo Montoya went off on lap seven, Sato’s No. 14 ABC Supply Honda took over sixth and began closing in on fifth-running Luca Filippi. However, the track began drying out and teams began pitting for slicks.

Hawksworth, who’d started 14th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, hadn’t made any forward progress so he was one of the first to pit for slicks at the end of lap 10. Sato pitted two laps later and also took on red (alternate) tires.

A full course yellow for James Jakes on lap 29 turned out well for Josef Newgarden and Carlos Munoz who had pitted just before Jakes’ accident (who had pitted with Newgarden and Munoz). As the rest of the field ducked into the pits with the exception of those two plus Castroneves and Rodolfo Gonzalez, Sato pitted for black (primary)tires but lost a position to Montoya once the stops cycled out.

When the next full course yellow came out on lap 41 for Stefano Coletti’s brush with the wall, Sato and Hawksworth did not pit but several cars did. Sato was running ninth and Hawksworth 15th at the halfway point of the 85-lap race. Sato passed Montoya again for eighth by lap 48 but when he pitted on lap 55, he dropped to 13th and Hawksworth to 18th as the different fuel strategies came into play. Graham Rahal passed Sato on his out lap from the pits (when Sato was on cold tires) dropping Sato to 14th. Three laps later, Sato passed Simon Pagenaud for 13th.

Although he should have had enough fuel to finish the race, Sato was instructed to save fuel in the closing laps as there had been a problem on the final stop – he didn’t get the entire fill of fuel. Hawksworth meanwhile had moved into 15th. Once again the various fuel strategies played out and Sato was in 10th with less than 15 laps to go. However, he couldn’t close in on Rahal and had to settle for 10th.

“Tough race,” Sato summed up afterwards. “In the end we weren’t quick enough to get into the top level, and there wasn’t enough rain for me either. At the beginning of the race when it was wet, we gained a couple positions and it was really good. But when it got drier, other teams got lively. On our final pit stop somehow we had an issue on the fuel where we didn’t get a full tank and I had to save fuel quite a lot at the end which cost us a bit of time. Nevertheless, I think the whole ABC Supply team did a good job and hopefully we have a good race in Fontana.”

Hawksworth advanced to 14th in the final lap as Ryan Hunter-Reay had to pit with a rear brake issue with one lap to go.

“Not too good a race for us,” Hawksworth opined. “We weren’t very fast today—we just didn’t have anything to fight with to be honest with you. We were just out there circulating all afternoon and finally got to the checkered. The car had a lot of understeer for whatever reason so we’ll have a think about it. The car seemed quite alright in qualifying and today it just wasn’t competitive.”

Josef Newgarden won the Honda Indy Toronto while teammate Luca Filippi finished second, giving the Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman team its first ever one-two finish. Third through fifth were Castroneves, teammate and pole sitter Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais who won here last year.

With next weekend off, Hawksworth flies east to the U.K. while Sato will be flying west to Japan as each driver heads back to their homeland. The next race for the Verizon IndyCar Series will be at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The MAV TV 500 will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday, June 27 starting at 4 p.m. ET.