TORONTO, Ont. – Ryan Hunter-Reay took the checkered flag Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto for his third consecutive IndyCar victory.
Hunter-Reay took the lead on Lap 49, lost it briefly on a pit stop, and regained it for good on Lap 57.
Defending champion Dario Franchitti started from the pole but lost time on a bad pit stop and finished the race in a collision with Ryan Briscoe. It’s the third race in a row Hunter-Reay has won after Franchitti started in first place.
The victory is Hunter-Reay’s first on a street course this season and moved the 31-year-old American 34 points clear of Will Power for the overall points lead.
Charlie Kimball finished a career-best second, while Mike Conway was third at Exhibition Place.
The 85-lap race ended under a yellow caution flag after two collisions occurred following a restart that made for a messy track.
A critical error kept Franchitti from defending his title. The Scottish driver had the pole and was running in second place when he pitted on Lap 27. But he stopped too far from the fuel pump and lost time having his car moved closer.
Power, Franchitti’s rival and a two-time winner in Toronto, started second and took the lead on Lap 6, but was also knocked out of contention after his front wing broke off and slashed two of his tires. That forced a pit change and he had to pit again for another fix to the front of the car. He finished 15th.
Engine issues plagued James Hinchcliffe all weekend and they knocked him out of the race on Lap 28.
The fan favourite from Oakville, Ont., pulled over with concerns about his engine and never returned to the track, ending a disappointing appearance on home soil. Hinchcliffe started 19th after incurring a 10-grid spot penalty for changing an engine during Friday’s practice.
“It started as a little hesitation that was progressively getting worse, and that usually means it’s going to blow up soon,” said Hinchcliffe, who finished 22nd. “Rather than risk that and maybe having a 10-place penalty in Edmonton, hopefully we can take this one back, get it fixed and just hit the ground running in two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., was never a factor after starting 16th and finishing 10th at the 11-turn, 2.824-kilometre course.
Tony Kanaan had a remarkable race after starting well back in 17th. The Brazilian veteran was assessed a drive-through penalty on the 23rd lap for hitting a tire on his way out of the pit. Yet Kanaan stayed competitive, challenging Hunter-Reay for the lead late and settling for a fourth-place finish.
Scott Dixon, Franchitti’s teammate, started fifth but his No. 9 Target car’s engine died on him and had to be towed off the course leaking a trail of oil behind it after just seven laps.
Graham Rahal’s day was over after he locked his tires and crumpled the left side of the front of his car into a corner. That led to a yellow where Simon Pagenaud took over first place when Power and the other leaders pitted. Pagenaud pulled in for a pit stop and from there the race belonged to Hunter-Reay.
The circuit covers nearly three kilometres of track in the city’s downtown core, making it one of the more impressive street courses in the entire world.
“Toronto ranks up there in the top five in terms of street courses, you’ve got a course that’s basically been exactly the same course since 1986, it’s a pretty exciting place to come racing,” said VP of the Honda Indy Toronto, Charlie Johnstone.
James Terieo, who helped design the track, said the track is a favourite for many drivers.
“The capability of passing, you’ve got a great long straightaway which they like, you’ve got eleven turns in this, the length of the track,” Terieo said.
As part of the track, there will be a nearly one-kilometre segment on Lake Shore Boulevard, south of the Exhibition grounds, where the drivers will exceed 200-kilometres-an-hour without any fear of being pulled over.
The newly-paved Lake Shore is getting a lot of buzz, with some suggesting it could make for a smoother race.
One crew manager told the Toronto Sun that drivers will burn through more than 1,000 tires over the weekend.
The race gets underway around 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
- Lake Shore Blvd. W. closed in both directions from Strachan Ave. to British Columbia Rd. until July 8 at 11:59 p.m.
- Strachan Ave. closed from Fleet St. to Lake Shore Blvd. W. to southbound-through traffic until July 8 at 11:59 p.m.
The Indy began Friday with the practice round, with events celebrating the race scheduled to take place all weekend.
During Friday’s practice lap, a crash involved Sebastien Bourdais, the 2004 Toronto Indy winner and Justin Wilson, the winner in 2005.
As far the hometown boy, we have James Hinchcliffe from Oakville, the 25-year-old who took over the Go Daddy Indycar from Danica Patrick. Could he get his first Indycar win on Sunday?
“We’ll see. What’s been great about this season, with the Go Daddy Indycar, is we’ve been competitive in every track we’ve been to, whether it’s road circuit, street circuit, super speedway,” Hinchcliffe said.