If the gloves weren’t off before, they surely are now.
With car parts flying every which way, it was Dario Franchitti who found himself maximising an ever-changing strategy to be in the right place at the right time to win the Honda Indy of Toronto. The victory extends his lead over Will Power at the top of the IZOD IndyCar series standings to 55 points.
Our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at a crash-strewn and controversial Honday Indy Toronto…
From the green flag, Power and Dixon led away into a caution-free first lap, which was a surprise to many. It didn’t last long though, as Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan came together in Turn 3 on Lap 3. Kanaan attempted a pass around the outside and left room for Briscoe, but the Aussie was caught out by a bit of oversteer and was unable to avoid Kanaan, tipping him into the tyre wall. Kanaan was none too pleased about the early exit, visually communicating his opinion of the event across to Briscoe as the field made its next tour under the safety car.
Upon the restart, Takuma Sato failed to brake in time to avoid collecting Danica Patrick at the end of Lake Shore Boulevard a few laps later. The incident sent both cars off-line, however both were able to be restarted with nothing more than a local yellow.
At this point, Dario Franchitti, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, among others, decided to make an early pit-stop, gambling on the hope that pitting off-sequence would pay dividends later in the day. It was a gamble that paid off, as Lap 31 saw the next caution period in the race to get Alex Tagliani on his way again following a punt into the tyres from an over-ambitious overtaking move by Hélio Castroneves at Turn 3.
As pit lane was closed, this worked in favour of those who pitted earlier, as they effectively received a free pass to the front when the pits opened and leaders Power and Dixon all headed for pits, rejoining no better than 11th and 12th places respectively.
From the restart, chaos ensued all around the track, with a variety of tangles and separate incidents involving Paul Tracy, Scott Dixon, JR Hildebrand, Ryan Hunter- Reay, culminating in another caution when James Jakes spun on the racing line at Turn 9.
On Lap 57, Franchitti and Power made contact on the exit of Turn 3. The incident was similar to the Kanaan / Briscoe incident from Lap 3. Power ran slightly wide through Turn 3, leaving a gap that Dario saw as an opportunity to overtake, pulling alongside through the corner. However, Power turned back in too early and caught Franchitti’s left-front wheel and was spun around. Once Power was sent back on his way, report filtered through that Franchitti had received a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable incident.
Controversy then erupted when it was announced that the stewards had repealed the penalty issued to Franchitti and he was free to continue unabated. Ten laps later it was all over for Power when he was hit from behind by Tagliani, who was a lap down. Power made it back to the pits but the damage to his rear suspension was too great to continue. While being interviewed by Kevin Lee, the heat of the moment was evident as a fuming Power vented his frustration at Franchitti’s revoked penalty, claiming the two-time series champion “races dirty”, “is never penalised by IndyCar” and “always gets whatever he wants”.
From here until the end of the race, caution periods tended to breed further caution periods, as incidents all over the racetrack kept the pace car busy for the remainder of the afternoon. In separate incidents, Ryan Briscoe was hit from behind by Mike Conway at Turn 8, while elsewhere, Danica Patrick and Tagliani made contact in a spectacular incident which saw Tags up on his side sliding along the wall at one point, but was unhurt. With 9 laps to go, another caution was caused by a multi-car pileup at Turn 1 instigated when Marco Andretti tried a daring overtake on Oriol Servia which didn’t pay off, sending Servia barrelling into Justin Wilson, with James Hinchcliffe, Mike Conway, JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball all getting caught up in the fracas.
By this stage, Franchitti was leading from Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Once the race restarted yet again, the remaining 5 laps saw only a minor incident when Hunter-Reay spun Rahal in Turn 3, costing the young Rahal a podium finish as he had to wait for the entire field to pass before he could spin himself back around and resume in 13th place.
After all was said and done, and the spare parts order from Dallara reached a new record, all that was left was for Dario to win from Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Andretti and Vitor Meira.
The post-race interviews were almost as exciting as the race itself, as many opinions on the preceding events were heard, with very few being complimentary. Dario expressed his regret at what occurred with Power, admitting he deserves “at least his 50% share of the blame” for the collision with his championship arch-rival. While a gracious gesture, it does nothing to change the 55-point lead Dario now holds in the series points race as the series packs up and heads west, to a revised Edmonton City Centre Airport layout in two weeks time. Things are definitely heating up.
2011 Honda Indy Toronto Final Classification (85 laps):
|1.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi||85||1:56:32.1501|
|2.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi||85||+ 0.7345|
|3.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 6.0144|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 7.5671|
|5.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||85||+ 9.0117|
|6.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 9.3114|
|7.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||85||+ 9.8735|
|8.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||85||+ 14.1750|
|9.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||85||+ 14.7843|
|10.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||85||+ 15.7603|
|11.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||85||+ 16.8992|
|12.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||85||+ 19.8736|
|13.||Graham Rahal||Chip Ganassi||85||+ 21.3123|
|14.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|15.||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||83||2 laps behind|
|16.||Paul Tracy||Dragon Racing||82||3 laps behind|
|17.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||81||4 laps behind|
|18.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||81||4 laps behind|
|19.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||79||6 laps behind|
|20.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||79||6 laps behind|
|DNF.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||77||Contact|
|DNF.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||76||Contact|
|DNF.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||71||Contact|
|DNF.||Will Power||Team Penske||66||Contact|
|DNF.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||43||Contact|
|DNF.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||2||Contact|
[Images and video via IZOD IndyCar Series]