IndyCar veteran Scott Dixon has surged into championship contention with victory in both races at last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto double-header.
With the championship enjoying a second two-race weekend of 2013, there were some standout performers around the Exhibition Palace street circuit, not least of which being the long-overdue returns to form for Dario Franchitti and Sébastien Bourdais
Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon reviews both races…
Target Chip Ganassi has clearly found what it has been missing since the beginning of 2012 and is again one of the leading teams – proven on Saturday as Scott Dixon firmly stamped his championship chances with a masterful drive at the 2013 Toronto Indy.
Starting fifth, it was Dixon’s team-mate in pole position for the first race in the double-header weekend as the field gridded up for what would be an interesting standing start experiment. But it was not to be, as Josef Newgarden waved his arms from towards the back of the grid, indicating an aborted start. The youngster went to the back of the grid and the field set off for what would now become a rolling start as per normal.
Franchitti led away from pole, with Sebastien Bourdais hot on his heels off a sensational front-row qualification for Dragon Racing. Will Power was in third, with Tony Kanaan and James Jakes also starting well. The Scot remained in front for the first 20 laps, surviving numerous attempts from Bourdais for the lead before the Frenchman finally made the move stick on Lap 21. Franchitti’s momentum was destroyed to the point where Power and Dixon were also able to find their way past within the next few corners, pushing Dario down to fourth.
The first pit stops followed soon after, with Bourdais pitting first, one lap ahead of Power and resuming in the lead. It was close though – so close that Power was able to get past on lap 32 up the inside of Turn 3.
Double yellow flags were first waved on lap 35, when Graham Rahal and Tristan Vautier fought over the same piece of road on the exit of Turn 3. Blame for the accident could equally be shared among both drivers, unless of course you were asking Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing or Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Vautier was unable to get past Rahal around the outside of Turn 3, but even though he was not completely alongside, tried to continue running alongside as the track continued up to Turn 4 and found there was no room to do so. To be fair, Rahal didn’t leave a great deal of room for the same stretch of track, which saw Vautier pitch both into a spin. Safety crews restarted both drivers and the race resumed a few laps later.
The next round of pit stops followed, with Power pitting first. Dixon’s decision to stay out one lap longer proved to be the afternoon’s masterstroke, as he was able to resume ahead of the Australian Team Penske pilot. Bourdais stopped one lap after Dixon and also managed to beat Power out of the pits. Neither driver was able to get past Dixon, although Power gave it a red-hot go, heavily outbraking himself and almost going straight into the barriers outside Turn 3. Although it cost him the battle, he was not out of the race entirely.
Turn 4 was the scene for the next skirmish which brought out the full course caution. Charlie Kimball lost control while battling Ryan Briscoe, sending both into the wall and leaving the latter with a wrist fracture that would rule the Panther Racing stand-in out of Sunday’s race action. Sebastian Saavedra was also caught up in the fracas, but managed to motor away without assistance from the safety crew.
At the next restart, Bourdais, running in second place, appeared to get the jump on Scott Dixon, taking the lead into the first corner. It was announced that stewards would be looking at the restart to see if the Dragon Racing driver passed leader Dixon before the start/finish line. A little further back, James Hinchcliffe’s right rear tyre was smoking heavily from Turn 1 after Ed Carpenter made light contact. The problem appeared to right itself or stabilise before the end of the lap, negating the need for a hasty tyre change.
Officials found no problem with Bourdais’ eagerness to restart and left him in front, but that wasn’t the end of the matter as far as Dixon was concerned. After numerous attempts and persistent defending by Bourdais, Dixon managed to get a run out of Turns 1 and 2 and was well and truly alongside on the drag race down to Turn 3, getting past before either driver needed to brake. Dixon defended the inside line and kept Bourdais at bay, making the move stick and ensuring the win would be his.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was not having a good day. After stalling at the end of both of his scheduled pit stops, the defending series champion was stuck in the midfield all race long. While Dixon reclaimed the lead from Bourdais up front, Hunter-Reay outbraked himself as he reached Turn 3 and made light contact with the tyre barriers. A local yellow was sufficient to warn the other competitors and Hunter-Reay was rolled down the escape lane and restarted, many positions down.
The final full course caution came out with four circuits remaining for the day. Alex Tagliani dove up the inside of Simon Pagenaud in a routine passing move, and was given room to do so, but too much speed spun him around after he made contact with Pagenaud’s right rear tyre.
The race resumed with one lap to go, with Dixon this time wary of Bourdais and jumping out to defend his lead en route to the chequered flag. Running fourth at this point, Will Power made an ‘all or nothing’ lunge up the inside of Dario Franchitti at Turn 3 to try and claim the last spot on the podium. It didn’t work, and Power slithered his way into the tyre barrier, dropping him from fourth to 15th in a matter of seconds.
Franchitti, however, was not blameless, deemed to have blocked Power in his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pass and although he celebrated third on the podium, he was later handed a time penalty by officials, dropping him to 13th place, although that was ultimately reinstated under appeal.
Championship leader Helio Castroneves kept his nose clean in an uneventful effort, eventually finishing sixth to consolidate his points lead.
2013 IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto – Race 1 Final Classification (85 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||1:41:17.0605|
|2.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||85||+ 1.7007|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 2.9116|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 3.7273|
|5.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||85||+ 4.5691|
|6.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||85||+ 5.0720|
|7.||Mike Conway||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 5.5749|
|8.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 8.6580|
|9.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||85||+ 10.2140|
|10.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||85||+ 10.8797|
|11.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 11.3536|
|12.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||85||+ 11.6899|
|13.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||85||+ 13.0557|
|14.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||85||+ 47.5037|
|15.||Will Power||Team Penske||84||Accident|
|16.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|17.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|18.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||83||2 laps behind|
|19.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||83||2 laps behind|
|20.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||82||3 laps behind|
|DNF.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||72||Collision|
|DNF.||Ryan Briscoe||Panther Racing||64||Collision|
|DNF.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||34||Not Classified|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||32||Mechanical|
Dixon’s run to victory in Race 2 – his third on the trot following his win at Pocono a fortnight before – was much more straightforward.
After once again securing pole position, the Kiwi led the 85-lap race for much of its proceedings, only surrendering top spot during the pit stop phases.
After the dramas of yesterday’s first attempt at a standing start for the IndyCar Series, the sequence was attempted once again on Sunday, although thankfully we were able to see who could master the clutch-slip off the line.
Predictably, those who had cut their teeth in open-wheel racing outside the US enjoyed a greater advantage, with the likes of Dario Franchitti and Sebastien Bourdais making swift getaways, while Ed Carpenter was the worst, positively bunny-hopping off the grid with an effort that would have done any learner driver proud.
Despite Franchitti’s quick getaway, his old nemesis Will Power was fractionally better, slicing in front of the Scot as the pack funneled towards the first turn. The pair made the barest of touches, but it was enough to cause a front-right puncture to Franchitti, forcing him to pit and trade his faster red-walled Firestone tyres before emerging at the tail of the field.
Sunday’s race had fewer incidents, but still plenty of drama, and two in-race safety car interruptions which came in quick succession late in the race. James Jakes triggered the first when he took too much kerb at Turn 5, sliding his car into the outside of the wall. After his car was cleared, Ed Carpenter gave the marshals more work just a few laps later with his own accident at the same corner.
Prior to this pair, Tony Kanaan had triggered the only other retirement when he slid his KV Racing entry into the wall at the final corner, although the Brazilian veteran was able to pull his damaged car off the circuit to negate the need for a safety car.
After climbing all the way back up to tenth place, Franchitti had managed to use the safety car interruptions to perfection to move into sixth place.
That become fourth at the final restart when Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay – neither of whom was having any kind of luck this weekend – managed to tangle at Turn 2, which sent both into instant retirement and also took out an unsighted Takuma Sato.
Just seconds before, Power had been passed by Bourdais, who was having another terrific race for Dragon Racing. The Frenchman ran at the sharp end of the field all race long, claiming back-to-back podium finishes behind series leader Tony Kanaan, who followed Dixon home over the finish line.
2013 IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto – Race 2 Final Classification (85 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||1:35:02.3755|
|2.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||85||+ 0.8772|
|3.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||85||+ 1.7213|
|4.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 2.7630|
|5.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||85||+ 3.5804|
|6.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 4.4245|
|7.||Mike Conway||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 5.0432|
|8.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 5.4582|
|9.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||85||+ 5.8601|
|10.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing||84||+ 7.1766|
|11.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||85||+ 7.8430|
|12.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||85||+ 14.4211|
|13.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|14.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||84||1 lap behind|
|15.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||84||1 lap behind|
|16.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|17.||Carlos Muñoz||Panther Racing||84||1 lap behind|
|DNF.||Will Power||Team Penske||83||Collision|
|DNF.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||83||Collision|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||83||Collision|
|DNF.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||81||4 laps behind|
|DNF.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||77||Accident|
|DNF.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||62||Accident|
|DNF.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||35||Accident|