Honda Indy Toronto - Hinchcliffe takes aim at rivals on home course
Oakville driver hopes to win one or both races in Toronto next weekend
The Honda Indy Toronto rolls into the streets of Exhibition Place next weekend (July 18 through July 20), marking the 28th visit to the city by Indy cars, but the only visit to Canada in 2014 by the Verizon IndyCar Series.
This year’s event will again feature a doubleheader format, meaning that two 80-lap races paying full championship points will be held, one on Saturday and another on Sunday, with qualifying sessions taking place each morning.
For now, the only Canadian entered at the IndyCar level next weekend is James Hinchcliffe of Oakville. Currently in his fourth full year of IndyCar competition, Hinchcliffe has battled difficult luck here in previous years but is hoping to defeat the 21 other series regulars and bring at least one victory home for Canada.
“It’s a love-hate relationship (with the Toronto race),” Hinchcliffe told Toronto Star Wheels at a preview event last month. “Even though it still finds a way to step on me, I still love it.”
For Friday’s full slate of practice sessions, Fan Friday returns for its fifth year, allowing fans to access the grounds by making a donation to Make-A-Wish Canada, courtesy of the Ontario Honda Dealers. More than $300,000 has been raised for the charity since Fan Fridays began in 2009.
A full slate of support series will keep the track busy with non-stop action all day long.
Two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy driver development system, Indy Lights and USF2000, will run three races altogether over the course of the weekend. Those series each feature a Canadian — Toronto native Zack Meyer in Indy Lights and Daniel Burkett of Winnipeg in USF2000.
Unfortunately, the one U.S.-based development series in which the most Canadians are competing this year, the Pro Mazda Championship, is not scheduled to race at Exhibition Place. But that doesn’t mean some of the racers won’t still be here.
For example, Scott Hargrove of Vancouver is currently just 17 points behind Pro Mazda points leader Spencer Pigot of Orlando, Fla. Both Hargrove and Pigot will be racing in Toronto in the Porsche Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, a Canadian-based Porsche spec series making its Honda Indy Toronto debut this year.
Chris Green of Montreal, a third-year GT3 Cup racer, is also in the thick of that fight.
Other Pro Mazda series racers — Garett Grist of Grimsby, who won his first regular season Pro Mazda race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis in May, and Dalton Kellett of Toronto — may also find ways to show up for their home race weekend.
Another series making its Honda Indy Toronto debut is the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship, an Ontario-based junior open-wheel formula.
Next weekend will be the third event in their F1600 Super Series run in collaboration with the Toyo Tires Formula Tour 1600 based in Quebec.
Tristan DeGrand of Eureka, Mo., has been utterly dominant so far this year, but look for some of the locally based talents to spoil his fun and claim victory at home, such as Chase Pelletier of Brampton, Jeffrey Kingsley of Port Hope and Caitlin Johnston of Orangeville.
The Acura Sports Car Challenge will return to the event again this year, as will Speed Energy Formula Off-Road, formerly known as the Stadium Super Trucks. The trucks series was founded by veteran racer Robby Gordon and made a huge impact when it landed on the streets of Toronto for the first time last year.
There are also plenty of things to see and do for those who aren’t big race fans but may decide to tag along.
Tastefest returns, featuring a wide array of unique selections from locally sourced food trucks, which can be enjoyed with an Ontario craft beer from breweries such as Amsterdam or Muskoka.
Local firefighters will compete in the FireFit Championships, a race based on actual firefighting tasks performed while wearing protective clothing and gear in both individual and relay challenges.
And the STIHL Timbersports series will see competitors testing their lumberjack skills. The winner will represent Canada at the world championships in Austria in November.
As always, the event organizers and the city suggest those heading to the Honda Indy Toronto to take public transit. Exhibition Place can be accessed directly from Exhibition Station on GO Transit’s Lakeshore West line and from the 509 Harbourfront, 511 Bathurst, and 29 Dufferin routes on the TTC.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit hondaindytoronto.com.
If you’re hoping to support a Canadian racer in the two Verizon IndyCar Series races next weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto, your only option is Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe.
That’s not to say that Hinchcliffe isn’t worthy of support, of course. Although he has yet to win so far this season in the ultracompetitive series, Hinchcliffe climbed to the top step of the podium three times last year and his future continues to look very bright. Hinchcliffe also has two Canadian members on his crew, Neil Campbell and Len Gauci.
If you’re willing to dig deeper, though, you’ll find Canadians scattered throughout the Verizon IndyCar series paddock. Here are two more you can cheer for next Saturday and Sunday.
Calgary resident and business owner Ric Peterson is part-owner of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, the team that enters the No. 77 car driven by Simon Pagenaud of France and the No. 7 car of Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin. The team has had a very strong year and most recently found success as Pagenaud led Aleshin to a 1-2 finish in race 2 at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston last month.
Todd Malloy, originally from Toronto, is the race engineer for the No. 98 car of Bryan Herta Autosport driven by Jack Hawksworth of the United Kingdom. (Todd’s father, Gerry Malloy, is a long-time contributor to Toronto Star Wheels.)