Toronto: Series Friday practice report

MATOS LEADS OPENING DAY OF HONDA INDY TORONTO TORONTO - (Friday, July 10, 2009) Raphael Matos found encouragement and further validation from a hot practice lap on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place. The IndyCar Series rookie, ...

MATOS LEADS OPENING DAY OF HONDA INDY TORONTO

TORONTO - (Friday, July 10, 2009) Raphael Matos found encouragement and further validation from a hot practice lap on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place.

The IndyCar Series rookie, driving the No. 2 Luczo Dragon Racing car, topped the 23-car field through two practice sessions with a lap of 1 minute, 1.4739 seconds (102.775 mph) on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn course. The IndyCar Series is making its debut in Toronto this weekend.

It wasn't a perfect 150 minutes of total time on the circuit for Matos. He spun and made light contact with the retaining wall in Turn 11 to bring the afternoon session to a close.

Justin Wilson was second on the speed chart (1:01.7627; 102.295) in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs car and Will Power was third (1:01.7722; 102.279) in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental entry. Both are former winners at Toronto under Champ Car sanctioning- Wilson in 2005 and Power in '07.

Robert Doornbos (1:01.8386) was fourth in the No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing car, while Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe (1:01.8420) was fifth. IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon was eighth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car (1:01.9617). Scarborough, Ontario, native Paul Tracy, making his 17th start on the street circuit, was 13th on the chart in the No. 15 Ontario Honda Dealers/woundedwarriors.ca car for KV Racing Technology.

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DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

This is the first IndyCar Series event held in Toronto. Exhibition Place has previously hosted open-wheel racing from 1986-2007. Past winners of those events entered this weekend include: Dario Franchitti (1999), Paul Tracy (1999, 2003), Justin Wilson (2005) and Will Power (2007).

***

Dale Coyne handed out cigars like a proud father on the first day of the Honda Indy Toronto. In a way, that could describe the long-time open-wheel racing team owner.

"You only get one that's a first," said Coyne, whose initial victory (in 25 years of competition) was delivered by Justin Wilson on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. "Hopefully we get a lot more wins. A lot of nice comments from people and it has been a busy and enjoyable week."

***

Canadian Motorsports Hall of Famer Brian Stewart is fielding a car for a race in his home country for the first time in nearly a decade.

Russian driver Sergey Mokshantsev will race for Brian Stewart Racing this weekend.

"If you take the names out of Canada, Brian Stewart is probably one of the best-known Canadian personalities in motor sports, right up there with the names Villeneuve, Tracy and Carpentier," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Firestone Indy Lights, who has known Stewart for more than 20 years. "And he's certainly one of the best ambassadors of Canadian motor sports."

Stewart, a native of Sutton, Ontario, has campaigned drivers such as Cristiano da Matta, Bryan Herta, Eric Bachelart and Paul Tracy over his long career as a mechanic and team owner.

***

Conquest Racing announced today the addition of three partners for this weekend's Honda Indy Toronto. Sears/CRAFTSMAN, the Hyatt Regency Toronto on King and The Keg Steakhouse and Bar will be featured on the #34 car driven by Canadian Alex Tagliani.

"It's with great pleasure that we welcome Sears/CRAFTSMAN, the Hyatt Regency Toronto and The Keg Steakhouse and Bar to the team," said Conquest Racing team owner Eric Bachelart. "It's an honor to be associated with such great companies at one of the best events of the season."

***

Justin Wilson had a busier than usual week. That happens when you're the latest IndyCar Series race winner.

Wilson, who gave Dale Coyne Racing its first victory in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs car at Watkins Glen International on July 5, fulfilled varied media commitments as the series headed to Toronto and the inaugural Honda Indy Toronto.

"Everyone's on a high after Watkins Glen, but we're completely focused on getting the job done here," Wilson said. "We've gone well on the other street courses this year and we're looking to carry all that momentum forward this weekend. We know what it takes to win at this track and if we have a trouble-free weekend there's no reason why we can't be out at the front again."

Wilson won on the temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place in 2005 when the race was sanctioned by Champ Car.

"There's a great atmosphere here, the fans are really into open-wheel racing and it's a fun event for the drivers," he said. "As street tracks go, there's an interesting mix of high and low speed corners, some elevation changes and a mix of surfaces which adds to the challenge."

***

Dario Franchitti loves everything about the Toronto race weekend: the challenging temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable spectators, the city celebrating summer.

Oh, yeah, and his results.

"The fun part for me was when I showed up with the Hogan team, a single-car team when I was a rookie (1997) and we managed to qualify on pole, which immediately endeared the place to me," said Franchitti, who will drive the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car in the Honda Indy Toronto. "It's a really challenging track that had concrete patches at the apexes of every corner that made it quite bumpy and a lot different types of corners."

The pole start was a bit surprising considering the "fairly stout field," Franchitti said.

"We had been quick in some of the races leading up to that; we started to qualify close to the front on the road courses but we were up against guys like (Alex) Zanardi, (Jimmy) Vasser, (Mark) Blundell, (Mauricio) Gugelmin, Max Papis, Greg Moore, Paul Tracy, Al (Unser) Jr., (Patrick) Carpentier and Bobby Rahal -- who actually took me out in the first corner, which I still haven't forgiven him for.

"It was a surprise - a little single-car team with a rookie driver. That was one of the main reasons that convinced Barry Green to sign me for the following year with Team Kool Green so it was great to go through that with Carl (Hogan) and the whole team. The car was fabulous that weekend, so it's a shame we didn't get to go past the first corner."

Rahal, diving to the inside of Turn 1, made left-front to Franchitti's right-rear tire contact. All but Christian Fittipaldi, who stalled when he was forced to come to a complete stop to avoid contact, avoided the incident. Franchitti and Fittipaldi were both able to re-start and resume the race, although far back in the pack.

Blundell, driving for PacWest, won the race by .659 of a second over Zanardi in a Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry. Andre Ribeiro (Tasman Motorsports) completed the podium.

Two years later, Franchitti qualified on the outside of the front row, led all 95 laps and beat teammate Tracy to the checkers.

***

Paul Tracy's father held the painting contract for the CN Tower when it was built.

At 1,815 feet, the communications and observation tower held the record of the world's tallest free-standing structure for 31 years. In 2007, the CN Tower was surpassed by the Burj Dubai, though it remains the tallest free-standing structure in North America and is the city's landmark.

Tracy is the only Canadian driver to win in his home country, with two at Toronto (1993, 2003). Michael Andretti scored seven wins at Toronto. Other winners in the field are Will Power (2007), Justin Wilson (2005) and Dario Franchitti (1999).

***

Luczo Dragon Racing chief engineer Eric Zeto grew up about 10 miles from the Exhibition Place circuit. In fact, he could hear the cars each summer from his house.

The son of Chinese immigrants, Zeto had never seen a race until he watched fellow Torontonian Scott Goodyear narrowly miss winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1992. He's been hooked ever since.

Zeto has been an engineer in open-wheel racing since 1998 and has participated in the Toronto race seven times, landing in Victory Lane with Paul Tracy in 2003 and 2006 with A.J. Almendinger.

***

The following is a statement by Tony George through visionracing.com in response to the June 30 announcement by the Board of Directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that a new management team comprised of veteran IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. Belskus will head the Hulman-George companies, effective July 1.

"Nearly 20 years ago, I was asked by my family to represent our business as President and Chief Executive Officer. Since accepting that position, I have served at the pleasure of the board and, in doing so, I enthusiastically agreed to commit myself to stewardship of a great institution. While my service as CEO has now ended, I consider my stewardship to be a life-long appointment.

"At a board meeting a little over a month ago, the Board of Directors of Hulman & Compnay and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asked me to propose a management reorganization that would focus my duties exclusively upon the operation, promotion and development of the Indy Racing League, which I founded in 1994 and have overseen the development of since 1996.

"At a board meeting (last week of June), I was asked to continue as CEO of the Indy Racing League, reporting to a new President and CEO of IMS. In my view, this would have created an unnecessary bureaucratic layer between the people in the operations of the IRL and the CEO of IMS that had not previously existed. From the perspective of my experience as President and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am acutely aware that the interests of IndyCar racing as a sport, the IRL as a league, and the most important motorsports race in the world, are mutually dependant and inter-connected, both now and in the future. I did not feel that a subordinate position as "CEO of the IRL" was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue. I declined that position.

"Since our May board meeting, as requested, I have offered my advice to the board on management reorganization, but also and perhaps more importantly, a reorganization of our board, which would provide a structure for better governance for generations to come. It is my belief that, with the recent unification of open-wheel racing, the focus should be on the future rather than the past.

"I am encouraged that in recent conversations with my mother and Chairman of the Board, Mari George, I learned that she also sees the wisdom of taking a forward-looking approach which will provide consistent and coordinated leadership. In the near future, I will be providing a proposal for the board to evaluate. I have been assured by the chairman that the board will engage in appropriate dialogue, with constructive give and take.

"The success of any organization relies on strong leadership from management to execute strategies that focus on achieving results, and a board whose vision is focused on owner and stakeholder returns.

"There have been many questions raised in the industry and in the media about whether any of these recent changes reflect a reduction in the commitment of our family or the IMS to the IRL or the sport of IndyCar racing. I have been assured by my mother that no such reduction of support or commitment is intended or anticipated. I can assure teams, sponsors, media and fans that our family is sincere in its commitment to the Indianapolis 500, the League and the sport."

***

For 2009 street-course races, Firestone has three tread compound specifications available, all using the same body construction. The primary tire spec for Toronto is the most durable compound of the three. The alternate tires are identical in construction to the primaries but contain a softer tread compound. The softer alternate tires trade off compound durability in exchange for more grip and quicker lap times.

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Marine Luczo Dragon Racing): "I'm very happy for the team and that we have a good car. We're a little bit frustrated with things today, but I'm sure the Luczo Dragon crew will do an amazing job again putting the car back together. I'm confident that the car will be perfect again. I'm looking forward to improving the car just a little bit more and trying to find a bit more speed to hopefully qualify up front."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): "The Z-Line Design Furniture car is doing really well. I'm really pleased with it. There's still room to improve it but we never got to do a proper run. We only got one lap on the new tires. I'm confident that we can ramp it up tomorrow and find some more speed."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "The Team Penske car was good today and we had a good lap going there in practice, but unfortunately when I downshifted, the car kept pushing and pushing and it wouldn't turn in and I hit the wall (in turn 5). Fortunately, there isn't too much damage. We still have practice tomorrow and qualifying as well and I think we can be strong there. It's great to be back in Toronto. The fans here are just amazing."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "I've really been learning the track today. I think we have a competitive car for Team Penske this weekend. The track is definitely bumpy and it's a challenging, very technical street circuit. I think it's going to be a difficult race for everyone to be consistent, but we still have some time in practice and qualifying to get to where we want to be. We're really excited to be back here racing in Toronto."

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing): "We came to a new place. It's not an easy place, it's very bumpy and you really need to make the car work a lot suspension-wise. We still have a little work to do on the car to make it faster. Also we were not able to go around with our new set tires that we obviously would've been faster with. But luckily tomorrow we have another test. Hopefully we can improve the car."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "We're not quite there which is disappointing and frustrating because we should be. Somehow we had the wrong third gear which hurt our performance; particularly under braking so we lost a couple tenths (of a second) just in that. The McDonald's team will be okay but we've got some work to do. The thing that worries me is that the car feels very numb to any of the changes we made."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It was a good day, our best day so far. We ran a good free practice. It is good to be back here in Toronto. It's a great city and a great track. It's a bit bumpy so you have to get used to that in the first couple of laps but after a while you get into a rhythm. We made some good changes during the second practice. Even on old tires we were competitive so I look forward to a good day tomorrow."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Penske Truck Rental): "We were reasonably satisfied with third in the Penske Truck Rental car today while trying to find the right combination for qualifying tomorrow. I was struggling a bit under braking as I caught slower traffic and also while catching cars exiting the pits, but this should be better tomorrow with fewer cars on track. With rain potentially coming tomorrow, it could make things interesting."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "It was a pretty good day for us. We put the ABC Supply car in the top 10 constantly all day. We're not sitting where our performance actually is at the moment -at the end of the day we finished up 14th, but that's because we didn't get our run on new tires in when everyone else around us did. Hopefully we'll be able to carry that speed into tomorrow. We kept things simple today and it worked for us. I'm looking forward to tomorrow -- it's possibly going to be wet. Racing around Toronto in the wet is definitely difficult so it should be an interesting day."

DANICA PATRICK (#7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): "It's been a frustrating day for the #7 team. We didn't get in as many laps as we wanted to in the first session this morning. We made some changes that I thought were going to make the car better for the second session, but then I got into the wall at Turn 5 and we had to call it a day. I really needed to be able to spend some time on the track so I could get more comfortable with it, but that didn't happen. I hope we have a better day tomorrow."

TONY KANAAN (#11 Team 7-Eleven/ Nestle Pure Life): "It's good to be back here in Toronto. We were pretty happy with the Nestle Pure Life car in both sessions today, but its Friday and we are still looking for a couple of changes before tomorrow. I think we're on the right track for the weekend."

MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 NYSE/iShares ): "I really enjoy the circuit here so far. I think we're doing a good job chipping away at it and learning what we need to be strong. We were hoping the track would come naturally to us, but it's a challenging track. It's difficult to tell where the #26 car really stands right now since we never got a clear lap after we made some setup changes. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, for sure."

HIDEKI MUTOH (#27 Formula Dream): "Today has been tough day for the Formula Dream team. We couldn't find the grip I needed. We made some setup changes throughout the day but we couldn't find anything that was spot on. We will look at everything tonight and hopefully we will be better off come tomorrow."

MARIO MORAES (#5 1800Tequila/Votarantim/KV Racing Technology): "For my first time on the Toronto track I think the KV Racing Technology team had a good day. I learned a lot about the track and the car felt good. Unfortunately, I had some back luck at the end of the session. We had just put on new tires and I was going to go out and try and put a fast lap together, but the yellow flag came out. We have another practice tomorrow and I think after that we will be ready to have a good qualifying session."

PAUL TRACY (#15 Ontario Honda Dealers - woundedwarrior.ca): "The Ontario Honda Dealers - WoundedWarriors.ca team had a good test day today. We had a very good morning practice. We were in the top-five most of the session and the car felt really good. It was nice to be back on a track that I know and racing in front of my hometown fans. In the afternoon we tried a few things for the race setup that didn't work for the car, so we lost our way a little bit. But that was what the practice session was for. We have another practice tomorrow morning to get ready for qualifying and I am confident that we can be back in the top-five."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 12 with the Honda Indy Toronto at the streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto on July 11 at the streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast at 11 p.m. on July 13.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Scott Goodyear , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Alex Tagliani , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Barry Green , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Roger Bailey , Will Power , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Dale Coyne , A.J. Foyt , Sergey Mokshantsev , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , Dragon Racing , Conquest Racing , Dale Coyne Racing