Home Improvement Project in Toronto
Canadian racecar driver Alex Tagliani, from Lachenaie, Quebec, loves to do projects around his homes. In the offseason, he is a regular at his favorite hardware store.
Eight races into the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series, Tagliani is looking to tackle a major home improvement project this weekend. His tools will be a Dallara IndyCar chassis, a Honda V8 Indy engine and four Firestone Firehawk racing tires. What’s the project on the top of his to-do list? He wants to improve on his best finish in the Honda Indy Toronto event. To do so, he will need to win the 85-lap race around Exhibition Place in Toronto.
This race weekend is the 10th anniversary of his best finish in the Toronto IndyCar race. It was July 15, 2001, when Tagliani finished second to Michael Andretti and beat Adrian Fernandez (third), Alex Zanardi (fourth) and Scott Dixon (fifth) to do so. That strong run isn’t the only reason he thinks he can drive his No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone car into victory lane.
In 2005, he finished an impressive third despite having a flat tire.
It’s the 2009 race, however, that gives Tagliani the most confidence heading into this year’s race. Two years ago, he patiently drove to the lead in a car that he describes as the “best I ever had” in Toronto. He then led for 21 laps before an ill-timed pit stop took him out of contention. Knowing he did that in the current formula IndyCar makes him confident.
Currently, Tagliani and the Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) team sit 10th in the IndyCar Series championship. Two of his strongest runs this year have come on two of the other North American street courses where he feels comfortably at home. In the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he finished sixth and backed that up with a fifth-place finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
When the green flag falls Sunday, expect to see Tagliani furiously hammering away as he tries to finish his Canadian home improvement project.
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
What does the Toronto race mean to you?
“Racing in Canada is always important to me. The pole at Indy has brought us a lot of new fans and recognition, and I can’t wait to start running in front of them on Friday. We created a lot of excitement as the underdog favorite in May. It was a popular pole to get since we stopped the domination of the big teams. I think me getting the Indy pole helps motorsports in Canada. Toronto has been revamped and I think Kevin Savoree, Kim Green and Charlie Johnstone have done an amazing job with their team to promote the race. It’s also a big race for my sponsor Bowers & Wilkins. They just introduced a line in Future Shops around Canada. So the timing is important. It’s a very big deal.
What is your most memorable Honda Indy Toronto race?
“I came very close to winning the race early in my career, but Michael Andretti got it from me during the last segment, so I finished second. With Walker Racing, once, I finished third with a flat tire. The best one for me was in 2009 with Conquest (Racing), when I was running up front and dominating the event. Everything was perfect. It was too good to be true because I was getting great fuel mileage. We were up front and never challenged for the win. On the last segment, everybody came into the pit to refuel and we stayed out. I was about three or four corners from pitting when the yellow came out and the pits closed. I was pretty much the only car that didn’t pit at the same time. So when I did pit, I got recycled to the back. It was just bad luck after being in the lead only to get caught out on a yellow flag. With a little luck and some changes on the car we’ve done, I think we can run up front and contend for the win. ”
What’s the mindset as you transition back from four consecutive oval races to the street course of Toronto?
“I’m here to win. It’s funny that the first road course race after coming off the ovals is in Canada. But it doesn’t matter where it is for me. I think I’m very focused. I’ve been training and I’m fit like a bull. And, I’m here to win and it’s as simple as that. I’ve told Will Power, before, ‘I’m not going to be happy until I take a road-course pole from the big teams,’ like I did at Indy. We stopped the domination of the big teams at the biggest race in the world. Now, we want to stop their domination on the road courses. That’s my mindset moving away from the ovals and getting back on some street courses.”
I think me getting the Indy pole helps motorsports in Canada.
Alex Tagliani, Driver of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports (continued):
Talk about your first race working with Nick Snyder?
“I really enjoyed working with Nick at Iowa. I think he is a really good engineer despite being so young. He is very focused. The Iowa weekend was a perfect weekend to show his strength. Basically, we started with a similar setup as last year because we qualified so well in 2010. We worked and worked on the setup. I think qualifying showed we were basically out to lunch. The change in tires this year showed we didn’t have a good setup for those tires. Basically, we regrouped with the team. He worked well with the team and other engineers to make some changes, and then we had a rocket ship in the race. We did the fastest lap of the race. We sliced up through the field, once, up to P6 before we encountered a fuel-pressure problem. I was really pleased to work with Nick. He showed a lot of strength by deciding to make a big change in the middle of the weekend to give me a fast racecar. I look forward to working with him in on a street course, now.”
Rob Edwards, Team Manager of the No. 77 B&W Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports:
What are your thoughts on the Honda Indy Toronto?
“As a team, we are excited to return to Toronto. The event has a great deal of tradition and we are happy to be a part of it. Obviously, we know this is an important event for Alex, as well, and that adds a little motivation for the guys, as well. ”
As you transition from ovals to a street course, what is the goal for the team?
“We’ve had fast cars in practice and qualifying so far this year, so a goal for Toronto is to give Alex a fast car for the race. We had a fast car at Iowa, but the result wasn’t indicative of how fast we were in the race. In qualifying at Toronto, we want to be a part of the Firestone Fast Six, and we really want to start getting some podiums.”
By tagliani/sam schmidt motorsports