Simon Pagenaud leads practice on reconfigured Toronto track …

Posted: July 15, 2016 in Uncategorized
Simon Pagenaud on course during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto -- Image by Chris Owens

Simon Pagenaud on course during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto — Image by Chris Owens

TORONTO (Friday, July 15, 2016) – Even before he took to the newly configured track on the streets of Exhibition Place in an Indy car, Simon Pagenaud said he was excited at the opportunity. Following Friday’s practices for the Honda Indy Toronto, it’s easy to see why.

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader set the pace on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit in the last of the day’s two 45-minute practice sessions, at 1 minute, 1.7081 seconds (104.194 mph) in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet. He edged teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power for top honors.

“I kind of like changes so I’m good with it,” Pagenaud said of the altered track layout that’s seen pit lane moved from one side of the main straight to the other and the final four turns tightened. “It’s definitely a big change to the last few years. We’re never used to changes but personally I enjoy it.”

07-15-16 Toronto combined practice

Pagenaud’s quick lap came on his very last circuit before the checkered flag waved.

“The PPG car was fast, good,” said the three-time 2016 race winner, who holds a 73-point lead in the standings over defending Toronto race winner Josef Newgarden. “We made some adjustments for Practice 2. It actually went better than we expected. We’re on a good pace this weekend.”

Castroneves was 2nd quick in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevy at 1:01.9091 (103.855 mph). A veteran of 13 previous Toronto races, the 41-year-old Brazilian said the revised circuit makes it new again.

“The new changes on the track, it’s like a new track,” Castroneves said. “You’ve got to learn, you’ve got to try new things. No question, we just start all over again. I guess tomorrow is going to continue going faster.”

Hometown favorite James Hinchcliffe was fifth overall and the top Honda driver at 1:02.1867 (103.392 mph) in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. The native of nearby Oakville, Ontario, is also getting adjusted to the track layout.

“Obviously it’s a big learning process for everybody,” Hinchcliffe said. “One-third of the lap roughly is completely different than it’s been for as long as I’ve been racing here. It’s definitely very challenging.”

The Toronto race is celebrating its 30th year in 2016. Sunday’s 85-lapper will be the 32nd Indy car race on the track (including doubleheader weekends in 2013 and ’14), making it one of the most enduring in Indy car annals. Hinchcliffe feels that for the event and himself.

“The support here has always been incredible,” he said of his homecoming. “It’s great to be in the hometown for a little while, meet a lot of the Canadian fans again, see the fans again, a lot of people coming out again. It’s awesome. I’m very lucky to be in that position.”

Two drivers didn’t fare as well in afternoon practice. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet) and Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet) each made contact with the Turn 11 wall, though neither was injured. Montoya’s car sustained significant right-side damage.

“Nothing broke on the car,” Montoya said. “I went in a little out of shape and caught a piece of the (Turn 10) wall and I ricocheted across the track. The DeVilbiss Chevrolet was really good before that, but I have complete faith in my crew and we’ll be fine.”

A third practice is set for 9:45 a.m. ET Saturday (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com), with qualifying airing live on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET. Race coverage starts at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with a race re-air at 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN.

Of Note

Luca Filippi returned this weekend to drive the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda after being out of the car for two months. Filippi, who finished second in the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto with CFH Racing, was 12th fastest overall in today’s practice. “I think one of the key points to be a successful racing driver is to be really quick in order to get up to speed – don’t waste time, don’t waste tires,” said Filippi, sponsored this weekend by IMPCO ComfortPro. “I really worked a lot on myself. I think this is one of my strong points.” … All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy stepladder practiced today in advance of doubleheader race weekends. Setting the pace were: Felix Serralles of Carlin in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires (1:07.7785), Aaron Telitz of Team Pelfrey in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires (1:11.5984) and Canada’s Parker Thompson of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda (1:14.6825).

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