Story Credit: Jared DePouw
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo
Honda v Chevy
With the introduction of the Universal Aero Kit in 2018, the main focus of the manufacturer was shifted back towards engine development. Since then, incremental improvements in the 2.2L Twin Turbo V6’s have created a parity between Honda and Chevy. The biggest difference between the engines are where they produce the most power.
“There’s no question we [Chevy] have really good top end power” said reigning Indy 500 Champion Will Power (#12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet). “These tracks where they have a lot of low gear drive out slow corners, the Honda’s just seem to work well.”
With the Chevy’s they are most effective at higher speeds compared to the Honda’s, with Honda so far having the bigger advantage and it shows in the manufacturer points standings.
So far this year Honda leads Chevy by over 100 points going into this weekend, and with Toronto being one of the slowest tracks of the season (only St. Pete & Long Beach have slower pole speeds than Toronto so far) expect to see a large degree of Honda dominance.
“But we’re working on it” Power finished with a sly grin.
Track Surface Changes
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of temporary street courses is the variety of different track surfaces that the race cars have to deal with. Given that the race track is made up of public streets, it’s no wonder that trying to manage grip throughout a lap is extremely difficult.
“It’s very unique in the amount of surface changes we encounter during a lap” said Spencer Pigot (#21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet). “In some cases, you drive over three different surfaces in one corner, so it’s difficult to find a setup that is compliant around the entire circuit.”
Since the end of last year’s race, the entire front stretch (Princes’ Blvd) has been repaved with new asphalt all the way up to the beginning of Turn 1. In addition, the giant bump that had been in the middle of the braking zone has been eliminated, much to the delight of drivers.
“Definitely a big shout-out to the people that look after the track” said Scott Dixon (#9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Honda). “It’s nice to have a smooth front straight. I think it’s been about 10 years in waiting, that one, so it’s exciting. I think they’ve worked really hard on the surface of the circuit throughout the past four or five years, and Turn 1 alone I think is going to create some very good racing and probably eliminate some of the mistakes going into 1, especially straight out of the pits, which has caught some of the competitors out in the past.”
In addition, the road between Turns 8 & 9 (Nova Scotia Ave) has also been repaved allowing for more grip and a smoother surface leading up to the entry to pit lane. So far it would appear that the repaving is helping as the fastest lap of practice is less than two-tenths of a second off the current track record of 0:58.9124 (109.138 mph) which was set last year by Simon Pagenaud.
(Different) Rubber Hitting the Pavement
With all the different racing series here in Toronto, there is a great diversity in tires being used on the track. In fact, there are four different tire manufacturers represented this weekend: Firestone (IndyCar), Cooper (MRTI), Goodyear (NASCAR Pinty), and Yokohama (GT3 Cup Challenge). While all rubber isn’t created equal, the amount of impact they have on each other is minimal.
“Obviously at a street course, there is a huge track rubberation, so you can see the lap times gain coming from the laps rubbered in” said Takuma Sato (#30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic RLL Racing Honda). “But all the rubber doesn’t really agree together, so I don’t think it was much difference.”
A third practice takes place starting at 9:50 a.m. ET Saturday, ahead of Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 1:55 p.m. Both Saturday sessions stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying also airs on a same-day delay at 5 p.m. on NBCSN.
The Honda Indy Toronto, the 12th of 17 races this season, airs live at 3 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.