TORONTO – Rookie Alex Baron missed the most recent Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race on the high-speed Pocono Raceway oval, but bounced back in style Saturday on the streets around Exhibition Place to claim the pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Toronto.
The 19-year-old from Narbonne, France, who carries dual French and British citizenship, turned the fastest time in this morning’s second Indy Lights practice session, then repeated the trick Saturday in Belardi Auto Racing’s No. 4 Liberty Engineering/13th Avenue Dallara to secure his first-ever pole with a lap of 1:06.182.
Teammate and championship leader Gabby Chaves had been fastest during the early stages of the half-hour qualifying session with a best lap of 1:06.0431 around the 1.755-mile street circuit. Moments after being eclipsed by Baron – by a scant .0259 – Chaves’ No. 5 Marca Colombia/Coldeportes car ground to a halt out on the track with a broken driveshaft. Officials had no option but to display the red flags, bringing the session to a temporary halt. Chaves, as the cause of the stoppage, was obliged to relinquish his fastest lap time, but fortunately was able to retain second place on the starting grid as his second-best time, 1:06.3149, remained faster than anyone else could manage.
A light sprinkling of rain made life difficult for the drivers throughout the session, and no one was able to improve after the resumption.
Matthew Brabham will start third in tomorrow’s race – his sixth top-four start of the season – for Andretti Autosport with a time of 1:06.3240.
Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian teammates Jack Harvey, from Bassingham, England, and Luiz Razia, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, set the fourth and fifth fastest times, followed by Chaves’ closest championship challenger, Zach Veach, who had to be content with sixth on the grid for Andretti Autosport. Chaves and Veach are separated by 11 points prior to tomorrow morning’s ninth round of the 14-race season. The green flag for the Grand Prix of Toronto will fly at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 20.