TORONTO – The notoriously slick 11-turn, 1.7836-mile street course at Toronto’s Exhibition Place lived up to its reputation in Friday’s practice session for the Honda Indy Toronto as several drivers had scrapes with the turn 11 wall.
By the time the two practice sessions were over, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the fastest driver of the day with a fast time of 59.8708 for a speed of 107.391 mph in the No. 22 Chevrolet. That was faster than rookie Felix Rosenqvist’s 59.9311 (107.283 mph) in the No. 10 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“It’s been a really good day,” Pagenaud said afterwards. “I think it comes from all the preparation ahead of time. I’m just very happy with the DXC Technology Chevy. I love this track. It’s just a lot of fun. It reminds me of Reims in France, and it’s just awesome. Just really like the rhythm.
“It’s fun. The car is really honestly really good. I just needed to put a good lap together, and it seems good on every tire in every condition. I’ve got to get the job done, and I’ll tell you what, man, this is so much fun. It’s just awesome. I told the team, it’s such a pleasure to drive this car; thanks for preparing it.”
Although Rosenqvist is a rookie in the NTT IndyCar Series, he won both Indy Lights races at Toronto in 2016. He has also finished fourth in two other street races this season, including St. Petersburg in March and Detroit in June.
“It felt actually like a really good prep being in Indy Lights here,” Rosenqvist said. “I think that shows that the program is really good, the Road to Indy. It’s a good way to get prepared for (the NTT) IndyCar (Series). Actually, it felt easier driving one of these cars than the Indy Lights car. Having such sophisticated dampers like we have today in IndyCar, it really helps going around a bumpy track like this.
“It was a good day. The NTT DATA Cessna car, it was the first week we’ve had Cessna with us this year. Obviously, a long-term partner with Chip Ganassi Racing, but it’s good to have them on board, and it was a good way to start out the day with finishes like that.”
Former Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais was third at 59.9866 (107.184 mph) followed by Spencer Pigot’s Chevrolet at 1:00.0401 (107.088 mph) and defending Toronto winner Scott Dixon’s Honda at 1:00.1445 (106.903 mph).
Although there were several drivers that clipped the turn 11 wall and damaged their cars, none were serious. Alexander Rossi also clipped the wall in turn nine. He finished way down the time list in 14th at 1:00.8161 (105.722 mph).
“It was difficult this afternoon,” Rossi said. “For sure a couple mistakes for me, so I think that cost us a bit of time changes-wise and understanding the car. But yeah, I agree with Simon, it’s pretty crazy around here. It’s a lot of fun. You’re sideways a lot of the time, so it’s what people want to see in Indy car racing.”