The IndyCar Series will hold its second doubleheader of the season this weekend on the streets of Toronto.
Last month, a doubleheader was held at Detroit’s Bell Isle Park. Mike Conway won the first race (Saturday), and Simon Pagenaud scored his first career victory in IndyCar in the second event (Sunday). It was the first time in series history that two full-distance races took place at a venue on the same weekend.
The third and final doubleheader in 2013 will occur at Houston’s Reliant Park, which is a new venue on the series schedule this season, on Oct. 5-6.
Race 1 at Toronto is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and race 2 is slated for Sunday at the same time. If a driver wins both events here, that person will collect a $50,000 bonus.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar champion, won last year’s race in Toronto. Hunter-Reay posted his third consecutive victory. The Andretti Autosport driver won at Milwaukee and Iowa prior to Toronto.
“Doing the doubleheader there will be interesting,” Hunter-Reay said. “Like Detroit, it’s one of the bumpiest street circuits that we go to, which makes it more of the physical ones. It certainly will present its own set of challenges.
“Toronto is where you can get a lot of passing done, but at the same time, you really have to protect yourself for a double-race weekend. If you start tearing off front wings early in the weekend then you’re going to be in the hole for Sunday.”
IndyCar will use a standing start for race 1 at Toronto. Standing start is the same starting procedure used in Formula One, controlled by a trackside lighting system. Once the cars are in their grid positions following the formation laps, five lights will come on one second apart. The fifth light signifies the beginning of the race.
Race 2 will feature the traditional North American rolling start following a few pace laps.
The last time an Indy car race had a standing start was at Long Beach (Calif.) in 2008 when Will Power swept around the first three cars to take the lead.
Qualifications for the Toronto doubleheader will be the same procedure that was used in Detroit. Qualifying for race 1 will follow the regular three-round format, including the “fast six” final segment, for road and street circuits.
Race 2 qualifying will be split into two groups. Each group runs for 12 minutes, with five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time. Group 1 will consist of odd-numbered positions on the practice time sheet, while even-numbered positions will make up group 2.
The starting field positions for race 2 will be determined by the best time ranking of the two groups combined, from fastest to slowest. The fastest qualifier earns the pole position.
“Since we already had one dual in Detroit, we certainly understand how it works,” said Helio Castroneves, who is the current points leader. “But because we’ve been through one, we know it’s not going to be the same. I believe people are going to re-adjust from one race to another.
“The Toronto track is a traditional place, very, very tight. The track is very technical as well. Plus, we’re going to be standing start (for race 1), so it’s also another trick, something else for us to think about. But at the end of the day, we know what we need to do. Hopefully, we’ll put ourselves in good qualifying, so we can start at the front.”
Castroneves holds a 23-point advantage over Hunter-Reay, while Hunter-Reay’s teammate, Marco Andretti, is 55 points behind.
After winning last Sunday’s race at Pocono, Scott Dixon moved up to fourth in the standings (-65). James Hinchcliffe dropped to the fifth position (-84) following his 24th-place finish there. Hinchcliffe crashed into the wall in turn 1 of the opening lap. The Toronto-native leads the series with three wins this season (St. Petersburg, Fla, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Iowa).
“Last weekend (at Pocono) obviously didn’t go very well for us, but we’ve had strong cars on the street courses this season,” Hinchcliffe said. “Even though this isn’t the place I’ve had the best luck, we’re going to try to turn it around.
“The support back home has just been incredible this year. More than anything, I want to give the Canadian fans something good to cheer for and something to celebrate, because they are the best. An they’ve been so good to me over the last few years, and I want to repay them. Hope for a good finish, get the championship back on track, and hopefully, we can just go out and have two clean races.”
Twenty-four teams are on the entry list for the Honda Indy Toronto (both races).