Franchitti takes pole for race one of Toronto double

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Dario Franchitti took his third Verizon P1 Award of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season on Friday at the Honda Indy Toronto, around the 1.765-mile Exhibition Place street circuit.

Franchitti, back in a normal red Target livery adorning his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, lapped the track in 59.6756 seconds – one of two drivers to lap under one minute in the session.

Sebastien Bourdais registered his best starting position since his return to IndyCar in 2011, second in the No. 7 TrueCar/McAfee Dragon Racing Chevrlet, at a lap of 59.7701.

Will Power (Team Penske) and Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology – SH) are next up ahead of James Jakes (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Scott Dixon (Ganassi). Jakes will take a 10-position grid penalty for an unapproved engine change after Pocono.

Beyond the top six, the big surprise of qualifying was that no Andretti Autosport cars advanced to the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2013. The first three races of the year, only one of the four cars made it into the Fast Six.

Once Q2 was complete, the two remaining Andretti cars were knocked out with Ryan Hunter-Reay in seventh and Marco Andretti 11th. Takuma Sato lost his two fastest laps when he caused a red flag for nosing into the Turn 1 barriers.

Both Canadians, James Hinchcliffe (14th) and Alex Tagliani (17th) failed to advance out of Q1. Other notables who missed out include both Detroit race winners, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud, youngsters Josef Newgarden and Tristan Vautier, who were both in the top five in practice, 2012 Toronto runner-up Charlie Kimball and Andretti’s fourth car E.J. Viso, who posted a string of six straight top-five starts from Brazil through Milwaukee.

Race one of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader begins with live coverage Saturday on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET, and will also be live streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Hondy Indy Toronto Race 1
Starting Lineup with Starting Tire Choice

Row 1
10-Dario Franchitti (Alternate)
7-Sebastien Bourdais (Primary)

Row 2
12-Will Power (Alternate)
11-Tony Kanaan (Alternate)

Row 3
9-Scott Dixon (Alternate)
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay (Alternate)

Row 4
3-Helio Castroneves (Alternate)
19-Justin Wilson (Primary)

Row 5
4-Ryan Briscoe (Alternate)
25-Marco Andretti (Alternate)

Row 6
14-Takuma Sato (Primary)
77-Simon Pagenaud (Alternate)

Row 7
27-James Hinchcliffe (Primary)
5-E.J. Viso (Primary)

Row 8
16-James Jakes* (Alternate)
83-Charlie Kimball (Primary)

Row 9
98-Alex Tagliani (Alternate)
15-Graham Rahal (Alternate)

Row 10
67-Josef Newgarden (Alternate)
18-Mike Conway (Primary)

Row 11
55-Tristan Vautier (R) (Alternate)
78-Simona de Silvestro (Alternate)

Row 12
20-Ed Carpenter (Alternate)
6-Sebastian Saavedra (Primary)

*Denotes 10-spot grid penalty for unapproved engine change

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.