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

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.