Some other news, nuggets and tidbits from Toronto Race 1

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Ordinarily, we’d be able to take time after an IndyCar race and really analyze some of the key storylines in further detail.

After today’s Honda Indy Toronto, and everything that’s happened in post-race, that’s not really possible. So here’s some of the other little nuggets that have gone unwritten up to this point:

  • The actual finishing order. Scott Dixon beats Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti. That much you knew. Marco Andretti, now, goes back to fourth, with Tony Kanaan fifth. The rest of the top 10: Helio Castroneves, Mike Conway, James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud and Simona de Silvestro. Here’s a link to the full box score.
  • A few other stats. In 10th place, Simona de Silvestro has her first top-10 finish since Brazil early May (eight races ago). Mike Conway improved the most positions, from 20th to seventh in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda. James Hinchcliffe has his best career Toronto finish of eighth. Also, Ed Carpenter improved from 23rd to 13th, and for him, that’s not a half bad result on a road or street course, at all.
  • Four cautions for 14 laps. The number of laps under yellow, 14, is the same as occurred at Detroit, race one. Go figure.
  • Power outage. Twice, Will Power outbraked himself going into Turn 3 after a deep dive passing attempt. The first was on Dixon, the second on Franchitti. Unfortunate given how he ran, but the Team Penske driver finished only 15th.
  • Sensor drama. So you’re wondering what the reason is why Josef Newgarden’s car failed to engage for the standing start? Unfortunately for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team and its talented sophomore driver, it was an engine sensor malfunction outside the team’s control.
  • Rahal vs. Vautier. Bobby Rahal took to Twitter to explain his frustration with rookie Tristan Vautier after Vautier contacted Rahal’s son – and driver – Graham. “Simply put Vautier is over his head- desperate to make an impression regardless. If I was advising him I’d suggest finishing w/o drama,” the senior Rahal wrote.
  • Briscoe on the mend? This from Panther Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who got caught up in the Lap 65 four-car pileup: “Sitting at med centre now getting ready to go to the hospital for X-rays on my right wrist. Thanks for all the nice messages.”
  • Points! My colleague Chris Estrada just expanded on this, but Castroneves survived the usual calamities of race one for yet another top-10 finish. Heading into race two, Castroneves (384) leads Ryan Hunter-Reay by 39 points, with Dixon now third, only three points behind “RHR.”
  • The sun will rise again, tomorrow. After today, we get a second race, tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. What’s not to love?

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.