Toronto Race 1 Update: Bourdais leading after pit stops

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Sebastien Bourdais has been strong from the pole position and has re-taken control of Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto after mid-race pit stops under green.

Race 1 began inauspiciously when Luca Filippi clipped Simon Pagenaud and turned him around on the run up to Turn 5.

When the field behind them checked up, Josef Newgarden was hit from behind by Takuma Sato, and Mike Conway also spun backwards before coming to a stop away from the wall.

The incident brought out a red flag for cleanup, which forced a stop to repairs to Newgarden’s car behind the pit wall. That raised the ire of his team owner, Sarah Fisher, who brought up Will Power’s Team Penske crew being able to fix his car during yesterday’s red flags (Power had to start today’s race from the rear of the field).

“They got to fix the 12 car no problem, and everybody down here – we’ve got technical directors, we’ve got everybody not letting us work on our car,” Fisher told NBCSN.

“I just want to know what the rules are and stick to them. I’m just really frustrated right now because we were at the front of that. We would’ve gotten through it but we got hit from behind and it is what it is.”

However, the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team eventually decided to go ahead with their repairs under the red flag.

As for others involved in the first-lap incident, Sato did not return to the race and no action was taken by race control on Filippi and Pagenaud’s contact; Pagenaud continued on but took the restart at Lap 4 at the rear of the field along with Newgarden and Carlos Munoz.

After the field returned to green flag racing, Newgarden came back to the pits for a drive-through penalty due to said repairs. Bourdais got a good jump at the restart and started to stretch his lead, while behind him, Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves for second in Turn 5 after the two went side by side through the tight Turn 3/4 complex.

On Lap 11, Pagenaud’s team decided to go off-strategy by bringing in the Frenchman for a set of sticker primary “black” tires.

Six laps later, Filippi ran wide and hit the wall as he was working his way onto the front-stretch. A few turns later, the Italian was spotted going slow down Lakeshore Boulevard, while ahead of him, Carlos Huertas went into the tire barriers at Turn 3 to bring out yellow No. 2.

Filippi told NBCSN that the extra understeer caused by his damaged front wing from the Pagenaud incident helped lead to his accident.

“I had so much understeer because of the downforce levels that I was losing, so I was always struggling…In that lap, I went a little off the line because of the extra understeer and basically, I went in the marbles and hit the wall slightly – actually, more than slightly – and that was it,” he said.

A couple of drivers chose to pit under this caution, but Bourdais and the rest of the leaders stayed out for the restart at Lap 20. The Top 5 – Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Kanaan and Dixon – stayed in that order until just before halfway, when Castroneves got past Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 for second at Lap 33.

The leaders headed to pit road shortly afterwards with Bourdais pitting from the lead at Lap 34. Pagenaud eventually rose up to the lead ahead of Bourdais by virtue of his strategy play at Lap 11, but eventually gave way for his own stop at Lap 41.

Just before that, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan made contact going into Turn 3 that sent the former into the wall exiting the turn. NBCSN replays showed that Bourdais hit the debris from the accident, but a report said that the Frenchman’s tire pressures were OK after the contact.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal
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MotorSportsTalk continues its driver-by-driver review of the field in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Next up is fourth-placed Graham Rahal, who had a career year.

Graham Rahal, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

  • 2014: 19th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 4 Top-10s, 28 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 15.0 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 4th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 5th, 6 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 10 Top-10s, 76 Laps Led, 11.0 Avg Start, 8.5 Avg. Finish

Formula 1 fans will remember the miraculous, shock rise of Brawn GP, which didn’t even exist as a team until mere weeks before the 2009 Australian Grand Prix having risen from the demise of the former Honda factory team, and then promptly proceeded to stomp the field en route to winning both the Driver’s and Constructor’s World Championships that season.

It’s the best racing comparison in recent years – or perhaps any year – for what was done at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2015, courtesy of a career year from Graham Rahal, an instant chemistry renewal with the people father Bobby put in place, and the fact Bobby himself stepped back this year to allow his team’s key players to shine through.

Because quite simply, after finishes of 18th and 19th the last two seasons, no one in their right mind had Rahal winning races and contending for a championship this season.

It’s hard to say specifically which point was most important, because all played dividends. Bobby Rahal moved off the pit box, and actually missed a fair number of races this year, which allowed Graham and team manager Ricardo Nault to gel with Nault on the radio and pretty much running the team on the whole. Then there were the three key crewmember additions: Eddie Jones moving over to be lead engineer on the No. 15 car was clutch, as was Rahal getting the opportunity to reunite with Martin Pare and work for the first time with Mike Talbott. The addition of damper ace Stuart Kenworthy was not covered much this year, but undoubtedly a big help. Sponsor Steak ‘n Shake’s arrival also brought a wealth of attention.

And then there were the drives in the races themselves. Perhaps strangely, Rahal had a tough qualifying average – only 11th – but it was the best for a Honda driver this year. The strategy calls from RLL were damn near perfect all year and Rahal seized every opportunity at his disposal, be it his wins at Fontana and Mid-Ohio, his recovery at Iowa, and his numerous other podiums throughout the year. His charge to second at Barber stands out as one of the drives of the year.

Call Fontana lucky if you will, and he was fortunate to avoid a penalty for leaving with the fuel buckeye, but even so he still could have come back given where the race was at that point. And being on the receiving end of two ill-advised taps from Tristan Vautier and Sebastien Bourdais at Pocono and Sonoma, respectively, cost him huge results and huge points – the net effect of three races.

The single-car title charge was one of the stories of the year, even beyond Scott Dixon’s championship comeback and Juan Pablo Montoya’s consistent-until-Sonoma season. Rahal re-established his credentials on track if people had forgotten what he was capable of; additionally, he reaffirmed his status as one of racing’s best people with his work in the Justin Wilson memorial auction after that tragedy. It was truly a ’15 to remember for the driver of the No. 15 car.

Nick Tandy is on a ridiculous roll of form of late

Tandy (second from left) is on a roll. Photo: Getty Images
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With the international sports car season nearing its conclusion after a few more FIA World Endurance Championship and other international GT championship events, the question begins to be asked who might be the driver of the year.

There’s a British driver who’s pretty much firmly got that title wrapped at the moment – Nick Tandy – even though the nature of his season means he is unlikely to capture any championship on his own!

Tandy has competed in the full FIA World Endurance Championship season, splitting his time between the LMP2 class Oreca 05 Nissan from KCMG and a third Porsche 919 Hybrid in LMP1, which he drove at Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Though Nico Hulkenberg got many non-insider accolades for his drive at Le Mans, it was truly Tandy’s overnight stint, coupled with regular fellow factory Porsche pilot Earl Bamber, that won the race for the No. 19 Porsche.

That win for Tandy has kicked off a ridiculous run of form, culminating with his shock – but thoroughly well-deserved – overall win Saturday night at Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, co-driving the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR with Patrick Pilet (Richard Lietz, the designated third driver, did not drive).

Tandy won three consecutive GT Le Mans class races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Road America and Virginia International Raceway.

A week after VIR, Tandy was back at KCMG for the first time since Silverstone in April and co-drove to victory in the LMP2 class at the Nürburgring.

After a relatively “rough” month of September where Tandy and Pilet needed a late splash of fuel to make the finish and lost a shot at a fourth straight GTLM class win, they rebounded this weekend at Petit Le Mans.

“The fact that we were a lot of time the fastest cars on track, so by racing against each other, naturally we had to race against the prototypes. So when they were in our way we had to race against us,” Tandy explained post-race at Petit Le Mans of his drive against, and past, the prototypes.

“When the race was coming to a close, I was aware that the 31 car was in the lead, but I knew if we had another rain shower I knew we would checker the race, so that was why I was pushing so hard to get ahead of the GTLM cars, and once I had done that and we had a really good pace and were comfortable we were catching the 31.

“It was a case of just pulling ahead of the rest, but we ended up winning overall, so it was fantastic. [opening] “The opening stint opened our eyes to the fact that we could actually be fighting for the overall victory, the fact we came from the back of the field to I think we were running second on pure pace.

“To be honest, the first 2 hours were the best conditions we had. We had consistent rain, but very little running water. Clearly towards the end, it dried out a little more and our pace compared to the other classes and the BMW and Corvettes came back. It was a race of two halves really.”